I’ve been listening to the podcast for quite a while and heard the very consistent message to “fuel the work”, starting with around 80g an hour. This makes sense–and I even started making my own mix–but a few weeks ago there was a discussion about taking in gels while racing cross. The comment was made then that the carbs won’t be utilized for at least 20 minutes (at best) so its really pointless to do that in that context. Then, a week or two later there were some statements saying that anyone should be able to do an hour long work out without extra fueling. So this has left me a little confused. Do I need to be taking in my 80g’s an hour or not? Or should I be starting a half hour before the workout? Or is the point really not to fuel the work, but to train my gut? Or am I just overthinking all of this?
For context, I don’t race. I do long solo rides in the summer and some bike-packing. Now I’m just trying to build up the winter/off season fitness.
In terms of the cross racing, their point was that the race itself is so short that the gel will not be completely absorbed before the race is over. Unless eaten at the start line, the carbohydrate will not make it into the system before the race is over (or at least that is what they speculate). However, Chad does mention the mouth-rinse studies in which simply rinsing one’s mouth with carbohydrate during an effort decreases RPE. Thus, taking in a gel may be beneficial not because its carbohydrate content negate depletion of glycogen stores but because of its neurological signalling benefits.
In regards to the hour long workouts without fuel, it is true that most people can make it through a 60 minute session without taking in any fuel. However, that is not to say it is optimal. The aforementioned signalling benefits are a strong case for fuelling even short workouts, but in addition to that, doing so sets you up for good recovery leading into the next workout. If all your workouts are 60 minutes or less and you really don’t like eating/drinking on the bike, you’ll be fine choosing not to. However, if you often train for longer than 60 minutes, getting into the habits of proper fuelling will benefit your performance.
For any rides longer than an hour, fuelling becomes far more physiologically important. If you’re doing long solo rides and bike packing, taking in 60-90 g/hr depending on ride time and intensity is very beneficial. For any ride longer than 3 hours, I would aim for at least 80g per hour regardless of intensity. If rides are getting into the 4-6 hour range, consider upping it if possible. If the intensity increases, the same practice applies.
In summary, you probably are overthinking it a bit. If you feel good while fuelling and experience no gut distress, keep doing what you’re doing. It seems you have a relaxed approach to training and riding in general, so you probably won’t benefit from becoming overly obsessive about exact fuel targets. In other words, if you have found something that works for you, don’t faff about with it.
In almost any case (not just fueling) you shouldn’t be looking in “one isolated training”…
When you fuel current workout you are also fuling the next one and you are shortening recovery time (and a few other things…) so if it’s an hour training and your next hard trening is after 48hrs you will be fine… but if you are in big training block, you should be more carefull
Shorter rides need less fuel per hour because your pre-workout ride meal suffices for blood glucose for all or a portion of the ride.
Hourly carb intake rate needs increase as duration of activity increases.
Yes, there is a delay in when the fuel hits your bloodstream. Fluid-based fueling will always be slightly faster and more efficient no matter what the gel marketers tell you. 15-20 minutes on the shortest end before there is a blood sugar increase from intaking fuel.
Edit to add: your fuel intake rate should be different for every ride, in case that wasn’t clear from the above.
80g an hour is a lot IMO to apply to every single hour of riding. It entirely depends on what you ate beforehand, what you’ll eat afterward, as well as the length and the intensity of the workout. Sometimes a banana or two is perfect for an endurance ride. For 5 minute VO2max intervals, you probably want to guzzle down the sugar. For most rides, I prefer a banana and a bar in my pocket with regular water in my bottles.
Just keep on top of your dental health if you start drinking sugar for every hour of training.
Mibbes aye, mibbes naw, just mibbe. Trranslation do what suits/ work for you. I tend to have a banana on anything length of a workout and a 750ml bottle which I sometimes use, some times not. I may also have a 2nd bottle ready if its a longer workout. Intensity tends to trigger what I actually use. Todays 52 miler was so relaxed the cafe stop was all the feul I needed. We are all different and some people need more regular fueling.
For me, carbs or a nice fruit juice etc, in the 0-60 min workouts (if hard enough) benefit me in a psychological sense. And help me feel better when I step off the bike too.
But yeah more prominent as the rides get longer. I got back today after threshold efforts and didn’t feel any immediate reason to eat, or gorge due to sufficient fuelling thanks to dr Alex. (Just had a takeaway though )
The podcast was making a more nuanced point that for the beginner category cyclocross races, or races which last 30-45 minutes, a gel consumed at the start might not take effect in time. But for Ivy, who is racing the pro category, where races are typically around an hour, she will take in a gel at the start.
Carb recommendations vary a lot, from 40-110g/hour. If you’re a tall/large person with a big FTP, and/or the workout is fairly high in intensity, you need the higher end. For a very low intensity 1 hour ride, fueling can be optional. Also if it’s been a while since you’ve eaten, then you might need a snack first. If your gut isn’t used to eating the high end, you might want to work up to it gradually over time. What’s your training load like? Are you hitting hard workouts 6 days a week? 3 short workouts a week with rest days in between? The point is, use your judgement - there’s no one size fits all answer.
Long rides are a different story. 4+ hours, it is impossible to break even with your caloric needs so consume as much as you can comfortably. If I can eat 300 calories/hour in bars, chews, drink mix, cookies, bananas, etc. I will feel awesome. 200-250 cals/hour is absolute minimum. When the rides get really long, like all-day just consuming sugar isn’t enough. There will need to be protein, fat, micronutrients, etc. because the ride is replacing normal meals as well.
Have the larger quantities of carbohydrate in your bottles, the 60-90g level. Rely on that to keep you going well.
Have lower quantities of carbohydrate in your bottles perhaps 30-40g.
Stop every couple of hours or so and have some solid food. Either stuff you’ve been carrying or stop at a shop or cafe.
I did a 6.5 hour Z2 ride, minimum temperature 3C.
After 1 hour 45 mins
Slab of millionaire cake
After 3 hours 15 mins
After 4 hours
Slice of carrot cake
After 5.5 hours
Large Scotch Egg
I had about 40g per 750mL bottle, just drank the two bottles. Nicely hydrated at the end.
Felt great all the way round, with 5.72% aerobic decoupling by the end.
Then a good solid evening meal afterwards.
If it’s just a long solo ride, and not racing, don’t ignore the option to just have normal calorific foods you like, either via cafe or shop stops or food you carry on the bike. Have a good hot meal either side.
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