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I have been riding for 2 1/2 years now. I never cared about what I ate before or after a ride, I just rode. My rides have always varied tremendously from "Incredibly FAST with endless power" to "I think I am dragging a dead horse behind me". Yesterday I pigged out (no pun intended) on Smithfield BBQ and fried chicken. A few hours later, I hit up some local singletrack. From the time I sat on the bike to the end of the ride, I felt like crap. I couldn't get up to speed and the smallest climbs wore me out.

So here I am looking for advice. I am giving up on the attitude that my diet won't affect my riding. I need help. What should I eat before a big ride? What should I carry with me to replenish energy? What else can I do to make my rides better and more consistent?

I typically ride fast and hard but I am not a racer. Riding slow makes me very impatient and I would much rather blast over obstacles than flounder over them slowly. I can honestly say my ability is not the problem. On my good days, I can blast up the steepest terrain or keep a very aggressive pace over rough and rooty singletrack.
 

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eat a light easy to digest meal 2 to 3 hrs before you ride and after wards eat a good well balanced meal 30 to 60 min afterwards, consume enough fuel during the ride as to not be bonked and end up over eating when you get home.
 

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As you've discovered, stay away from fatty foods before rides. This includes fried food, cheese, red meat, and nuts (though I can stomach peanut butter before a ride). High carb, low glycemic foods are best (think oatmeal, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes). The bigger the meal you eat, the longer time you need to digest. You've probably noticed that bananas are easily digestible and you can even eat them while riding.

Do NOT follow my example on Friday and go out for a hilly ride immediately after eating a breakfast of pancakes. That was painful!
 

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If you want a great diet, check out The Zone, developed by Dr. Sears. I don't mean diet in the sense that you need to loose weight, but it is just a good, solid way to live, really. If you follow that, and maybe add a little bit of extra carbs for the biking you'll be golden in terms of how you feel. It's not easy, though; I wish I could say that I follow it strictly, but it does give you a good idea of what you should be doing.
 
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