Carbs per hour recommendations - Help me wrap my head around it

I’m still relatively new to structured indoor training and am trying to wrap my head around the recommendations I see for fueling and hydration during workouts. I’m 35 and eat a well balanced diet, lots of whole foods and vegetables. I’m not in the habit of modifying my eating schedule for rides: i.e. I don’t “top up” with a carb-heavy snack before a ride. I also don’t eat anything while on the trainer. For hydration, if the workout is under 1.5h I’ll drink 1 750ml bottle with a single Nuun Sport tablet (15cal, 4g carbs), and for workouts over 1.5h I’ll add a second bottle. How does this forum feel about Nuun Sport? Based on the carbs I’m starting to question if it’s enough.

I’m trying to square this with recommendations to take in anywhere from 30-90g of carbs per hour on the bike. Based on feedback here in the forum, I’m on the SSBMV plan, and am trying to keep it to 2-3 sweet spot sessions per week, with the rest at Z2. So far I’ve never taken on fuel during a workout and have never failed one (occasionally dropping intensity for a few minutes until I can regain some strength/form).

Post-ride, I’ll have a snack, often 1-2 rice cakes (70cal, 23g carbs each) with either a tbsp of nut butter or 20-30g of beef jerky. Or any other carb-heavy whole food I happen to have on hand (leftover rice, for instance). After particularly long workouts, I’ve sometimes drank a bottle of Nuun Recover, which claims to deliver “the muscle recovery benefits of 30g of protein.”

My question is: if I’m seemingly able to hit all of my power targets so far, do I need to up my on-bike nutrition at all? Maybe I’m too early in the plan to have hit a point where a lack of nutrition has caught up with me? Basically, the recommended amount of carbs seems totally crazy to me and right now I can’t imagine adding that to my workouts if I’m complying with the plan so far. Thanks!

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Why does it seem crazy to you to ingest a few hundred calories of carbs while doing exercise that’s probably burning several hundred Calories?

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Because it feels like I’m going into the workout well-fueled based on my natural eating cycles, and for the most part I don’t feel like I struggle through my workouts.

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My N=1 expereinces…I couldn’t come close to getting 90g of carbs / hour down my gullet. Prior to the last year or so, I would only do water for rides less than 90 min and then add in a sports drink for longer rides.

I have increased my calories on the bike, but it takes me 2 hours to get through a large WB of sports drink.

Even when I was doing IM races, I’d consumer one gel / hour and drink sports drink consistently for a 5 hour bike ride / leg and that was more than enough for me. Anything more and I feel bloated.

I’ve tried multiple times to go higher in my carbs / hour and it just doesn’t work for me…

Try to go heavier and see how it works for you…if it works, great. But don’t feel like you “have” to get in 90g / hour just because that is what is recommended on the podcast.

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Okay
Normal diet will deal with “Normal” life

If you are doing 1.5 hr training and burning 1000kcal then you may be JUST okay with what was stored in your mussels/liver and blood stream.

Then how do you get it back in for the next days training, If you are going to train 5-6 days a week you are going to need to fuel pre - during and post exercise fueling. Eventually!!!

It is a wonderful science - what do i eat… Guess what we are a bit different.

Carbs / electrolyte and whey powder are your friends. You think not doing them to fuel your the effort and wonder why i did not get an FTP improvement?

I am looking and researching now how to fuel for rides of 4 to 5 days …? and Race

Short rides you will get away with a balanced diet… with enough calories… but its not Optimum

If you are out on a road ride you will be dropped after 2 hours of not fueling.

Get Maltodextrose (Cheap as chips) i just got 5Kg for £8 and a i add a scoop of Fructose for taste.

You will recover better with a scoop of whey powder in the first 30 minutes - 1 hour post ride maybe 2 scoops.

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So I don’t hit the 90g/hour either, but I do now eat something during most rides, and for something like a long sweet spot session I might have some drink mix as well as a couple of bananas.

