If you’re cycling to lose weight, you should eat wholesome carbohydrate-rich foods before endurance rides lasting more than 75-90 minutes.
Here are some healthy, carbohydrate-rich foods to eat 60-90 minutes before cycling. These also provide small amounts of lean protein and healthy fat for satiety and sustained energy.
Whole grain toast with 2-3 slices of avocado
Banana with ½ tablespoon of almond butter butter
½ cup cooked oatmeal with a drizzle of peanut butter
Whole grain crackers and a slice of cheese
½ cup lightly sweetened yogurt and strawberries
If you have less than 60 minutes before a ride, you’ll want to stick with high-carbohydrate foods that are low in fiber, fat, and protein, as they will slow digestion and can lead to stomach upset. Some good foods to eat 30-60 minutes before cycling include:
Piece of fruit (like a banana or orange)
Half of a small bagel or English muffin with jelly
Half of a sports energy bar
Being adequately fueled for endurance exercise will enable you to cycle longer, farther, and at a higher intensity than you could on a half-full (or empty) tank. While this is beneficial for both performance and weight loss, knowing if you should eat before cycling is also important when you're trying to lose weight. The length of your rides and your eating frequency can help you determine whether or not you need to eat before cycling. If you usually eat 2-3 meals with 1-2 snacks throughout the course of the day, you likely don’t need to eat before rides under 75-90 minutes. However, if you tend to skip meals or go several hours without eating, then you may need to eat a small snack before cycling.
Rides that are longer than 90 minutes will exhaust muscle carbohydrate stores, so carbohydrate consumption before cycling (and immediately after) is recommended to support performance and recovery. Having a small meal or snack that provides 1 g/kg of carbohydrate and 0.5 g/kg of protein within 30-60 minutes of a long ride will promote muscle synthesis, which is especially important for cyclists trying to lose weight [1