Eating on morning of a big ride, and advice?

alanmcn1 Posts: 531
edited August 2007 in Road beginners
My sunday rides are getting bigger and more serious, and am hitting a problem. I go out early in the morning (about 7.30 to 8) to allow me to get a good ride in, and do my girlfriend sunday thing too! I have a good feed on Saturday night, but am convinced i still run out of energy quickly during my ride. I take gels and bars with me, but doesnt seem to be a real replacement for a good feed. Any suggestions what kind of breakfast i should have and how long i should leave between breakfats and going out?

I did Mont Ventoux in july, and again set off at 7.30. Am convinced could have gone at least 30mins quicker if I'd gone after a meal
Robert Millar for knighthood


  • giant_man
    giant_man Posts: 6,878
    Well you know everyone is different and I wouldn't personally have anything to eat before a ride at 7.30 in the morning.

    I might take a banana or energy bar with me for the ride but apart from that i wouldn't fill myself up with food.
  • richa
    richa Posts: 1,631
    Porridge at 5:30 :(
  • Try to seriously load up on complex carbs throughout Saturday. If you're really serious you should even make sure you get plenty of carbs on Friday too. I find pasta is great for this because it's cheap, tasty (with a hundred different sauces, cheese, mushroom dishes, etc., etc.), and effective.

    I can't function without breakfast, so I'd eat something like a bowl of porridge with sliced bananas at least an hour before leaving. Eating anything solid an hour before riding isn't a good idea if you're going to do a 10-mile TT, but if you're going for a long ride it won't matter so much.

    Edit: glad to see RichA agrees with me about porridge!
  • Blonde
    Blonde Posts: 3,188
    edited August 2007
    Eating sugary bars and gels will give you a quick fix for maybe an hour or so, but will be followed by a rapid 'come down'. They work by raising your blood sugar very quickly but the problem is that after the initial buzz, your body's sugar level drops very fast, which leaves you feeling tired and lacking in energy. (Everyone knows that weak legs feeling) You will actually function better without them, or at least, with a very limited intake of them, as long as you make sure you eat a low GI, slow release carboyhdrate breakfast and lower GI meals generally. Unsweetened porridge is ideal for breakfast. You can get sugar free cereals too, but they are harder to find. I had to go to a health food shop! Sugar free muesli usually contains about 20% more dried fruit than the ones with added sugar. This sounds good until you realise that fruit, and in particular dried fruit is a very high GI and high sugar food. (fructose is another simple sugar, like sucrose, dextrose, glucose etc and so is very quickly released into the blood). You are better off making your own muesli (you can buy all kinds of cereal flakes, nuts and seeds in health/whole food shops) with little, if any, dried fruit in it. These lower sugar cereals are better for sustained energy than sugar loaded ones because the energy is released more slowly and, here is the key, more sustainably, all day. On the bike, eat the bars little and often (ie not a whole bar in one go) and only to back up this generally lower GI diet. On rides I now eat 'normal' food (such as baked potatoes, soup, oatcakes, sometimes even steak and chips etc) as much as possible and just 'top up' with half an energy bar every few hours, if needed. I have found that I don't need to eat as often, or as much on rides as I used to, because I am keeping my blood sugar level stable by avoiding too many highly sugary foods. Low GI is the way to go for sustained energy, all day long, whether on the bike or off.
  • alanmcn1
    alanmcn1 Posts: 531
    Thanks for all the tips guys. When i did Ventoux I experienced that come down you mentioned, and was in a bad way as tried to get up there just on power bars and gels (still did 2.45 though!)

    I have porridge (am a scot!) but usually about 20mins before i go out. Guess the answer is get up earlier.....................ugh. With regards to the Low GI stuff, I read in this months procycling about eating high GI while out on the bike. Would a few jam sandwiches on the road help much?
    Robert Millar for knighthood
  • Blonde
    Blonde Posts: 3,188
    Any energy is useful. But you need a balance between low and high GI food. Because I have Candida overgrowth in the gut I cant eat any bread or any sugar of any kind - including fruit. It is only since going on this 'anti-Candida diet' that I have discovered that i don't need half the sugar I was eating before, not even on the bike. I actually go better, for longer, without it, as I dont get the blood sugar highs and lows of the past. Don't do away with the energy bars or other high sugar foods completely, but use them as top ups to a good generally lower GI diet. If you are stopping at cafes etc there's no reason you cant eat good quality lower GI food anyway. If you are already eating the energy bars or other sweet foods for topping up with, but want a lunchtime buttie to take with you on the bike, I'd go for wholemeal bread rather than white, as it's lower GI and will release energy over a longer time period. Perhaps put a smear of protein, like a soft cheese, or some sugar free peanut butter or hazlenut/almond/cashew nut butter on it if you prefer (these nut spreads are available in most whole food shops) rather than high sugar jam.

    There's a useful table of carbohydrate amounts in common foods here: - if you click on 'food for energy'.

    This site tells you how to work out how much carboydrate you ought to be eating depending on your weight and excercise levels. It is aimed at serious endurance athletes so you might be scared by the amounts, but it gives you an idea anyway. You can see from the table that the higher carb food is also the most sugary, but it also tells you to use these foods very sparingly. The message then, is that you really need to be eating a lower sugar and yet carbohydrate-rich diet all week, and not just on the bike, in order to get enough carbohydrate for your cycling/excerise and that you cant get away with simply eating a load of sugar on the bike and hoping this will be enough, or will stop you getting the 'bonk' if you haven't been eating well off the bike too. Hope this helps!
  • Jeff Jones
    Jeff Jones Posts: 1,865
    I used to go out for 2-3 hours on little more than a banana and a glass of orange juice. It wasn't conducive to fast training. Now I have a cup of tea/coffee and a decent bowl of porridge with fruit, nuts, yoghurt and milk before I go out, no matter how long the ride is.

    I don't leave much time between finishing brekky and getting on the bike, and often I am on a 2-3km climb after just a few minutes, going fairly hard! I think eating just before riding is something you can train yourself to get used to.

    The benefits of having breakfast before riding are not just limited to supplying you with energy during the ride, it also helps you stop getting tired and hungry later on in the day.
    Jeff Jones

    Product manager, Sports
  • mw336
    mw336 Posts: 26
    Just to emphasize on what Blondie has said, porridge is the best food to eat before and after your ride to quickly replace the nutrients you need. Try to eat Bananas before and after too after all Mother Nature can’t be wrong!

  • I tend to chop up a malt loaf and stick in my back pocket and gently munch inch-per-side cubes as I pedal away

    I mainly chose malt loaf 'cause I like it but it seems to be a good carb source and eating it in small chunks allows me to keep energy levels topped up nicely without the highs and lows of gels and similar

    and i rely on the night before's eating to get me through the first bit of the ride

    only problem is that the handlebars / STIs get sticky...
  • passout
    passout Posts: 4,425
    Porridge works
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.