Self-supported fueling tips for bikepacking races: Racing over multiple days, self-supported, requires careful nutritional planning to achieve best results. There is a delicate balance between how much you can carry, how much you expend, how much you can pick up on route and basal metabolism. Power meters reveal a lot about how much is expended: kJ is roughly equivalent with Cal burned. Basal metabolism is in the neighborhood of 2,000 Cal/day depending on size, age and gender.
For example, let’s say on average a rider expends 7,000 Cal/day on the trail. With a basal metabolism of 2,000, that’s 9,000 calories that must be consumed to remain in caloric balance. To put that in perspective, 9,000 calories is equivalent to 41 power bars, or 82 gels, or 10.5 gallons of Gatorade! Nobody actually eats that much on the trail – we rely also on stored body fat to get us through. How far you can dip into those reserves is individual; I have been very close to that edge and it gets difficult to hold the bonk at bay when body fat drops to 4% or below, not to mention potential health issues.
My general rule of thumb is to plan for 260 calories for each moving hour + roughly 1500 calories/day. You’ll get those additional calories in while stopped – mostly before and after bivvies. This is something you will need to tinker with in each of your forays leading to CTR to make sure you’ve got a handle on your own needs. You may need more or less depending on your size, sustainable power output and GI function.
It helps to divide your food up into pre-packaged segments. This helps to keep track of your supplies and also to know how much you are actually consuming vs. expected consumption. You can fit the better part of a day’s food into a gallon zip lock, and inside of that have 3-5 smaller zip locks with equally divided calorie amounts. Aside from this main fuel source, I’ll also have a bag dedicated to condiments and/or drink mixes such as sugar/honey/dry milk/cocoa/instant coffee.
Freeze dried backpacking dinners are generally quite good trail-side food, have a good calorie to weight ratio, and come with their own zip lock that can act as a trash receptacle on the trail. The local health food store bulk bins are *the* place to shop for much of the goods. Choose items with a high calorie to weight ratio, you can add water on the trail.
Track calories carefully for each overnight outing in this plan. Tally up how many you take, how many you acquire during the ride, and how many you bring back home unused. Once you know the total number of calories consumed on the trail, divide this by the moving time (in hours) to get an idea for your calorie needs in better detail. Also take into account calories taken in during stops. There will be more stopped time in the weekend outings than there will be in CTR. Refining and understanding this is as important as refining your equipment list.
If you are handy with Excel (or another spreadsheet application) it’s quite easy to plan and track food for your trips. # of expected hours moving X cal/hour intake + intake while not moving is a good place to start for planning purposes. I use Excel extensively for planning: meal planning, pace planning, calculating food used post trip, packing list, weights, and a shopping list are all separate sheets in my Excel planner. Once you get your template dialed preparing for overnights gets much easier. Post trip you quickly figure out what you didn’t eat, find your caloric actual burn rates and begin to see a clear trend of your needs.
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By Lynda Wallenfels Google+