Last Sunday, I biked 65 miles in an organized bike race. It was my first long ride of the summer, and I really wavered on what I should eat to give myself strength and energy over the long haul. Should I down a plate of pasta before bed? Would all those carbs pay off big at mile 55 when I would normally lose steam? In short, does loading up on all kinds of simple carbs actually benefit athletic stamina, or is it just an old wives tale propagated for decades by the spaghetti marketing board?
According to today's New York Times, what you eat and when you eat it might not have much of an effect on performance at all. In fact, it asserts that the long-held notion that you should eat carbohydrates and protein in a ratio of 4 to 1 before an "event" doesn't really hold up and that for the average weekend warrior like myself, eating "real food at regular meals" may be the true key to solid athletic performance. In any case, the article is interesting for its in-depth look at how muscles work. (Or you could check out our June Wellness story, "Muscle Up," for a solid primer.)
I ended up settling on a breakfast of two hard-boiled eggs, electrolyte drink -- which probably didn't help much but to make staying hydrated a little bit more interesting -- and a constant flow of salty, sweet snacks throughout the day. I then packed in some serious barbecue after the ride. Interestingly, I was craving salty snacks for days afterward.