Eating for an early morning time trial

Eating for an early morning time trial

Home » Insight Zone

Knowledge Level: Intermediate

Many time trials tend to have very early morning starts and, if you’re having to drive to the race HQ too, this can make getting your nutrition right tricky. You don’t want to eat too much too close to the race and risk feeling bloated or nauseous but equally, you don’t want to under perform because you’ve consumed too little.

The night before

  • Keep well hydrated as this will avoid you having to play catch-up in the morning which can result in needing the loo on the start line.
  • Eat normally, there’s no need to load up with huge amounts of carbohydrates.
  • Avoid heavy and hard to digest red meat but instead opt for lighter proteins such as chicken or fish.
  • Don’t overdo the fibre and steer clear of highly spiced food.
  • A glass of wine or a pint of beer won’t be detrimental to your performance and, if you’re nervous, can help you to relax but stick to just the one.
  • A milky hot drink can help you to relax and get to sleep.


  • Work back from your start time and try to allow three hours for digestion. So, if your race is at 0800, eat at 0500.
  • At that time in the morning and with a nervous stomach, eating can be hard so, keep it light and digestible. Some muesli with yoghurt, a small bowl of porridge, poached eggs on toast or even a banana and oat smoothie can all work well.
  • If you can’t face getting up that early, experiment in training with what you can tolerate and how late. Try a snacking type approach, eating small “on the bike” type snacks such a rice cakes and energy bars.
  • As well as your coffee, sip throughout the morning on a 500-750 ml bottle of isotonic sports drink or, if you struggle with solid food, a 5% carbohydrate solution.
  • It is important to remember that, for 10 and 25-mile events, you have enough carbohydrates reserves in your body, so there’s no need to force yourself to eat a large amount.


  • Arriving at the Race HQ, sign on, pick up your race number, find out your start time and, working back from you start time, begin your warm-up so that you finish it 5-10 minutes before your slot.


  • Fifteen minutes before your race start, you should be coming to the end of your warm-up
  • This should leave you with 5-10 minutes before the start, plenty of time for a final loo stop and then to make your way to the line.

The Ride

  • For a 10-mile time trial, there should be no need to eat or drink for the entirety of the event.
  • For a 25-mile event, some riders like to have a gel for the second half of the ride.
  • For significantly longer events, you will need to adopt a little, often and early approach, which you should have practiced in training. The guidelines here for a sportive or long training ride apply but, with the higher intensity efforts involved in time trialling, you may need to work at the lower end of the intake range and experiment with what you’re able to tolerate.


  • As you probably won’t feel like eating straight after your effort and it’ll be a little while before lunch, a recovery protein drink is a good idea to start the recovery process.
  • You should aim to have your lunch, containing protein and carbohydrates, within 2-3 hours of finishing your event. A tuna sandwich or chicken and pasta would be good. Remember, even though your ride was hard, it won’t have been that long, so there’s no need to eat excessive amounts.

Check out our recipes for on and off the bike for some ideas.

SiS offer British Cycling members a 30% discount off their extensive range of products.