Big rides, no breakfast

There’s no shortage of advice on what to eat for breakfast, and indeed the importance of breakfast in general. But, I have a problem. For as long as I can remember I have never been able to eat much, if any, breakfast. My stomach just can’t take food until I’ve been up and about for a 90 mins or more.

I’ve battled it; before setting out on a ride I’ve forced down a bit of toast and half a banana and sometimes been OK after about 30 minutes of feeling rough, but some days I’m distinctly not OK (I don’t think further details are needed:) ). If it’s a big ride like a gran fondo then I get a bit of The Fear too, which just makes the situation even worse. On one tragic day I abandoned what would have been an incredible event that I’d been building up to for months because of this issue.

So, I have to get around this. I’ve got to grips with the fact I just can’t get up, get dressed and eat. During the week when I’m at work I now skip breakfast entirely and I feel fine, I get by on black tea or coffee until around midday, then I eat a normal lunch.

Before a morning ride I have 2 strategies. Option 1, get up 2 hours earlier, use the time to get bike and kit ready etc and then in due course I can eat something and get out on the ride. When it’s a big gran fondo with a really early start this is hard to do, but it’s possible. Option 2, start the ride and eat when I feel like it. This works fine when on my own, and on low stress club rides it also works because I can get up a little earlier, ride to the meeting point and eat a bit of sandwich while I wait for the others, by this time I’ll have been up long enough so I can start to eat. I get a few comments, but it’s all in good humor. I take a bottle with a carb drink which also helps, I can tolerate drinking that as soon as I’m moving. If I remember to eat regularly I’m fine on moderate paced 4 to 5 hour rides.

I can’t think of any other options. I’ve mentioned this to other riders before and been met with looks of disbelief, to most other humans the idea of physically not being able to eat any breakfast is a concept they can’t grasp. Sure, a lot of people say eating super early before a big ride isn’t great, but they can manage. I’m surprised though, I would have thought at least some riders must get this, especially on a stressy day. Am I really alone? If anyone has any advice based on a similar experience I’d be really interested.

If it’s an important ride/race, it’s probably worth getting up a few hours prior to race start. A lot of people do this. Eg if I have a 7am start, I’ll get up at 4am.

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I go through phases where I either skip or really need breakfast. If I am doing a big ride, I always make sure to have some oatmeal, even if I have to force myself too eat it. I know I’ll bonk if I don’t.

As for training, I try to eat a carb heavy dinner the night before and I can generally complete a workout first thing in the morning without food. Then I eat breakfast for workout recovery after.

I’ve also ridden with a few people who don’t eat at all, and it blows mind. Rode 62 miles (3 hours +) Thursday with a guy who drank 1.5 bottles of water in 85 degree heat and he didn’t eat any food the whole ride. Insanity.

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I use tailwind mostly for longer rides over 2 hours and typically don’t eat my calories. Anything under 2 is typically just water. I don’t have a problem eating during just saying there are other options besides food.

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Never tried tailwind, I usually use Sis. It sounds good, will give it a go. Thanks!

I like it but the naked or unflavored one. Skratch has some as well and a bunch of other companies.


I’d focus on drinking early on with a carb rich drink. Lots of options. I typically use Skratch, but recently had a chance to try GU Roctane Summit Tea at an event sponsored by GU in Leadville. I was skeptical at first but was surprised by how well I did with it. Summit Tea Roctane has some caffeine, 250 cal per bottle at full strength, taurine and branched chain amino acids, and importantly, used sodium citrate and potassium citrate instead of sodium and potassium chloride (similar to Skratch and something Coach Chad has mentioned in easier on the gut. In fact I did so well with it I have changed my hydration strategy for Leadville.

With a higher calorie bottle early on you shouldn’t get behind on calories. Once you feel your stomach has settled, then you could start taking in some more solid food like a Clif Bar. If you plan to continue to take in solid foods during the rides, you could then do half strength bottles to keep you in the 250 - 400 calories per hour range.


Yep, once I’m moving I can usually eat OK. I’m wary of drinking too much early on, but I might try and drink maybe half a bottle as soon as I wake up and give the fluid chance to work it’s way through before the ride.

Everybody is different. I never ate much at breakfast, maybe half a slice of dry bread when I was a kid. Two years ago I could happily get up, have a cup of tea, and ride 3 hours without eating. I used to get hungry late in the day and would eat until about 11pm.

I have now successfully introduced a bowl of porridge in the morning, but the interesting thing is that my whole eating schedule has shifted. I can now stop eating early at night, or just have some snacks.

Do you eat late at night? You probably don’t need breakfast that early then. To me, the whole ‘intermitted fasting’ idea has shown that you don’t need to eat all the time throughout the day. If you get by without breakfast, that’s fine.

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I tend not to eat late, but I might give it a try, perhaps some cereal just before bed (a la Seinfeld). At least then I have a bit of fuel for a few hours later.

Guess everyone got different diet habbit, for me when I need to persistently ride for a plenty of time, I always make sure to have some breakfast, and I tend to be full as my body digest food faster than general people, which is not so good sometimes… I don’t suggest to ride with empty stomach, considering your body would have no enough energy to support your activity, might end up being exhausted and passing out in the middle of the riding as no enough calorie. But everyone is different tho, just my opinions.

Heh. I’ve just experienced this today. Went to do Beacon outdoors, but went out with just a banana in my stomach. 20km to where I wanted to do the intervals, but I definitely felt as though I was empty at the end of them.

But then I had to get home, which felt a lot harder than it should have: 80km in total; 231 TSS compared to the supposed 107… :cry:

I agree @gigi, ideal I would eat breakfast and I’m not saying it’s a good thing to avoid it. But, I simply can’t eat food very early in the day, so I need to find other options.

I’ve followed @ericallenboyd 's tip and tried Tailwind drink and I’m pretty happy with that, no stomach issues and it really does replace food at least for a short time.

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Since we eat to get fuel into our mussles, how many of that is lost during sleep? Could you eat something extra late at night and then skip breakfast and still have energy stored to get you through the first hour and then start eating on the bike (for a long ride)?

Personally I don’t have any issue with eating as soon as I open my eyes. I do need to wait at least 2 hours before doing hard efforts after that. For easy Z2 rides I don’t really need to eat. I can do a 3 hour ride without any food before or on the bike, just water with some added salt is fine.

I dont eat breakfast either and it doesn’t bother me. Even during ironman training. Who in their right mind eats breakfast before a 6am swim set? I swap the suit for bibs at the car and roll a 5 hour ride, then a 45 minute run. I just eat while on the bike. Never been an issue, but my friends look at me like i’m crazy. Everyone is different :slight_smile:

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I used to sip a couple Ensure meal replacement drinks, while getting ready to start a big day/race. 2 of those and you have 600 non-dairy calories in you before you get going.