Carbohydrate Loading: you’ve heard us preach about this from the mountaintops. Whether it’s in our Instagram stories or other blog posts, we’re all about those carbs to make sure you are properly fueled for a bike race.
The previous article will give you some tips on how to time your eating and nutrition based on how long and how intense the riding is.
Let’s assume you’re doing a high intensity race or one that has a duration over 2 hours. If so, it’s time to carb load.
What Do We Know For Sure About Carb Loading
Glycogen concentration in the muscle is dependent on the athlete’s diet. More carbohydrate equals higher glycogen stores
Glycogen concentration declines during exercise, especially higher intensity exercise like 90% FTP an higher
Higher glycogen concentrations in the muscle resulted in less fatigue and better performance
Highly regarded nutritionist Asker Jeukendrup wrote up this history on carb loading. Here are the cliff notes version.
Carb Loading Supercompensation - It Has Come and Gone
It was originally thought that you needed to deplete the carbohydrate stores in your body for a few days, and then carb load, creating a higher than normal level of glycogen.
This created athletes that felt weak and irritable, due to the lack of carbohydrates providing energy.
A taper strategy became more popular...as you got closer to your event, you trained less, and consumed more carbohydrates. This works well and took about 6-7 days.
Eventually, a 2 day program took over and this seems to be the most prevalent way of carb loading in 2019, and the one that we promote.
How Do I Carb Load
Simply put, carb loading is shifting your diet towards carbohydrates for 48 hours before your event, leaving the fats and proteins off of your plate. Ideally, you don’t overdo it with tons of fiber that can create gastrointestinal stress, but some fiber is good to keep things moving through the body.
How Many Carbs Do I Consume For Carb Loading
Carb loading is defined as 5-12g of carbs per 1kg of body weight. We don’t think 5 is enough based on the studies we’ve come across, and have settled that 7-9g per 1kg of body weight 2 days out, and then 9-12g per 1kg of body weight the day before is best.
THIS IS A LOT OF CARBS. I am still not sold 100% on the 9-12g of carbs. If the body can only hold 2,000 calories of carbs (500 grams of carbs), why would an 83kg athlete eat 996g of carbs? I don’t have that answer, but am looking into it.
If you don’t want to count carbs, shift your diet towards carbs and eat a little extra. We promise you that the “extra” based on how your feel won’t be extra. Most athletes underestimate how many carbs they should consume.
What Foods Should I Use For Carb Loading?
I made a video that we will post that shows exactly what I ate for 100 mile gravel race where I burned 5,500 calories. I flatted and had to TT a bunch to try to reach the lead group again, but either way, I would have burned about 4,500 calories that day.
Foods included oatmeal, rice, breads, cereal, some candy, almond milk with sugar, a burrito, and a few other things. I hit over 1,000g of carbs the day before the race.
Side Effects of Carb Loading
Weight gain: for every 1g of carb you retain 3g of water. This will create some weight gain, but it will come off as you race. The benefit of having carbohydrates to fuel your racing and exercise are well worth the slight gain.
Puffy look: because of the water retention, you won’t look ripped. Remind yourself that you aren’t preparing for a beach day, you’re preparing for a bike race.
Odd feelings: honestly, sometimes all the carbs make me feel weird. Not sluggish, just loaded with a ton of sugar. I take those feelings and pour them onto the pedals.
Carbs To Eat On Race Morning
A bagel, two bowls of cereal, and carb drink seem to work well for us.
Don’t be surprised if you see us crushing bowls of sugary cereal before a race. Yes, fueling for a race is different that “eating healthy” and we’ll touch on that in a future post!
10-12g of carbs per 1kg of body weight. YES, that is a lot of carbs. Maybe taper it back to 8-10g. We’ll update this as more information comes in.
YES, you will go over your normal amount of calories for the day, but staying topped off on carbs for long, high intensity sessions, will allow you to lay down the watts like you have not done before.
Carb loading works, and you can use Monday to unpuff a bit. When you wake up, just eat when you are hungry, and implement a 16 hour fast if you like.
Drink more water or decaf teas, eat a hearty breakfast when you are hungry, and let your normal activities bring you back to race weight.