Our Current Trip

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Eating (and a bit of and cycling) our way from Alaska to Argentina

  I was eating a chocolate bar the other day, around about 8am, and came to the shocking realisation that when I get home to the 'real world' that indulging in my favourite cocoa-based sweet before 9am might be frowned upon. This got me thinking as we peddled on again, now powered by chocolate, about returning home and what time would it be acceptable to start eating chocolate in the real world. I had a panic that it was in fact later than 9am. I had almost managed to reconcile myself to the fact that when I got home I wouldn't be snacking on a chocolate bar at 7am on my way into work on the bus, but what if people looked at me strangely while I sat at my desk stuffing down multiple Snickers bars while everyone else was on their morning coffee?
See that's one of the joys of cycle touring, the idea that you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want and as much of it as you possibly can! In fact if I'm honest with myself that's probably one of the reasons I love it so much. We burn up so much energy during the day that we must continually feed our body, and since eating is one of my favourite activities it is the perfect sport for me!
Early in our trip, in Alaska, we met a wonderful lady, Kris, who also happened to be a nutritionist. We were absorbed and pelted her with questions about our nutrition while cycle-touring: “What food should we be eating while touring?”, “How much?” etcetc . She replied with the satisfying answer that really we should eat as much as we can. She also said that while doing extreme exercise most women put in the effort to stock up on carbs; however, it is often the proteins that they end up lacking in their diet. In my cheese and chocolate-obsessed brain I equated proteins with “cheddar” and “Snickers” and used it as my excuse to add the above to everything that I ate. “More cheese with my macaroni cheese?”, “Yes please!”. Chocolate for breakfast – totally allowed.
Kris and friends were also the first to introduce us to that American favourite 'peanut butter and jelly' which we had never tried before but which quickly became one of our cycling staples. In Australia we eat peanut butter, and we eat jam, but we never eat them together. I'm not sure why we don't though because it is an inspired taste sensation, and of course a great energy source.
In Alaska, we also discovered the other great American institution – the cinnamon bun. Even at random roadhouses deep in the Alaskan spruce you can be sure to find a warm, syrupy bun of deliciousness. We spent our time through the US and Canada searching out cinnamon buns whenever we could. These were not so prevalent in Latin America but thankfully we found the delights that the Panaderias (bakeries) had to offer. Panaderias are spread throughout Latin America, and while they vary in quality and variety from country to country (Colombia has been one of our favourites so far!) they always provide the fatty goodness we need. In Latin America they also love to fry things. Empenadas, balls of cheese, balls of potato and meats you name it they can fry it... and we can eat it.
People often ask us what we eat and ,while we try to explain our general diet, really the correct answer should be 'whatever we can get our hands on'. However, here is a general breakdown: our first breakfast of the day is always oatmeal with either banana and honey, brown sugar and cinnamon or sultanas, plus a cup of tea. We usually only get about an hour and a half of cycling done before we need second breakfast – usually some sort of baked good plus coffee. Lunch is usually a picnic of sandwiches (with some sort of protein, such as cheese, boiled eggs, tuna), fruit, chips, etc. Dinner is usually either a pasta or a rice dish. Of course, interspersed throughout these meals we also eat chocolate and other snacks.
What we can eat also depends on what we can carry in our bags, or find in shops. Sometimes in remote areas our nutrition is fairly lacking as we eat mainly dried food. However, we try and make up for this when we reach big cities and towns by stuffing ourselves with fruit and vegetables. This is something that you definitely have to watch as a long-distance cyclist. While you also need energy-rich foods to sustain the cycling, it is also important to make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals required. As fruit and vegetables are not always available we often have to stock up when we can – and we certainly did this in Central America and Colombia where the selection of delicious and unusual fruits is outstanding!
The problem with all this eating, of course, is that once we stop cycling our body is still going to be craving our family-sized portions but is not going to be able to use all that energy. I dread the day when I have to go back to eating normally and to training my body out of its constant demand for food.. but that's a long way away so for now I am off to the local Panaderia to eat as many fried balls and custard filled donuts that I can find!

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