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Importance of breakfast before morning ride?

Old 08-21-14, 12:41 PM
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Campag4life
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Importance of breakfast before morning ride?

I do my morning ride both solo or in a group early in the morning in FL to avoid the heat and its still hot btw...lot of perspiration this time of year and unlike many in more northern climes, I am looking forward to fall and winter riding.

I really don't like to eat early breakfast after a decent dinner the night before because I am not hungry....so it feels like I am forcing the food really. When I don't ride, I eat breakfast later in the morning.

So my question is, just how important is breakfast before a 35 to 50 mile ride in the morning? Or, does the ride draw more from how one consumes calories the evening before?

I have been backing off my food intake a bit before my morning ride as I just don't like to eat much in the morning and it doesn't seem to affect my power or stamina...or I don't really notice it. I do carry a power bar but seldom even go to it. No doubt if riding more than 50 miles, I am going to have to consume food but I don't ride farther than 50 miles on a morning ride as a rule.

So what matters more?....energy stored the evening before or food consumed just before a ride?

Thanks
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Old 08-21-14, 12:51 PM
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I think everyone is different, and you have to listen to your body. I have a screaming metabolism (I'm one of those lucky ones who eat all day and don't gain a pound). When I first got into cycling, I made the mistake of eating only a banana before a 30 mile ride, and barely made it home. My current routine is two packets of instant oatmeal mixed with a big spoonful of peanut butter about an hour before my morning ride, and that takes care of me quite well.
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Old 08-21-14, 12:51 PM
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I never eat anything before a ride. My long rides are 30-40 miles. I prefer to ride on an empty stomach. I have studied lots of sports nutrition over the years and I think meal timing of any sort is nonsense. Eat if your hungry but not because you think eating 1 hour before riding will effect your performance.
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Old 08-21-14, 12:54 PM
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I normally eat breakfast so I just do what I normally do. I wouldn't ride on an empty stomach because finding out you should have eaten and didn't is no fun.
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Old 08-21-14, 12:57 PM
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I can share an experience with you. I always have a small breakfast very early in the morning whether I ride or not. Recently I started noticing that a protein breakfast like Egg Beaters and Canadian bacon got me through my ride in good shape. High fiber cold cereal with banana, and milk does not get me through even though (because?) the cereal is quite sweet. I am starting to think the sugar in the cereal is causing an insulin rush that is depleting my glycogen stores which leaves me bonking later in the ride. This is a very highly regarded "natural" brand of cereal, Kashi, so I am really surprised at the effect. I don't know if this makes sense or not; it is just what I am observing. I would say be careful if you eat breakfast before riding to avoid simple sugars. Simple sugars are better ingested during the ride.
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Old 08-21-14, 12:58 PM
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I usually ride 30 - 50 on the weekend and seldom eat beforehand. Sometimes I'll eat a corn muffin.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:02 PM
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I don't eat breakfast on morning rides but I make sure I bring 2 Clifbars with me and eat them during the ride.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:02 PM
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me personally, in over 6 years of riding i've only eaten breakfast once before a ride, and that was before my first century when i was still new to cycling. i would rather drink a shot of black iced coffee, if possible, cause that shot of caffeine will benefit me more. also, don't forget that it takes at least 3 hours to digest food that you eat.

for me, drinking a glass of red wine the night before (don't ask, it works) a tough ride is more important than eating something the morning of a tough ride. also, i'd rather get that extra bit of sleep, which is HUGE...
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Old 08-21-14, 01:10 PM
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The issue is one of performance goals. If you're going out to do a hard, peak performance ride, one has to eat beforehand in order to do that. If you're riding more moderately, like L2 Endurance with some light tempo, you can burn fat reserves. But for steady Tempo and Threshold (and beyond) work, you'll need easily accessible energy for that kind of stuff.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:11 PM
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Im no nutrition guru but I find that I ride/race just as well without breakfast as with... but if I'm going to eat before a race I must eat at least three hours prior... I think the biggest gain from eating a breakfast before your ride (dependant on duration and intensity) IME are the post ride recovery benefits.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:15 PM
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35-50? I would eat a light breakfast and plan on a clif bar halfway through for the 50 miler. I think the longer and harder your planned ride, the more important a pre-ride meal is.

I'm with @rpenmanparker on the make-up of the breakfast too - I need some protein and a little fat or I'm starvin Marvin far too early in the day. A home made egg mcmuffin type thing is my favorite breakfast.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:16 PM
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I'm in your same situation. I pedal early mornings and I'm never hungry for breakfast. What I do, if I'm going on a long ride, I force myself to choke down a bowl of cereal. And if I'm going on a short ride (like about an hour, or around 20 miles), I'll just force down half a bowl of cereal.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:20 PM
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The responses here seem kind of crazy to me.

