Foods of substance
Here you can mix it up with brown bread or white (slices or rolls) and a variety of fillings for sandwiches. Peanut butter and honey/jam is a staple. Some prefer chocolate spreads. While Melrose works ok, cheese is generally a no-no, especially in hot conditions; it goes really nasty. If you’re only racing for a few hours, ham is alright but I wouldn’t leave this sammie in your backpack, in the heat, for too long.
In a similar category to sandwiches I’ve even taken left overs from dinner, in a zip-seal bag to eat during races. These include mashed potato with a sauce of some kind (tomato), pasta and sauce (bolognaise) or a rice-something mix. These are easy to slurp from a packet.
Speaking of packets… you can slurp Pronutro and similar ‘just add water’ mixes from a bag too. On races longer than 24 hours a protein / supplement shake in transition will go down well.
Crackers (think Salticracks, Bacon Kips and those cheesy ones), mix salted nuts (including peanuts), crisps (NikNaks are time and time again an AR winner), corn-nuts, biltong, salted boiled baby potatoes and loads of others in this category are always good race foods.
I’m not big on sweet foods for racing although I know racers who survive almost exclusively on chocolate. Enerjellies, Jelly Tots and Wine Gums are common favourites. Many swear by fruit cake. Sports bars are also sweet and they get less desirable as the race progresses. Gels have their place too.
Dried fruit can go down well. Mango strips, apple rings, dates and bananas (not the banana chips – proper dried banana) are my favourites. Fresh, crunchy apples regularly find their way into my backpack. Trail mixes with dried fruit bits and nuts are enjoyable snacks.
And to drink?
My rule is to always put water in your hydration bladder and use a bottle for energy/carbohydrate drinks. Again, too much on the energy drink side will make you feel ill. For me, water is king – balanced by electrolyte replacing foods.
With experience you’ll find what works for you – and here is also depends on the duration of the race. Mix it up and trade foods with teammates. You’ll figure out the tastes you like on the go.
Walk the aisles and don’t buy anything weird; you won’t eat it on the race. Focus on real foods that you enjoy eating. Anything that goes down and stays down is a good race food.