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I sometimes do bicycle tours where I travel on the order of 12h a day for several days. That is, I need lots of energy a day, and I need to keep this up, so I really shouldn't have an energy deficit.

It's often difficult to find suitable food for this. Can you recommend me some vegetarian (vegan is a bonus) food? Requirements in list form are as follows:

  • High nutrition value per volume and weight.

    • It's okay if I need to add water to it before eating/drinking it.
    • It should mostly be carbs, with some decent amount of protein. Only little fat (not for energy, but to be able to use those vitamins and stuff which can only be used together with fat). I will be touring through France so there will be opportunities to resupply, but only basic stuff, no time to search for "specialty" food. Bread, fresh fruit, things which are eaten by lots of people in France can be assumed to be available to me roadside.
  • Easily digestible (otherwise the digestive system can't keep up with the raw amount of it)
  • It doesn't need to be completely balanced (after all after at most 2 weeks I'll resume my usual varied diet), but can't be completely off either, because after all I'm taxing my body a lot and need lots of stuff.
  • Either possible to carry a significant amount of it or widely available (I don't want more than 10kg or 20kg of baggage and that includes stuff other than food)
  • Keeps unrefrigerated
  • Doesn't crumble or squish easily (having to put it in rigid protecting containers adds a considerable amount of weight)
  • No cooking which goes above adding some boiling water and waiting a couple of minutes - time is also an issue.

This is in the context of this question (although that was in Italy instead of France).

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    You might also want to have a look over at bicycles.se, specifically the nutrition tag. Although a question superficially similar to yours was deemed off-topic, many of the recommended ride-foods are vegetarian anyway (e.g. nut/seed/oat-based snack bars, dried fruit) and quite a few are vegan (if you avoid whey-based protein supplements ). This is also similar to multi-day hikes, where vegetarian food is good because most forms of non-veg food that keep well are heavy. – Chris H Mar 27 '17 at 9:28
  • A source of hot water makes a massive difference -- and the weight of a hexamine stove is so small you might even save it back on dehydrated food (soya meals for example). Where are you touring? Are campfires a possibility? What sort of resupply options do you have (even fresh fruit at the roadside makes a difference)? – Chris H Mar 27 '17 at 9:32
  • @ChrisH Yeah, I updated the question. I'll take a hexamine stove, it's in France. Campfires take too much time. On cycling SE several questions like mine were closed. I fear mine has problems like those too, it's really a bit broad. On the other hand, the requirements aren't that easy to fulfill, so it doesn't seem an answer couldn't list the principal things to look out for. – Nobody Mar 27 '17 at 10:30
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    France makes a big difference -- bread is available in the smallest villages and the default loaf is vegan, so on many days you'll be able to use this as a significant source of carbs (it's light if bulky, and very cheap). You should investigate the other bakery products -- many use butter but are vegetarian. – Chris H Mar 27 '17 at 10:35
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    Have you considered powdered meals like Joylent (jimmyjoy.com) even as a suplement of your regular meals? A package of around 600g is more or less 2000 kcal, it's quite easy to prepare and eat and would keep your vitamin needs covered. – A. A. Mar 27 '17 at 13:51
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Energy-dense and simple to prepare

Basically everything that is high in carbs, low in water content and can be prepared by boiling for less than 15 minutes in one pot:

  • Rice (can't be whole rice, or it will take long to cook)
  • Pasta (whole wheat)
  • Oatmeal
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Add some red lentils or split peas right into the same pot for quick-cooking proteins.

To make this more balanced, consider buying at least one piece of fruit and vegetables a day, when you have the opportunity. Eat raw or steam over the boiling water. (A bamboo steamer is lightweight but somewhat bulky.)

Food to quickly replenish

You are looking for dense food that contains a lot of glucose and/or fructose with a relatively high glycemic index. Some salts (to compensate what you loose by sweating and to facilitate hydration) and proteins (to facilitate carb processing) are a bonus. The former is available in (semi-)dried fruit: Banana chips, dates, figs, apricots, sweet potatoes (baked and dried). The latter is available in nuts.

This leads to two suggestions: either make your own trail mix with lots of dried fruit, or try one of the various vegan energy balls or energy bar recipes that are out there on the internet. If you like the idea of making your own energy bars etc., I recommend buying a copy of "secrets d'endurance" or "bonheur en bares" by Cécile and Christophe Berg. These are small cookbooks for vegan endurance runners. They are in French and I am aware only of German translations. However, the instructions are easy to translate into English with a smartphone.

Useful links

There are two relevant questions on our outdoors sister-site:

  • Thanks, that goes into exactly the direction I had in mind. I speak decent French, so those cookbooks will be great. You think one piece of fresh fruit is a good amount? Or what is "at least"? Those are the things I was thinking about. What about the relative amount of protein? Is whole cereal better, or the other kind (the latter is easier to digest, isn't it?)? Although I guess the more I think about the question (as in the preceding subquestions), the more I can also research myself. – Nobody Mar 27 '17 at 13:55
  • @Nobody I would say more is better, but less is easier. :) You can probably perform on no fresh, fibrous food for a couple of days, remain healthy a few weeks, and survive forever. It's a matter of balancing good nutrition and the necessities of traveling where no steadfast rule applies. – henning -- reinstate Monica Mar 27 '17 at 14:00
  • @Nobody About the protein/carbs ratio: I can't give you a precise number (its probably somewhere between 1:4 and 1:5), but even a weightlifter needs more calories from carbs then from protein. For an endurance athlete this applies a fortiori. – henning -- reinstate Monica Mar 27 '17 at 14:06
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These calorie-dense no-bake trail bars were designed for backpacking– packing the most amount of calories into the the least weight. They are also recipe my whole family enjoys. Consider these as a Clif-Bar replacement for mid-day snacks or even a meal replacement. Credit for this recipe goes to the hiker named “Bigfoot” who got the recipe from hiker “Even Keel” whose mother mailed him these bars on the trail.

