zoom200By Ainslie MacEachran of Zoom Performance

I was out riding with one of my clients recently on a longish ride. After about an hour we were both pulling out our food items, and I noticed he had homemade banana bread and I had a sweet/salty granola bar.

Believe it or not, I was happy to see he was eating something other than traditional energy bars. He asked me what my favorite race/training food was. My answer to that question is not necessarily what you think it might be.

The truth is my favorite race/training food is the one you want to eat/drink.

You could have the latest and greatest “energy” bar or drink but if you dread eating or drinking it, it’s not useful. My preference, and what I suggest to any athlete I work with, is bring something on the bike that you’ll look forward to having and that won’t turn into Elmer’s glue or sawdust in your mouth.

Years ago I was on a racing team and we had an energy bar sponsor that claimed to have an ideal formulation. I won’t name names, but this bar was like eating sawdust. None of us wanted to eat it. We would put other bars in our pockets and then tell the directors we thought the bar was fine.

My point here is that while they may have been perfectly formulated and had all the necessary ingredients; holy cow, they were horrible. We went to the team and asked if we could please, please switch to some other product.

At the next race we got these bars called Stim-o-Stam. They contained little rice crispy-like crunchies. We loved them! And, we even would eat them outside of training and racing.

Our team directors understood the necessity of having something that was useful and broke the deal with the old sponsor because they understood that even though the bars were perfectly formulated, we dreaded eating them.

In training, experiment with food items you like and that you feel are effective for you. Try to pay attention to items that have a texture that is tolerable and a taste that satisfies you.

I often joke that I don’t care if I never have another sweet sports drink ever again. I did so many years of sweet, syrupy drinks that now I like just water with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime juice. Same goes for chewy, taffy-like “energy” bars.

I prefer something with some crunch or a savory as opposed to sweet flavor now.

Talk to your coach or bike shop about ways to tinker around with food and drink items to find something that works for you. Remember that at the end of the day, items that are appealing to you and you look forward to are better because you’ll actually eat them, not just put them in your pockets because you feel like you’re supposed to.

Ainslie MacEachran is a personal trainer and cycling coach with more than 16 years of experience. If you’d like to discuss your nutrition and exercise plan, you can reach him at ainslie@getzoomperformance.com.