Fuel the Fire

Eat, ride, sleep, repeat.

Or so they say.

No one ever asks me how much I sleep. I do, however, receive a nearly equal smattering of questions regarding how much do I ride and what do I eat. Thanks to Strava I post a lot of my races and training rides, but on average only about 4-5 per week. Meanwhile, I use this blog and showcase the more noteworthy meals I eat. That gives an idea of what’s going in and what sort of energy I’m burning, but that obviously doesn’t paint the entire picture because I’ve never combined the two. Well wait no more my curiously analytical cycling friends, because I’m doing that exact thing right here right now! What follows is one of the most rudimentary food/hydration/fuel/training investigation you’ll ever see.

Specifically, I took a photo of nearly everything I ate today; also, photo or not, I logged everything I ate. This being iamtedking dot com, I have a story to two to add to the mix to keep it spicy. In fair warning, I don’t claim to be a nutritionist (…err, actually I do exactly that in my next column for Bicycling), but after years of being part of this professional athlete thing, I’m quite astute when it comes to estimating food sizes, portions, and corresponding nutritional value. For the sake of adding even slightly more legitimacy, I’ve also used FitDay‘s calorie tracker. There, the internet says it, so it’s gotta be true.

Today’s ride, which you see at the top, was a big one. It’s my last big training session before the Tour de France East, which this year is seven days of racing all throughout Poland and curiously is more accurately called the Tour of Poland.

Starting a day without coffee is just foolish. Note the particularly colorful bag of beans from Berti Caffe.

This roaster’y is located just 1km from my Lucca home and I ride by these guys all the time. One day the door was open and out of the corner of my eye as I zoomed by I saw the telltale cycling rainbow colors emblazoned on the back of their shop. I locked up the breaks, flipped a U-ie, ducked my head in the shop, and asked what the colors signified. When the kindly woman told me that her father is a cycling nut, I knew I had a new favorite local coffee roaster! Moreover – and remember this is a very Italian woman in a very Italian town – the woman asked me where I was from; I said New Hampshire to which she replied that NH’s finest Lake Winnipesaukie is one of her favorite places on earth. Wow, small world.

2 cups of black coffee (5 calories) down the hatch.

Again, big ride today means a big hearty breakfast.

I ate a small smattering of this fruit. It’s fresh cantaloupe, white peaches, and apricots. I only ate a few bites of this as I was preparing the rest of breakfast.

1/5 of the melon (37 calories), 1/4 peach (10), 1/2 apricot (9). Now back in the fridge for you!

From there it was breakfast time proper. Throwing an egg into oatmeal and whipping it up quickly gives it the most satisfying, custardy texture in addition to providing a nutritional boost from farm fresh eggs. You saw eww, I saw try it. So in this bowl of oatmeal we have water, oats (310 calories), an egg (60), three cherries (13), one dried fig (37), and three dried apricots (27). This being me, there is also a bit of New Hampshire maple syrup (105), some cinnamon and a dash of salt. In the background, you’ll also see a thingy of banana yogurt (150).

A short while later it was time to kit up and practice the art of bicycle riding. I met a friendly fruit-stand-man riding with Ben King two weeks ago as we rolled back into town from another legendary ride. It turns that he’s a huge cycling fan, being Italian he loves Liquigas, and I therefore wanted to bequeath him some wicked bright green and blue swag. So with a brand new team issue water bottle and cycling cap in hand, I rode 10 minutes to his corner of the globe. Note his right hand – he’s giddy as a school girl after her first kiss in this photo with his new stuff.

It’s around about this time that I should point out that I love figs. Truly I feel sorry for anyone out there who has never had the opportunity to bite into a fresh fig. And by fresh I mean you literally have a mere 12 hour window when it goes from exquisite to rotten. It is divine! (One fig eaten on the spot, 37 calories.)

I was about to ride bid him farewell and ride away when he hollered something, scurried into his barn, grabbed a bunch of fruit and handed it over. I had to laugh since it was literally a handful of fruit. Actually it was two handfuls. First, I received more than is in this photo. He handed me three massive peaches and six of those mini pears. Secondly, no, I did not eat everything in this photo. I pocketed all of it in a show of my grateful thanks, but ended up having to toss what I didn’t eat.

I had somewhere between 5 to 5.5 hours on the training program today with a handful of relatively short bursting intervals. It was hot today too. As we say at home “H-O-double-T, hot!” As you’ll see in the SRM file below, the average temp was 31.5C (88F), but that includes a relatively cool morning. The brunt of the ride was in the 37-40C range (98-104F) with a max of 45C (113F) in one particular valley that radiates heat on a road right next to it’s bone-day river bed. That’s like riding into a hairdryer.

I mention all that because I drink a frigging ton on days like today. Allen Lim is a friend of mine and he knows a thing or two about hydration. I value his opinion and know that staying ahead of dehydration is enormously important especially on longer days like today. At 6’2″ I’m tall and therefore have a lot of surface area to pour sweat. During the harder parts of the the training intervals, in the hotter sections of the ride, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to sweat any more than I was – my flipping calves were sweating at those times.