During sustained power build (MV) I found the demand high enough that I didn’t recover well if I didn’t eat during workouts.

My point in response to your original post was that you can probably only ingest around 500 calories of carbs (at max) in a 90 minute workout, but you can easily burn 1000+ calories. So it isn’t crazy to replenish some of those reserves while on the bike - and it might also reduce your RPE and help you recover better.

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Gotcha. That leads me to a follow-up question: should high-carb drink mix and your “normal” hydration (water + electrolytes) be separate drinks/bottles? Or is one “thick” mix with all the carbs doing the work for both?

Up to you really - I don’t drink huge amounts, so I use a fairly weak drink mix and just have that. But if it was really hot and/or I sweated a lot, I’d think about a bottle of stronger mix, and a separate bottle of water or water + electrolyte (I.e. a small pinch of salt in my case…).

It also depends what form of carb you use - if you use branded drinks or make you own with regular sugar, they get very syrupy and sickly if you mix them strong. But if you mix your own with carbs like maltodextrin they don’t taste so sickly sweet.

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Some of this has been covered already but I’ll start from the top.

When working your body wants to burn glycogen. As you train you get to where you can store more glycogen in your muscles, but not enough to fuel a ‘hard enough’ workout. The easiest way for your body to make glycogen is carbohydrates. Your body can only process carbohydrates so fast and your gut will only tolerate so much. That generally ends up being about 90g/hour of carbohydrates. It can be higher or lower, but you can probably go higher than you think. When working, and shortly after working, your body is able to store the carbohydrates as glycogen efficiently which is why you can mainline sugar without getting diabetes. Fueling during the ride has 2 primary goals: 1. Don’t run low on glycogen for the current workout and 2. start the next workout with more glycogen already hanging around. Replenishing glycogen off the bike by complex carbohydrates can take days. And you’ll feel bad because of all the water weight.

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Also 35 here and just had a thread with similar question, linked below. I think what I ran into in the middle of SSB 2 MV was that a little under fueling or under-eating here and there can compound over time. So just because you are getting through one week or even 2 at a given level, what remains to be see is whether you will make it through the whole block.

I had to dial up the eating big time and dial down the training for the last 2 weeks of the blocks. I wont make that mistake again, because completing some of the workouts was WAY harder than it needed to be and I may not have made as many gains. Next ramp test will tell.

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35 as well, and pouring food down my throat (okay, carbs, not food) during workouts has made all the difference. I struggled to improve for years after the initial newbie phase. It wasn’t until I wrapped my head around 1000 calories on the bike being normal that I saw major improvements.
We are all pretend experts here and not really qualified beyond personal experience (for the most part), but your tale is making alarms go off for me. You WILL snap, you WILL collapse. It is inevitable. Unless your FTP is 150 and you do 4-5 rides a week max (which is perfectly okay! No requirements for enjoying training), you will quickly realize this is not sustainable. Preempt the breakdown, don’t recover from it.
Edit: i should probably add that you’ll be okay for a while, them you won’t. Like what happened to me, if you don’t adjust your eating the weight will fall off…until it can’t. Then you get sick, exhausted, and lose power. Again, might not happen if you don’t ride much, but if you add any intensity or plan to improve, the point stands.

I just don’t get absolute statements like this. I am N=1 that this statement is just not true.

Is my fueling optimal? Probably not at ~25g/hr when ride duration is over 90min. Am I able to successfully complete workouts with a high kJ burn and feel fine doing it? yes. This past Tuesday - 2x40m SS (300w@90%) burn of ~1800kcal. Friday - 1x40m Threshold w/burn of ~1200kcal. Today - 4hr z2 burn of ~3200kcal. Tomorrow - 3hr z2 and will probably burn around 2400kcal and I ride 7 days a week.

I have been increasing my on the bike fueling over the last several months, but my body just doesn’t want to eat or drink as much as other people suggest is necessary. I’m still trying to slowly increase fueling rates but doubt I will ever get to 90g/hr. I don’t think anyone should be force feeding themselves if their body is not used to it or they just don’t have the desire to take in that much. There should be some room for individuals to find their ‘optimal’ fueling strategy that isn’t bound by this 90g/hr dogma.

