Sunday, January 21, 2007

Eating disorder

Date: Jan. 21
Mileage: 29.0
January mileage: 543.5
Temperature upon departure: 35

One thing I have never figured out how to do is eat well while bicycling. It sounds so simple. Even sitting here tonight, contemplating turning the pedals and munching down some Power Bars, I think "that sounds simple enough." For some reason, it never works as well in practice. It's not that I don't want to eat. It's not that I am trying to lose a pound a day by completing 8-hour rides on a couple hundred calories (although wouldn't it be nice if it were that simple?). No ... I don't eat because my body tells me I can't.

It does this in several ways. When I'm cycling, most of my normal triggers turn off. I can ride and ride and ride, and as long as I keep riding, I will never feel hungry. My blood sugar will crash. My hands will start shaking. But I'll never feel hungry. However, I do eat, to ward off the hand shakes. In these situations, eating anything is about as much fun as chugging down Alka Seltzer. So I stick with things that are fast and easy and pack a lot of calories in small bites. I like to eat things with lots of sugar, because it digests so quickly. I stick pretty much exclusively to peanut butter sandwiches, granola/Power bars, and fruit leather/fruit snacks. I also like Gatorade, but drinking it exclusively makes me sick to my stomach. So if I only have one bottle/bladder, water it is.

All of this eating usually has the short-term positive effect of an energy surge followed by a long, debilitating stretch of nausea. I've tried some remedies to ward this off. Pepto Bismal pills; antacid pills; drinking more water after eating; drinking less water after eating; experimenting with different foods (I keep giving Gu and other gels second chances, but they usually only serve to worsen the situation because I find the texture so repulsive.) And you know what's worked best for me? PB&J, Power Bars and fruit snacks (and sometimes turkey jerky) ... the longer between doses, the better.

I have been interested in giving liquid nutrition a try. But Hammer Heed and other products are pretty expensive. I can't really afford to use them throughout my training, and it would be idiotic to pull a complete switch during a race. My attempts with Gatorade haven't been so successful. The caloric intake is still pretty small, and drinking exclusively Gatorade only seems to prolong the nauseated feeling once it hits. So I usually go for the tried and true method of avoiding food while on the bicycle. I'm sure it affects my performance, but so far, it hasn't affected my health.

One thing I've learned about eating and riding is that everyone has their own methods and foods that work for them. I'm wondering if anyone out there also has to deal with what seems to be an unfair amount of gastrointestinal stress while riding, and, if so, what do you do to get around it? I just have a sensitive tummy that was raised on a fairly sugary diet, doesn't take too kindly to digesting large amounts of fat during workouts (really ... cheese and nuts are out), and doesn't seem to know what to do with technology food with ingredients like leucine and maltodextrin (but loves loves loves caffeine.) It seems all of these traits fall outside the "normal" range, so I've never found a catch-all solution. But I keep looking.