A common question that I get asked when I tell people I’ve ridden a bicycle across country is, “How much do you have to eat?” This is a great question. The answer is complicated: it depends. On our first tour, my husband and I definitely didn’t eat as much as we needed to in the beginning. We struggled with flagging energy levels by mid-afternoon.
At the two week mark, we assessed how much we were eating, versus how much energy we were using every day, and determined that we were eating about half as much as we needed. No wonder we were so exhausted! Once we figured it out, and started eating more and more often, things got a ton better.
I know a lot of people who exercise just so they can eat whatever they want. I can totally understand that. And it is really tempting when you’re cycling 7+ hours a day to go straight to the junk food aisle or the fast food restaurant. Cheap, easy calories are very appealing.
But here’s where I would caution you. You’re not riding to eat. You’re eating to ride. That food is your fuel. Sometimes you put the low-grade, cheap gas into your car because you don’t have a choice. But if you want your car to perform its best, you usually want to give it the good stuff. The same goes with your body. Yes, it’s about calories and energy. But it’s also about nutrition and vitamins and minerals. Taking a multivitamin, although probably not a bad idea, won’t make up for eating a ton of junk on your tour.
Bottom line is, eat as much as you need to. Listen to your body, and find out what that means for you. By all means, enjoy yourself while you’re out there. Maybe even give yourself a reward for a particularly difficult ride. There is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t compromise your health by eating junk all the time. Eat some fruit and vegetables every once in a while. Buy some whole grain bread instead of bleach cheap white bread. Your body will thank you.