If you're going to be putting in an effort and burning sugar for more than an hour, (50 miles is 80km, which regardless of who you are is a 2-3 hour effort) the food you ate 12 hours ago and an espresso cafe is just not going to cut it, unless you're all about the paleo diet and destroying yourself through the bonk.

If I'm going to ride hard in the morning for more than 2 hours then I'll crush 250g of couscous cooked with vegetables, eat two nectarines/peaches/kiwis/pears, and drink a liter of water.

Sugar is the fuel your body uses to produce work.

A car with only a liter of petrol is faster than the same car with a full reserve of petrol. But which one goes farther?
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Old 08-21-14, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
I can share an experience with you. I always have a small breakfast very early in the morning whether I ride or not. Recently I started noticing that a protein breakfast like Egg Beaters and Canadian bacon got me through my ride in good shape. High fiber cold cereal with banana, and milk does not get me through even though (because?) the cereal is quite sweet. I am starting to think the sugar in the cereal is causing an insulin rush that is depleting my glycogen stores which leaves me bonking later in the ride. This is a very highly regarded "natural" brand of cereal, Kashi, so I am really surprised at the effect. I don't know if this makes sense or not; it is just what I am observing. I would say be careful if you eat breakfast before riding to avoid simple sugars. Simple sugars are better ingested during the ride.
I can't stand that Kashi stuff. For a brand that goes on about being so natural, the shapes and textures of their food always seem completely synthetic to me.

I've always had cereal for breakfast, so my routine these days is a bowl of (usually Quaker brand) granola, sometimes with Kefir, or if we're out, low fat milk. If there's a banana in the house I might cut it in there. Sometimes I add cinnamon. If there's OJ in the fridge I might have a glass. I don't have coffee until I get to work/stop by the cafe before joining up with the group ride. I bring a couple of mini Clif bars wth me on every ride, but haven't actually eaten one on a ride in a while. I did a century a couple weeks ago with a 3000ft mountain in the middle and survived on breakfast, a coffee, a half sandwich and Gatorade after the mountain, and a lot of water.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Campagnono View Post
The responses here seem kind of crazy to me.

If you're going to be putting in an effort and burning sugar for more than an hour, (50 miles is 80km, which regardless of who you are is a 2-3 hour effort) the food you ate 12 hours ago and an espresso cafe is just not going to cut it, unless you're all about the paleo diet and destroying yourself through the bonk.

If I'm going to ride hard in the morning for more than 2 hours then I'll crush 250g of couscous cooked with vegetables, eat two nectarines/peaches/kiwis/pears, and drink a liter of water.

Sugar is the fuel your body uses to produce work.

A car with only a liter of petrol is faster than the same car with a full reserve of petrol. But which one goes farther?
The car analogy is more apt if we say an idling engine can run quite awhile on little fuel and low flow rate, but a motor pushing a car down the road at top speed requires more fuel and at a higher flow rate.

It's nothing more than performance level, and it requires energy to work your body at peak levels.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
The issue is one of performance goals. If you're going out to do a hard, peak performance ride, one has to eat beforehand in order to do that. If you're riding more moderately, like L2 Endurance with some light tempo, you can burn fat reserves. But for steady Tempo and Threshold (and beyond) work, you'll need easily accessible energy for that kind of stuff.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:37 PM
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Not necessary for a moderate 35-50 mile rides, and not practical for most of our schedules, what the Pro's do stage racing is eat a fairly large breakfast, typically with some fat and protein, around 3 hours before the race, then a small serving of carbs 30-45 minutes before.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:39 PM
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I find a light breakfast or something is needed to provide fuel. A piece of toast with jam or something, even a glass of orange juice is good. Basically you probably want 100-200 cal intake of easy to digest food just to make sure you've got some carbs to burn. Typically, I'll eat immediately when I wake up, and be on the bike 30min to 1 hr later.

Everyone is obviously different, both in terms of metabolism and riding style. It sounds like you probably only need half a powerbar or so to get started.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Leinster View Post
I did a century a couple weeks ago with a 3000ft mountain in the middle and survived on breakfast, a coffee, a half sandwich and Gatorade after the mountain, and a lot of water.
Exactly, but while "surviving" is better than bonking, putting in a maximal effort is something else altogether and describes a different fueling regimen.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
I do my morning ride both solo or in a group early in the morning in FL to avoid the heat and its still hot btw..

