A friend of mine asked me about my poptart eating from the mountain bike race the other day.
Poptarts, in many ways, are NOT the perfect food, but they are pretty convenient. They are cheap, pretty easy to eat, readily available, lightweight, slim, and pretty dense in calories. Each poptart has 200 calories. Since there are 2 poptarts per package, that is 400 calories. If I have to choose between eating 4 gels or 2 poptarts, the poptarts will win every time. Are poptarts healthy? Probably not, but they are good fuel during a ride.
At the race I was eating one every time we hit the last fireroad before the finish. I carried 3 packages with one (a package in each pocket) and had them pre-opened at the top so I didn't have to fumble with them on the trail. I only hit the pit twice; each time to get another bottle of EFS and to restock my pockets.
The goal should be to consume as many calories as your gut will be able to digest. That is a tough number to come up with. The higher the intensity, the less you can digest. Same thing with heat. You'll have to lower your caloric intake (and increase water intake) on a hot day. For the 6 hour race, I knew I'd be in the aerobic zone the whole time, so 400 calories an hour wouldn't be an issue. I wouldn't even attempt that for a crit.
Ideally, you should enter a race with your glycogen stores topped up. The calories you consumed going into the race can get you through a pretty good distance, but you'll want to start eating early, before your body is depleted. Saturday was a pretty tough ride for me. It was 85 miles at a good tempo and I was averaging about 880 kilojoules of work per hour. That translates to about 850-900 calories per hour according to what most books say. If my body can only digest half of that in food, the deficit grows pretty quickly. Once your calorie stores are empty, you bonk. Your race is pretty much over. I experienced this at Hell's Kitchen last year.
Joey Mesa turned me onto Allen Lim's rice cakes a few months back. Do a search on youtube and you can find a video on how to make them. It isn't a rice cake like those Styrofoam things people eat to lose weight. It is a calorie dense, tasty little square that is full of quick burning fuel. The typical Lim rice cake isn't vegan, but since I'll be making my vegan version tomorrow in preparation for my weekend workouts, I'll try and take some pictures or video to show you how it's done on my next post.