If you’re one of the many athletes tired of gels, chews, and overly sugary sports foods, you’re gonna love this week’s Apex Nutrition Fuel recipe. Personally, as a long-distance mountain biker, I use a combination of both “sports foods” (gels & bars, mostly) and real food. For any ride longer than 5 hours, I find that real food every 3 hours or so satisfies my hunger, my salt-cravings, and my hollow-stomach feeling. This week, if you’re looking for tasty real food fuel, try this amazing Bacon Rice Burrito.
Recipe of the week: On-the-Ride Bacon Rice Burrito
- 2/3 cup cooked white rice
- 2 strips cooked organic bacon, chopped
- 1-2 tsp. olive oil
- Ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. Salt, or to taste
- 2 lime wedges
- Small white-flour tortilla (soft taco size)
- Place rice, bacon, and olive oil in a bowl. Stir to mix well.
- Add cumin, salt, and lime juice to taste.
- Place mixture in tortilla, wrap tightly.
- Cut burrito in half and wrap both halves in plastic wrap or foil.
Nutrition Information: Approx. 175 calories, 23 grams carbs, 4 grams protein per 1/2 burrito serving
Real food while training…sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For every dialed-in nutrition success story, there’s one in which real food left a athlete low on energy, cramping, or even bonking. Here are the 4 Key Considerations I use when experimenting with Real Food Fuel:
Nutrients: Mostly, you need carbs out there. A small amount of protein and fat is fine, but the foundational nutrient should be carbs. I’ve seen someone snacking on an avocado for fuel. Guess what? Pure fats take too long to digest and will set in your stomach, increasing your risk of cramps. Another consideration is electrolytes, especially sodium. Since most sports foods and drinks are sweet, real food fuel offers an excellent opportunity for starchy, salty foods. Lastly, it’s a good idea to avoid junk ingredients whenever possible, such as hydrogenated oils, colorings, and chemicals. In my recipe, I recommend an organic bacon so that you’re not sucking down nitrites. Take a look at your labels and do your best to limit questionable ingredients. Stick with carb-based, savory, wholesome fuel.
Taste: Quite simply, you’ve gotta want to eat it. I’ve said it a thousand times (okay, maybe not a thousand), if you don’t like it, it isn’t good fuel for you no matter what the nutrient make-up is, no matter how many of your training partners swear by it…if you don’t like it and won’t eat it (or drink it), it’s a recipe for bonking.
Digestion: Beyond a make-up of carbs, it’s important to choose the right carbs. Remember, training fuel is somewhat opposite of healthy, everyday, nutritious meals. Although high-fiber whole foods are great at the table, you need fuel that digests quickly while training so that 1) it doesn’t set in your stomach too long and cause cramping, and 2) it metabolizes efficiently enough to impact your energy levels during your ride…not 2 hours after. White grain carbohydrates generally stay in your stomach long enough to get rid of hunger (this is controlled by hormones activated when your stomach is stretched…when you eat gels all day on a long ride, you will feel hungry and slightly nauseous all day), yet leave soon enough to not divert too much blood flow away from your legs nor cause stomach cramps.
Size: Rather than research, this criteria is mostly founded upon personal, friends’ and clients’ experiences. Ever eaten a whole meal, like a packed lunch, right in middle of your ride, run, or climb? If you have, you may have noticed 2 things: 1) high risk of cramping (again), and 2) no power in the legs following the meal (and for the next 1-2 hours). What gives? The size of the meal impacts the rate of digestion and the “work” your body has to do to digest it. Your body can only do so much at once, and a large meal sabotages your legs’ blood and energy supply. Keep any real food fuel small, about 25-50% of a “normal” serving, and fuel throughout your training rather than all at once.
Combined with hourly quick-acting fuel and carbohydrate/electrolyte fluids, real food fuel can provide the nutrients you need and a satisfying treat on a long ride, climb, hike, or run. This week, let’s enjoy a tasty burrito, train long and keep it real.
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