Thanks
I'm in Broward County and on weekdays I get 30 miles in from 6:30 to 8:00ish, on those days I eat after my ride and I've never had a problem. On the weekends I still get up at 6:15, eat then go do a longer 40-70 mile ride. Seems to work for me but everyone is different. I'm kinda like you, if I were to eat before the weekday morning ride I'd feel like I'm forcing it. On the weekends I realize that I need the fuel for the longer ride that ends late morning when things really start to heat up. Winter time, ahhhhh, I usually wait until about 10 or so then go ride, feels great riding in January in 72 degree weather at noon.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
35-50? I would eat a light breakfast and plan on a clif bar halfway through for the 50 miler. I think the longer and harder your planned ride, the more important a pre-ride meal is.

I'm with @rpenmanparker on the make-up of the breakfast too - I need some protein and a little fat or I'm starvin Marvin far too early in the day. A home made egg mcmuffin type thing is my favorite breakfast.
Same here. If it's a very early ride(before 7am) breakfast is a bowl of cereal and coffee.

If I have time or if it's a longer ride, I'll eat a full breakfast(eggs, meat, potatoes, cereal, fruit, and coffee), and bring some Clif shot blocks or Gu chomps.
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Old 08-21-14, 01:58 PM
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It depends. For fat burning I go on an empty stomach or maybe an espresso for caffeine. Also, if I don't have breakfast I make sure I don't do much, if any, high intensity work since it depletes the little resources I have in the morning almost instantly. No breakfast, I do 180-200watt rides for 1-2 hours. Anything longer than 2 hrs or closer to 220-240watt rides I need to eat something substantial a couple of hours beforehand. Surprisingly I pulled a good workout in the trainer this morning without breakfast. Averaged 207 watts for the hour with 3x10minute intervals at 250watts. Felt good and never out of shape.

I hate when I misjudge group rides thinking B Groupish 30 milers wont be much and go with an empty stomach. It is unbelievable how anemic I feel after mile 15-20.
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Old 08-21-14, 02:36 PM
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I think you can figure this out on how you feel.

I eat a couple of eggs every morning whether I ride of not. But I have noticed that the day after I skipped dinner (had a big lunch), riding in the morning felt like a struggle.
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Old 08-21-14, 02:38 PM
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I have to eat breakfast. Period. Riding or not.

I wake up HANGRY.
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Old 08-21-14, 02:54 PM
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I've been reading some opinions here and I was trying to keep my opinions to myself but here is my 2 cents.
I've been cycling seriously for only one year but I'm 36 and played sports competitively my whole life. Here is what I have learned and what works for me.

Carbs = Quicker burning, easily digested. However not all carbs are alike. There are complexes carbs that will take slower to process and some simple sugars will be available almost instantly to the body/blood. - Some fruit juice (or Gatorade) are the best options when you are facing a major bonk. Some sweet potato, bread, pasta and natural cereals are great if you have a little time before your ride/run.

Protein = slower burning than carbs but quicker than fats. Eat some before longer efforts to keep the fire burning. Think of a decent size log on a bonfire. Too much of it will cause the body to reroute some blood and water to the stomach for easier digestion and may cause some discomfort.

Fats - Extremely slow burning but extremely necessary for longer continues efforts. Riding a century? Some bacon may help you since will provide slow and continues fuel. Too much just like protein will give you trouble.

Now addressing some comments here. The only point I agree with most is that it will differ from person to person but as a rule:

-Not eating before a ride - good if you are trying to burn body fat and if you are keeping the effort low and relatively short. Anything more than one hour(ish) and you're not doing your body any favors. You may not feel bad during or after your ride but are not benefiting from it since you are depriving your body/muscles of some important fuel.

- Loading up the night before- Well it may be enough for some quick efforts but eating to much and your body will convert whatever it didn't use into fats. Not good. Plus sleeping on a heavy stomach has been shown to impact the quality of your sleep.

- It takes 3 hours to digest food you eat - Not true at all. It will depend a lot on what you're eating. See above. Some foods(including some in liquid form) enter your system almost immediately where that baked potato with bacon bits will sit there for even longer than 3 hours.

-Sugar rush caused by sugary cereals and such foods are real and should be avoided, You should aim for cars with a lower glycemic index that will "distribute"the sugars slower thus avoiding the rush. Now, if you are in the middle of a high effort ride or are near a major bonk for Pete's sake grab the nearest candy bar/sugary juice/anything at all you can find.

One more thing - in addition to keep your body in check water also helps with digestion. And even if you choose not to eat anything before a ride it's a good idea to at least drink some water (or juice) before going out. I even drink some skim milk for the carbs and proteins- Greek yogurt works great too. However many people don't deal well with dairy before exercising.

Hope it helps.
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