elk jerky snack for riding

While foods like Powerbars are great for hard rides and races, it’s hard to get past the desire for “real” food. High-calorie drinks like Accelerade and Hammer Perpetuem might seem great, but liquid food for 6 hours? C’mon.

If there’s ever a good time to eat real food instead of processed bars, it’s on long endurance rides. Kind of like the rides many people do for fun in the crisp Autumn air. (Here on the East Coast, it’s the perfect time to enjoy the fall foliage.)

What we need is real food, with fat and protein along with the carbs. After all, we’re not racing, we’re just going out for a fun ride!

Here are my five favorite foods for Fall:

1) Peanut Butter on Graham Crackers

graham crackers

Time to switch things up a bit. Instead of a regular peanut butter sandwich, I like to take pieces of graham cracker, add natural peanut butter, and make mini sandwiches.

The natural peanut butter is full of healthy fat and protein, and you can find carbohydrate-rich graham crackers that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils!

They even make gluten-free graham crackers now.

If you’re adventurous, you could also throw in some dark chocolate chips.

Or if you want an even sweeter (albeit unhealthier) treat, use peanut butter cake frosting in place of the natural peanut butter.

2) Beef Jerky

turkey jerky pieces

Again we have some fat and protein, but with plenty of salt to keep our electrolyte reserves (and taste buds) happy! Beef jerky is oh so good, especially when you just spent the past six months living off Powerbars!

And contrary to popular belief, jerky really isn’t high in fat. The stick of elk jerky I’m eating has a total of 35 calories and 0.5g fat, while the bag of beef jerky has 100 calories and 1g fat.

(Jerky is extremely high in sodium though, with 560mg in the elk and 430mg in the beef. That’s more than double the sodium found in most sports drinks!)

If red meat isn’t your thing, you can find turkey jerky or pork jerky.

Don’t eat meat at all? No problem, you can find vegan jerky these days. It’s usually made from dried and seasoned soy, seitan, coconut, or mushroom. (Try mushroom jerky if you’re looking for the most traditional flavor.)

3) Trail Mix or Granola

handful of fruit nut granola

Trail mix is a perennial favorite for any kind of adventure, including hiking, biking, and everything in between.

Just pick out your favorite kind of trail mix or granola and either carry a small bag of it or just dump it in your jersey pocket.

Be careful if anything is prone to melting, though!

One thing I thought was cool (from a convenience standpoint) is the 2oz bag of Bear Naked granola. It’s healthy granola in a package that fits in your jersey pocket! Then you can just dump a little bit from the package straight into your mouth, without stopping.

4) Gummy Bears

fruit slices candy

Have you been eating energy gels all summer, or maybe even “energy chews” or “sport jelly beans,” but you’ve had enough already?

Then go back to old-fashioned treats such as real gummy bears, jelly beans, or (one of my personal favorites) Sunkist fruit gems.

You get tons of sugar, great taste, and it will save you a lot of money over the designer candies made specifically for athletes!

(Really, most energy gels and stuff like Jelly Belly Sport Beans are just candy with a tiny bit of sodium and potassium added so they can charge a premium price.)

Just don’t over-do it on this one because these are not made from a combination of sugars intended to be easily digestible.

5) Dried Fruit

pile of banana chips

Much like gummy bears, dried fruit tastes great and provides you with tons of sugar. However, it gives you a much different taste and also provides important vitamins and minerals.

I recommend dried pineapple or banana chips, but I also enjoy dried papaya and sometimes dried apricots.

This will be a welcome difference in both taste and texture if you’re getting sick of syrupy energy gels!

Just don’t eat too much dried fruit because the fiber could cause digestive problems.


There you go, five snacks that give you fat, protein, sugar, nutrients, and best of all, the satisfaction of eating real food!

These are great for your epic bike rides, but they also make great snacks for all-day hiking trips and other adventures. So eat up!

*Caution: As with any nutrition changes, test them on shorter, less important rides to make sure they won’t ruin a big ride or race.

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  1. Nice collection snacks, they are healthy too. Have you made a list for low fat food too?

  2. Coach Levi,
    Thanks for your practical approach to endurance supplements. I have always tried to find a cost effective way to preform in the top 10% without paying for the top supplements, coaching, equipment and training. In a few weeks I turn 60 and one week after I am doing my first (and last) Iron Man. I hope to learn more from your advice.

    • Awesome, best of luck Terry! It’s definitely something you can do on a budget.

      And this is a wonderful time of year for it! One of my friends is doing the Ironman in Chattanooga around that time.

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