Egg McMuffins Fuel Sam Long’s Intense Training Rides

Micah Ling
·6 mins read
Photo credit: Kenny Withrow
Photo credit: Kenny Withrow

From Bicycling

At 24 years old, Sam Long is the youngest American professional triathlete to win a full Ironman race (when he was 23). And last month, he won back-to-back at the 70.3-distance Bear Lake Brawl in St. Charles, Idaho, and at Ironman 70.3 Cozumel—with stacked fields for his first two races in 51 weeks. Last year, Long raced five times in 37 days, and also came away with two wins.

Long is a triplet—one of three boys—and though there was certainly competition growing up, he mostly just had built-in adventurer partners.

“Growing up a triplet, we needed prodigious amounts of food,” he told Bicycling. “And my parents both worked full-time, so it’s not like my mom had four hours to create elaborate meals, especially when we were going to just down it in five minutes and be following it with bowls of cereal.”

So what does a world class athlete who is regularly on the podium—and who has a 24-year-old metabolism—eat? A lot. Long takes on giant donut challenges, frequents McDonald’s during long training rides through the mountains, and his trips to Costco are epic.

But it’s not all pastries and fast food. Long balances his high-calorie splurges with calculated recovery rituals and simple prerace meals. Here’s how he fuels.

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Campfire Meals

For the Bear Lake Brawl, we decided to make it a family affair. I camped with my parents at the Blue Bear Lake race venue, and I slept on a mattress in the back of my pickup truck the night before the race. My prerace meal consisted of pasta cooked on a camp stove with simple marinara sauce and a side of avocado for protein and fat. I usually eat that meal two nights out from a race and try to go gluten-free for the night before a race just because it’s easier to digest.

My typical prerace meal will be chicken and rice or even just rice and eggs. But camping, I just go with what’s easiest. I grew up camping—it connects me with nature and reminds me why I got into the sport because I just absolutely love it. Even on rest weeks, I’ll go to Crested Butte, Colorado, where my family also has a home, and ride my mountain bike all day long.

But camping is also tradition. When I was 18, I raced my first 70.3 distance in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and camped out with my parents. I won the race and decided that camping really helped me clear my head. Right before getting my pro card, I raced my last event as an amateur in 2015 at Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene, and won the amateur field—I camped there, too.

Three Staple Ingredients

Family meals did—and still do—center around three staple ingredients: a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. So, salmon, rice, and broccoli. Or steak, potatoes, and a salad. We keep it simple, too—we don’t really make sauces, we just eat it kind of plain. Maybe a little butter and salt. But the meal I eat almost every single day is three eggs on toast or a bagel with avocado and salsa. That’s my main meal—I eat it all the time.

I still live with my parents in the house I grew up in, and honestly, I love it. I could probably afford to get my own place now, but I just enjoy living with my parents. One of my brothers, Justin, is a musician in Denver, and the other, Brian, is a financial analyst on Wall Street in New York City, but we still have family meals as often as possible, and they’re still centered around three simple ingredients.

McDonald’s as Fuel

I’m kind of known for the midride McDonald’s stop. During peak training season, my Instagram stories are often full of big rides to Boulder’s surrounding mountain towns. And if there’s a McDonald’s, I’ll stop. When I’m training on the bike, not racing, I kind of eat whatever I feel like. And part of that is because I’m putting so many hours in that it gets exhausting to only eat gels and bars. But I’m also frugal. I typically order whatever the best deal is, but I especially like Egg McMuffin sandwiches, and I always order a medium French fry and a large Coke. It’s maybe higher in fat than stopping somewhere else, but I have a hard time keeping my weight stabilized, and I just want the calories.

I also like to stop at McDonald’s because it’s everywhere. When I’m in some random place training, or going through a tiny town with only a gas station and a McDonald’s, I’d rather get what I know than eat 10 Snickers bars and a bag of chips. Some people scoff at fast-food stops, but when I’m on a huge ride, it supplies me with necessary quick fuel in the form of sugar, caffeine, salt, and fat. Not so different from a lot of other refueling options. If I’m not stopping at McDonald’s, I mainly eat Clif bars and Bobo’s bars on the bike.

Race and Postrace Rituals

When I’m racing or simulating a race—like going for a Strava KOM—I keep fuel simple and consistent. In a running race, a cycling race, or a triathlon, I don’t really eat any solid food at all.

For running, that carries over to training as well. So during a run, I never take in any solid food. For a long run I only take water, Coke, and gels, or some other electrolyte mix in a water bottle. Especially for a hard run, I simulate race conditions, and they always have Coke on the course. At Ironman 70.3 Cozumel, I took three Powerbar gels and grabbed water and Coke at the aid stations over the [13.1 mile] course.

For cycling race conditions, I keep things similar to running. Instead of Coke, on the bike I’ll use a more complex carbohydrate. Especially in a triathlon, because you’re really setting up the run. It helps to take the complex carbs earlier in the day. But if it’s only an intense effort on the bike, like a KOM, I’ll just have something like a Red Bull before—some sugar and caffeine—and not take anything during the effort.

After winning a race, I love to try whatever is local. If I’m in the south, I’ll gladly eat my fill of fried chicken. If I’m in Napa Valley, bring on the wine.

Eat What You Crave

I just love cookies and chocolate. When I have a full day of training ahead, I like to start the day with a little treat. If I have a 6-mile run in the morning, sometimes I just want a bite of chocolate first. Then I might have a cookie after, a cookie before my swim, and a cookie after my swim. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it doesn’t take long before I’m like, “Where did all the cookies go?” But I also load up on healthy stuff, especially when it’s hot out. My recovery shake is just as much frozen fruit as possible, a whey protein, some peanut butter, and spinach.

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