Pre-Ride Nutrition Advice for Diabetics

Question:  I’m a T2 diabetic and I’m wondering what the best food is to start the day before a big ride.  I’m doing a few centuries next month for the Aids ride and I need the energy without spiking or crashing.  Oatmeal and honey spike me like crazy.

Kelli’s Answer:  With Type 2 Diabetes, it’s important to look at 2 aspects of pre-ride nutrition:

1) Minimizing foods that are going to cause too much of a spike in blood sugars, and 2) making sure to include foods that will reduce blood sugar spikes by delaying digestion or increasing insulin sensitivity.

For #1, you’ll want to include carbohydrates, likely at ~45-60 grams depending on your weight, of low-glycemic, slow carbs.  If you can eat these 2-3 hours out, you shouldn’t have a problem with digestion and they should provide sustained energy.  Some foods to try are old-fashioned oatmeal (without honey), brown rice, baked yams, whole-grain toast, berries, yogurt, or other whole foods carbs that work well for you.  Make sure to not go too high in fiber (I’d stay at about 5 grams or less), as this will set you up for too high of a risk of stomach cramps and bloating.

Then, to reduce blood sugar spikes, include foods such as proteins and fats (aspect #2).  If 2-3 hours out, you can include eggs, dairy protein (whey & casein), nut butters, etc.   Another good fat source is organic coconut oil as it provides a direct energy source and increases insulin sensitivity.  By including proteins and fats instead of just carbs, you’ll reduce the spike and give your body sustained energy sources.

An example of a breakfast 2-3 hours out, then is: 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 Tbsp coconut oil and 1 Tbsp nut butter + 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with 1 cup berries.   This will equal approximately 400 calories, 44 grams carbs, 5 grams fiber, and 19 grams protein.  It’ll provide a variety of sustained energy sources, but should not feel too “heavy” in your stomach.

If, on the other hand, you need to eat 1-2 hours out, I recommend trying our Build Your Own Pre-Ride Smoothie with these modifications:

a.  Omit honey

b. Increase berries to 1.5 cups

c. Use 1 Tbsp organic coconut oil

d. Add 1/2 (10 grams) scoop whey protein

e. If old-fashioned oatmeal is an issue for you (and not just the combo of oatmeal and honey), replace the oatmeal with 1/3 cup cooked brown rice or 1/2 cup cooked yam (don’t worry, these will be great in a smoothie)

This recipe will provide ~300 calories, 43 grams carbs, 5 grams fiber, and 18 grams protein.  Since it is liquified, 1-2 hours is plenty of time for digestion.  It utilizes fat-acting proteins and fats, in addition to slower carbs for a balance of nutrients and metabolism speeds.

I don’t believe either of these option will spike your blood sugar, but it is a matter of trial and error.  And of course, once you’re on the bike you’ll want to make sure you’re consuming adequate carbs, fluids, and lytes each hour (see What Your Body Needs @ Different Phases of the Ride) – your body should be able to handle a combo of sustained and quicker carbs while you’re actively doing work on the bike.  Make sure to consume small amounts throughout the ride and not overload on carbs at any one time.  And, make sure to try all of this in training, before it “counts.”

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to