In my test the recipe made about 20 small bars, enough for our family our four to have each have two or three small bars for a breakfast, with eight bars left over for other snacks. For a two person single-overnight, consider cutting the recipe in half.

Our kids loved helping to make these. This increased their investment in trip and their excitement about adding the sweet, chocolately creations they helped make.

Beware the bars are a little sticky– probably not the best choice to eat straight out of a handlebar bag while riding!

Even Keel Trail Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup finely chopped nuts (we tried pecans)
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 4½ cups oatmeal
  • Almonds for topping (optional)

Instructions

  • Mix together peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract in a large bowl
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix them in.
  • Lightly spray a pan with vegetable oil.
  • Press mixed bars into pan
  • Cut into bars
  • Press almonds into the top of the bars- close enough to get an almond in each bite
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I think that the calorific content of food is simple, i.e.:

  • Fat: 9 (kcal per gram)
  • Carbs: 4
  • Protein: 4
  • Alcohol: 7

So a "high-calorie-density carb" is just whatever food contains the least water and most carbs -- for example, sugar (4 kcal/g) or dry couscous (3.75 kcal/g).

You increase calorie density by using drier (more dehydrated) foods with less fibre, and/or by using fattier foods.

And Couscous for example doesn't need "cooking" exactly: to prep it you mix it with an equal volume of boiling water and let it soak for 2 minutes.


Here's my attempt to describe iron rations. I guess this would get you through the week; but I don't know how digestible it is when consuming 7000 calories/day.

  • Carbs: couscous, because why not if you have hot water. It's close to maximum energy density for any carb. Most brands (check the label when you buy it) only need soaking for 2 minutes, not cooking for 5 minutes.

    Or bread, if you can buy it fresh daily, but it's bulky (fluffy) and goes stale.

    Or breakfast oats (like Muesli), because I think they say it has a better glycemic index than wheat, and/or more fibre (roughage), and (unlike other forms of oats) doesn't need cooking.

  • Salt: because of course. Iodized, preferably.

  • Other electrolytes: I think these are potassium and calcium (I don't whether you also need to replenish magnesium).

    • Potassium: dried apricots and (dried) bananas are said to be good sources. These also contain sugar (and preservatives). I don't know if you can digest them in bulk or only as a snack.

    • Calcium: a compact source is in pill form. Possibly a Vitamin C tablet or a multi-vitamin.

  • Oil: I like olive oil. Or pesto or a similar sauce.

  • Protein: I'd choose a simulated meat product if I could, e.g. a "veggie-dog" or simulated ground beef (pre-cooked). Because I think these have a higher % of protein per weight than pre-cooked canned beans (which are canned with lots of water). They might also be fortified (with iron, B12, etc.). Lentils are great but usually uncooked.

    Or there's stuff called TVP, I think it's light-weight (dehydrated). To rehydrate it, soak for 5..10 minutes. Then it's like tasteless ground beef (I don't like it, to be honest), so mix it with a sauce (e.g. with oil and tomato puree and couscous).

  • Vegetables: Do I have to? They're mostly water, therefore heavy. How about tomato puree, that's quite condensed?

  • Protein and Oil: nuts; also peanuts (which are a type of pea)

  • Thanks. That's good to know, but I would have liked some more concrete ideas, a list of suitable things containing all I need. I have thought about carrying a kettle. Electric ones are fairly light and can serve as a container for something else. But I generally won't have electricity, so I would need a gas based one and those are much heavier... But in hindsight I should be able myself to find a list of needed nutrients, go through it, try to find suitable food for everything and ask a more concrete question later when stuck. – Nobody Mar 26 '17 at 20:40
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    Something like hexamine fuel tablets with a corresponding stove and an aluminium pot are lightweight (probably lighter than the water you might carry in non-dehydrated foods). – ChrisW Mar 26 '17 at 20:54
  • Thanks! I didn't know about hexamine, this looks very interesting. I guess if I buy too much of it I'll get on all the terrorist watchlists, but other than that it seems really practical. :-) – Nobody Mar 26 '17 at 21:00
  • I'm curious about the "balanced" part of this -- obviously there is an overwhelming amounts of just raw carbs needed for the calorie increase, but micronutrients are also mentioned as important in the Question. – Erica Mar 26 '17 at 21:21
  • @Erica You're right that this is only at best a partial answer (e.g. it ignores nutrients, and even balance, and doesn't recommend specific foods (except couscous ... or rice except needs to be cooked)). I think there's a vast range of foods, with trade-offs which the OP must make (cost, weight, nutrition, palatability, balance, bulk, durability), so I find it hard to make a specific recommendation. But I thought that posting the basic calorie equation might be informative. – ChrisW Mar 26 '17 at 21:29

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