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I agree with that, but you said something very important-youre trying to eat more on the bike, which means you’re working at it and increasing it. I’d also guess you naturally eat more than the OP. But unless you are genetically unique, progress will stop if you don’t add more fuel-the body will reach homeostasis and say ‘nah bro, can’t do more till I get more’. I think that’s the scientific way of describing it at least :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
Edit: and I never said 90 is a minimum, but nothing shouldn’t ever be the maximum.

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Yes, my eating more has bumped me up to 25g/hr and that is almost force feeding at this point. My body just doesn’t want to eat and drink as much as other people. I’m fine with that.

Progress will stop because I have reached my potential given the amount of training stress I can handle, my ability to recover from the stress, and my genetic ceiling. People on this site talk like FTP will increase forever. I just won’t. Everyone gets newbie gains when they start riding and will see gains as they increase training stress, optimize training and recovery, etc. But over time those gains will slow.

I just wanted to chime in for the OP. There are other people like you that don’t eat or drink a ton on the bike. Its okay. Maybe its not 100% optimal, but you can still do the workouts as proscribed and things will be okay. Maybe slowly work to increase your tolerance for more food/drink, but listen to your body and try to find that happy place where you are comfortable with the amount of food/drink you are consuming.

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@evanreyes , lots of good advice and strong opinions here, most of which I agree with. Consuming carbs while biking has been scientifically shown to improve performance and reduce RPE. Do you “need” them? That depends on your goals. Fundamentally, just experiment to see if you feel better, recover better, workouts seem easier, etc.

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Update: I just did my first workout (Juneau -3, 2:00hrs, 129 TSS, .80 IF) with trying to fuel properly, and here’s how it went. I drank a whole bottle with SIS hydration/carb mix over the first 1:40 (150cal, 37g carbs) and took a gel (23g carbs) an hour in. Of course this is just one single workout, and how I felt could have been the result of any number of factors (I ate a ~600 calorie lunch of scrambled eggs, potatoes, and corn tortillas an hour before starting the workout, for example).

Often in rides of this length and intensity I will at some point need to lower the intensity for short sections until I can get back in a good rhythm, but today I never felt that way at all and nailed every interval. Additionally, the biggest difference I noticed was an ability to keep my cadence high the entire time. Usually I’m in the low to mid-80s, and today I was 90+ the entire time, often hitting 105 in an aero position for entire intervals (4:30min). Again, it’s impossible to attribute that to any single factor, but the on-bike nutrition is the only variable I changed from my typical routine.

I’m going to continue experimenting with my amounts of fuel (doing Ochoco tomorrow, 2:30:00 Z2, and will try the same fuel for that) and pay close attention to how it affects me. Thank you everyone in this thread for the advice, it’s been helpful in changing my mindset toward this topic.

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I would like to add that for me personally, fueling longer rides 2-4 hrs) was the biggest difference in not feeling like garbage the rest of the day. During a group ride…I did fine with a couple bottles of gatorade and a muffin at the coffee stop, but would get ravenous and crash the rest of the day when I got home. I started adding an extra 60-100 grams of carbs an hour, and felt fine when I got home, and the rest of the day.

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In case you haven’t read the high carb threads, as you up your carbs you need to start thinking about which carbs you use. At some point you will reach a limit where your stomach can’t handle the sucrose/fructose load and you’ll need to mix in maltodextrin to up the numbers. You’re nowhere near that point currently at 60g over 100 minutes, just something to remember as you increase.

Same here. Long rides killed me for the next day.

I just have one heavy bottle with everything in it (electrolytes, drink mix and maltodextrin). If the session is long enough to need two bottles it’ll usually just be a bottle of water and I’ll take in sugar (let’s be honest, that’s what we’re talking about here!) via lollies like jelly snakes etc.