A great ride starts in the kitchen. Before heading out for a short and sharp training season or putting in a day in the saddle, knowing what to eat and when can make or break your ride. Understanding how the body processes certain foods efficiently and experimenting with your system can greatly improve performance and make every bike ride more fun.
Should I eat breakfast before a bike ride?
Yes. A healthy, nutritious meal 2-3 hours before a ride tops off critical glycogen stores that fuel your performance. Think of it as putting gas in the tank before a road trip; the more you start with, the faster you can drive, even if you’re only going for a short trip.
What should I eat before a ride?
For pre-ride meals, lean towards carbohydrates. This is why endurance athletes famously eat cereals, oats, rice, even pasta roughly 2-3 hours before their event. Carbohydrates are the best way to top of glycogen stores, which is the real fuel our bodies use. As a general rule, shoot to take in 50-85 grams of carbs. Keep protein and fat intake relatively low. Both proteins and fat are much harder for the system to digest and can lead to digestive distress.
In addition to oats, some other pre-ride, carb-rich foods include:
-Cream of Wheat
-Toast with fruit
-Pancakes with fruit
-Waffles with fruit
-Breakfast cereals with almond milk or low-fat milk
Avoid taking in too much sugar; it is often best to skip maple syrup, or be careful to only use a small amount.
What is fasted training?
As the name suggests, fasted training is a popular but somewhat controversial method of weight loss. In theory, it involves skipping breakfast and exercising without fueling. The idea is to force the body to burn fat, something that it does naturally after about 60-90 minutes as glycogen stores are depleted. The body can burn fat, but it is much less efficient. As a result, most fast training involves long, easy rides.
Does fasted training work?
It can, but it isn’t a realistic option for most amateurs. Fasted rides usually need to be repeated once or twice a week and involve long three, four, or even five-hour rides. For most of us, a well-fueled, 60-120 minute effort with intervals is a much better investment and leads to better results.
What is intermittent fasting?
In short, t’s skipping breakfast. In more detail, it’s a diet that restricts food intake to a specific window of the day, usually after 9 am and before 6 pm. This leaves your body without food for between 14 to 16 hours per day, depending on the method. There is some evidence that intermittent fasting can help with weight management, but some experts believe it can harm those with a history of eating disorders.
Of course, just like fasting training, it is very difficult to achieve or maintain any intensity when the body can only fuel with fat, which means most training sessions will lack the punch needed to develop real gains.
Food is fuel. Eating a healthy high-carb, low-fat breakfast that suits your preferences and tolerances is the best way to get the most out of your body and, as a result, your time. Experiment with different foods and find the ideal time before an event to eat them. While most people prefer to eat three hours before a race or hard ride, it may be tough to plan things out on that timeline during the workweek. Instead, eat a little less (think of an energy bar) closer to your training session and focus on refueling afterward.
Always trust your doctor or a trained nutritionist before making any sweeping changes to your diet!
So, what’s your favorite breakfast before a race?