Frustrated with figuring out fueling

For the past year I’m having trouble with figuring out my nutrition, specifically carbs intake and fueling. So when I found out that you can and should fuel before, during and after ride, I started recovering so much better and pushing more. But on every ride I always get some problems. I ride first thing in the morning.

  1. I firstly started eating carbs 30 min prior. The effect was that I felt them mid ride and I could push more.

  2. I then started consuming carbs mid ride and stopped feeling like death post ride.

But everytime something went wrong and I can’t figure out why. I would get: gastric distress, shit my pants, go hypoglycemic, get dizzy, stitches etc.

I read through all threads here regarding fueling and I still have trouble.

I know that things with fat, protein and fiber don’t work, at all.
Gummies, candy or gels work, but I still have trouble digesting them.

Let’s say I need to replace 80 g of carbs per hour. I ride for a hour.
I tried consuming all of it pre ride, didn’t work.
I consumed half before and half during, didn’t work.
I consumed all of them on bike, didn’t work.

I tried pure glucose, pure maltodextrin and sucrose/glucose+fructose and I always get some kind of problems with sucrose/glucose+fructose. And if I consume pure glucose/malto, it takes too much time for it to get to my bloodstream, I always feel it after the ride, not pre or during.

I’m just so confused and frustrated. Can anyone please give me some kind of guidance?

Just as it’ll be useful info, how much training / riding have you done? Weeks, months, years?

Also, what’s your diet normally? Do you track your calories / protein / carbs etc or no tracking at all? Are you in a heavy calorie deficit? Maint? Trying to put on weight?

Are your rides always an hour? Do you track your heart rate or power? How hard are you going?

Female, 110 lbs.

2 years of riding 3x per week, figuring out the sport, consistent riding 6x per week only for the last 4 months. Currently focusing on nutrition, then real training.

I track my calories and macros. I’m currently maintaining. Macro breakdown is 15% protein, 35% fat and 50% carbs. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, outside of riding nutrition.

1-1.5 hour during week, weekend 2- 3 hours. I currently don’t track heart rate or power. I track mileage and speed on an app.

How many calories do you think you eat a day? Do you eat a variety of foods? Have you been tested for food allergies?
I suspect maybe something going on Internally that is causing so much GI distress, no so much just fueling during workouts.

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Just FYI - the combo most of us are doing is 2:1 malto:fructose. I noticed you mentioned other sugars. I find this to be great fuel for any ride. I have a problem stomach, I can’t drink Skratch, Gatorade, etc., but this combo does not bother me. It’s really been a miracle for my RPE.

For a 1 hour ride though, you really shouldn’t need a ton of carbs during the ride. I try to eat very simple carb foods pre-ride, and at least an hour before so my stomach doesn’t feel heavy during the ride. Toast or a bagel or oats with only honey and maybe a tablespoon of nut butter if I am particularly hungry. Then I would use maybe 40-60g carbs malto:fructose (The sweetness encourages me to drink more) during the ride.

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Do less carbs until you are able to get through it without your body freaking out. Then ease it up 5G/hour/month until you have problems again and back it off.

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How intense are your rides? Depending on the intensity you don’t want to eat anything to big before hand. For TTs I have often heard the figure 2hours.

For the actual ride I tend to have carbs in a bottle (little but often) and if a ride is over 1h take a banana or something I can easily digest.

2 separate issues at play.

  1. Carb timing = hypoglycemia issues.
  2. Concentration / Sugar ratios / Osmolarity / Volume Tolerance / Dehydration = GI distress issues.

Hypoglycemia troubleshooting TLDR (see far below for more):
Don’t eat/drink 30min prior to training. Eat/drink 10-20min prior to training.

GI distress issues:
Continue to use somewhere between 1:1 and 2:1 gluc:fruc ratio. Continue to use exclusively carbs. No fiber. No protein. No fat.

Manage your gut with change in fluid volume.

  1. You’re either over-consuming fluid and creating a volume tolerance issue. If so, consider reducing fluid volume so that you fall in the 120-180g of carbs per liter range.
    Or…
  2. You’re under-consuming fluid for the amount of carbs you’re consuming, creating concentration tolerance issues. If so: Don’t let gut concentration exceed 120g carbs per liter of fluid.

