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Nutrition for cycling: fuelling your ride

Cycling is gaining popularity across the country at a rapid rate. Whether you commute to work, head off into the countryside at the weekend or commit to hours a week on the bike, getting your nutrition right is essential for you to optimize your enjoyment, performance and recovery. Here are the answers to some of the most frequent questions we receive from you on what to eat before your ride:

How soon after I eat can I go out for a ride?

Everyone tolerates exercise on a full stomach slightly differently, so it is important to trial what works best for you. As a starting point, aim to allow 2-4 hours after your main meal before heading out on the bike. This allows time for you to digest the food and ease possible gastrointestinal discomfort. If you are hungry before you ride or feel you need an added boost of energy, eat a small carbohydrate snack such as a banana, cereal bar, small sandwich, fruit bread or yoghurt.

Is there anything I should avoid eating or drinking before a ride?

You need to ensure you have enough energy to maintain your speed on the bike. Therefore your food choices should be based around carbohydrates such as fruit, pasta, rice, bread, starchy vegetables and cereals. You should also eat foods you are familiar with and know they won’t cause stomach discomfort. Now isn’t the time to be trying a chicken balti for the first time! To provide sufficient fuel, foods should be predominantly high in carbohydrate.


In the 2-4 hours before a long ride, you should try and limit excess amounts of fibre, fatty foods, spicy foods and alcohol! The main culprits are green leafy vegetables, beef, pizza, fried foods, take-aways, creamy sauces, curry and beer.

I commute to work on my bike which takes just over 60 minutes but rarely bother eating before I go. What should can I do to boost my energy in the morning?

You should eat where possible before your morning ride; especially if it is a longer ride or a high-intensity session. This will help the quality of your ride and your ability to recovery. Due to the body’s position on the bike, riders generally find it easier to tolerate food closer to cycling, though you should try a few strategies and see what works best for you. Try eating a fruit bread, breakfast smoothie, yoghurt with raisins, banana and orange juice or cereal bar.