Beyond Nutrition

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Caffeine at cross cut

When word got out about the inaugural Cross Cut Dirty Metric Century, I signed up on the spot. Cross Cut promised 63 gorgeous miles and 6,000 feet of grueling climbing through little-known Pennsylvania farmland with tons of twisty gravel hills. What’s not to love?
The heat, that’s what. By 10:00 a.m. that August morning, it was 94ºF with 95% humidity and a heat index of 103ºF. Thank God for the renegade tequila stop at the top of the first climb. But it was the planned stop at the crest of Goat Hill—a half-mile, 17% grind on loose, rutted gravel and dirt—that turned out to be an oasis. Water, food, beer … it had everything me and my Lone Wolf Cycling crew needed to get happy. Someone even broke out a couple lawn chairs. If it weren’t for my caffeine cookies, we might’ve never left.
I’m a big fan of caffeine. Like most riders, I usually do some pre-ride coffee doping. Others prefer tea, soda, or MonsterRockStarJumpJuice! Either way, the caffeine helps you ride longer before you get exhausted. Here’s how: Your muscles get most of their fuel from glycogen, a fancy word for stored-up carbohydrates. But muscles can also use fat for fuel. And your fat stores—even if you’re thin—are more abundant than your carb stores. Enter caffeine: it encourages your muscles to burn fat instead of carbs, which saves your glycogen stores and lets you pedal longer before you hit the wall.
For longer rides, I was putting espresso and green tea powders in my homemade drinks and food for a mid-ride burst of energy. But I don’t always want the taste of green tea or espresso while riding. For the Cross Cut Metric Century, I switched to pure caffeine, a.k.a anhydrous (dehydrated) caffeine powder. You can buy pure caffeine powder in bulk online. But don’t. It’s very potent and difficult to measure accurately. Instead, buy 200-mg caffeine capsules.
They’re cheap, easy to dissolve in drinks or food, and available at most pharmacies (and online). More importantly, they’re pre-measured. For reference, an 8-oz cup of coffee has about 100-mg caffeine, an 8-oz cup of tea about 50-mg, and a 12-oz can of Coca-cola about 30-mg. If you know your caffeine tolerance, use these numbers to figure out how many 200-mg caffeine capsules to add to your drinks or food.
Here’s my recipe for caffeine cookies. Each one has about 115-mg caffeine, a tad more than your average cup of coffee. When I was about to keel over at Cross Cut, after clawing my way to the top of Goat Hill and sweating out all my energy—and motivation—this cookie saved my ass.
Caffeine Cookies – Makes 9

  • 1/2 cup (115 g) butter, plus some for coating pan
  • 1 cup (220 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour (UK: plain)
  • Five 200mg caffeine capsules
  • 1/2 cup (25 g) old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 g) baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 g) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (0.75 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (85 g) chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup (55 g) chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175º). Line 8×8-inch (20×20-cm) pan with aluminum foil, leaving some overhang to use as handles. Coat foil with butter or oil spray.
2. Put butter in medium saucepot and melt over medium heat. Cook until butter turns golden brown, swirling pot now and then for even browning, 3–5 minutes total.
3. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar. Let cool 5–8 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, put flour in a bowl. Open caffeine capsules and empty powder into bowl. Mix in oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
5. When sugar mixture is cool, stir vanilla and egg into pot until fully blended. Add flour mixture to pot and stir to form a loose batter.
6. Spread only enough batter in pan to cover bottom, about 1/3 of batter. Scatter chips and nuts over top, but not all the way to edges. Spread remaining batter over filling, spreading to cover filling completely.
7. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan. When cool, use foil handles to remove entire pan of cookies to cutting board. Cut into 9 squares and wrap each in foil. Freeze foil-wrapped squares in zipper lock bag for up to 3 months. Stuff in jersey pocket for mid-ride jumpstart.

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