Many people must get their mountain bike riding in first thing in the morning, whether due to work schedules or trying to beat the summer heat. Should you eat before mountain biking in the morning? And, if so, how much? There are a few factors to consider. Here’s some info about what to eat before mountain biking in the morning.
Morning rides shorter than 1 hour
If you are riding first thing in the morning for less than an hour and are not doing a hard workout, skipping breakfast is fine. I always recommend packing a snack that contains carbohydrates, like a granola bar or banana, just in case you get hungry before you get home. However, I recommend having a snack the night before if you sleep more than 2 hours after dinner.
Any snack is fine, but a snack higher in protein can help with improved muscle recovery overnight. My favorite pre-bedtime snacks that are higher in protein are cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with fruit and/or granola. Other ideas are an apple with 2 tbsp peanut butter, a handful of nuts or trail mix, or cheese and crackers.
Morning rides (or Morning Workouts) exceeding 1 hour
If you are riding first thing in the morning and riding longer than an hour or doing a hard workout, I recommend having a snack first. A snack before these longer rides or workouts will fuel your muscles and brain. You can even have a snack before your rides that are less than 1 hour; you may feel better during your ride. Pre-workout snacks should be high in carbohydrates and lower in protein, fat, and fiber. This will help aid in optimal digestion, which is essential since you will have this snack very close to your workout.
Good examples of pre-workouts snacks are a banana or piece of toast with or without a spoonful of peanut butter, a couple of dates, or a small bowl of cereal. Read my article on hydration here, but if you are doing a workout or riding for over 1.5 hours, I recommend drinking a sports drink with sugar and electrolytes. Also, I suggest the same bedtime snack as discussed above.
Post morning ride breakfast
After any morning ride, regardless of an easy mountain bike ride or an intense workout, eating a proper breakfast is important for recovery and to feel good for the rest of the day. Ideally, a post-ride breakfast should contain carbohydrates and protein as they are both critical for recovery. Breakfast should also include some fat to provide satiety and lasting fullness. Examples of post-workout breakfasts are:
- Eggs (eat the whole egg, not just the egg whites), toast, avocado, and fruit
- Oatmeal with nuts, seeds, peanut butter, and/or Greek yogurt and fruit
- Smoothie (containing Greek yogurt, milk of choice, banana, berries of choice)
- Bagel or toast with peanut butter and fruit
With some practice and planning, morning mountain bike cruises or workouts can be successful! You can feel well-fueled and eat a balanced breakfast afterward to recover and be energized for the rest of your day!
Emily is a Sports Dietitian who is passionate about helping others improve their health and athletic performance through proper nutrition. She races cyclocross professionally. She lives in Roanoke, VA with her husband Kerry and their beagle Sherman.
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