Why has adding a lot more carbs not had a noticeable impact

I’ve gone from 60g hr for a few years then up to 90g hr for a couple more. Last 2 years I’ve been on 100-110g hr. Coinciding with this has been an increase in volume of 10 to 14 to 20+ hours a week. Now my recovery weeks have higher TSS than my biggest work weeks in the past.

Almost never did I feel like the carbs helped me in any workout or race (actually increased sodium was my savior). However, I’m now able to recover better while doing more. Part of this is just consistency, but also fueling the work. My training is typically 7 days a week with an easy day being 1:30-2:00 hrs and all other days 3+ hours.

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It should also be added to this thread that there is a massive difference in adding carbs for a 2hr bike ride and a 10hr Ironman. As someone that raced bikes for years on 70g/hr I have noticed some benefits to going to 100g/hr in hard bike rides/races nearing 5hr. Not much difference below 3hr, but I tend to fuel with around 50g/hr for those durations.

But as an also Ironman athlete, the gains from hours 5 to 10 with a higher carb strategy could be massive. It’s the difference of starting a marathon at a small or huge deficit. It’s also harder to intake high carb on the run so overfueling on the bike can be a wise strategy (if the stomach can handle it once you start running).

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I’ve definitely felt some in-workout benefit, but for me the main plus is in recovery and appetite management. If I ride myself into a big calorie deficit in the morning I’m frequently unfillable for the rest of the day.

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1st of all, there is a significant difference between the carb needs of someone doing SS at 200 watts and someone doing SS at 300 watts.

2nd, there is a significant difference between the carb needs of someone doing threshold for an hour vs someone pushing into low zone 3 for 5 hours.

You should fuel for the intensity and duration of YOUR ride that day.

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I fuel at 100-110g per hour every time my foot touches a pedal. This is in part due to my volume and the fact that I can’t physically over fuel a ride, I’m always in a deficit coming out. The ONLY time I decrease carbs is when it’s very hot/humid because my stomach struggles to process it.

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The research doesn’t support the mo’ carbs = mo’ better bro science.

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I didn’t realize Tim Podlogar, an exercise physiologist at the University of Birmingham and nutritionist for the Bora-Hansgrohe pro cycling team was considered “bro science”.

I definitely wouldn’t call it bro science. Often times research lags behind real life experiences. This is particularly the case when it’s difficult to study and to find enough proper subjects. For instance, in the 3 studies mentioned in the article they measured performance for time frames of 3 hours, 2 hours and 2 hours. These are quite short time frames and one would expect little performance gains with additional carbs as long as they came into the workout/race well fueled. It’s my understanding that the benefits start to truly reveal themselves as the hours go out quite further, as in professional road races or longer gravel races. However, there are so many factors at play in performances that are 5, 6, 10+ hours long. This would be a nightmare to research and keep all other variables constant. At this point, I can’t say that 100g+ carbs an hour is definitively helping me during my performance, but I have no evidence that it’s hurting me either. All I do know is that I can recover better and do more volume overall.

This is probably a more realistic take on the current understanding.

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Right. See the first point I made, about the wattage you push (with higher ftp) and then the second point about the intensity and duration of your ride.

I, on the other hand, with my 250ish ftp do pretty well on 60-90g carbs for my SS and threshold rides, and less for my z2 rides.

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Skimmed it and the performance was on a 20km TT (about 20-25 minutes?) and a 30 minute time trial performance. No surprise really. Some carbs are better.

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I’m those riders who needs, really needs, to eat before riding. It might be physiological, but I need it. Usually is something light and very fast digested. A couple of toast with honey (lots of honey) and a cup of coffee. Or a cheap unsweetened corn cereal with powdered milk - yes, no milk it doesn’t work for me. This is done 15/20 before riding.

I’ve been riding for 8/9 years. Back in the day, a 2-hour ride would be only on water. Now I’m more cautious, I’d say, about food.

