What to Eat Before a Ride

You've heard a gazillion times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and sports nutritionists agree that whether you want to burn fat, ride fast or both, front-loading your day is essential. But plenty of cyclists disagree on the particulars of a smart morning meal: Fat-phobic bonk trainers suggest skipping it until after you ride, long riders fuel up like lumberjacks, and racers search endlessly for the perfect winning fuel.

What you eat depends largely upon what kind of ride you're going to be doing. The idea is to keep your muscles energized, your brain focused and the rest of your systems firing on all cylinders no matter what. "You first need to look at the duration and intensity of the ride ahead," says Florida-based sports nutritionist Barbara Lewin, RD , who works with cyclists and triathletes at Sports-Nutritionist.com. "Then you need to take in foods that give you the fuel to perform your best." Here's how.

Calories are based on a 150-pound rider. Add or subtract portion sizes proportionally based on your body weight.

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