The 7 best breakfasts for cyclists

The 7 best breakfasts for cyclists

If you’re heading out for an early ride it’s important you are sufficiently fuelled. But nailing your morning nutrition can be tricky.

For a lot of cyclists, eating such a large amount of food in the morning can be difficult. Not to mention that there is a wide variety of foods to choose from, all of which can have a number of positive and negative effects on the body.

Here’s our guide to the best breakfasts for cyclists, so you can find the perfect combination to fuel your rides.


What makes a healthy breakfast for cyclists?

A well-rounded breakfast for cyclists includes the following elements:

carbohydrates—essential for boosting glycogen stores and powering your muscles
protein—the best ingredient for aiding muscle recovery and strength
healthy fats—foods like avocados, nuts, and vegetable oils are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is a great source of energy
low GI—foods low on the GI (Glycaemic Index) prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the risk of developing diabetes and heart and blood vessel diseases

But what does this look like when put into practice? Read our choice of the best breakfasts for cyclists below to discover your new go-to meal before long rides.


The 7 best breakfasts for cyclists


1. Porridge

Porridge is a healthy yet delicious cycling breakfast choice when combined with your favourite toppings—it’s one of the most versatile options.

It sits low on the Glycaemic Index (GI), providing a slow source of energy over a period, perfect for long hours spent in the saddle. 

You can throw whatever you want into the mix. For example, a few slices of banana and a handful of blueberries contain added minerals, nutrients, antioxidants, and carbohydrates.

Or, some raisins, flaked almonds and cinnamon can help lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure while packing lots of flavour.

Peanut butter is another great ingredient to pair with your porridge, as it tastes great and provides many benefits—we talk more about this below. 


2. Fresh fruit or a smoothie

Most fruits sit low on the GI, so feel free to experiment with whatever you fancy.

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Bananas are particularly good for long rides since they provide easily digestible carbohydrates and slow-release energy to keep you fuelled for longer. They’re also a great source of potassium, which can help ward off muscle cramps and improve your performance.

A smoothie could be your best option if you struggle to eat so early in the morning—a simple mango and banana smoothie contains virtually no fat and plenty of carbohydrates and protein.

Add low-fat yoghurt to boost your smoothie even more, increasing its carbohydrate and protein content. You can even throw in some granola to give it a crunch.

The great thing about smoothies is that even if you don’t finish it at your breakfast table, you can take it and drink it on the way to your sportive or race.


3. Yoghurt with muesli

Greek yoghurt has many health benefits, including being a great source of protein, which supports your post-ride muscle recovery.

Plant-based yoghurts still have plenty of health benefits if you choose them due to an allergy or dietary preference.

Muesli contains oats, dried fruit, and usually no added sugars or sweeteners (which can be disguised in granola). Paired with yoghurt, it creates one of the best breakfasts for cyclists due to the balance of protein, fibre, and healthy fats.

Try this nutritious muesli recipe for a sweet pre-ride breakfast for cyclists.


4. Toast with peanut butter

Peanut butter is a good source of protein, magnesium, and zinc, which are important for healthy muscle growth and bone density. 

Its high carbohydrate and protein content can also help energise you during your ride. Just watch out for added sugar in commercial varieties. 

Wholegrain toast is lower on the GI compared to white bread, alongside being rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. It takes longer to digest and gradually releases carbohydrates into the bloodstream to keep you fuelled for longer and control your appetite.

Peanut butter and wholegrain toast are a match made in heaven when it comes to healthy breakfasts for cyclists. You can even try adding slices of banana for an extra energy boost.


5. Boiled eggs or breakfast muffins

Boiled eggs are a healthy breakfast for cyclists looking to increase their protein intake and combat muscle soreness.

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A large egg is around 70 calories and contains 6g of protein and essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, iron, and B vitamins.

Try these low-carb egg breakfast muffins to combine protein with a few portions of tasty veg.

They’re one of the best breakfasts for cyclists looking for a simple yet filling option, especially since the vitamin C in peppers and tomatoes can help you absorb iron.


6. Avocado toast

Compared to the saturated fat in traditional breakfast foods such as sausage and bacon, the monounsaturated fats in avocados are typically much better for you since they promote healthy cholesterol levels.

This makes avocado toast a fantastic option for cyclists looking to watch their health, alongside the fact that they are known to decrease inflammation and support immune health. They also taste great paired with toast and a dash of seasoning.

Want to add a protein source to your cycling breakfast? There are so many options, including:

As we mentioned earlier, wholegrain toast is a great choice to pair with these ingredients because it is lower on the GI than white bread and has other health benefits.

Overall, this is one of the best breakfasts for cyclists tackling longer routes, as it will keep you full throughout the morning and promote recovery due to the avocado’s ability to reduce inflammation.


7. Coffee  

Many studies support the view that caffeine is beneficial for athletic performance for several reasons, including:

improved blood flow
increased muscle contraction
enhanced mental alertness

Since the caffeine in coffee is from natural sources, it’s one of the healthiest stimulants available to athletes when consumed in moderation.

The recommended maximum daily amount of caffeine is 400mg (the equivalent of around four or five cups of coffee). But everyone is different, and you may find that one cup is enough to fuel your rides.

Enhanced alertness and physical performance are why coffee made it onto our list of the best breakfast options for cyclists.

It temporarily blocks adenosine receptors in the brain (which induce feelings of tiredness) and expands blood vessels to boost oxygen-carrying blood to the muscles, which improves their efficiency.

The main downside is that it can leave you feeling the need to use the toilet if you’re not used to it. A shot of espresso is typically better than having a longer drink because of the smaller volume of water.  

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Cyclist breakfast FAQs

What foods give you energy before cycling?

The best food types for boosting energy levels are:

complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
healthy fats such as avocados, fish, nuts, and vegetable oils
lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, and fish

Many of the suggestions in our list of the best breakfasts for cyclists contain these ingredients.


What do cyclists drink at breakfast?

A healthy breakfast for cyclists can include any of the following drinks:

water—500ml sipped gradually is ideal for hydration
isotonic sports drink—they contain electrolytes to replenish hydration alongside nerve and muscle function and carbohydrates for an energy boost
coffee—enhances concentration and muscle function

You may want to ensure that you consume sports drinks and caffeine in moderation to receive the full benefits.


What should cyclists avoid at breakfast?

When creating the best pre-ride breakfast for cyclists, knowing what to avoid is important. Here are some things to look out for:

too much coffee—having multiple cups could cause shakiness or headaches or make you need the toilet
too much fibre—overindulging can lead to bloating and constipation
fatty foods—foods with a high saturated fat content, like sausage or bacon, can feel heavy on your stomach and only release energy a couple of hours later
spicy foods—they can cause heartburn or indigestion, which are especially uncomfortable during exercise


What do Tour de France cyclists eat for breakfast?

Typically, riders eat breakfast around three hours before they set off. Popular food choices include:


The last few options are specifically for maximising glycogen stores, essential for providing the muscles with the energy needed for long rides.

Lizzie Deignan, Cycleplan ambassador and Tour De France Femmes rider, starts her day with a big bowl of porridge made with oats, coconut oil, chia seeds, almond milk, and raisins, alongside two espresso shots.


Trying some new recipes to fuel your rides? You may want to consider specialist cycling insurance for extra peace of mind when hitting the road.

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