Sorry to be gross, if you find sweat nasty. My point is that in the course of these 5.38333 hours, I drank at any and every opportunity. Thankfully all throughout Italy – and lots of European for that matter – there are these magical water springs. They’re both in the middle of nowhere like the top of mountain passes or right in the middle of small downtown squares. With the help of a relatively low-calorie/high-electrolyte hydration formula, I reckon that I drank 12 bottles (250 calories).

Over the course of my career I’ve eaten more race food than I care to even picture, so given the option of real food or race food, I choose the former. In general in the real food category, I tend towards sweet over salty. So in today’s hundred-plus mile ride, I ate the following:

I know I’ve mentioned il Re del Cappuccino – the aptly named King of Cappuccino – who’s been serving capp’s for more than 60 years. The man is a legend. Now that I have a signed jersey decorating their shop, I’m basked with their exemplary service. Which is the same as their standard service, since they’re always hospitable. Cappuccino (200 calories) and Nutella laden baked good (250) after 75 minutes is precisely the fuel I want for the rest of the day.

Next, top left: those aaaaaamazing honey waffles, which cost like $2 apiece in America, but are like $0.25 in Belgium. I bagged up and had five of those gems (670 calories).
Bottom: every cafe in Italy has biscotti. Mind you, these are Italian biscotti and not SUPERsized American portions, so they’re about the size of your pinkie. A half dozen of those spread out over the day is about 500 calories.

Oh and remember those peaches and mini pears swimming in my jersey pocket from farm stand man? I ate two peaches (76) and two mini pears (40).

By now you’re saying, “Ted, you ate like a horse.” To which I reply, yes, but look at the SRM file and you’ll see that I burned through a hearty 5,067 calories… and that’s just in the 5:23 ride time, let alone my basal metabolic rate which is running hot so I’m zipping through another ~2,000 calories over the course of the day.

…Good grief, this is a lot of work rehashing everything I ate and it’s not even lunch time. Okay (breathe breathe), let’s keep going.

Famished and thirsty, I got home from my ride and chugged some water and a fairly light recovery drink (150). I also ate a fig- yes, another one (37).

Shower time and 4pm lunch time followed. I made the most amazing risotto that I’ve ever made – admittedly, it’s the first risotto I’ve ever made – the night before and I had ample leftovers. This beauty is a zucca (basically squash/zucchini) and onion risotto (500 calories), topped on a bed of raw arugula (10), three luscious Italian tomatoes (35), a beet and a half (50), all drizzled with truffle balsamic glaze (10). To the left is a rice cracker (15) schmeared with homemade sun-dried tomato hummus (80)… ’cause that’s what I do.

It was nearly time for another fig, but I thought I would take a nap instead. ZZZzzzZZZzzzzzzz Nap: over. Now it’s time to tackle some errands in town, but I decided that I had a hankerin’ for some chocolate peanut butter, which conveniently I had in the form of Dark Chocolate Dreams from Peanut Butter & Co. I had a modest spoonful (170) atop another rice cracker (15). It would likely behoove you to do the same or perhaps try their Mighty Maple.

I did some reading before dinner and they say that your brain consumes a lot of calories when deep in thought. I don’t have the SRM file for this specific reading interval, but I reckon I burned another 5,000 calories by finishing up my latest book… The Hunger Games, curiously enough. Here’s my five-cent book review: an interesting read, but I don’t see what all the hype is about. Yes, it’s very engrossing and despite the post-apocalyptic nature of the plot, the emotions of the book are still something with which we can relate. But without giving away too much, when there are human-meets-wolf creatures sprinting around on their hind legs with 4″ razor sharp claws attacking the protagonists, WTF?! I don’t like science fiction. I’d be hard pressed to read the second of this series.

There, now you owe me a nickel.

Dinner time and I wanted to reward myself for a hard day’s work without laboring in the kitchen. If you’ve ever had pizza in Italy, you know that each person order one pizza. It’s kind of like how in America, if you go to Mexican food, one person is going to order one burrito. Are we now clear with the 1:1 ratio? Good, let’s continue. The pizza is typically 12″ in diameter, incredibly thin with a basic flour/yeast/salt/water crust, and most certainly is not the oil injected, 2″ tall pizzas we’re accustomed to in America. A few toppings decorate the pizzapie and voila, you’ve got yourself dinner. All for 6 euro.

Prosciutto cotto, arugula, tomato pizza (1,000) on a very colorful yet camouflaged plate. A crisp, fruit-foward (whatever that means) glass of Austrian white wine (125) gifted to me by our friend Timmy Duggan perfectly accentuated this entree on a still stifling evening.

And yes, that’s my iamnottedking-stickered wallet.

