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Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Idiot's Nutrition - Avoiding The Bonk

One of the things about being a cyclist is that at some point, you will find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, ill prepared, and success will come through perseverance and maybe improvisation.

Last week I scheduled a longish morning ride with two friends, both bike messengers and strong amateur racers. I also decided to skip breakfast. Instead of eating I'd prepared a flask of Hammer Perpetuem mixed with Hammer Gel for the ride.

A few miles into the ride, I realized that I'd left the flask at home. A banana wasn't going to be enough to keep me from bonking on this ride, so we stopped at a bodega in Spanish Harlem before heading over the George Washington bridge into NJ. Unfortunately the deli did not have any energy bars or useful food. It was mostly beer, chips, kitty litter and pet food, and two friendly cats.

My friend JP had once mentioned that Yoohoo can work as a cheap recovery drink, and it was available so I bought myself a strawberry Yoohoo. The stuff is pretty foul in my opinion, but I suppose I prefer fake strawberry over fake chocolate flavor.

I didn't think the Yoohoo would be enough for me. Luckily they also had sweetened condensed milk (scm) and I asked to have it opened at the counter. Scm is used to make dulce de leche and also makes a nice thai iced coffee. It's delicious and very sweet.

I mixed a bit of scm with water in a bottle, and it dissolved nicely - but the taste was gross. I added a bit of Strawberry Yoohoo to the mix. The tartness of the Yoohoo made the mix drinkable, and in fact quite good. I was able to log just under 70 miles with no breakfast and NO BONK. The cool thing is that I rode a personal best for max 5 seconds effort two hours into the ride. Personal bests don't mean much, but for this time of year I was surprised.
can of sweetened condensed milk + Strawberry Yoohoo= personal best?

I believe the fuel made the difference, and I became curious about the nutritional differences between strawberry scm and the good stuff that I'd left at home.

Wikipedia explains that condensed milk was invented in the 1850's and issued as a field ration for soldiers during the civil war.

To have an idea what kind of calorie rocket this stuff is, a full can (14 oz) contains about 1,300 calories, and 30g of protein + 30g of fat, with 225 g of carbohydrate. I'd used about 1/2 a can and had some left over after finishing the ride.

The amount of Perpeteum that I'd planned on using was about 3 scoops, or 400 calories with 3g of fat, 9g of protein, and 8Og of carbohydrate. I also added a bunch of Hammer Gel to that.

The expensive energy drinks have almost the same ratios as sweetened condensed milk, though the carbs in condensed milk are indicated as coming entirely from sugars, while the carbs in Hammer are described as only about 7% sugars.

Hammer Nutrition fills their products with something called "Long-chain Maltodextrin," which seems to be an easy to digest complex carb. Milk contains lactose - a double sugar but still not a complex carb. Complex carbs are good because they provide energy for endurance, while simple sugars like those in milk give a quick spike but burn out fast. On the other hand, milk is still pretty good nutritionally.

Anyway, it worked pretty well. For the long term I'm going back to Hammer... I think.

I'm not paid to endorse Hammer products but you can use the link below to get a discount on your first order.
Click this link to get 15% off at Hammer Nutrition.


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