Carbs and sweet spot workouts

Hi all,

So I just completed my 10th TR SSBILV workout, specifically Geiger, and I did something a little different as far as nutrition is concerned. I’ve been struggling with feeling weak and hungry on the latter half of SSB workouts, sometimes I’ll end up getting the shakes close to the end.

I get nighttime cravings and will usually eat something with a lot of protein and fat like cheese. In the morning I’ll have coffee with whole milk and an ABC bar from Trader Joe’s. This time I had a bowl of TJ’s Neapolitan Puffs Cereal (27g carbs / 10g sugars) a couple hours before bed, in the morning I had my brew but traded the ABC bar with 2 ripe bananas. An hour later I did my Geiger workout and it was night and day. I didn’t get hungry at all and I actually felt good after the workout, like it didn’t wipe me out and I felt like I got something out of it.

I assumed my performance was due to carbo loading, but my understanding is that SSB workouts use fat and not carbs as an energy source, am I wrong?

Thanks in advance!

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Some good info

I am not the expert here, but yes, that is likely “wrong”. As you get closer to Threshold work (SS is the middle area between Threshold & Tempo), you start using more and more carbs/glycogen. These are not on/off switches, but faders of percentages of fat/glycogen use.

The percentage of blending between those energy sources varies from person to person based on their physiology and training history. But as you get into the SS and above work, you are surely using carbs/glycogen at a higher rate than Endurance level work.

Long story short, you need to make sure you are fueled coming into these types of workouts. Doing them fasted (without major food intake just prior) is possible, but relies on the fueling that took place many hours before and any prior workouts.

If you under-fuel after a workout, and take that depleted state into a “hard” workout like SS or above, you will be in for some hurt. But if you properly load the day or night prior, you can do a decent SS workout without “extra” fueling.

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Thanks Chad!

I wonder if genetics factors in to how much carbs your body can store and how fast your body burns them. I’ve seen people post on here that they’ve done SSB workouts in a fasted state, but like you said that will end up eating in to the carb stores from the day before.

My first couple of SSB workouts were on a fasted state, but I had pasta or potatoes the night before those workouts, maybe my body doesn’t store a lot in the way of carbs or maybe I burn through the stores super fast?

In any case, I’m happy to have found a couple sources of nutrition that are greatly benefiting me on the bike.

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Training is variable. Nutrition (especially for training) is HIGHLY variable.
It requires research, testing, evaluation, and adjustment to suit each person’s own needs.

Sounds like you are trying and learning what is need for you and your training.

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My understanding on this is that pretty much all sweet spot work and above is highly glycolytic.

A quick google search pulled up a chart which quoted 65% HRmax as an average fatmax peak. Your actual fatmax will vary based on the training you do, and you’re unique physiology, but regardless that roughly matches what I expected to see. For me, that’d put fatmax squarely in the middle of zone 2 endurance work, which again, roughly matches what I’d expect.

You’ll still burn some fat up until around your max aerobic power. But as you move past fatmax, it decreases as intensity rises. This is basically due to it not burning fast enough, so our body naturally shifts more of its fuel to faster burning carbs.

I think you’re on the right track though. Fueling makes a huge difference for me, especially on anything that’s a bit challenging to complete. Even if I’m not literally running through all of my glycogen, simply not being low makes a big difference in RPE.

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For what it’s worth I consumed a lot of carbs while doing SSBHV 1 & 2 this year. Partly because I wanted to train my system to be able to handle lots of on bike nutrition for some marathon events later this year. Also I feel it helped the RPE and made me feel better during the long intervals. Weight loss was not at all a priority for me.

I eventually got up to consuming 750-800cal during a 2 hour SS workout. Dates, gels, chews, sports drink, waffles, fig newtons, payday and snickers bars were all fair game.

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For most people, it is. “Fat adapted” athletes might find it less glycolytic, but those who are truly fat adapted are few and far between.

I have no issue completing endurance workouts fasted and without fueling, and would recommend that most people take in only water for 60-90 minute efforts below, say, 0.7IF if they can. Once you get into Sweet Spot (88-94%), I believe most people will benefit from fueling with their preferred carb source.

You may not need it for 60 minute SS workouts if you come in well-nourished, but the 90-120 minute workouts, I start with my 200 cal/hr bottles and additional gel as needed. As the guys say on the podcast, “Fuel your workouts, worry about weight loss later.”

If you need some calories to get through 60 min, have at it, but no need to go crazy. E.g.: For 60 min VO2max work, I’ll do a bottle of Skratch at 80-120 calories over the course of the hour. Since I’m an early morning workout guy, I like a couple of slices of toast with honey or half a Clif bar 15 min in advance of my hard workouts as well.

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Thanks for the replies and advice all! Stoked that I have such a wealth of knowledge to draw upon, hope to give back one day.

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Rule of thumb: could you comfortably hold a conversation while doing the workout? If not, you’re almost certainly well above the fat-burning zone.

Cycling is an aerobic sport and it needs carbs. I know from other threads that you’ve been looking to lose weight, but this is a classic example of “don’t diet on the bike”.

It’s very tempting to do the workout fasted or on little food, and create a calorie deficit that way. But if you burn through glycogen and don’t replace it straight away, you’ll get some VERY strong hunger cravings later in the day. However, if you properly fuel your workout, and have something for recovery after, you won’t feel nearly as hungry later on, and you’ll actually have a much better chance at eating healthily and creating the overall calorie deficit you’re looking for.

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Thanks for the advice! Yeah I’ve been looking to lose weight, but I’m beginning to learn that having a caloric deficit is just not for me. Alternatively, I’m trying to eat higher quality foods and stay away from the “junk calories”, I think that might do more to help me keep the weight off.