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Ditch the Gels and Fuel Your Long Ride with Two-Bite Sandwiches

Who says sport nutrition has to be sweet and sticky? Fuel like the Italians with a mid-ride portable panino.


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When most people think of sport nutrition, they think of sweet, sticky confections like gels, chews, and bars. Those products certainly have their place in the triathlete’s fueling plan, but let’s be honest: after a few hours of gels, you get a little sugared out. Palate fatigue is real—if you don’t believe me, watch what your fellow athletes purchase when they make a gas station or coffee shop during your next Century ride. Chances are, they’ll skip the sweet stuff and go for salty potato chips or a savory item from the hot bar. (Gas station pizza never tasted so good as four hours into a ride!)

RELATED: Triathlete’s Complete Guide to Nutrition and Fueling

In Italy, cyclists traversing the country love stopping at small cafes, delis, and markets for delicious mid-ride sandwiches. These paninos—sandwiches full of prosciutto, salami, and cheese—can really hit the spot when you’re spending a day on your bike. But what if you’re not in Italy, and what if there’s no deli to be found at mile 60 of your ride? That’s when you pack your own.

This very simple sandwich is a play on the numerous variations you can get all across Italy. For cycling, it makes sense to use a soft roll or sliced bread, which can easily hold together and be eaten in two or three bites while riding along. Split a soft Hawaiian roll, brioche, soft pullman, or any dinner roll and fill with your favorite toppings. Spread some soft cheese, a touch of jam for sweetness, a thin slice of prosciutto or salami, and (my personal favorite) a small scoop of salty chopped pickles or relish. If you’d rather skip the meat, you can also try fillings like peanut butter or goat cheese—really, if you can smush it between two pieces of bread, you can put it in your jersey pocket! Consider some of the combinations below as you choose your own culinary adventure.

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The sandwiches are small and can be squashed or rolled to fit into small bags, and the flavor/texture combo will make you actually want to eat while burning those calories on a long day. The key to a portable bike sandwich is to keep them small and avoid heavy spreads, which can make things messy when stuffed in your jersey pocket. Also, avoid hard or crumbly bread that is hard to chew while breathing mid-ride.

The combination of bread, filings, and toppings make for a great carbohydrate source, with just enough added fat and flavor to keep you going on the longer days. Most sandwiches will hover around 200 calories, depending, of course, on how big you make them and what all you manage to jam in there. Some combos to try:

Panino:

Soft Bread + Cream Cheese + Jam + relish + smoked turkey

Soft Bread + Peanut Butter + Jam + banana slices + coarse salt

Soft Bread + Goat cheese + raspberry jam + prosciutto + cheddar cheese

Soft Bread + Scrambled eggs + bacon + cheddar cheese + strawberry jam

Rolled Sandwiches:

Flat bread + peanut butter + swiss cheese + smoked tofu + strawberry jam

Flat bread + Nutella + cream cheese + ham + orange marmalade

Flat bread + soft herb cheese + sundried tomatoes + turkey and a touch of honey

RELATED: Feed Zone Portables: Sweet and Savory Rolls