What to eat before your ride

Preparing yourself before a big ride, sportive or event is as important as your performance during said event. If your body doesn’t have exactly what it needs to deliver what you’re asking of it, you’re not going to perform at your optimum.

Nutrition and preparation are two of the most important aspects of cycling, yet having nothing whatsoever to do with the bike. They are also the two elements of performance that are mostly forgotten.

If it helps, let’s use an analogy. If you don’t give your car what it needs, it either won’t go anywhere or won’t go anywhere fast. If you give it cheap supermarket petrol, it won’t burn cleanly and won’t go as far on a tank. If you don’t give it oil, it takes more energy to make the engine work. The same can be said for your body.

If you don’t give your body what it needs, it won’t be ready for an event. If you eat the wrong things or cheap foods, it won’t perform. If you don’t hydrate and prepare, your body has to work harder to achieve the same results. All things we want to avoid.

Balance is important

Like all aspects of your diet, variety and balance is key. While we certainly want to load up on the carbohydrates, we also want a balance of vitamins, minerals, protein and fats. Striking that balance will stand you the best possible chance of performing on the day.

A pre sportive favourite is a pasta dinner. Pasta contains lots of complex carbohydrates which we want to store for the event. As long as with that pasta you have a good mix of vegetables and lean meat, you should give your body what it needs for the next day.

Rice is also great for carb loading. Again, accompanied by vegetables, lean meat and some fruit and it’s a dinner of kings!

Don’t forget to begin your hydration routine at least 48 hours in advance of a big ride or event.

Preparation is vital

In an ideal world, you would prepare your diet months in advance of a sportive or event. After all, why risk trying new foods or a new regime just before an event? You wouldn’t do that would you? You would practice long in advance and find a comfortable routine with foods you know you can digest easily.

The same is true here. You should ideally find a preparation routine that includes foods you can live with, that don’t leave you bloated, don’t make you feel ill and don’t make you feel tired and listless.

Experiment with different food types to see what works for you. As long as they contain around 50-60% carbohydrate and around 4 to 1 carb to protein and a mix of vegetables, lean meat and fruit, you’re all good.

Breakfast really is the decider

On the day of the ride or event, begin with a pint of water before you do anything else. Don’t gulp the lot, drink it in measured amounts to get your body used to processing water from the off.

If you’re doing a sportive, you should plan to eat your breakfast at least two hours before your ride or event. No later. If you’re doing a time trial, increase that to three or four hours. The more explosive the exercise, the more digested you want your food.

Probably the best breakfast you could possibly have is porridge. Despite tasking and looking foul (IMHO), it is without doubt the best foundation to build your day upon. If like me, you just can’t stand the stuff, try scrambled eggs on toast or a full English. Just watch the salt content of whatever you eat as you don’t want to dehydrate yourself before the ride!

Key points for what to eat before your ride

  • Only eat foods you’re used to and can digest
  • Begin eating for a sportive 48 hours in advance
  • Load the carbs but don’t forget the protein, fat and vitamins
  • Begin hydrating long in advance too
  • Miss breakfast at your peril
  • Allow enough time between breakfast and your ride for best effect


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