Fuel of ultra-distance riders

I’ve been following the Transcontinental over the last week and have been wondering just how the riders get enough calories. They buy food opportunistically (and clearly also rely on good route planning to know where and when to find food). But I was struck by an Insta photo of the winner, Christoph Strasser, who looked absolutely skeletal after the race and needed to make an extra hole in his belt. So clearly these guys are not getting enough fuel and are using lots of their fat reserves. Strava data shows that they’re riding at about 0.5 IF on average but there’s so much climbing involved that they must get in the red quite often. Opportunistic fuelling must also mean that their blood sugar fluctuates a lot. Both sound like recipes for bonking or massive power fades, but clearly they don’t have those problems (much). So are they all fat adapted keto freaks? It’s mind-boggling to me how they get by on calippos and a bottle of coke.

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Not sure what the question is, but if they’re losing weight callipos and coke occasionally may not be the answer. It more likely they maybe buying opportunistically, but eating regularly.

Anyone can uphill at below threshold with enough practice and patience.m, right?

I guess that’s my question here.

Do they train to reduce their reliance on (regular) carbs or are naturally better at metabolising fat?

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In some post a few days ago he stated he has “5 Liters of Coke a day and is eating almost exclusively Snickers bars.”
=> definitely not Keto :sweat_smile:

People who are good at this must also be good at metabolising fat, you would think.

Worth noting as well that riding at lower intensities means you will be getting a better ratio from fat (given fat metabolism is rate-limited so high intensity work is more carb and stored glycogen fuelled).

As to whether they are training specifically to be more fat adapted - also worth noting that generally these guys get into this mainly because they really like riding bikes all the time! Look at Lachlan Morton - apparently he rides a lot even for a pro. So to some extent becoming more fat adapted could be a side effect of the type of riding they like to do.

You can definitely ride the hills with out going into the red too much - if you have the right gearing and depending on gradient.

I’m starting a 1500k audax tomorrow and I plan to be eating constantly :upside_down_face:. In a 600 I did a few weeks ago there was a longish climb towards the start (probably would have been 20-25 minutes at threshold), I rode it at the upper end of Z2/nudging Z3.

Well that’s what made me wonder. I’m taking 5 kg worth of glucose with me, and from past experience I can’t get by with just food at controls. I need the additional liquid fuel top-up along the way. But this is only logistically possible because of the luxury of the drop bags.

Yeah I guess there are calorie dense options along the way and you can put 10 snickers in your jersey at a time

Wow, thats a lot… I have got some drink mix, which I think will help. But not 5 kilos! I’m generally OK with no calorie electrolyte tabs on one day rides, but I feel better with some carbs.

What IF are you looking at? I’ll be 0.5-0.55. I suspect that’s going to have a significant impact as you should get a greater % from fat at lower intensities.

My IF is probably going to come out a bit higher, but right now I don’t have an up-to-date FTP (too many unstructured outdoor rides) so I’m just going with feel and heart rate a bit. I’ve just found that lots of carbs really stave off fatigue during the later parts of an Audax.

Pure speculation, but I suspect many have a fairly high fatmax, and are pushing out an IF that has them in this zone most of the time.

I am not racing across the continent, but I do enjoy my 12-30h rides. In the winter, I don’t do many of those. When the spring comes and I’m outside again, my ability to ride for a long time without eating is mostly gone. It takes a month or so of riding again to get to the point where I can ride 6-8h on only a red bull and a Mars bar or two.

IOW, I suspect most people who regularly do long rides can go for a while without eating.

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I was surprised at how little LEL riders were eating between the controls (where food was provided). This definitely led me to have a couple hunger flats during the event - it’s reasonable when the gap between controls is 50-60km but some of them were 110km apart, and the provided food at the controls wasn’t really suitable for eating on the move in general.

Fortunately I brought a fair amount of my own food so I tried to make sure I was eating more frequently towards the end.

Yeah I expended 30 k kcal according to Strava and consumed about 12 k in drink mix. Leaving 3600 kcal per day from food which I probably came close to. I certainly didn’t lose any weight.