Nutrition is incredibly individual, what works for me may or may not work for you, so be careful listening to what "Dave" on your resident facebook forum says you should do. My advice to anyone with regards to nutrition is learn as much as you can, experiment on one ride a week with something new and once you find out what works stick with it. Under no circumstances experiment on a RACE WEEKEND.
With that being said there are some general guidelines with what you should eat before and during a ride and that is what I will be discussing today, looking at the day before, the morning of, and during.
The day before
The day before a ride is all about fuelling up your body so you have plenty of energy in reserve, without going into the science of it. You want to be on a full tank the day of a ride, this is even more important if, like me, you don’t really like eating a lot of food in the early morning.
I ride early a lot, and I don’t really like eating much, so for me it's crucial that I eat a lot of food the day before.
Typically, I eat a lot of carbs anyway as I train 3x a week and ride 3x a week. However, the day before a ride will usually look something like this:
BREAKFAST: 3x bagels with soft cheese, or homemade beans on toast.
LUNCH: A homemade curry with butterbeans (I don’t eat meat), potatoes, spinach, leeks and rice.
DINNER: Chickpea fajitas or a stir fry full of vegetables, chickpeas/beans and rice.
As you can see this is a lot of carbs. The food above will fuel me for a ride of up to 30 miles. If I ride more than that I will increase the carbs I eat. For example, a 100 mile road ride will result in me pre eating about 4 potatoes in one evening meal.
This has made me riding big distances a lot easier since I started doing this, you never want to be running on empty and always keep that in mind.
Before a ride
Before a ride it is essential to get some good fats and carbs in your body. I have worked with people who eat beans on toast (from a can) and I put a stop to this straight away. It’s just sugar and very little beans when you look at the toast.
My go to meal for riding is ALWAYS oats in yogurt, plenty of good fats in the yogurt and the oats is a perfect slow release protein source. I can go 20 miles on the mountain bike without additional food with just a breakfast of oats.
If you don’t like the idea of cold oats, porridge and honey is a great way to eat for riding. I don’t really recommend anything else before a ride, other than a black coffee and plenty of water so you stay hydrated too.
Doing this I find that the food from the day before gets me by until the oats kick in and I feel like I am riding efficiently.
During a ride
During a ride two things are important to remember:
- Hydration is key.
- Eat little and often.
I always make sure I have enough fluids for the ride I am doing, and always taking more food than I need just in case.
My typical food and water intake for a ride is a slice of Soreen for every 20-mile marker I will be doing and homemade electrolytes. I always carry a gel with me too, just in case.
I find Soreen is a great fuel source as you just put it in a food bag and then pop it in your pocket, it's easy to access and has plenty of fast release sugars and fats in it, plus salts. It is also easier to access than a banana and is very affordable. I don't recommend energy bars as they are expensive and aren’t as good. Bananas are also a great alternative, however I like to ride while I eat so peeling bananas isn’t as practical.
With regards to my homemade electrolytes I use:
- A splash of pure orange juice (smooth).
- Four turns of a salt grinder.
I do this instead of buying tablets as it is cheaper and works just as well.
This will serve me for 20 miles on the mountain bike, on the road bike I fill one bottle up with this and the second bottle is just water. I manage my reserves and drink from both depending on sweat levels.
If I am on a long mtb ride and use a hydration bladder I keep this full of water without electrolytes, the Soreen will replace my salt levels on these rides as I will be eating more of that.
And there you go, a quick low down of what I eat and drink before, and during a ride. Afterwards I like to have a decent meal unless I have burned an absolute ton of calories then I’ll usually have a cake with my coffee. All depends if I’ve earned it.
Remember as well that nutrition is very individual and like I said earlier, what works for me may not work for you. Learn as much as you can and try things. When you find what works stick with this. If you are stuck for meal ideas I am giving away some free copies of my recipe books so get in touch with me via my website for your free copy.
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About The Author: Adam Copley
Adam is a self-employed coach based in Sheffield, UK. Alongside this he is an avid cyclist and competes in cross country mountain biking across the UK. He has raced Cyclocross during the winter and is also a huge lover of road cycling. While he's not working on his business, he is usually out on two wheels getting fitter, and enjoying the fresh air and many climbs in the peak district.