Other GI-related recommendations:

  • Consume 50-75% of your beverage before training.
  • Consider doing slightly less than 80g carbs total. If making a big reduction here, start consumption even closer to the time of ride-start. If still experiencing hypoglycemia, attempt to increase.
  • Use maltodextrin + fructose. 50:30 for your 80g should be fine.
  • Use sodium citrate if adding electrolytes. Shouldn’t matter here. But it might.
  • Definitely keep sodium under 1000mg/L for this short of a ride, even if sweating heavily.
  • DO add at least 300mg/L sodium. Sugar transport requires presence of at least some sodium.

Long version re: hypoglycemia:

Common symptoms of mild/moderate hypoglycemia:

  1. Fatigue/exhaustion
  2. Inability to complete routine exercises/tasks
  3. Intense Hunger
  4. Nausea or stomach discomfort/pain
  5. Shakiness
  6. Lightheadedness
  7. Weakness
  8. Sweating
  9. Irritability
  10. Tingling sensation around mouth, feet, or hands.
  11. Generally feeling like you’re dying (maybe that’s just me??)

Common causes of hypoglycemia:

  1. Rebound hypoglycemia, ie. blood sugar crash. Most commonly recognized in children after they eat candy, run around like crazy and then start wailing. Ironically, the same thing happens in adults, we just (usually) don’t cry about it. The surest way to induce rebound hypoglycemia would be to consume a high glycemic index meal 40-70 minutes prior to exercise, and NOT consume any high glycemic index foods during exercise. Sometimes even 30 minutes prior poses a problem. Even in cases of more moderate or low glycemic index food consumption in that time window before exercise, rebound hypoglycemia is remarkably common. Another common way to create rebound hypoglycemia is to either consume too little intra-workout carbs during a portion of training, or to delay post-workout carbohydrate consumption by more than 10-15 minutes especially if intra-workout carbohydrate consumption was on the lower end of the spectrum for the work output or duration of exercise.

  2. Intense exercise in the absence of carbohydrate or minimal carbohydrate. Work out for long enough or hard enough, without sufficient carbs, and you’ll surely begin to experience mild hypoglycemia.

  3. Prolonged period of no food consumption. Don’t eat for 12 hours, and you’re likely to experience some level of hypoglycemia as your body works hard to run in a low carb environment.

How to prevent hypoglycemia:

  1. Don’t eat 30-75 minutes prior to exercise.

  2. If you must eat in that dreaded window, be sure it’s a balanced meal, low in fat, AND ensure that you have intra-workout carbs during your workout and are actively drinking them IMMEDIATELY from the onset of exercise or even just before you start, and throughout the entire workout.

  3. If you need to eat closer than 90 minutes to your training, try to do it 10-20 minutes before training, and make it something very easily digestible (like intra-workout carbs) so that it’s not sitting in your gut doing nothing while you train.

  4. Ideally, eat ~2 hours prior to training. The more complex the meal is, with more fat and more fiber, the longer before training is advisable.

  5. In cases of workouts lasting 75 minutes or more, you MUST have intra-workout carbohydrates, or you’ll surely risk the onset of at least mild hypoglycemia by the end of your training session.

How to FIX it, it happens:

  1. If you’re in middle of workout, drink 10-50g of carbs depending on how much you have left, and how far behind you are on your “scheduled consumption” assuming the target was to drink steadily until the end of the workout, at which point, you’d be out of intra-workout carbs.

  2. If you’re not training, reduce activity level (sit) if possible. Drink 4-12oz water, depending on thirst, and consider moving all or part of the next meal’s healthy carbs to right now. Wait 20 minutes. If it persists intensely, consider adding 20g more healthy carbs, or moderate-moderately high GI carbs like banana, melon, mango, white rice, skim milk, most breads.

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Thank you for your reply.

Gatorade also bothers me.

Honey bothers me, sits in my stomach, same with nut butters. Oats are also a big no no.

I know I don’t need a ton of carbs, but I would like to experiment and dial that in so that I can go for more bigger rides. If I have so much problem on shorter rides, I can’t imagine what would happen on bigger rides. I accidentally found that a lot of things bother me.

