Fueling for adventure

By Ellen Duncan / Registered Dietitian Interior Health

Your regular eating pattern provides the foundation for strong athletic performance.  The type of activity and the intensity of your effort influence your rate of energy burn and fluid requirements.  For example; in long distance races, slower runners sweat less and have more time to drink, actually at a greater risk of fluid overload.

The ‘rocket fuel’ that maintains blood sugars during high intensity workouts will not serve you well on a ‘Steady Eddie’ style bike ride.  Avoid the crash by pairing proteins with grains and fruit to make the food energy last;  Granny Smith apple with a dollop of peanut butter, hazelnuts or almonds with dried apricots, oatmeal cookie with a slice of cheese.

Even a modest fluid deficit will find you dragging your feet through the alpine.  When it comes to vigorous activity, fluid and electrolyte balance is far more an individual art than a science.  What works for one person may not work for another.  

The grape liquid your cycling compadres swear by may not agree with your system.  I learned this lesson the hard way, my stomach quickly launching the revolt that would see the offending grape sludge expelled from my body.  Friends likened the incident to the baking soda and vinegar volcano experiment.

There is a massive industry competing to win your loyalty with the best ‘go go’ juice on the market.  Often it helps to keep it simple. I remember the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I have ever tasted, my bike propped against a tree on a quiet road in rural New Zealand.

One moment I was tearing-up the ash fault; the next, my thoughts distracted, my muscles responding at a snails pace.  Peanut butter and jelly to the rescue; the combination of easy digesting carbs and protein was just what my body needed to bring my blood sugars back to normal levels. 

I went quickly from cycling euphoria to tearful, irrational and grouchy, wondering why my love would plot to push me to the point of exhaustion. Reality Check; why would anyone plot to drive you to the depths of ill-temper, ruining any chance they may have at fun?

Committed to sparing the one I love another episode of low blood sugar induced frustration, I became determined to learn my body’s preferred fuel for activity.  When I plan to be out for more than two hours, I drink plain water, tuck a glorified jelly candy in my cheek, and carry real food to snack on.  

To learn more about fueling for ultra distance events, I recommend Fluid and Electrolytes 101: Recommendations from the Medical tent, by Lisa Bliss MD.  The next time you plan to hit the trails try this yummy homemade granola recipe:



Granola Bars

1 cup butter 1 cup coconut, toasted

1 ½ cups peanut butter 1 cup sesame seeds, toasted

1 tsp. almond extract 1 cup diced almonds, toasted

2 cups brown sugar 1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup corn syrup  

1 cup dried apricots

6 cups oats Method:

In a skillet, roast coconut, almonds and sesame seeds; set aside to cool.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter, almond extract and brown sugar. Add corn syrup and then mix in remaining ingredients. Press into greased 12 X 18 inch cookie sheet. Bake in a 350ºF oven for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly, and cut while still warm.