There are some simple characteristics that foods must meet before I personally will consider them for rides. I have a sensitive stomach, and getting stuff down is sometimes a challenge.
- Some people are able to happily eat anything during a ride; I am NOT one of those people. So I have some guidelines that foods must meet for me:
Must be easy to eat with one hand, generally without utensils. I'm lucky to even take the time to wash my hands during a ride, the idea of dragging out a fork and knife to consume anything is not that likely. If for some reason I DO eat these kinds of foods, such as during a 100 when I have crew, I'll most likely still be seen sitting or wandering around near my horse doing stuff with one hand and shoveling food in with the other. Much easier to have food that I can just hold in one hand and eat.
- Must be moist. No cakes, cookies, chips, or crackers for this girl. I want something that's got a lot of natural moisture, or enough sauce and/or condiments to get down without a lot of additional assistance from chewing and saliva production.
- Along those lines, must be easy to chew and get down. Nothing that requires a lot of mastication before it's ready to be swallowed - save the steaks for after the ride.
- Not too sweet. I have a sensitive stomach during rides and too much sugar doesn't go over well. I generally prefer more salty and/or savory choices.
With that in mind, lets move on to what I actually like to eat, these are my own personal recommendations, as well as suggestions from several friends. For food to eat ON THE TRAIL:
- Perhaps the most important thing we need to consider is not eating, but drinking. Staying hydrated is the first key to success. Nothing is going to function as well if you are dehydrated, so keeping those fluids coming in is key. A formula that seems to work for me, is to drink at least one of my 20 oz bottles for every 10 miles of trail. This will of course fluctuate depending upon the weather, but it's a good place to start. I've found that personally, I need to avoid Gatorade-brand drinks, but I do okay with a diluted mixture of Powerade (maybe less sugars, or the higher potassium to sodium ratio) or water. If you're drinking just plain water, don't forget to add some electrolytes - whether through eating salty foods, drinking something such as V8 at the checks, or through a capsule, such as these S-Caps which I've had a lot of success with: http://www.succeedscaps.com/main_scaps.html . I also really like their Clip2 sports drink, which contains some proteins and fats not found on commercial drinks at the local supermarket: http://www.succeedscaps.com/main_clip.html This has a very mild raspberry flavor, not sweet at all. Another concern with plain water is to ensure you are consuming adequate carbohydrates. The brain is the most glucose-hungry organ in the body, be sure you are keeping it fueled. That's why I prefer a diluted sports drink (or even juice), I know that I'll be consuming some carbs with my fluid intake.,
- For food, you need to find something you can stomach and EAT it (don't just carry it all day - classic mistake). Avoid high fructose as this can cause a queasy stomach, although some people can eat anything. Suggestions: fruit (I love the little plastic fruit cups, I can pop the top a bit and slurp them out while trotting), cheeses (string cheese or the little circle Babybel cheeses, even cut up cheese cubes in a baggie), jerky or lunch meat (roll the slices and then put them in a baggie, easy to grab a "tube" and eat quickly), nuts, granola or other "bars" (I really like the ones that have a lot of fruit and nuts, can rinse these down pretty easily), croissant, "gummies" like gummy worms, bears, or fruit snacks. While some of these are obviously going to fair better in hot weather, you can easily get at least two hours out of them without needing to be in a cooler. Just keep that in mind and eat those items first - and make sure to throw them out AFTER the ride if you didn't! =)
- Make sure you keep several packs of Gu or some such in your saddle packs. These work great as a quick emergency pick-me-up if you're starting to fade. When you start to feel punky, that means you should have had one about 30 minutes ago. ;) I do much better with REAL foods, and often don't need them at all, but these are great for when you realize you've already gone past the "should have ate something" stage and need something quick. They're also fairly easy to force down, although it's a bit like slurping warm snot out of a package. I tend to prefer the "lighter" flavors like vanilla or some of the fruit ones, but I know people that swear the chocolate is like eating frosting.
- 1. Have some sort of nutritious drink at EVERY vet check. I prefer the lactose-free meal replacement type drinks or a V8 (either the classic or a fruit blend). The yogurt drinks come recommended as well, but I can't do too much dairy personally. These are quick and easy calories to get down and the V8s are packed full of natural elytes. On a cold ride, these do okay in the saddle bags as well. This is a quick easy way to get some calories down.
- My new favorite is to buy a sub sandwich the day before and have them cut it into 2" sections, makes it easy to grab a section and nibble. Egg salad or tuna are good choices as well. Some people really like peanut butter (with jelly or fruit), but I've found it to be to "sticky" as a ride food for me.
- Other favorites I've heard: fruit (especially cubed melon), pasta or potato salads, chips, candy bars, hot dogs or hamburgers (these are generally too heavy for me, can't do it), soups (excellent for cold rides), pickles (good source of elytes as well), cooked chicken, cold pizza, etc.
Okay, seriously, while looking for some pictures to liven this up (all are from her site), I stumbled across this blog, Another Lunch, which is all about "bento" lunches, or little containers that house the entire meal. It looks like she's got some really great ideas on here... and those lunchboxes are awesome!
Do you have any favorite ride foods? What are some of your saddle bag stand-bys? What's been the best vet check food you've had?