Training on Bread and Water


Doping cyclists refer to racing when they arenot under the influence of any performance enhancing drugs as racing “on bread and water.” In order to better see how my aerobic engine grows I’m experimenting with my own version of “bread and water” avoiding commercial sports nutrition and supplements. For me it will mean white rice and green tea. Real food.

Base training means building the aerobic engine. This means going slow and resisting all urges to go fast. It takes time to build those capillaries. It takes time for the heart to get stronger. It takes time for the mitochondria to do, well, whatever it is that mitochondria do. But the relaxed pace of training below MAF can be very pleasant. It gives one time to think. It is also a good time to to try new things since there is no pressure.

So Saturday was the first bike ride in way too long, and boy, did it feel awkward! The position on my road bike felt weird, I wobbled a bit going down the street, and today the only soreness is my neck and shoulders. They weren’t used to holding up my fat head for a couple of hours. The good news is that I pedaled well for two hours, but running exclusively is not the same as cycling, so much work needs to be done before racing triathlons again.

The Experiment:
I want to try real food for training rather than processed sports “nutrition.” It seems to me that during low heart rate cycling, it should be easy to eat real food. So I tried making some onigiri to stuff into my pockets. Ordinarily, I don’t need food at all for aerobic workouts under two hours, but I wanted to experiment, and my ride was pushing into lunchtime.

A qualified success. They tasted great, and chewing on real food was a nice contrast to sucking down gels or liquid fuels. I found that using a little extra water when wrapping them made them hold together better. They held together beautifully in my jersey pockets. Nutritionally, at about 100 calories per half cup of rice, I could figure out how many calories I was getting, which is one of the conveniences of packaged foods. I used the traditional umeboshi paste and higher grade rice which tasted great. I loved the tangy, salty, sour taste, and I think that in the summer heat it would be quite refreshing.

One real, and one potential.

They were a bit of a challenge to eat while riding. They took longer than I thought, so maybe I should make them smaller. Also, the nori wrapper was a bit tough to bite through and chew at times. I anticipated this, but it was a bit tricky. Will it get better with more practice? I don’t know.

The weather was cool and breezy, and I hardly broke a sweat. I don’t know how they would fare in a jersey pocket on a hot summer day. They might need another wrapper of plastic, foil, or wax paper, which would make eating them even more of a challenge for a klutz like me.

But in sum, they taste good, settle well in my stomach, and at a few cents for a serving of rice and a nori wrapper compared to $1.40 for a Hammer gel, I will practice my technique.


About vegpedlr

Plant powered off-road triathlete

Posted on February 12, 2013, in Reflection and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I saw your post on McDougall boards. I’m doing my first 1/2 marathon in August. I’ve never done more than a 5 K and that was a couple years ago. I was really excited to learn about Maffetone. I kept my heart rate low while working out yesterday – it was just a fast walk. I have a ways to go but lots of time at least. Looking forward to learning more.

    You might consider a soy wrap for riding. They are easier to bite through. If you still want the nutritional benefits of the seaweed you can tear it up and mix it into the rice. I’m looking forward to reading your blogs more as I start to train.

    Have a great day!

    • Thanks for stopping by! Congrats on picking out a 1/2 marathon, and you’ve got plenty of time to prepare. Always wear you heart monitor, stick to the 180 formula, be consistent, and the results will come. Discipline, consitency and honesty make it pay off. It’s OK to walk, you’re still training the aerobic system, and you should see some progress every week. Last year I walked a lot when recovering from pneumonia. Another resource for beginning runners that is really good is Jeff Galloway. His Book on Running has a lot of good info, and his run/walk method works really well. That’s the approach Funcrunch (from the McD boards) uses to great effect. Happy training!

  2. Hi! I loved reading about your training experience with the rice balls or from the photos, they looked more like logs. The more I read about the nasty ingredients in gels and traditional “fuels” the more I feel they might be doing more harm than good. Inspired by your post, I took to a different variation which worked quite well. I have to admit that I despise sea weed so I decided to make tightly rolled fresh rolls on a run. I didn’t fill them as thick as I normally would if I was making a meal of them and added in shelled edamame, I used rice instead of noodles and then added in thinly sliced veggies. As mentioned before, I rolled these very tightly and then placed them in waxed paper. The end result was great! I didn’t have to eat seaweed (I know its good for you, but….) they stayed rolled, I can vary the size easily, and I was able to get protein, carbs, and veggies in one tight “cigar” roll. Yum!

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