Eating Right on the Road

Eating Right on the Road

The Best Fuel for Your Body

I like a Krispy Kreme "donut run" or a Haagen-Dazs "ice cream run" as much as the next rider, especially when it also includes a hot cappuccino or latte. There seems to be something in our human genetics that has us hard wired for sugar-laden treats and other foodstuffs that, on the one hand, our body craves, but, on the other, contribute virtually no nutritional value to the health of the body.

Eating right on the road—where fast food, bags of chips, sodas, candy bars, high calorie desserts, and other fatty fare seem to be the only food available—can be a real challenge. Eating "junk food" for several days can leave you feeling fatigued and out-of-sorts. Getting your body the nutrition it needs, while enduring the physical demands of a multi-day motorcycle tour, is especially important for a rider's wellbeing and riding enjoyment. Here are my top ten strategies for eating right on the road:

  • Drink Plenty of Liquids: It's always important to keep well hydrated when riding a motorcycle, with water, tea, low calorie energy drinks, and other liquids that replenish fluids and electrolytes in your body. High liquid intake also helps to avoid binge eating. Sodas and other high sugar drinks tend to pass through your body much faster with little to no nutritional benefit.
  • Pack Healthy Snacks: Stuff you tankbag with healthy snacks, like nuts that contain polyunsaturated fats (like almonds, cashews, and walnuts), raisins, dried fruits, low fat energy bars, whole-grain crackers, and fresh fruit (such as bananas, oranges, and apples). Snacking between meals will keep your energy level up, and also help curb any tendency to overeat at mealtime.
  • Always Eat Breakfast: Just like mom always said, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." After fasting for eight or more hours at night, your body needs "fuel" to get it firing on all cylinders. You wouldn't consider riding your bike out of town on an empty gas tank would you? A high sugar and carbohydrate breakfast may increase your energy for a short time, but it won't last long. Instead, consume milk, juices, fruit, hardboiled eggs, and yogurt; minimize the toast, bagels, and hot sticky buns.
  • Avoid Large Portions: Restaurants generally provide portions that are well in excess of what most of us need to consume to operate a motorcycle. Consider ordering one or more appetizers, instead of an entree, or share an entree with another member of your touring group. As a rough guide, don't eat a piece of meat larger than the palm of your hand.
  • Stop Eating When You're Full: Many men and women in America were trained from childhood, like Pavlov's dog, that they must "clean their plate" of everything on it that even remotely resembles food. This conditioning keeps many of us eating long after our stomach is full—just say no after you're full!
  • Avoid Fried, Fatty Foods and Minimize Carbohydrates: Like many of you, I was raised in the 50s and 60s on fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cherry pie for dessert. I still have a strong craving for these foods, which are frequently on the menus of small town, family-owned restaurants as well as chain restaurants like Cracker Barrel and Denny's. Virtually all restaurants, however, have other healthier food options on their menus. Salads, for example. Because your body metabolizes carbohydrates into sugar, go easy on the pizza, dinner rolls, and other similar starchy foods, and stick to whole grains whenever possible.
  • Find Fresh Fruit: Fruit stands often can be found along secondary roads and offer a refreshing and healthy break from the fare one usually finds at gas stations and fast food restaurants. Take a cantaloupe break at a fruit stand and avoid feeling stuffed and getting sleepy on the road.
  • Stop at Grocery Stores: When passing through small towns, with little or no good restaurant options, I've often stopped at the local super market and picked up fruit and other low fat food for a picnic lunch.
  • Don't Skip Meals: To avoid the potential for binge eating, it's important to plan for and eat three meals each day. Those healthy snacks in your tankbag are especially beneficial when it's time to eat, you're hungry, and there's no place around to buy food.
  • Eat the Healthy Stuff First: Cafeterias offer a wide variety of dining selections, some healthy, others not so much. I've found that if I load up my first plate at the salad bar, I won't be as hungry for the meat, potatoes and gravy, and cherry pie on the second and third passes. Chinese restaurants, which can be found in many small towns across America, offer tasty fare, which can include a variety of vegetables.

The key is to find a happy medium between denying all high-sugar and fatty foods, and the occasional indulgence that keeps a trip enjoyable. The bottom line, though, is that eating right on the road will increase the enjoyment of your touring experience.