The joy of eating aka cycling fuel


eating in OmisAfter I read a few of Anne Mustoe’s books and a friend asked me about what to do to avoid aching muscles after exercise, it got me thinking.

I can’t for the life of me understand how Anne managed to cycle around the world, over some of the highest mountains, through some of the driest deserts, on just some dried fruits, nuts and water. Her statement that a cyclist does not need a lot of food before a long day’s cycling just blows my mind, because we can’t do anything before we have a hearty meal.

We haven’t toured much but we have already fallen into a nice ritual while touring which pretty much is centred around food.

Pretty much as soon as we got up our little Jetboil is busy with boiling water for our tea. If Britain could build an empire on tea, it will for sure get us 30-40 miles down the road. For then to cook some porridge, if we have we will add some raisins and bananas.

If we don’t have porridge we will have bread, mostly baguettes, with cheese, tomatoes and if we have peanut butter or Nutella.

eating in OmisElevenses:
This is quite often just a banana or an energy bar of some sort. But it is unheard of us to stop at a cafe and not indulge in tea and cake. This is the best part of cycling, that extra slice of cake doesn’t count if you are exercising.

This where we are either hunting down a pub lunch or, if that fails, a cafe. Or we will pop into a supermarket to get bread, tomatoes, cheese and some sort of meat for me. And then have a picnic in a park, square or just by the road side. But the main part of our lunch is pudding such as a cake, a doughnut or the cyclists’ favourite, chocolate.

Afternoon tea:
Pretty much like elevenses, but it all depends where are are cycling and how far we are riding, because afternoon tea could easy lead into dinner.

This where we relax after days cycling and need to fuel up for the next day’s cycling. If we are in a country where eating out is cheap we will go to a local restaurant. Though if we have been to a pub or restaurant for lunch we quite often cook our own food.

Such as pasta and sauce where you will just need to boil it for five to eight minutes or so, or pasta with a simple sauce added. Couscous is also something that is easy to cook, add boiling water less than five minutes later you got food. You can either get a pre seasoned pack of couscous or just add what fancy your tickle. We tend to supplement that with bread, cheese, salad if possible, and of course pudding such as chocolate mousse, or the like.

eating in OmisSnacks:
Throughout the day I will be grazing on energy bars, flapjack, nuts etc. Bananas are great since they contain something that helps against cramps. Chocolate and jelly babies are a favourite snack of ours, just to get us that boost and prevent us from bonking on a climb or before the next meal. Peanut butter with jam sandwiches, you can even add bananas to that sandwich, are great snacks between meals.

Then there is water, we drink quite a lot of it and never turn down a chance to refill our bottles. Even on a cold’ish and damp day in Wales we went through quite a few litres and kept reminding each other to drink. Because there is nothing worse than dehydration and it takes a long time to get over.

This is pretty much our daily food intake when we are touring and even if we don’t, we just like food. Which is why we both cannot understand how Anne managed what she did on so little. We have yet to tour in a less developed country were food is less abundant, which leads me to one of my worst nightmare, hunger.

So, over to the hurting of muscles when you’ve done a lot of exercising. My main thing is to remember to drink and drink beyond your thirst. To help you lift that extra Kg or run mile you can get the energy drinks to give you that extra boost. Though I find that they all taste horrid, fake and do not really give you that oomph, well for me at least. I think that they work as well as the poor man’s energy drink, 3/4 water and a pinch of salt and 1/4 orange juice and eating healthily. Milk (protein) will do a great job as an after the ride drink. Pasta and spuds (carbohydrates) is a must before any ride or exercising. Though I have found that “no taste” Torque recovery/energy drink is drinkable for me and does help when doing a hard ride. Not to speed through day but to have the power to last the day.

eating in OmisI have found that eating and drinking often will get me up any mountain, such as Col de Tourmalet (yes not fully loaded). I made it a rule to stop every 2Km to have a little rest where I get a bite to eat and something to drink. I’m not the fittest or fastest cyclist and Tourmalet is 2,115 metres gaining 1,268m, an average 7.4% with a maximum of 10%, which doesn’t sound much, but keep that going for 17.2Km.

I hear people does that from bottom to the top do it just over an hour, I did it in an hour and 30 minutes’ish but I’m cheating as I started in Barèges which is a third up the Tourmalet and I was utterly knackered. And needed all the food and drink that I could possible stuff in me that evening.

I know I should but quite often am just too tired (read : lazy) to go out and do a recovery ride after a long hard ride. Say that you did a hard 60-80 miles day one, the next day you do a a nice relaxed pootle of 20 mile. Just to keep you legs going, but also that second day is also used to refuel with water and food.

If you had decided that you want to lose some weight, great, but don’t rush it. I managed to lose 5 stones (20+Kgs) over two years, but I still eat what I used to maybe even more. Yes I stopped drinking beers as much as before and stopped eating that kebab late at night. Above all don’t go out there and do 30 miles bicycle ride or 10 miles run if you haven’t done it before. It will just do more damage and you will hate it because it hurts. Do it slowly, build it up, get used to your new regime and remember to rest now and again. And above all eat well, you can even enjoy the odd slice of cake if you keep at it.


  1. That’s actually a really good post, informative as well as inspiring. Lovely photos too! The best bit about touring is all the cake and big pub meals :) Sounds a bit expensive though :)

    • Yes I agree and I’m sure that we will change our eating habit if we go touring for more than a long weekend. But smart buying like 2 for 1 meals will keep the cost down and eating out in countries like Croatia is cheaper.

  2. Anyone who says you can cycle for the whole day on a handful of nuts is in denial, the math doesn’t stack up. That is, unless on the days you aren’t riding you are trough-ing it like a camel drinking for the desert.

    For me, there’s little better than hitting that sweet spot: riding to just the right point, stopping for a flapjack or the like, washed down with water, if you have a view down off that mountain, so much the better. Food of the gods.

  3. Did a 200k the other day and consumed…

    6 litres of drink (a mix of blue powerade, dioralyte and water, and ZipVit energy drink) plus a couple of pots of tea
    3x Weetabix with soya milk
    1 energy bar
    6 breakfast bars
    3 snickers
    mushrooms and egg on x2 toast with chips
    egg mayo roll with salad.

    I was surprised to find I wasn’t hungry when I got home, but I certainly wouldn’t want to eat much less than that.

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