How do you eat on vacation?

A few months ago, I wrote about the faux controversy that Spinning makes you fat. Today, I practically laughed out loud over an article by James Fell about gaining weight on vacation while exercising. I’ve been following him lately and enjoy his no-nonsense fitness and nutrition advice.

I especially enjoyed his comment, “Every summer I spend a few weeks on the coast running, hiking, sea kayaking, swimming and getting about double my usual amount of exercise…. And still I gain weight…Why? Because food. And beer…”

It was perfect timing! This is RAGBRAI week, a time when thousands of people burn and consume an uncountable number of calories while riding their bicycles across Iowa. Non-cyclists usually say something like: “You rode a bike all day for seven days? You must have lost a lot of weight!”

Actually, no. Why? Because food. Specifically Iowa food.

There’s a town every 10 miles or so. You could stop and just refill your water bottle, nibble some almonds and keep riding, but let’s get real. There are so many vendors with bagels, smoothies, breakfast burritos, pie, fruit, sports drinks, beer, pork sandwiches, and other enticing stuff that it’s hard to think clearly. Besides, riding makes you hungry.


Every town offers something tempting.


Mr. Pork Chop is famous for setting up a grill in between towns. You never know where Mr. Pork Chop will be each day, but you can’t miss the aroma and the crowds.


Lots of people get in 10 miles or so each morning, then stop for pancakes.

72606 Corn Elkhart

Were did all that corn go? RAGBRAI riders ate it.

Let’s say you ride 60 miles in a day. Sometimes you ride fast, but because Iowa is hilly (yes it is), your average speed might be closer to 13 mph. That’s almost five hours of pedal time, or approximately 2,000 extra calories burned from cycling.


Proof of hills.

Burning 2,000 extra calories a day may seem like a dream come true, but for endurance sports, you need an ongoing consumption of carbs to sustain your energy throughout the day. Food is everywhere, you feel entitled, and that’s why nobody loses weight on RAGBRAI.


Beer is liquid carbs, right? It’s part of the “tradition” to stop for a cold one in the last town on the route before the overnight town.

0708 Tues Max Mark pie


dinner in fairfield

Pasta is the main attraction at church suppers in the overnight towns. I sure filled my plate at this one.

jayne nanci milk

How can you say no to free chocolate milk along the side of the road?


Watermelon hits the spot on a hot day.

Randy sausage

The sausage in Pella was awesome.


Look what we found next to the sausage shop!

As you can see, my friends and I have had a lot of fun eating and riding. After all, RAGBRAI is more than a bike ride, it’s a week-long rolling party.

No matter where you travel, there will be regional specialties to taste and reasons to celebrate. Just remember that an extra hour or two of exercise doesn’t give you license to over-indulge. And if you want to lose weight, you need to stick to a plan the other 51 weeks of the year.




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