Pre-Ride Breakfast Tips

body nutrition Feb 11, 2021

Rise n Shine! Let's talk about your pre ride breakfast.... 

Dorothy (my bike's name) is the first thing that makes me smile in the morning… and my morning coffee with toast and honey. This combination pretty much reassures me that my body is ready and topped up with energy for a fun filled morning ride.

Many people have different views on whether to eat before riding or not. And for a short ride -  the body probably doesn’t need to unless you’re the type of person who wakes up hungry.

Regardless of your morning habits - if you plan to ride with any intensity, a meal, which provides a top up of glycogen to your muscles, is an important piece of the puzzle.

Blood glucose keeps the muscles pumping when muscle glycogen runs low, which happens around the 60 to 90 minute mark.

Blood glucose is also your brains only fuel source, which will help you to maintain focus during challenging rides. (Have you ever felt that fuzzy brain feeling where you just can't concentrate or focus?!).  Not only that, starting out with enough carbohydrate stores and maintaining blood glucose levels during your ride can also decrease the stress at training can leave on the immune system. 

When do I eat?

It’s unrealistic to suggest to get up at 3 AM and eat before a 5 AM ride. But 15 minutes to 1 hour before you go, it’s a good idea to have that breakfast down. Chew your food thoroughly to kick start digestion and avoid that full feeling tummy. 

What do I eat?

Your meal should include easy to digest, practiced, and enjoyable foods mainly from carbohydrates with a small amount of protein and fat.

If you have a sensitive gastrointestinal system… that’s most of us…. it can be quite important to reduce or eliminate eating whole grains or higher fibre foods. We don’t want gurgling belly 20 minutes into your ride. I’ve heard about ladies needing to take an undignified emergency trip behind some bushes which is never fun, especially when you're wearing bib knicks.

Different types of carbohydrate will affect blood glucose differently. For example, foods with a lower glycaemic index such as brown rice or whole-grain toast, will cause a sustained release of energy. High glycaemic foods like white bread, pancakes, english muffins and crumpets will create a more rapid rise in blood glucose.

I would like to stress that your pre-ride breakfast is something that you should practice and experiment with. It’s personal and should be your go to for events (or races if you’re so inclined!).

Pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods – noting how you feel in regards energy, strength and concentration during your ride. Write them down and you’ll pretty quickly notice some patterns to help you understand what works best for you.

We’ve all been in the spot where we eat what we think we should and made ourselves suffer through a less than delicious food choice. There’s no need to do that! Don’t think about food as good or bad, think about it as "works for me" or "not so much".

Can I also suggest if you’re not enjoying the way a food tastes, don’t eat this food anymore? Rule #1 for me, even as a nutritionist is: No need to punish thyself with food.

As we work to figure out what works best for you to eat, let’s chat about what NOT to eat before you go….

  • We’re not mean enough to say no coffee pre ride – but stick to one. A lot of people rely heavily on caffeine in the morning, often in place of food, but fall into the habit of thinking coffee will fuel you. Enjoy a caffeine hit, but remember too much can lead to loose bowels, can also induce extra pee stops, and can cause bloating.
  • Leave the bacon and eggs for post ride. Don’t get me wrong, B&E is a delicious breakfast, but it is slow to digest and will sit in your stomach for too long to be used as fuel for your ride. Also remember you are bent over while riding, so a full stomach of slow digesting food is not ideal.  
  • High fibre cereal is best saved for mornings where you have more time. Oats provide a lot of great energy for riding, but allow an hour to get them down, or try quick oats. Give both a try to see how they make you feel.
  • Don’t overeat, you can always take food with you. You don’t want to feel heavy and bogged down before you go.

TL/DR: Give different breakfast foods a go – write down how they make you feel – and build yourself a breakfast repertoire for the more active days!