It’s nearly dinner time, but not first without another pair of figs (74). What?! I issued the warning earlier, I love figs. Succulent, sweet, and literally bursting with flavor, it’s kind of like your food giving you a high five when you take a bite.


So what have we learned? Who knows. Like I said, this isn’t a normal example. This was obviously a day of heavy training, so I’m going to ride hard and eat a lot to fuel the fire. On an easy day I eat like a ballerina and crush some salad. So since there isn’t anything more to really do, let’s just summarize.

— By my calculation, I consumed 5,082 calories. All of which were delicious, especially the risotto and the honey waffles
— Calories expended on the ride: 5,067.69
— Ride time: 5:23 and change
— Ride distance: 172.5km (107 miles)
— Average power: a massive 261 watts

Peace out nerds.



  1. dave mengle

    Wow… now I’m hungry! Does Liquigas whip-up stuff this good when you’re racing? So far today I’ve only had the 2 cups of coffee (Green Mountain Dark Magic). Ride on…

  2. lee

    What we’ve learnt is that riding 107mls quantifies a serious liking for figs… 😉

  3. Travis

    Well, Ted, how much do you sleep? 🙂

  4. Shannon G

    Every time I eat or see arugula (which I love btw) I hear Steve Martin in my head, having his conversation with the grocery store manager about arugula. “It is a vegetable”. But I digress. Thanks for the inside look at your food/ride.

    Since noone asked, I will. How much do you sleep? I am a fan of sleep. I think a solid 9 or so hours puts me in top cycling form, but Tom is a 5 AM kind of guy.

    Bon appetito, mio amico.

    Enjoy that before you reach the cruciferous dietary standards of Poland.

    Bezpieczne podróze!

  5. james

    Dang that risotto looks really good. I know what we’re having for dinner now. 🙂

    Again, a great piece of writing Ted!

  6. Chris King

    Do you crack a raw egg in the oatmeal then pop it all in the micro? Or just just add a raw egg after cooking the oats on the stove?

  7. Jim H

    No gelato? >100F=gelato.

  8. Erika

    I second the risotto comment! That looks really yummy. Actually, all of the food looks great! I see fresh figs here in Seattle so I’m curious about whether/how the taste of Italian figs differs.

  9. yann

    I first heard of you while watching a video of the ToCalifornia counting down a kid-fan’s running along side the peloton (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzQX6zoCv4Y) and from strava (you’re bad ass!).
    Anyway, great article!

  10. tom

    Tried the egg in the oatmeal this morning. Trusted the word of a fellow Northern New Englander and went with it. I am hooked. Amazing indeed. Great tip!

  11. Howard

    Think I saw you on Saturday about lunchtime struggling past the tourists near San Michele, you were to quick for me to say hello. We were on our way to Trattoria Da Leo which I would recommend if you tire of cooking at home.

  12. Jeff Pastof

    I really enjoyed this posting. As a fellow New Hampshirite whos done a little cycling in Chianti I’m pretty f……g jealous. Good luck in Poland

  13. Drew Szeliga

    When I was in college after a 5 hour training session up Parker/Catamount I would make “Taco Surprise.” You may be asking, “What is this?” Well, I will tell you……..

    Step 1) Layer a plate with iceberg lettuce
    Step 2) Apply three to four pieces of chicken, preferably fried
    Step 3) Smother with salsa
    Step 4) Take a 99 cent bag of red doritos, crush them, and dump them on the concoction.
    Step 5) Cover with cheddar cheese
    Step 6) Microwave for 1.5 minutes

    I wasn’t the Men’s B team time trial champion of the world for nothing.

  14. dadyo

    seems like a lotta of carbs and a relative paucity of protein. but hey if it works. reading some of your earlier posts i was impressed by the altitude climbed. are you riding an 11-28?

  15. Ian Hoggarth

    Ted, that’s another quality post. Love reading your stories. Not seen that vid that the earlier commentor posted before: sheer class.

    Tried picking fresh figs on hols up in Como last month but they weren’t ready. Enjoy them while they last!

  16. Trev

    Tried the old raw egg in the porridge, and well that was disgusting!!!! Almost puked at the smell of it let alone the taste. However combined with maple syrup it made the smell bearable and the taste extroadinary. I suppose maple syrup is a lot like sweet chilli sauce in the fact it can turn crap into awesome.

    • iamtedking

      Wow, I’m so excited Trev that you didn’t puke. I wish you the best in your culinary adventures. Why don’t you just stick with plain oatmeal with water. Or perhaps some gruel with nothing on it.

  17. Steve

    Holy crap, you eat well. All of that stuff looks amazing.

  18. Ellie

    Well, excuse me….but I can recall asking you more than a few months ago – how much you sleep. Right about the same time I asked when your next day off was….so I think I wrote that in February maybe and you’d said you had April 16th off….
    In short – we do ask and we do pay attention and we do care – really.
    Love your posts about all things “Ted”.
    Carry On…


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