Daily Carb Intake

After taking 3-1/2 years off the bike, it was either time to sell it or get back in shape. I decided to first try to lose weight and rebuild some sort of base. Managed to lose 42lbs this year, and very close to my goal. This was completed by limiting my carbs to 140-180 grams with 2000 calories per day - other than on harder group rides over the weekends, where I consume 60g per hour.(240 calories)

Now it is time to work on rebuilding power and VO2 numbers. What would be a good daily target for carb consumption to properly fuel harder workouts - without gaining weight? For reference I am in my mid-50s, 79kg at 11% Body fat. Should this # vary based on planned workouts or rest days?

Unfortunately, I never bothered to track my nutrition in the past to offer some guidance for what my routine was like before.

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I’d start by figuring out your anticipated TDEE based on the training you are going to do. TDEE calculator: https://tdeecalculator.net/

When I was trying to answer your question for myself I found this helpful: Endurance Athlete Diet: What to Eat for Optimal Performance | ISSA. The carb per kilo recommendations are excessive for my situation but the macro guidelines worked well. I took my TDEE, backed out roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight for protein and then filled the rest in with fat and carbs.


Thank you! A lot of good information in these links for a good place to start modifying my caloric intake.

This is my personal recommendation. It is not the best for every single person, and there are plenty of ways to do things, this is just my opinion, which is all I can provide.

First of all - carbs will not inherently make you gain tissue (water is not a tissue), overconsuming energy will. The fact that 2,000 calories a day made you lose weight means you were in a calorie deficit. The fact that you limited carbohydrates did not inherently make you lose weight. This is the first thing to keep in mind.

Secondarily, and perhaps seemingly contradicting what I just wrote, the macronutrient breakdown of whatever daily calorie allotment you have will affect your ability to maintain it. Protein and fat tend to be more satiating than carbohydrates for most (not all), and therefore, maintaining a baseline intake of protein and fat can make sticking to your energy intake easier. Not to mention protein’s role in maintaining muscle mass and the importance of fatty acids for hormone production.

My recommendation is to do what Alex Wild has described on the podcast at length, with some modifications. Set a protein and fat target that you maintain daily. Start out at 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight and about half that in grams of fat. The rest of you daily intake will be carbohydrate. On days where you ride 4 hours, you’ll have to increase your calorie intake. Where will those calories come from? Carbohydrates. On days where you don’t ride at all you will have to reduce calorie intake. Where does the reduction happen? Carbohydrates. Will eating nothing but cereal on rest days make you fat? No, if you don’t eat more than you need. However, will it be more satiating to consume only chicken breast on such a day? Probably. Not saying you have to, just suggesting that it might make it easier to stick to a calorie goal.

This is just a starting point, if you want to adjust, do so. Do you crave more fat? Increase fat. Same goes for protein. If you feel that you need more carbohydrates to perform well in workouts, decrease the fat and/or protein and adjust accordingly. The goal is to feel satiated and happy with your diet.

Additionally, eat whole foods until it becomes logistically impossible. Whole foods are more filling, nutrient dense, and better for you (in my humble opinion). On days where you don’t ride and you calorie goal is 2,000 calories, you will probably find that eggs and oatmeal for breakfast, potatoes, vegetables, and chicken for lunch, and steak, vegetables, and yams for dinner is more filling than cereal for breakfast, a Big Mac for lunch, and pasta with red sauce for dinner. I’m not saying that the second example will make you gain weight if you stick to the calorie goal, only that is will likely be harder to stick to that goal because of more hunger on such a day. On days where you expend 5,000 calories, the first example of a day of eating becomes impractical. This is when you add processed food. If you need to consume 700 grams of carbohydrate on a given day, trying to do it with potatoes and beans will be downright painful. On those days, prioritize whole foods to a point where it is doable, and fill in the gaps with processed stuff. These are the days where cereal and pancakes come in handy. I’m not saying that cereal and pancakes cannot be eaten on rest days, I’m simply suggesting that they may be less filling and therefore make it harder to not overeat on days where expenditure is lower.

Conclusively, I’ll say this. Figure out what your day to day TDEE is without cycling training. Let’s say it’s 2,200 calories. Set a protein and fat target, and keep this intake as constant as possible on all days. On days where you cycle, add the kJ burn to your TDEE, and adjust your calorie target for that day with carbohydrates. Of course sources of carbs have fat and protein too, so be mindful of what food sources you pick. Lastly, eat whole foods until it becomes hard to eat enough, and then add processed foods to hit your daily energy intake target.

Hopefully I’ve added enough caveats to not upset the entire internet. You do you - this is just my recommendation. There are obviously things I’ve forgot to mention. I’m aware that eating potatoes before a ride is a bad idea. I’m aware of the thermic effect of food. I’m aware that calorie intake per day is less important than calorie intake over a full week, and that compensating for calorie burn over longer time horizons is often necessary. There are plenty of things to be said on the topic, I’ve just done my best to summarize what I consider to be most important for getting started. Please don’t kill me :slight_smile:



Go listen to the TrainerRoad podcasts with Dr. Kyle Pfaffenbach recently, and check the threads for discussion.

Eat 125g or more of protein every day (minimum). Eat 100g of healthy fat or more every day. (More protein fine, more fat can be counterproductive to staying slim) Modulate carbs based on your workload and total caloric burn. Aim to be at “neutral” calorie burn or if you’re looking to lose weight no more than half a pound per week (You can get away with more when heavier, but the leaner you get the harder it gets)

For carbs, if you have a HUGE day, you’ll be negative. You make it up in future days and want to come in fueled well. You’re shooting for averages across a week when it comes to carb intake vs. expenditure.

But yes, carb intake varies based on the work that you’re doing or have coming up.


Congratulations on your massive achievement! Great work. :fire:


This was really well said and a helpful summary.


High five! You have to celebrate that!


The first thing I’d say, other than congrats on losing the weight, is 11% is pretty damn low already, no? I would hit my protein and fat minimum for the day, and fuel the rest of my rides with carbs by feel - if you gain weight with this strategy then eat less carbs, if you lose weight then eat more carbs.



Amazing!! Well done.

You’re obviously well able to set your mind to things, so I’m really excited to see what you can do when you set your mind to getting faster :muscle:.

Everything discussed here is SO helpful.
@Calle beautifully articulated the nuance in all of this. Thanks @Calle :raised_hands:.

Yes!! Dr Kyle Pfaffenbach has shared so much helpful information on structuring your diet for optimising performance. I’ll link to these episodes of the Ask A Cycling Coach Podcast below:

Ultimately, these guidelines are great places to start and it will take a little bit of trial and error to find what works best for you. We’re here for you when you need to bounce ideas around :slight_smile: .

All the best!


Good point. A true 11% in ones 50s is on the verge of being “underfat”.

Thank you Calle,

This sounds like a great place to start by looking at the needs to fuel for the upcoming week and not playing catch-up all the time. I totally agree on the point of eating real, whole foods whenever possible, Thankfully I enjoy cooking, so it is pretty easy to meal prep for the week to keep from getting off track. I have also found it beneficial to spread my calories over 5 meals a day, so I never feel like I am super hungry. Thank you again for your very detailed and helpful advice!


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I’m glad my answer was helpful, and I wish you all the best moving forward. Good luck! :smiley:

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