The Full Fryup – Why?

The great Scottish/Irish/English/Welsh fried breakfast, just the thing for a day’s cycling?

When cycling on longer trips in the British Isles you will need somewhere to stay. Almost every hotel or bed and breakfast will proudly tell you that they provide a Full Breakfast.  They may staunchly assert that their breakfast is distinctively Scottish, Irish, Welsh or English, justified by some national delicacy lurking in a corner of the plate, but the offering is greasily consistent across all these countries. Some places provide high quality sausages from local craft butchers, others serve up cheap nasty discount sausage, deep-fried if you are particularly unlucky, but the theme is the same – fried food and lots of it.

The photo above by Phil Campbell shows an unpleasant version including baked beans, tinned tomatoes and suspicious-looking sausages but you can get a very good fried breakfast and I won’t pretend that I don’t enjoy having one from time to time. The problem for touring cyclists comes when you have the same thing every day. Last week on a 7-day tour of Argyllshire I found myself feeling lethargic and queasy for an hour each morning, my partner suffered from acid indigestion on most days.

The problem is lack of choice. You have paid for this breakfast, you feel you have to get value for your money and so you eat it. At a couple of places last week there was an alternative. The Stables B&B in Achnamara provided a fresh fruit salad which went down well with muesli and yogurt and their breakfast buffet included home-baked bread, pastries, cheese and cold meats. The Kilberry Inn (an up-market restaurant with rooms) also offered a fresh fruit dish and a variety of cooked options. Otherwise it was an unremitting barrage of fryups with little alternative except maybe sugary packaged cereals and underripe whole fruit

The disease starts right at the top. Collette and Steve, who run the Stables B&B, were criticised by the national tourism promotion agency Visit Scotland who award stars to guest houses. Because they both have day jobs they only offer a cooked breakfast at weekends, with a very good cold buffet as described above during the week. Visit Scotland insisted that they should provide a cooked breakfast every day, clearly a national policy to encourage foreigners to eat the same crappy diet as the Scots, so Scotland can move off the bottom of the dietary league tables (Scotland’s obesity problem is only second to the United States)

Cyclists tend to eat a lot, obvious really since they use a lot of energy. At least we can burn off some of that fried food building up in our arteries unlike many of the overweight car-bound tourists we saw, but fatty high protein food is not the right way to start a day’s cycling.

The UK Food Standards Agency stresses the importance of breakfast in a good diet, people who skip breakfast tend to over-eat during the day. They say that fruit, and good quality carbohydrates like wholemeal bread and whole grain cereals are the ideal and if you have a cooked breakfast it’s best to avoid fat – suggesting poached eggs and mushrooms cooked in a non-stick pan with minimal oil.

One of the best breakfasts I have had was at a small hotel somewhere in Wales who gave us muesli soaked in milk for half an hour with yogurt, grated apple and other fresh fruit mixed in. Some whipped cream folded in at the last minute made it even more luxurious. Not fat free but not fried and full of energy and freshness.

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5 Responses to “The Full Fryup – Why?”

  1. Nigel Healy Says:

    Well I can tell you exactly what is needed for an energetic day’s cycling.
    It’s many smaller meals all strongly carbohydrate-based which, is as you say wholemeal breads, grains, cereals, certain fruits like bananas, etc. Your energy needs for a typical day’s touring is of the order of twice that needed when having a more “normal” day, and plenty of carbs will also provide many of the other nutrients needed.

    You’re right about the fat, its of practically no benefit for energy required immediately after, its a slow-release form of energy which takes a long time and a lot of effort to ingest. If you wanted to add fat, then its needed well before the actual energy required.

    Large meals draw blood towards the ingestion area, and slow makes you feel lethargic. It gets worse, if you try to exercise hard, that pulls blood away from ingestion, you then get more partial digestion and that increase partly-digested food into the larger intestine which produces flatulence.

    We all know about the health aspects, the “full English” is loaded with saturated fat, salt, negligible fibre, and for its calories not much vitamins or minerals.

    A “full English” is a nice treat and if you had plenty of carbs the previous 48 hours, and no exercise the previous 24 hours, you will have replenished your energy stocks before this meal and this actual meal will simply fill your stomach and make you feel not hungry.

    That is, its fine every now and then but you can’t cycle tour on it.

    Yesterday, I had tuna sandwiches for breakfast, bananas for lunch, and fish+chips at Fleetwood and that sustained me all the way home against strong headwinds.
    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=fleetwood&sll=53.761689,-2.705534&sspn=0.007547,0.022724&gl=uk&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Fleetwood,+Lancashire,+United+Kingdom&ll=53.926986,-3.006676&spn=0,0.363579&t=h&z=12&layer=c&cbll=53.927098,-3.006762&panoid=zdvRsfuXxITbvthx3OkVsQ&cbp=12,78.65,,2,4.18

    Total 60 miles.

  2. velohobo Says:

    Wow, I would have to return to bed after eating all that! An issue I have when touring, and staying at a ‘Bed and Breakfast’, is not offending my host. Often the proprietor will lovingly push heavy high fat and protein food at us with the best of intentions. Non-cyclists and cyclist alike tend to over estimate the caloric requirement for a leisurely day in the saddle. I try to explain the night before that I just need an oat muffin or two, and maybe a few to take with me. I try to avoid high sugar foods as well; they can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels giving me a short burst of energy and then a crash.

    Great post, Jack

  3. Gareth Says:

    Why indeed?

    And while I agree in principle that it is better to be cycling than driving if your are eating all the fried stuff, the level of saturated fat and salt are such that these breakfasts are bad news for every one and activity is only a partial protection. It seems the agencies which rate B&Bs are stuck in the past and need to look at what people want rather than what they think they want.

  4. chrisrust Says:

    Thanks Nigel, however I’m not sure the Fish & Chips quite fit your own ideas of what’s best.

  5. Nigel Healy Says:

    Fish+Chips are not the most perfect food for cycling, but the English type thick chip has a lot of carbs, and the fish is good for the joints. The fat added in frying is not good.

    However, I confirm from many touring sessions, Fish+Chips is a great energy provider.

    Many B&B offer porridge, is a good cycling food but it has its own kind of sugar-crash as its a slow-release food and a stomach-full will not sustain your morning so need to leave B&B with some fruit like bananas.

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