Loving the BITE: Build-Your-Own Pre-Ride Smoothie

The pre-ride ritual.  Most every cyclist has one, whether strategic or not.  At the top of the list is what to eat.  Some ride on nothing, even after fasting through the night.  Some swear by oatmeal, energy bars, or baked potatoes.  For me, when it comes to my favorite pre-ride fuel, it’s gotta be a smoothie.  Why? Mostly because I’ve never been willing to wake up 3 hours before race-time to eat.  I always feel “light” within an hour of drinking a smoothie.  I can pack in everything I need, into a small volume, without risking a bloated stomach or extra bathroom trips during the ride.  If made ahead of time, I have nothing to figure out, or even chew, in the morning.  You can just relax, sip, and get your game-face on.

Recipe of the Week:   Build-Your-Own Pre-Ride Smoothie 


Base ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen or fresh berries
  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (can be dairy or soy)
  • 1 Tbsp organic honey
  • 1/2-1 Tbsp organic coconut oil
  • water/ice as needed for consistency

(280 calories, 50 grams carbs, 5 gm fiber, 8 gm protein)

15 gram carbohydrate add-ons:

  • 1/2 medium banana (15 grams carbs, 0 grams protein)
  • 1 Tbsp organic honey, organic agave syrup, or organic maple syrup (15 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams protein)
  • ½ cup orange juice (or other 100% juice) (15 grams carbs, 0 grams protein)
  • ½ cup cooked oatmeal (15 grams carbs, 3 grams protein)
  • 1/3 cup cooked rice (15 grams carbs, 3 grams protein)

*For every carb add-on added, increase plain yogurt by ¼ cup


  1. Determine your pre-ride carb needs below.  Place all base-smoothie ingredients in a blender.  Add in carb add-ons and extra yogurt if needed.
  2. Blend well, adding water and/or ice to achieve desired consistency.  Be careful to not over-process or allow too much air to incorporate into the smoothie (usually occurs when left to blend too long or on too high a speed).  If you see a lot of air bubbles, allow the smoothie to “rest” a few minutes to reduce the air trapped inside.
  3. Drink immediately, refrigerate for up to 48 hours, or freeze (allow 24-36 hours to thaw in refrigerator).  If refrigerated, shake well before drinking.  For best results, drink 60-90 minutes before riding.

Determining Carbohydrate Needs:

There are fuel components that are vitally important for performance and those that are marginally important.  For an athlete whose main goal is optimal performance, carbohydrates are vital.  Here are some recommendations for determining carb needs before a 2+ hour ride:

If your primary goal is to lose weight OR you’re riding a short, easy, or recovery ride OR doing math in order to make a pre-ride smoothie seems ridiculous to you, stick with the base-ingredient smoothie and do not add smoothie add-ons.

If your primary goal is optimal performance on a moderate to high intensity ride (without regard of weight loss), use 0.45 – 0.68 grams of carbs per pound of weight.  This is a big range, so use your discretion with approximately 0.45 grams/lb weight for moderate intensity rides 2-4 hours, and closer to 0.68 grams of carbs/lb weight for an intense 4+ hour ride.  So, if you weigh 180 lbs, and your riding 5 hours at high intensity, you can use ~108 grams of carbs and would need to add ~ 4 carb add-ons.

If you are riding at a very high level and are at a “race weight” (generally underweight compared to conventional ideal-weights), consume up to 0.9 grams of carbs per pound of weight.  So, if you weigh 130 lbs, aim for ~117 grams of carbs and 4-5 add-ons.  Also, increase the time before the ride to 2-3 hours.

Of note: These calculations are based on 1-2 grams carbohydrate per kilogram of weight.

Further Comments:

Many factors play a large role in optimizing your pre-ride fuel.  You don’t have to pay attention to every factor on every ride.  But, I use this smoothie’s ingredients to satisfy these nutrition needs:

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