Fueling up

Lately, I have been thinking of food in a very elemental way; perhaps in the most elemental of ways -- as fuel. I recently joined an amateur cycling club here in New York, and I am now spending a few mornings a week riding my bike with other enthusiasts in Central Park and further afield. These rides aren't your ordinary commuter trips; this morning, for example, I rode 21 miles starting at 7am, and was back at home, showered, and out the door by 8:45. On Saturday I plan to ride 50 miles, and that's just the first of this year's longer rides. Eventually I'll work my way up to a Century -- that's 100 miles! I am putting in some serious miles on my bike, and my appetite can feel the difference. Today, for instance, I ate two breakfasts: a quick meal of toast with pecan butter and a banana before the ride, and a second breakfast afterwards, of granola and blueberries (above). Even with those two meals, I was still hungry before lunchtime, and have had to remind myself all day that it's OK for me to eat a little more.

The first time I went on a long bike ride, early last spring, something happened to me that happens to most cyclists at least once: I "bonked," meaning that I ran out of energy (for us, that means calories!) before the end of the ride. The cause was simple: I didn't eat enough as I rode. For a three-hour ride, I need to eat at least 150/200 calories per hour simply to keep going on my bike. And that's assuming that I'll have a big meal afterwards to make up for rest of the calories lost during the ride. I still forget sometimes that I really do need an awful lot of food to keep my body and my bike going, but I have been a quick study where this is concerned, because the signs of bonking are so obvious. Without my energy drink and my sports bar, and a constant flow of water, my legs turn mushy, my vision blurs, and my breathing becomes ragged. While I can make a shorter ride without any re-fueling, for a longer ride such snacks are indispensable.

Eating to ride, and not exercising to eat, is a new mode of operation for me. It's amazing to me that I can eat, after a long ride, in a way that is almost instinctual, so far from the over-thought appetites of my eating disorder. I eat because I am hungry. I eat because my legs are tired. I eat to ride again. I eat and eat and eat and eat -- and don't worry about it! I just eat because my body is telling me to eat. And what could be simpler, and further from disorder, than that?

1 comment:

T.S.T. said...

Oh, intuition! What a peculiar bliss to have the relationship between your physical needs and your appetite simplified to such an immediate connection. When all the usual noise is filtered out, you can hear how much noise there ordinarily is.

Very cool.