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What to Eat Before Cycling: Top 5 Foods for Cyclists

Cycling demands a lot of nutrition, especially before each ride. Here's a list of the best foods to eat before cycling, so you can perform better!

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Do you want to improve your cycling performance but are concerned about eating the wrong foods? Not to worry, we’ve got a list of the best foods to eat before cycling. So, whether you want to fuel yourself before your ride or ensure you’re receiving enough nutrition, keep reading for our top suggestions.

This article will teach you why you should eat before cycling, the best Cycling Pre-Ride Foods, and what you should eat for breakfast before a race so you can perform at your best.

Image of a bowl of breakfast oatmeal and bananas. Source: adobe stock
Image of a bowl of breakfast oatmeal and bananas. Source: Adobe Stock

Carbohydrates like pasta or rice, protein-rich foods like eggs or chicken breast, and plenty of fruits and vegetables are some of the best foods to eat before cycling. Also, drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather, because dehydration can lower oxygen levels in your blood.

Why should you eat before cycling?

With all the planning for gear, bike fittings, and learning the rules of the road, it’s easy to forget about nutrition. Even if you don’t believe you’ll need to refuel, be prepared to do so just in case. The primary goal of the pre-race meal is to replenish glycogen in your liver, especially if the event occurs in the morning. Because liver glycogen fuels your nervous system while you sleep, your liver is around 50% glycogen-depleted when you get up in the morning.

If you are looking for a quick energy boost during your ride, you can’t go wrong with a good protein bar. Below are some of the best-rated protein bars on the market.

Five best cycling pre-ride foods

What you eat before a ride has a significant impact on your performance. Below are some of the best foods to eat before a long ride.

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Banans
  • Peanut butter
  • Chia seeds

Pasta

Pasta has traditionally been the go-to meal for endurance athletes. Eating pasta two to three hours before a ride offers the body enough time to digest and convert it to energy as a slow-release energy source. To maximize glycogen storage, pasta should also be consumed in the days leading up to a major ride.

Rice

Rice is the new “best” source of carbs. Rice is easy on the stomach and turns into energy rapidly if made of white rice and slightly slower if made of brown rice. Combining rice with protein sources like eggs or chicken is a wonderful way to get some protein into your diet.

Rice is more of a dinner choice that is frequently eaten with veggies. Skip the vegetables for a pre-ride lunch because they don’t supply much energy and can be tough to digest. Instead, save them for dinner when their nutrient density is most effective. Add olive oil or butter to get enough fat to your diet.

Bananas

A banana is a fantastic mid-GI snack for half an hour before a bike. However, the ripeness of the banana influences the rate at which its energy is available. A ripe banana will be absorbed and processed faster than a green banana, so the type you eat should be determined by what else you’ve eaten and how quickly you need the energy boost.

Peanut butter

Compared to other protein sources such as fish, lean meats, eggs, and protein bars and shakes, peanut butter is a decent and economical source of protein for cyclists. In addition, when paired with carbohydrate sources such as bread, bananas, or even satay sauce with noodles, it gives an ideal fueling combo for your ride.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a little-known superfood that cyclists should use to increase their energy levels. They are virtually flavorless and can be added to almost anything, from puddings to salads or soups, without cooking. They can even be pounded into a powder and used as a sports drink for a boost. One teaspoon contains approximately 60 calories.

Image of happy senior couple cyclists sitting and eating snacks outdoors in a forest on an autumn day. Source: adobe stock
Image of happy senior couple cyclists sitting and eating snacks outdoors in a forest on an autumn day. Source: Adobe Stock

What should I eat for breakfast before a race?

A long bike ride will need a lot of energy. A hearty breakfast before cycling can supply you with enough calories to endure the entire ride without needing to stop for a snack. Proteins, such as meat or eggs digest more slowly than carbs and should be avoided at breakfast. Instead, toast, porridge, and waffles are excellent sources of carbohydrate-based energy, and a little jam or syrup can supply the sugar you need to get your day started on the right foot.

Avoid drinking too much coffee before the marathon. The energy from dinner and breakfast should be enough to get you through the race, but having an energy bar in your riding shirt for a snack will help keep you going.

If you want even more tips, watch the video “Complete Cycling Nutrition Guide, What to Eat Before, During, and After a Ride” from the Dylan Johnson YouTube Channel.

A video called “Complete Cycling Nutrition Guide, What to Eat Before, During, and After a Ride” from the Dylan Johnson YouTube Channel.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about the best food to eat before cycling.

What should I eat before cycling in the morning?

Consider peanut or almond butter on a banana toast with honey, peanut or almond butter, or a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar. Allow 2-4 hours before cycling after a larger meal to allow for digestion, and 30 minutes to 2 hours after a smaller snack.

Are carbohydrates good to eat before cycling?

Carbohydrates reign supreme. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for muscle exercise. Focus on this when deciding what to eat before and during cycling. Long rides may be more difficult depending on the heat index, so have some extra fuel on hand to help you power through!

Should you cycle on an empty stomach?

We don’t recommend it. However, it may have some advantages. For example, cycling on an empty stomach is a technique for burning extra calories throughout your workout. In addition, when you do moderate cardio on an empty stomach, you burn more fat than when you fuel up for your ride.

Conclusion

Maintaining high energy levels during your ride is critical, so add a ready-to-eat snack or two to your cycling preparation.

This article covered why you should eat before cycling, the best cycling pre-ride foods, and what you should eat for breakfast before a race. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • The primary goal of the pre-race meal is to replenish glycogen in your liver, especially if the event occurs in the morning.
  • Your liver is around 50% glycogen-depleted when you get up in the morning.
  • What you eat before a ride has a significant impact on your performance.
  • A hearty breakfast before cycling can supply you with enough calories to endure the entire ride.
  • Proteins, such as meat or eggs digest more slowly than carbs and should be avoided at breakfast.
  • Toast, porridge, and waffles are excellent sources of carbohydrate-based energy, and a little jam or syrup can supply the sugar you need to get your day started on the right foot.
  • Coffee is great, but avoid drinking too much of it.
  • Caffeine is one of the most regularly utilized performance enhancers in athletics, and it’s also taken with sugar during long rides to increase endurance and performance.
  • Caffeine enhances the absorption of sugar from your intestines, and certain foods contain caffeine.
  • Electrolyte drinks are beneficial to your health. To avoid cramping, keep an electrolyte drink in the fridge and consume it during your morning ride.
  • The two most critical aspects of healthy cycling are hydration and nutrition. Because of the sweat you produce, hydration is critical. The finest fluids for cyclists have a low sugar content, a high water capacity, a consistent taste, and an easy dissolving rate.

So, what are you eating before the big alley cat race? Did we cover everything you wanted to know? Let us know in the comments section below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on fixed gear and single-speed bikes. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.

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Author avatar - Bradley Knight
Written By Bradley Knight
As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies, including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

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