Podcast Request: Negative Health Effects of High Carbohydrate Diets

After listening to nearly all of the TR podcasts (I’m sure there are a few that fell through the cracks), the recommendation to eat highly refined carbohydrates in large amounts, both on and off the bike, is ubiquitous. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a deep dive into the long-term health effects of such a diet to include things like: increased risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, negative cardiovascular effects, effects on cognition and memory, etc.

If there is a lack of research/evidence in this area (highly active individuals with high % of total kCals coming from refined sugars), maybe this can be stated? TR does a fairly good job of presenting a balanced and thoughtful discussion of training-related topics, including nutrition, but this particular topic has been awfully one-sided.

In essence, eating refined sugars (gels, bars, mixes, etc) might have very real and nearer-term health consequences than people think. If this particular diet is going to be so strenuously promoted, it seems responsible to also present the very significant downsides as well.


I don’t recall many podcasts recommending the consumption of sugary gels off the bike, or outside of the workout-window. Maybe priming the pump 10 minutes before the ride, but I don’t recall Pete saying “eat some Cliff Blocks with your lunch 4 hours before your workout.” I think they do a pretty good job talking about getting real food during daily life and using “products” on the bike when the body is demanding more carbs than one could practically consume

I don’t think its a bad idea to re-delineate the “for performance diet” and the “general overall health” recommendations a little more often, but its usually discussed at least in passing.

A quick review of the general causes of NAFLD doesn’t actually include any discussion of diet and processed vs refined vs highly refined sources of sugar. It generally includes all of the co-resulting conditions that come with bad diet and sedentary modern western life.

Not that fit “performance-driven” athletes can’t suffer from conditions more commonly associated with obese, infirm or otherwise unfit individuals (deep vein thrombosis comes to mind) I’ve never heard that a human body would rather store sugar as fat in the liver while the muscles are demanding sugar, but maybe there’s research out there.


This topic is at least tangentially discussed in an existing thread.

If you are really aiming of this do be directly addressed by the podcast:

  1. Make sure to email it to them via the right channel (Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast - TrainerRoad).
  2. Change this to the “Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast” category, instead of “Nutrition”. I think TR watches that category a bit closer for show suggestions.

To add to what KJ said, I think your post is better posed as a question, possibly delivered directly via the question submission form for AACC.

By the way you’ve worded it, you’re leading the discussion. If you want to have a discussion about the effects, and you’ve got the research behind the thoughts you’ve suggested, the forum is possibly a great place for that.

To expect them to only go look for the negative side effects of something to align with your thoughts is not the same as looking at what research is available IMHO.


Nope, I’d rather it be on the podcast and just listen, I’ll submit it.


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OK, I changed categories to match that goal.

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Could you provide the references for times in the podcast where they advocate eating highly refined carbohydrates off the bike? I’m having trouble thinking of many times where they push hard for this - maybe if you count a recovery shake or carb loading for a major event…? Honestly curious


All I can recall would be pre or post ride, but that’s aimed at fueling or replenishing—not the same as eating 3 donuts, a cup of white rice and a Coke on your rest day.

They for sure advocate a lot of carbs off the bike, but any time they talk about non-fueling recipes, it’s stuff like sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc. Hardly refined carbs.


N=1 But I can at least say it’s bad for your teeth… I haven’t had any caveties for at least 25 years untill I started with sugar/carb mixes… after that I had 2 in 1,5 year…

Now I try to do less sugar on lower intensity or shorter rides, and at least have a bottle of water next to the sugar to flush/rinse my mouth


Negative health effects of NOT eating high carb diets: I am an angry enough person with cake. Take that away from me and I might as well just get into mixed martial arts.

  • Edited above for correctness (your → my).

I did that edit because I had many cavities as a kid and young adult. But despite having a carb rich diet, including gels, chews and drinks for nearly a decade… I have not had a cavity in 15+ years. I am more active in my oral hygiene now, especially after rides with those carb sources. Again, that is ME and MY experience, which runs counter to yours.

As ever, all this is HIGHLY individual, so stating broad claims should be avoided.


Yup. Also go into the ride with a freshly cleaned mouth (brushed/flossed/mouthwashed etc).

The cavity bugs in your mouth feed on carbs. Two ways around this:
1 - eliminate the carbs,
2 - eliminate the bugs.

Muscles working at intensity suck up almost all exogenous “refined sugars”. It’s science.

Match the fuel with the activity. It’s simple.



Similar experience. I had a lot of cavities (I think) as a kid, but only a couple in the past 20 years. That includes the years I was highly addicted to soda (at one point 4 liters A DAY).

Diets high in sugar are associated with higher likelihood of developing cavities…

This is a well accepted result in the literature.

This does not mean you will surely get a cavity, but that on average diets with higher sugar content have been found to be more likely to lead to cavities than those with lesser amounts.


Yeah…with “normal” dental hygiene practices.

Again, line up all the moving parts which support “abnormal” high carb/sugar intake. Like a slot machine — :cherries::cherries::cherries: = :moneybag:

If one of the practices is out of line, that’s when the trouble starts.

I’ve never had a cavity. I have more a sweet tooth than many I know and my brushing is suspect and I don’t floss. I think genetics plays at least as big a role in whether you have cavities as what you actually eat. Lots of people that don’t eat sugar with lots of cavities.

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I’ve never heard them say this. In fact they’ve gone out of their way recently to say do this only on the bike since you are fueling your work.

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Is a whole box of cereal refined carbs or not :thinking:


Herein lies a common conflation with nutrition related to TR & Nate. Please keep in mind that Nate’s personal choices that he shares are NOT necessarily intended as “advice” or “recommendations”. They are balancing the actual podcast suggestions along with what Nate commonly shares.

Examples like the cereal box slams or other “Nate Noshing” are exactly that, his choices. Your simple summary also ignores any context that was present when that info was shared (specifically part of a carb loading plan for Leadville IIRC).

Nate has covered it at least 2 times I remember, with as clear wording as can be had, that what he does is for him, and not necessarily a direct or indirect recommendation for any one else.

Those differ from the other actual recommendations like the “fuel the work”, “recover right” and other moments they cover when considering nutrition timing and composition. Context of the discussion absolutely matters. Cherry-picking like that misses the point and can be misleading.