-60m nothing, just water
-90m rice cakes I make
-120+ something each 45m. This something is a rice cake, a gel, a banana, etc.

After being more careful with carbs, I’ve noticed what others already mentioned. I can recover a bit better and faster. I’m not dead the next day, and my overall tiredness looks manageable.

I don’t feel faster on the ride though, the same pace and I rarely, nearly never, bonked - now and in the past.

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Hutchinson pretty much agrees with me. This is from the article that you said is “more realistic”:

“So should we be pushing our carb intake up to 120 and beyond, or dialing it back to 20? The honest answer, at this point, is that both ideas are speculative. The world of elite endurance sport is voting with its feet (or, perhaps, going with its gut) in favor of carb-mania. My guess is that they’re right, assuming your primary interest is winning races in Olympic sports. But we should keep in mind that no one has proven that 120 grams per hour makes you faster than 90, and even the case for 90 over 60 isn’t watertight.”

That’s a misrepresentation of what they actually did. You might want to read a little closer.

I skimmed it, so please correct me.

Do you bump it to the 60-90g carbs for long z2 rides? Like 5+ hours?

Yep, wheat toast with jam for me

That’s complicated. I do most of my z2 in the living room with 1.5-2hr sessions (which is why I felt qualified to respond to OP :laughing:) at usually 145-180 watts, and eat after.

I don’t do many of those 5+ hour rides, but when I do, they’re on my mtb on mostly dirt and I’ve always been more in the middle of zone 3, so yes, I plan for a min of 60g/hr for the duration, but try to at least get more down early since I can’t always plan to want it later due to heat (Florida). I previously never fueled enough for the long ones, but finally got it right on a ride last month…had sag stops, so I think I was pretty close to 90 with some regular food added in, finished the final 10 miles faster than the first 10 miles feeling good. I don’t race.

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On a single ride, eh. Not so much of an issue. However if you are training 13-15 hours a week, it goes beyond a “suggestion” to ingest 80+ an hour. You WILL deplete your stores and you WILL burn out quickly. I for one also dont want to eat a couple 1200cal meals after a ride either. YMMV but I avg. 14hrs a week and I work in construction 10hrs a day (electrician) so on a normal training day just to maintain weight I’m eating 4000+cals a day. I need some of that from the straight sugary goodness bottle or I’m slammin a meal thats a lot larger than i’d like to eat if I want to execute a training block effectively.

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Thats great advice. If you don’t mind me asking what is your FTP and approx IF or NP for your normal rides like that so I could relate it to my numbers?

+1 on this. Fueling during a ride is as much (or more) about the next ride and post ride meals as it is about the current ride. If riding even moderately hard, there is no way to keep up with calorie burn while on the bike, you are just trying to come off the bike with a smaller deficit.

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As the amount of carbs required it very individual and depends on numerous factors you post prompted me to ask ChatGPT about over consuming carbs on a ride.

You

What happens to the excess glucose in your blood if you over eat carbohydrates on a endurance ride?

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ChatGPT
When you consume carbohydrates during an endurance ride, your body breaks them down into glucose, which enters your bloodstream to provide energy for your muscles and other tissues. However, if you overeat carbohydrates or consume more than your body needs for immediate energy, the excess glucose will be stored for later use.

The primary way your body stores excess glucose is by converting it into glycogen, which is stored in your liver and muscles. When your glycogen stores are full, any additional glucose beyond what can be stored as glycogen may be converted into fat for long-term energy storage.

During endurance exercise, your body utilizes both glycogen and fat for energy, with the proportion depending on factors such as exercise intensity and duration. If you continue to overeat carbohydrates during an endurance ride, your body will continue to convert the excess glucose into glycogen and, eventually, fat.

However, it’s important to note that everyone’s body is different, and the rate at which excess glucose is stored as fat can vary based on factors such as metabolic rate, insulin sensitivity, and overall energy balance. Additionally, engaging in regular endurance exercise can help improve your body’s ability to use carbohydrates efficiently and manage glucose levels effectively.