As rides start to get longer and longer, stops mid-way for food and water are going to become more frequent as well as important. The coffee shop is a great place to stop for a while and have great conversation over a few brews but during training rides you want to be in, out, and on your way in a timely manner. You also want to get what you need to fuel properly for the remainder of the ride. Knowing what you want to eat and drink prior to going into a store will help prevent you from milling around looking at every possibility which we’ve all done before, especially if we’re already a bit depleted from the ride.
Hydrating properly mid-ride is super important because if you don’t, it doesn’t matter what you get to eat, you are going to be suffering the rest of the ride. Typically you are going to want more than just water. Water is good but you want it along with something with electrolytes at the very least because your body depends on them to function properly. It depends on the store but typically you don’t want to pay for water. Take one of your bottles into the store as a lot of stores have a fountain drink dispenser with an option for water. If they don’t, then buying it is the next best choice. Some people opt to fill their bottles in the bathroom but you never know the quality of the water. If you are with a few people, get a gallon jug of it and split it; way cheaper that way.
For the electrolyte drink, some fountain drink dispensers have a sports drink which can be a lot cheaper than buying them individually from the refrigerators. Just remember to take it to the counter and tell the cashier what it is to pay for it. If you can’t get a sports drink from the fountain drink dispensers then getting a big bottle of Gatorade or PowerAid can be good as they also have carbohydrates and sugar to continue fueling your ride.
Again, if you are with others, many stores have a “Buy 2” price, so see what you can get for a deal by splitting it. Some sports drinks come with a zero calorie option. This is typically always a bad idea for two reasons. One, you should always fuel for your rides as otherwise you are riding in a depleted state and can’t reach your maximum riding potential. Second, because they are zero-calorie they have to make them taste good with other additives which are never good for you. If you are trying to lose weight, the place to do it is not on the bike. Fuel properly for your rides and then eat less and the right foods off the bike.
Cheapest Drink Option
The cheapest drink option a lot of the time, other than water from the fountain drinks dispenser, is the big cans or jugs of iced tea. These are not the best way to hydrate as they don’t have many electrolytes, and they have a lot of sugar, but drinking them along with a sports drink can be a good cheap option. With these however, you have to look out for high fructose corn syrup if you are trying to avoid it as a lot of them will have them listed as the second ingredient, meaning there is a lot of it in the product.
Soda is one other drink option that many riders swear by mid-ride. Sodas shouldn’t be looked toward to hydrate so much but rather to give you a good boost toward the end of a ride. The high sugar content as well as the potential caffeine can give you a good kick to finish off a ride strong. The trick with soda though is timing it right, because if you have it too early in a ride you can burn through all the sugar before the end of your ride and then you’re left bonked. You want to make sure you have it close enough to the end of your ride or that you have another soda ready to keep you going until the end.
After you pick out the best drinks for you to finish your ride strong, you need to find the best foods. Drinks are easy comparatively as there are endless food options. The first place to start is; what kind of a ride are you doing?
The Hard Ride
If you are riding hard, at threshold and above, you need foods that are easily digestible along with a high carbohydrate and sugar content and low protein and fat content. Simple granola bars without too many nuts can be a good healthy option. Other foods that are often thought of as bad for you can actually be a good choice mid-ride. Foods like cookies, pop-tarts, pastries, and other little sweets have a lot of carbohydrates and calories packed into a small goodie. The fire with these is that a lot of them are highly processed and contain a lot of ingredients so if you are trying to avoid all that, go with a good quality cookie or pastry that contains fewer ingredients as well as nothing that you can’t pronounce.
Other good options for the end of a hard ride are candy bars. These too are thought of as “junk food” but they contain a lot of sugar that your body pretty much burns exclusively when you are riding hard above threshold. Be careful not to get any that contain too many nuts but otherwise go with what you like. Snickers tend to be a lot of cyclist’s favorite.
The Endurance Ride
When you are training at a lower intensity you still need the carbohydrates to keep you rolling strong but you don’t need as many and the ones you do need don’t need to be from sugar. You are burning calories at a slower rate so you want longer burning fats and proteins along with the carbohydrates. Easy pocketable items include more nut based bars as well as protein bars provided you can stomach them and they don’t contain too much protein. Another option, although it’s not quite as quick, is to get a small sandwiches or wraps that many convenience stores have pre-made. This gives you some of the carbs in the bread along with the protein in the meat. Don’t eat too much at one time though as you don’t want a heavy brick in your stomach.
Depending upon where you live, there can be many options for where to stop to refuel. In most parts of the country, gas stations with convenience stores tend to be the most frequented as they are around from the big city to the only place around for miles and miles in parts of the American West. Plan ahead and know where you are going to stop mid-ride. You’ll not only get into a routine of which places you stop at, but also which food and drink you get at each place. Making good choices in the store will keep you going strong on the rest of your ride.