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Endurance Cycling – Pre-Race Nutrition to Maximize Performance

When it comes to cycling endurance, you race what you eat. Timing your nutrition and making smart choices in what you eat in the meal you eat before a long ride or race can have a big impact on how well you perform. When it comes to endurance events over 4 hours long, it is often the gas tank not the engine that limit performance. What you eat before your event will effect your performance in a big way. It’s a combination of calories for energy and how your body absorbs them that will make the difference.


Part of what makes a good endurance cyclist is the ability to tap into fat as a fuel source. If you can get 10-15% of your calories from stored body fat, that is a lot of muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) you are able to spare for use later in the ride. What you eat before your ride can dramatically influence how many calories will come from fat. Studies have shown a link between eating a high fibre / low glycemic index meal three hours before exercise causing the subjects to burn twice the fat of the group that ate a high glycemic index meal before exercise.


Fibre moderates the absorption of carbohydrate decreasing the insulin response. When insulin is up you can’t access stored body fat as a fuel source during exercise forcing the body to rely on carbs which you can only store so much. Every calorie you can get from fat means a calorie of carbohydrate you still have in reserve.


How simple can that be?


Make sure your pre-ride meal of 300-500 calories is high in fibre (5-8 grams) and complex carbohydrates with moderate protein and fat. You will find that this will let you go longer without running out of gas. Add to this a on the bike nutrition plan that gets you 200-300 calories per hour of easily digestible carbohydrate and you have the recipe for endurance success.


Sample meals:




  • Whole wheat bagel with natural peanut butter and an apple
  • Bowl of muesli cereal with skim milk, a couple of slices of whole wheat flax toast with natural peanut butter
  • Rice and beans with a banana (not mixed together unless you are into that)


A smart approach to eating before your endurance cycling event, be it training or racing, is one of the pieces to the puzzle that will let you achieve your potential.


It’s in you to become a better cyclist. Helping you get there is my number one goal. Equipment, riding skills, fitness and nutrition all have to be dialed in to reach your potential. To take your next step on that journey visit http://www.cyclecambridge.com

Category: Cycling Health

About Mark Carrington

Keen cyclist and cycle tourist. Ridden by bicycle across Australia 7 times and crewed Race Across America. Experienced randonneur participated in Paris Brest Paris in 2007

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