Best Pre-Ride Foods For Cyclists

Cycling Nutrition

Best Pre-Ride Foods For Cyclists

What you eat prior to a ride will have a major bearing on your performance. So what foods should you be eating pre-ride?

What you eat prior to a ride will have a major bearing on your performance. So what foods should you be eating pre-ride?

Eating prior to your cycling ride or event, helps top up your glycogen stores, so that you essentially start your ride with as near to a full tank of glycogen possible. What you eat and when you consume it will also have a bearing on how quickly the body is able to convert it into energy.

Here are a number of suggested foods, largely rich in carbohydrates or protein, that you should try as part of your pre-ride fuelling strategy:



A great alternative to rice or couscous Quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wa), has twice the protein of regular cereal grains and is great for providing slow-release energy for the cyclist. Quinoa has a bland but slightly nutty flavour and is usually cooked like rice but can even be baked into a nutritious homemade energy bar (as pictured above). It is also versatile in that it can also lend itself to both sweet and savoury dishes.




Pasta has for a long time been the go-to food for endurance athletes.

As a slow-release energy food the ideal time to eat pasta is two to three hours before a ride as this gives the body sufficient time to digest and convert to energy for when you need it. Pasta should also be consumed in the final few days leading up to a big ride in order that your glycogen stores are maximised. 



Bread is another high carb food with low GI meaning that it’s is generally a slow-release energy food, but it does depend on the type of bread you choose. The likes of rye bread are considered a healthier choice and will release their energy much slower than a higher glycemic bread like white bread. If you are seeking a quick energy hit before a ride then a white bread sandwich with peanut butter or jam can be just what you need.



For those early start races, porridge is an ideal breakfast to consume before your ride. Ideally aim to eat it a couple of hour before you ride so that you are not starting out with a full stomach and the body has had time to start to digest. Try bolstering your porridge by adding some additional ingredients to it such as dried fruit, banana or jam. 



Granola is a great source of carbs. As a whole grain, it is not broken down as easily as refined cereals, and as such the energy is released more slowly into the body providing a good source of fuel for a long ride. Granola can also be added as a nice crunchy topping for other foods and you can even use it to bake into a cake or energy bar to consume pre-ride or during it.



For those who struggle to eat a cereal-based food before riding, then the bagel provides a good source or carbs. A standard bagel will provide in excess of 280 calories, more than 56g of carbs and over 11g of protein, making it a useful food for the cyclist. The type of bagel you choose (and the topping) will have a bearing on how quickly the carbs are broken down into energy - a multigrain or whole-wheat bagel being higher in fibre and thus providing slow-release energy.


Energy bar

An easy convenient option, there are a multitude of different energy bars available varying in the amount of carbs and protein they provide. As a snack to eat on your way to your ride or event they are ideal and a great means of just topping up your glycogen levels to hopefully near capacity. A variety of bars, flavours and consistencies, mean you should find one that suits your tastes and willingness to chew!



As a mid-GI snack the banana is a great option to eat in the half an hour or so before a ride. The ripeness of the banana affects the speed of availability of the energy from it. A ripe banana will be digested and processed far quicker than a green one will so the type you consume should be based on what else you have eaten and how quickly you need the energy hit.


Peanut butter

Peanut butter provides a good affordable source of protein for cyclists, when compared with other protein sources such as fish, lean meats, eggs, and protein bars and shakes. When combined with sources of carbs such as, bread, bananas or even as a satay sauce with noodles, it provides a perfect combination to fuel your ride. 


Chia seeds

Chia seeds are something of a secret but should be utilised by cyclists to give them an energy boost. Virtually flavorless, they can be added to just about anything, from puddings, to salads or soups without need for cooking. They can even be ground into a powder and added to a sports drink to give an extra boost. One teaspoon contains around 60 calories.