What to eat on a long run (or ride)

Rule No. 1 about eating while training: Practice with what you plan to eat during a race. Long rides or runs aren't just for physical and mental training; they also help you figure out what to eat -- and when to eat it.

From a nutritional standpoint, your goals are to top off your glycogen stores during a ride or run with high-carb foods and hold off hunger for as long as you can. If you're out for five-plus hours, you need to include some protein and a small amount of fat (for flavor and satiety) to keep you going. Those of us who've ridden around the block a few times look for foods that are cheap, transportable and taste good.

For me, this boils down to the following five:

Fig Newtons: An inexpensive, high-carb, low-fat cookie. Four will fit nicely in your Bento box.

Boost nutritional drink: This is cheaper than Ensure and tastes a lot better, but make sure your body isn't negatively affected by magnesium.

Gummy Bears: These are basically the same thing as sports beans, but cheaper.

Beef jerky: It's not my favorite, but so many of my training buddies like it that it's worth including.

PowerBars: These are especially nice when you're stopped at an intersection and all the drivers are gawking at you and your bike. It looks even cooler if you can rip the wrapper off with your teeth.

Honorable mention goes to bagels with Justin's chocolate almond butter, strawberry Twizzlers (no wrapping needed -- just stick 'em in your back pocket), string cheese, yogurt sticks, low-fat Muscle Milk and good ol' PB & J sandwiches.

If you're training for a really big race, find out what will be provided at the aid stations and try eating those foods during your training rides. You can always carry your own food and drink in a race, but it's easier to eat what is offered and helpful to know whether your body will tolerate it under race conditions.

The main thing is you must eat (and drink plenty of fluids, of course). Figure out which foods work best for you and don't go trying something new on race day. Eat right, and you'll get you one step closer to reaching your goal, whether it's to place in your age group or finish with a smile on your face.