Cycling is a totally sublime endeavour… until your body runs out of energy reserves, then the pain begins! Which is why it’s imperative to fuel correctly on longer rides if you’re to gain maximum enjoyment. In this article we’ll cover what you should eat before a long ride, what fuel to take during your ride and what foods you should avoid before saddling up. So come on, let’s get stuck in…
What to eat the day before a long bike ride and what foods you should avoid before a long ride
The day before your big endeavour, we recommend you eat normally and healthily: if you’re travelling to a sportive or your chosen location, avoid service station pastries and motorway fast food in favour of a simple wholemeal sandwich. Snack with fruit and unsalted nuts and make sure you stay optimally hydrated all day. You don’t want to wake up thirsty the next morning and take on too much liquid before you mount your bike or you’ll be toilet-stopping before you’ve got in your groove.
It's common sense to not eat too late in the day as that can adversely affect your sleep. Also, it’s best to avoid hard-to-digest red meats in favour of chicken or fish and stay clear of overly spicy food for obvious reasons. Oh, and don’t be fooled by the old-school notion of “carb-loading”: a typical portion of rice, pasta or potatoes along with a tactical taper/rest day is quite sufficient to top up your body’s glycogen levels.
What to eat the morning before your long ride
Get up early and have your breakfast at least 60 minutes before your ride begins. If you know the ride’s gonna start fast, 120 minutes is preferable.
The accepted pre-ride scran is porridge because it releases energy slowly and is easy to prep and eat. For longer rides you might want to supplement your oats with some eggs though: a 2-3 egg omelette will do the trick. And make sure you sip a full 500ml bottle of electrolytes during the build-up.
If you’re unsure how much fuel you need to consume and when, you should try our free Fuel Tool. Just input some basic details of your activity and we’ll send you a totally personalised fuelling guide so you can approach it with confidence. It helps remove any lingering fuelling uncertainty you may have, leaving you to focus on the task ahead.
What fuel to take on during a long ride and when to take it
What you must realise when embarking on long bike rides is that you need to constantly top up your fuel supplies before you feel you need to. This means sipping your bottle of drink from the start – which a lot of riders forget to do in cold and testing conditions – and making sure to do so every 5 or 10 minutes. In fact, depending on your build, fitness, the conditions and the intensity, you should be aiming to consume 500-1,000ml of fluid per hour.
As well as keeping your fluid intake up, you should also be looking to frequently replenish your carbohydrate stores. Our experts recommend 0.5-1g of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight every hour, depending on the intensity of your activity.
How you consume your carb quota is up to you. Some of us like to use gels while riding the bike. Some of us prefer to sip carb drinks. Some of us fight flavour fatigue on longer rides with energy bars. Some riders will mix in easily portable “real food” such as bananas, breads, cake, etc. When training for your long ride it’s important to try out different fuels and see what works best for you.
Again – and we really can’t stress this enough – our Fuel Tool can help you plan what fuel you need for your long ride and, crucially, when to take it. All you need to do is program in some very basic data about you and your activity and in less than a minute you can get a comprehensive guide to set your mind at ease. Use it as a guide for your training and then refine as you go.
We promise, if you train with the right fuel and hone your plan carefully, you’re gonna have a blast!
See you out there.