Have you ever experienced the dreaded bonk on a long bike ride? We wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy.
If you have yet to experience it in all its gory detail, it is basically what happens when you don’t give your body enough fuel and it refuses, point blank, to turn the pedals even one more time.
Being properly fuelled on the bike is not just about what you carry in your jersey pocket but knowing what to eat before a long ride. Before your next epic ride, digesting this article might just stop you from hitting the wall and phoning home for a lift.
An epic, long bike ride and nutrition go hand-in-hand. Fuelling before a long ride starts with the foods you eat night before. You should plan a meal that contains low-GI, slow-release carbohydrates that not only give you enough energy for an epic day in the saddle but release it when you need it most.
Best Food To Eat Before A Big Bike Ride
To get the most out of a long day in the saddle, proper fuelling starts the night before and not at the breakfast table. The types of food listed below will give you a great base for your epic ride the next day.
A word of warning though; too much is just as bad as too little when it comes to carb-loading the night before. Try to cram too much into your belly and you will just feel bloated the next day. Not ideal for sitting for hours in the saddle.
Pasta has been the touchstone of carb-loading for endurance athletes for a long time. Carb-loading may be a bit old-school but it can still have its place before a big ride.
It is great the night before a big ride as it slowly releases its energy. Pasta can be a big meal so you need to make sure you give yourself enough time to digest and get the benefits of the energy on the bike.
Rice is another great option the night before a big ride and it even makes a great recovery food at the other end. The rice machine is an integral part of the pro-team bus!
Quinoa is not just for hipsters but is a superfood alternative to rice. It packs loads of protein and provides a great, slow-release of energy.
On the morning of your big ride, what you eat can set you up for the day ahead. This is true of normal, day-to-day life and even more important if you are going to be burning serious calories on an epic ride.
You should aim for a hearty, low-GI, low-fat breakfast by sticking to the foods listed below to give a nice slow release of carbohydrates as you pedal.
Granola is a much healthier version of the sugary cereals that fill the shelves. It is a whole grain and takes longer to break down in the body. For cyclists, this means a slow release of energy to keep pedaling longer.
Granola bars are also a great option for on-the-bike nutrition during the ride.
Porridge is a great option on the morning of a big ride and has been fuelling cyclists for decades. It can be a hearty meal so give your body plenty of time to digest before getting in the saddle.
Turbocharge it by adding some dried fruits or jam and add some yogurt for some much-needed proteins.
Completely unprocessed and easy to digest, the natural sugars in a banana pack a welcome hit of carbohydrates.
Easy on the stomach and it even comes with its own, natural wrapper for sticking it in your jersey pocket.
Why It’s Important To Fuel Properly Before A Long Day On The Saddle
Eating properly and riding your bike go hand-in-hand. To get the most out of riding and training you need to have a proper fuelling strategy.
On the bike, our bodies dip into our carbohydrate and fat supplies for fuel. If we run out of fuel during a big ride, we lose energy and end up “hitting the wall“.
To stop this from happening, we need to keep our bodies topped up with enough energy to get us safely to the end of the ride. Since most cyclists can only process around 1g of carbohydrate per minute it is much more effective to eat little and often on the bike.
The right foods the night before and the morning of a big ride give you the perfect platform to perform well and ultimately have more fun in the saddle.
Video: Cycling Nutrition 101
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Eat Pre-Ride Food During The Ride?
Have you ever tried to eat porridge whilst riding? It is not advisable. On the bike, it is better to stick to foods that have been designed to be eaten on the go and can fit in your jersey pocket. A couple of bananas are a great, natural option to give your body a break from overly sweet energy gels.
What should I eat for breakfast before a long bike ride?
Sticking to hearty, low-GI foods for breakfast (muesli, porridge, oats, etc.) will slowly release the carbohydrates as you ride. Slow-release means bigger miles!
Should I cycle before or after breakfast?
Whilst there may be a place in your training program for some short, low-intensity fasted rides, skipping breakfast before a big ride is asking for trouble.
Do cyclists really need to carb-load before a big ride?
The food you eat the night before your big ride can have a massive impact. Stick to carbohydrates but be careful not to overeat otherwise you will feel bloated on the bike and will not feel in peak condition.
If you don’t want to get stranded miles from home with only enough energy left to tap in a phone number to get a friend to pick you up, then you need to pay attention to what you eat before a big ride.
A proper fuelling strategy is the key to an epic day in the saddle. Hopefully, this article has given you food for thought and made you realize that a pint of Guinness the night before a big ride does not count as carb. Sorry!