Rubber Side Down: How to Eat Before You Ride

This is the first article in a three part series reviewing how to properly eat before, during, and after a race, or training ride, for the best possible results. Art’s Cyclery sat down with Cherie Moore, a local nutritionist and avid cyclist, to help us in this endeavor. Cherie Moore has her Bachelors in Exercise Physiology & Nutrition, her Masters in Wellness and Nutrition, and she is also a past record holder of the Race Across America. 

(Ride Nutrition: Part 1 of 3)

Check out our other nutrition articles on How To Eat During A Ride and How To Eat After Your Ride for the best possible performance.

Nutrition Basics

“A healthy overall diet will make you feel better on each and every ride.” 

  • Humans need six general types of nutrients in their diet to survive:
Carbohydrates Minerals Proteins
Vitamins Fats  Water
  • The energy we use for activities, such as cycling, comes from Calories. Calories come from three of the above nutrient types:
Carbohydrates Minerals Proteins
Vitamins Fats  Water
  • For training and competition, one type of nutrient is needed in the greatest amount:


Why is the carbohydrate so important? Carbohydrates are the most readily available and the most easily digestible energy source for any athlete. Cyclists draw on stored carbohydrates during both training and racing.  If you become depleted of glycogen during a ride, your body can only work at 50% of its maximum capacity and this is when you BONK!

Say it with me now…

The carbohydrate is king. The carbohydrate is king! Long live the king.

The most nutritious types of carbohydrates are those that are wholesome and less refined. The best examples include:

Some healthy choices for fats and protein include:

Fats Protein
Nuts (i.e. Walnuts) Lean meats (i.e. Poultry)
Seeds (i.e. Chia Seed) Legumes (i.e. Lentils)
Healthful Oils (i.e. Olive Oil) Beans (i.e. Black Beans)
  • Keep in mind that you don’t need to focus too much on including more protein in your diet because many of the carbohydrate choices above include protein already
  • When choosing fats, look for healthful fats (especially those rich in Omega-3).

It is important that athletes begin training and competition with maximum stores of muscle and liver glycogen in order to delay fatigue and improve recovery time.


What you eat before a training ride depends on the type of training ride you are going on and for how long.

Ride Duration What To Focus On  Meal Examples
Two Hours or Less Eat a small, carbohydrate-rich meal at least two hours before you ride, and allow your food to fully-digest before you get on the bike.

Whole wheat bagel with almond butter and a banana.

Whole-grain cold cereal (Puffins, Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran etc.) with non-fat milk or rice milk, and a banana.

Two Hours or More Eat a substantial meal, also rich in carbohydrates, at least two hours before you start your ride. Avoid fatty foods and concentrate on healthy carbohydrates.

Whole-grain muffins/waffles/pancakes with fresh fruit smoothie (real fruit smoothie w/out ice cream) and yogurt.

Steel cut oats with fresh fruit (papaya, mango, strawberries, blueberries, banana), flax, sweetened with agave and toast with almond butter.


“Carbo-loading” three to five days before a race is beneficial in order to maximize energy storage and delay exhaustion. But exactly how many carbohydrates should you consume? The rule of thumb is 8-10 grams of carbs for every kg you weigh.

Use the following formulas:

[(Your weight in lbs.) / 2.2] x 8

[(Your weight in lbs.) / 2.2] x 10

These two calculations will give you a range of how many carbohydrates you should consume each of the three to five days before your race. For example, I weigh 185 lbs. and I should consume approximately 670 to 840 grams of carbohydrates each of those days. Since there are four Calories in each gram of carbohydrate, you would then multiply each of these numbers by four to get your carbohydrate Calorie range. For me this works out to about 2700 to 3400 Calories from carbohydrates each day before I race. This may seem like a lot but it is amazing how much a full tank can help you on race day.

How do I eat that many carbs! Where do I start?


To make sure you get enough carbohydrates, you would eat several small meals throughout the day consisting of grains, fruits, and veggies. You can eat small amount of lean proteins such as beans or poultry but keep in mind that your carbohydrate choices will probably provide enough protein to take care of your 15% daily caloric need. Remember to eat foods that you are used to right before race day and nothing that might upset your stomach. 

A Great Pre-Race Dinner 

Whole-grain pasta with marinara, olive oil, or pesto sauce (optional small amount of tofu, lean meat, or tempeh).
Whole-grain rolls or bread with canola spread or flax oil for the Omega 3s
Steamed Greens, Kale, and/or Salad
Homemade Brownies with Fresh Organic Strawberries for dessert

If you are going to be racing in hot ambient temperatures or you anticipate a sustained high intensity effort, such as a criterium, a serving of Osmo’s Pre-Load Hydration Mix may prove helpful for race day.

The Pre-Race Meal

The pre-competition meal in the morning is key for topping off glycogen stores.  Two to four hours before a race, you should eat approximately 4-5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of your bodyweight. Basically just cut the number that you got from our previous calculation for carbo-loading in half. For me this works out to just over 330 grams of carbs, four hours before I race. Again, try to avoid foods that cause nausea or other gastric distress and shy away from trying anything new that your buddy “swears on his life works.” For a look at how many carbs are in key foods, check out the table below.

Carbohydrate Gram Amounts in Key Foods

Whole-grain Bagel, 1


White Bagel, 1

White Rice, 1 cup 45 Brown Rice, 1 cup 45
White Pasta, 1 cup 43 Clif bars, 1 choc chip 42

Buckwheat Pancakes, ½ cup dry


Whole Wheat Spaghetti, 1 cup 37

Whole Wheat macaroni, 1 cup


Blueberry Muffin, 1 34

Bonk Breakers, 1


Red Potatoes, medium


Yogurt (Cow), 1


Banana, 1 medium


Oatmeal, 1 cup cooked


Whole-grain English Muffin, 1


Rice Dream Brown Rice Milk


1 cup O.J.


Sweet Potatoes, 5”


Bonk Breaker Bites


Clif Shot, 1


Honey Stinger Waffle


Clif Shot Blocks, 3 pieces 24

Yogurt (Silk Soy), 1


Chocolate Silk Soy, 1 cup


Whole wheat toast, 1 12

Non-fat Cow Milk, 1 cup


Blueberries, ½ cup


Hammer Perpetuem, 1 serving


Soy milk, 1 cup


Sports Drinks, 1 bottle (8 oz.)


Jam, 1 Tbsp.


Sample Pre-Race Breakfast (Using my weight calculation)

~Two to Four Hours Before

Food Grams of Carbs
Two bowls shredded wheat w/rice milk 76
Two bananas 56
Six Strawberries 15
Bagel with jam 76
Cup of juice 46
Cup of yogurt 24
Clif Bar 45
TOTAL  338 grams 

Holy whole wheat bagel Batman! That’s a lot of food. But remember, if other racers laugh at how much you’re eating, you can laugh at them right back from the podium.

~ One Hour Before Cyclist Drinking

~ Fifteen Minutes Before (with water)Energy Gels and Chews

Now just grip the bars and hammer! You’re fueled up and ready to ride to victory.



Check out our other nutrition articles on How To Eat During A Ride and How To Eat After Your Ride for the best possible performance.