Not a doctor or a coach, but I suspect that you have a gut imbalance @Helena check out this link: Dysbiosis: Test, Treatment, and More

It depends on my activity, but I eat 1700-1800+bike calories (300-500). I follow my hunger and my weight has been steady for the last year.

I haven’t been tested for food allergies. I eat the same stuff, I just rotate them.

Breakfast
•carbs+dairy+nuts/seeds/chocolate+fruit
(e.g. porridge+yogurt+walnuts+a banana)

Lunch
•carbs+eggs/cheese+veggies+optional legumes
(e.g. rice+eggs+broccolli and peppers+beans)

Dinner
•carbs+meat+veggies+optional legumes
(e.g. potatoes+steak+beets and green beans)

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I’m not a doctor or dietician but that does seem pretty good for daily consumption. You might even be able to slowly add more calories in carbs to help.
I know it’s not cheap and I think if you got a food allergy test and/or some type of gut health test you might find something going on. You could have a gluten intolerance, that would cause gi distress. But there isn’t gluten in Gatorade.
If I were you I’d get a allergy test and add maybe 200 calories more of carbs days of training. Doctor Alex gave a great breakdown for workout consumption that might also help :slight_smile:

Thank you for your advice!

I have so many things to tackle. :sweat_smile:

  1. I’ll get a food allergy test.

  2. I read all the breakdown for workout consumption.
    First I’ll start consuming carbs right before a ride. When I wake up, I start consuming them almost immediately, but until I get to my bike and start, it usually passes 30-40 mins. So that would definitely explain my hypoglycemia.

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Thank you. I read it, everything seems normal outside of bike riding nutrition. I don’t have any kind of symptoms mentioned here.

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If you’re only riding for one hour, you don’t need to consume carbs during the workout, as there would be little benefit.

Consuming carbs during the hour or two prior to exercise can result in a rebound hypoglycemia (as you have seemingly discovered), so can be risky.

I’d therefore say that your solution is to ignore all the unfounded advice on this forum to constantly “fuel, fuel, fuel!”, and just make sure you consume adequate carbs after training, to set you up for your next good post-prandial workout.

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I hope you figure something out!
I myself found I had a dairy intolerance with a food test! And always wondered why my stomach was a mess :sweat_smile:

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I’m so sorry! You have it even worse than me.

Did you see my comment about only using Malto:Fructose? That might help.

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Thank you so much, but no need to be sorry! I’ll figure it out. At least toasts and bagels don’t bother me. :wink:

Yes, I saw it. I’ll try it and come back to this thread. I wrote down everything from this thread. I have a lot of work to do! It also makes me excited, since it’s all new and I can’t wait until I start doing even more training. :blush:

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A couple of items.

Lots of sugar causes me distress. Watch how strong a mixture you have to see if that is the problem. You say Gatorade bothers you…try some other mix and see. I would play with a lower concentration of Gatorade just to see if it is the amount.

Pre ride…I have to eat an hour before. Any sooner isnt good for me.
During…Short rides ie 1 hour…just use water/electrolytes…see how it goes.
Your 1.5 hour ride add in some carbs to your bottle but I would take 2 bottles…One with water and the other with your mix. Play with timing as to when you drink and how much. I am a constant drinker ie every 10-15 minutes. If group riding I just drink when I hit the back.

The longer rides, 2-3 hours. I do find it helps my own system to eat something solid vs just a mix of a carb loaded drink. I myself struggle with too high a concentration of Gatorade. No idea why but it is fine in lower does. I played around with different mixes and settled on one that does not cause me distress.

I did a lot of my testing just on my indoor rides. I treat every workout the same and not sure if it is me learning to adjust or my system just adapting to tolerate more of what I give it.

Good luck with it.

She said her goal is to transfer this to longer rides so I would say the one hour rides are the perfect place to practice. She is also asking for help with the timing to avoid hypoglecmia and she has received some tips which may help her with that.

“Little benefit” is not no benefit. Just because it isn’t required for a one hour ride does not mean she can’t lower RPE, recover faster, and learn a protocol that works for her on longer rides.

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