Carbs & Fat, Interval Recovery, Technical Skills, and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 369

Pivot Cycles’ and DT Swiss’ Hannah Otto joins us to discuss her learnings from her recent UCI XC MTB wins in Montana and Alberta, as well as discussions on substrate utilization at different intensities, what research says about the effectiveness of spinning between intervals, her tips for muddy riding conditions, and much more in Episode 369 of the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast!

Tune in Thursday at 8:00am Pacific!

Youtube Live Video:

Topics Covered in This Episode

  • 0:00 Welcome!
  • 7:08 Substrate utilization at different intensities
  • 46:46 Hannah Otto’s feed zone tips
  • 1:24:32 Hannah’s tips for riding in muddy conditions


Rvw Article, Ranallo & Rhodes, 1998

Hurley at al, 1986

Achten & Jeukendrup, 2004

San Millan & Brooks, 2017

Maunder, Kilding, Plews

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Aww, Maxine by putting time stamps in a livestream that’s not yet happened, you’ve ruined the illusion that this is a real live stream! Or perhaps I’m wrong and at the narrative is strictly scheduled where at 46mins 46s exactly, Hannah will commence talking about feed zone tips…

So livestream means that the recording is not (heavily) edited. See you in the live chat in 14 hours! :face_with_monocle:

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Why not just tape gels to the top tube? Or is this pushed against by cyclists because it is what triathletes do?

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Regarding Jonathan’s comment on taking carbs being expensive - I’ve swapped over to sugar water with Salt… Works brilliantly! Obviously racing is different as you want something more optimal. but day to day training it works well.

I consume up to 80g per hour - and take that during XC races without much issue


I know these will likely come in handy for anyone wanting to save some $$ on workout nutrition.

Hey, my question about fat and sugar utilization got answered, I’m super stoked!

I think Chad in particular had a few questions about my test, training and nutrition, so for them or anyone else that might be interested here are a few more things about me and my testing results.

First, I am not a low carb athlete. I aim to take in about 400g a carbs a day, oftentimes more. I do eat a decent amount of fat as well - about 100g a day. I do try to avoid eating too much fat, but I also don’t go out of my way to eat a low fat diet either. Like I drink whole milk and eat whole fat yogurt instead of their low fat counterparts, and I consume a good amount of olive oil in salads and cooking. But I also try to avoid fatty meats or eating too much peanut butter so I don’t go over 100g.

Second, the reason I was interested in fat utilization was after reading a couple of blog posts by Alan Couzens, as well as hearing him on some podcasts, talking about how long distance events like Ironman were primarily metabolically limited - being able to utilize higher levels of fat and spare glycogen stores was essential for doing well in an event. This is also a typical recommendation for marathons - train your body to use less glycogen of which your body can only store so much. I honestly had no idea which way I would lean, as I mentioned I do eat high carb, but I also train frequently and have worked at being able to do longer runs (occassionally) without fuel. But again, to be clear, I also alternate and do workouts with fuel as well. I’m interested in fat utilization 100% for performance, I’m fairly happy with my body composition (that was something mentioned in the podcast, I do weigh 80kg but I’m also 6’ tall and fairly muscular).

My test results showed I burned roughly 5-6 calories of fat per minute, all the way up to my lactate threshold which was measured at 241 watts. My trainerroad FTP is 251 watts, for comparison. From reading Alan Couzens’ website, and from speaking with the guy that ran my test, burning 6 cal a min of fat per minute seems to be pretty solid, so no concerns from me there, I think my fat utilization is where it needs to be. But the guy running my test, and also Alan Couzens when talking about Keto athletes, mentioned that being able to use sugar effectively is also a big factor for solid performance. So I think that’s a big area I need to work on.

There were comments on my training and how I was currently doing all zone 2 training. That part is correct - I am currently doing the traditional base plan in a build up to another 70.3 in December. But leading up to the Oceanside 70.3 I did in April I used the standard trainerroad half ironman plan through plan builder. I also used the standard 70.3 plan for my first triathlon back in 2019 pre-pandemic. So I have used the standard trainerroad methodology with lots of sweet spot and tempo work in the past. I just wanted to try something new with traditional base. I have also been focusing on run training for two events, so I was trying to take it a bit easy on the bike while ramping up the run intensity. But I will also admit that I do not like high intensity training and I do probably avoid it more than I should.

My plan leading up to my next 70.3 (Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells) is to finish out the traditional base phase, then switch to 8 weeks of the polarized build phase, and finish out with 8 weeks of the 70.3 specialty phase. The last four weeks of the traditional base phase include a lot of sweet spot training, and then going into the polarized plan I will be getting a lot of VO2Max and threshold work. From the podcast it sounds like doing a lot of V02Max work should be a good thing for me, so I’m excited to see if I can improve my FTP on this plan. One big question I had when I wrote to the team (which maybe I should have clarified a bit more on) was whether VO2Max work is enough, or if I should actually be looking at the anaerobic workouts instead. But it sounds like the VO2Max stuff is solid for my goals, so that’s why I’m going to work on getting better at.

For anyone interesting in a metabolic efficiency test, I did find the results to be pretty informative. I did mine in conjunction with a lactic threshold test, which gave me some zones to work with. My easy zone 1 power output coincides pretty nicely with trainerroad’s endurance zone, which gets touched on a lot in the first phase of traditional base. My zone 2 power range coincides quite nicely with the tempo zones in the second phase of TB, and doing this test has actually been a big encouragement to push a bit harder doing tempo work which I have found challenging in the past (especially some of the longer 2-2.5 hour rides). I think my max fat utilization point is a bit unusual in that it’s probably higher than typical, but my fatmax is actually right in the sweet spot range. This is giving me some encouragement to do more sweet spot work (which I hate) so I can cultivate and improve on that adaptation even more.

Nate mentioned building up to a 300 watt FTP - I’d be stoked if I can get there.

Hey, @Nate_Pearson! Sorry if you’ve already answered this somewhere, but what was the book you mentioned about stress levels and regulation, communicating effectively without being rude? Thanks in advance!