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Home arrow Fitness arrow Cycling arrow What to Eat Before Cycling: 10 Foods to Fuel Your Ride

What to Eat Before Cycling: 10 Foods to Fuel Your Ride

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: May 18, 2023
5 min read 803 Views 0 Comments
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Did you know your dietary choices pre-ride can influence your overall performance? Discover the best foods to consume before you hit the road to ensure you get the energy boost you need.

What to eat before cycling

Everyone has a unique preference when it comes to eating and exercising. Some prefer to work out on an empty stomach, while others like to power themselves with food or a sports drink.

Generally speaking, your body needs fuel to get the most out of a workout. The right foods can make you feel energized, improve your mood, and allow you to work out for longer at peak performance. Without food, you might feel hungry, tired, and sluggish.

If you prefer to eat before a bike ride, you may wonder what to eat. Read on to find the best foods to eat pre-ride and those you should miss.

What to Eat Before Cycling? An In-Depth Guide

Cycling nutrition is vital. The right food in your stomach pre-ride will energize your body and boost your focus, making for an effective and pleasurable bike ride. Certain foods are great for supporting an active lifestyle because they provide fuel to help you power through long rides.

Try these 10 nutritious options the next time you plan a ride.

#1 Caffeinated drinks

Consuming a caffeinated drink before cycling can be highly beneficial if you tolerate caffeine well. Caffeine is often favored as a natural performance enhancer because it boosts energy, improves focus, increases thermogenesis, and stimulates beta-endorphin release.

Coffee or tea before an early morning ride might help wake you up, relieve tiredness, and fuel your energy for the trip. According to studies, caffeine is most effective for sports performance when taken in low to moderate dosages (3–6mg) 60 minutes beforehand.

#2 Banana or other fruits

Easily digestible carbohydrates are perfect pre-ride, and you can’t beat fruit. A ripe banana is gentle on the stomach. It replenishes muscle glycogen storage and restores lost electrolytes, while the natural sugars and potassium provide energy and stabilize blood sugar levels.

You can also opt for dried fruit, like grapes and cranberries, which may increase endurance and improve exercise performance.

#3 Energy bars

Energy bars are convenient pre-workout snacks comprising fuel-rich ingredients like oats, nuts, and seeds. You can eat an energy bar just 30 minutes before your ride for carbohydrates that boost energy and ward off hunger.

You can select protein bars if you want more protein and fewer carbs.

#4 Toast with peanut butter

Peanut butter is high in calories, fat, fiber, and protein. It offers a delicious way to increase your glucose levels to remain energetic for long stretches. Plus, it is more affordable than other protein sources, like fish and lean meats, making it ideal for budget-friendly meals and snacks before the ride.

#5 Granola

Granola is a good source of carbs that release energy more slowly in the body. Therefore, it’s great for assisting with longer rides. Make your own granola at home to ensure it’s free from additives and rich in nutrients like B vitamins, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

You could even top other foods, such as yogurt, with your homemade granola mix.

#6 Chicken breast

Skinless chicken breast is one of the best things you can eat before cycling. Poultry provides lean protein to prepare your body for riding and assist with post-workout recovery. It’s also a powerhouse of nutrients, with potassium, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, and vitamin B6.

#7 Eggs

Eggs make the perfect meal for active individuals because they’re packed with protein. Eating protein before exercising can jumpstart muscle protein synthesis and may reduce muscle protein breakdown during exercise.

Egg protein has many benefits. It is known to improve muscle health, increase satiety, and aid weight loss. You could pair eggs with complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, to increase energy ahead of a bike ride. Just give it at least two hours to enable digestion.

#8 Pasta with vegetables

Pasta is a traditional meal for endurance athletes as it releases energy slowly. Additionally, studies link pasta consumption to better diet quality and nutrient intake. Keep it healthy and easy to digest by avoiding high-fat sauces. Instead, pair it with cooked veggies and olive oil.

#9 Tofu scramble

Tofu scramble is a tasty, vegan alternative to scrambled eggs. This pre-workout meal has tons of plant-based protein to deliver long-lasting energy for long-distance rides. Consuming plant protein can support strength, endurance, power, and exercise recovery.

#10 Protein pancakes

Pancakes with sugar, such as pancakes with syrup, are no good before a ride because they spike blood sugar and insulin levels, resulting in a crash. Protein pancakes, on the other hand, are protein-rich foods packed with goodness, provided you use healthy ingredients.

A healthy recipe typically includes eggs, oats, milk, and a protein powder without added sugars or artificial sweeteners.

Protein pancakes are a good choice before an early morning ride as they make a well-balanced breakfast. Try adding blackberries or blueberries for a dose of antioxidants.

How Much Should I Eat Before a Ride?

You should eat before cycling but don’t overdo it. Filling up with a large meal right before a ride can wreak havoc with your digestive system. Training can be difficult when you feel bloated, full, and generally uncomfortable. You might even feel tired and groggy.

The general recommendation is to consume a full meal 2–3 hours before you exercise. 

The closer you get to your workout, the less you should eat. If you need to eat within the hour before your ride, stick to smaller snacks with enough calories, protein, and simple carbs for more rapid fuel.

What to Avoid Eating Before Cycling?

What you eat before cycling matters, and that means avoiding specific foods. Some foods are difficult to digest, while others, like high-fiber foods, may trigger a bathroom emergency

To make your bike ride as comfortable as possible, it’s recommended that you skip the following choices.

  • Very fatty foods, such as bacon
  • High-fiber cereals
  • High-fiber vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower
  • Fast food
  • Spicy food
  • Fizzy drinks
  • More than one caffeinated beverage

FAQs

Can I eat 30 minutes before a bike ride?

You can eat 30 minutes before cycling but focus on easily-digestible foods that provide quick energy. A smaller snack is best, as a larger meal needs time to digest before you begin to exercise.

Are eggs good before cycling?

Eggs are an excellent choice before a bike ride because they’re packed with quality protein. Pair your eggs with carbohydrates like wholemeal bread for extra fuel during long-distance rides.

Do I need to eat on a 2-hour bike ride?

Eating during a 2-hour bike ride is best to refuel your mind and body. Topping up your glycogen stores with high GI foods will boost energy levels and help you maintain good performance.

A Word From MD

With bike fittings, route planning, and clothing to prepare before a ride, it’s easy to forget about good nutrition. Your body uses carbohydrate stores for energy while exercising, so refueling is vital. Eating will also top up muscle glycogen stores to fuel your muscles during cycling.

The best meals to eat before cycling comprise carbohydrates like brown rice and pasta, animal and plant-based proteins, and various fruits and vegetables. You should also drink plenty of water before a training session to keep hydrated, especially in hot weather.

Toast, low-fat muffins, fruit, granola, poultry, and eggs are ideal for a balanced diet.

Conclusion

Preparing your body for cycling is essential, and that means focusing on what you eat pre-ride. Be mindful of when you eat to mitigate digestive discomfort on the road – a small snack is best if you’re short on time.

After switching up your diet, you might notice positive changes that make your ride more enjoyable.

Written by Isabel Mayfield
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: May 18, 2023
5 min read 803 Views 0 Comments
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