Long Distance Riding and Your Fuel
We pulled into the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway hungrier than a pack of wolves after nearly 200 miles on twisty roads. We were only 30 minutes from Asheville, but the hunger was too overwhelming to continue. We also knew from experience that the only restaurant on this part of the parkway offered some excellent food.
Last year we had the best nutty garden salad here, loaded with chunks of filet mignon and blue cheese. The sheer thought of it put my salivary glands into overdrive. Alas, the menu had changed and the gourmet salad was not on it. In the midst of our hunger pains we ended up ordering a bunch of crap, which left me with a slab of juicy baby back ribs. They were delicious, especially because I haven’t had any of those for ages, but boy, did I regret my choice!
The short ride to Asheville was the most tiresome of the entire week-long trip. That evening, I was still suffering the consequences with low energy and exhaustion. It was a good reminder that I was on a long trip, not on a local poker run.
Most motorcycle events – whether local or big Daytona types – revolve around staring at the motorcycles and walking around with beer in hand. When it comes to the food, the choices are slim (not slimming): hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs and fries. Rarely would there be anything healthy.
The calories burnt during those short walks are miniscule compared to the ones consumed during the event. The following poker run is usually not a big help either. One consequence is the ever expanding waistline, which is followed by the need for a larger wardrobe, and even bigger displacement engines. In a way, it runs the economy!
Long distance riding is more physically challenging, as well as more demanding of mental concentration. One cannot doze off on two wheels without disastrous results.
There is a slew of caffeine-laced energy drinks that will help keep you awake, but at what price? Riding all jittery may not be all that enjoyable.
How do you stay alert and energized without much chemical help? By watching what you eat.
Heavy food, such as a burger or a steak may have to stay in your stomach for hours, while it may still be digesting in your intestines for many days after. By then, it cannot be called digestion, but more like rotting. It takes a tremendous amount of energy for the body to digest such foods, as well as eliminate all the toxins that come with it.
This means that the energy that you would use for riding and concentrating is cut short because of the body’s struggle to absorb its intended fuel. You don’t put diesel in your engine when it needs gas, right?
On the other hand, after you finish even the largest monster salad, you are up and ready to ride, right? That is because you fed yourself some live food that the body can readily digest with minimal effort. Not only that, but instead of taking energy away for digestion, you gave yourself an extra boost of alkalinity.
Alkaline environment is where the body wants to be for healthy functioning and strong immune system. Most illness, disease and medical problems happen in an acidic environment.
All vegetables are alkaline, while some nuts (almonds) and fruit also fall into that category. Animal products and processed foods are acidic.
Obviously, this is just generalizing food without going into any major details of how much protein, fat and carbohydrate we really do need. Not to mention the other 90 or so nutrients needed by the body on a daily basis.
The fact is that all the sitting on a long ride does not aid your digestion. The peristalsis – the movement of food in the intestines – is usually helped by the body’s motion, such as walking. In this case, the intestines are on their own. Since constipation is not your friend either, it is best to consume higher amounts of fiber and water, which are the main ingredients of your salad.
No, you don’t have to become a vegan to ride comfortably, just keep the heavy foods at bay. A light breakfast will get you going, with an apple or a banana, or even a handful of nuts for a mid-morning snack. A reasonable lunch consisting of vegetables and maybe a little grilled fish or chicken will keep you on your bike comfortably all afternoon. Once dinner time comes with no more riding afterward, go ahead and have at it.
Drinking plenty of water, or tea, or even a small amount of coffee also helps, but stay away from sugary soft drinks loaded with high fructose corn syrup.
Contrary to the food, liquid stays in your stomach for only about 15 minutes. If you drink sugary drinks, you can count on that sugar reaching your blood in a very short time, shocking the pancreas, which now has to deliver high amounts of insulin in panic. Insulin is the key that lets the sugar enter the cells to be used as the body’s energy.
Normally, complex carbohydrates (from fruit or whole grain) break down slowly in the food, gradually entering your blood and your cells. This gives the pancreas plenty of time to wake up and deliver the goods. However, in the case of your soft drink, the pancreas experiences high strain. It will overdo the insulin, thus creating a quick low (lethargy) that follows your “sugar high” very closely. Now, there is more demand for sugar in the form of either hunger, or thirst. So you reach for more of the sugary drink that will let you climb the wall for a short time, before the pancreas is exhausted again. And thus the circle continues.
Diet drinks – you say? They will make you hungry by the sheer sweetness in your mouth which automatically starts up your pancreas, not to mention its unhealthy ingredients. One of them – Aspartame is derived from methyl alcohol, which turns into formaldehyde in your body, further breaking down into formic acid, causing acidosis, and … let’s not even go there.
Just as you wouldn’t run your bike on the wrong fuel, don’t do it to your body either. Eat, drink, and think healthy – ride long, safe and happy!