Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel sources for working muscles before, during, and after a ride. The longer and harder you cycle, the more carbohydrates you need. The timing of your pre-ride meals determines the composition. Here are some guidelines to help fuel your body for cycling:
2-4 hours before your ride
Aim to eat a full meal with carbohydrates, protein and fat 2-4 hours before your ride. Carbohydrates should be the most prominent macronutrient on your plate, and some cyclists need 50-100 grams in their pre-workout meal. Eating carbohydrates before a ride tops off glycogen stores and provides readily-available fuel for working muscles when you get on the bike . Some options include:
Oatmeal topped with banana, berries, and nut butter
Sandwich on whole-grain bread with turkey, avocado, lettuce, and tomato
Rice bowl with tofu, veggies and olive oil based dressing
Caffeine may also be a beneficial part of your pre-ride meal, since it stimulates the central nervous system to boost energy and alertness by blocking adenosine receptors. 30 - 90 minutes before you get on the bike, consume 3-9 mg caffeine/kg, with no more than 400-500 mg caffeine per day (roughly 4-5 cups of coffee) .
Nitrates from beetroot juice may also improve cycling performance. The recommended dose of nitrates is 300-600 mg (or 0.1 mmol/kg of body weight), in the form of juice or food, 2-3 hours before exercise . One cup of beetroot juice contains about 250 mg of nitrates.
15-30 minutes before your ride
Eat a small, easily digestible carbohydrate snack that is low in fiber, protein, and fat to top off carbohydrate stores and minimize the risk of GI distress during your ride. Good options include:
Fruit, like a banana
8 oz sports drink