Fuel questions for 1-1.5hr efforts

I have a couple questions about fueling fairly short efforts. Assume that I have my regular meals planned out wisely, and I’m using simple sugars like shot blocks or gels for in-ride fuel in these questions.

  1. I’m trying to work out some fueling strategy and I was wondering when to end fueling? If I have 20-30 min left in an event or training session will sugar intake even be usable before I’m finished? Where is the breaking point of the fuel actually being available?

  2. I’m well aware of the 60g/30g carbs per hour, but how specifically does that play out? Trickle 15g/7g every 15min? Take it all at once at the start of each hour? When EXACTLY would you fuel your 90g/45g for a 1.5hr effort?

Thanks everyone!

For efforts less than 2 hours you likely don’t need any fueling, even really tough workouts. So, rather than trying to figure out the maximum, I personally think a better strategy is to work backwards starting with nothing. How long can you do hard workouts with no nutrition? What happens when you try to ride an hour without any in-ride fuel? If nothing (and chances are that’s the case for most people), then what about 90mins? 2 hours? Where is the breaking point? Once you have that figured out, then you can work on experimentation to mitigate it. Maybe it’s a gel every 30 mins. Maybe it’s a banana or a rice cake at an hour. I personally think it’s a better approach to try and train your body to go as long as possible without fuel, rather than teach your body that it needs the maximum.

I eat dinner around 7pm in the evening, then usually ride in the morning around 7am. I always ride without any food in between and I’ve not found a mid-volume workout that I couldn’t complete due to nutrition. I have a bowl of overnight soaked oats ready to go for post-ride nutrition and then on with the rest of the day.

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Assuming it is a maximal effort type event I would just plan on using sport drink. Taking on ~200 cal spread between two bottles would be fine. If the nutrition is ‘free’ don’t need to worry about the last 30 min problem. Just keep drinking.

I agree with @ErickVH, for short sweat spot and up intensity use a sports drink. I prefer Heed. A sports drink will still be useful in the last 30 mins if you have high efforts remaining. Possibly some placebo affect working here as well. If you’re looking to cut weight or train your body to other fuel sources then use @julianoliver approach. However, expect to have some “failed” workouts is you’re walking the line between proper on the bike nutrition.

All that being said, nutrition is very personal and what works for one doesn’t for another. You need to find out what works for you with some experimentation.

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I understand that fueling strategy is different for everyone, but there has to be scientific information on the time from ingesting carbs to them being bioavailable to them being used.

Carbs is too generic, it depends what kind of carb you’re injesting. A sports drink or gel will get into the system quick.

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According to this article exogenous carbohydrate sports drinks can be measured in expired gasses typically 5 minutes after ingestion .

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BAM! There it is.

This is also covered a bit in the book that @chad recommended on the podcast,“Nutrient Timing” - by Ivy and Portman.

To offer another perspective (and this does depend on your goal events outside) I would make the opposite argument: you should train your body to burn as much fuel as possible.

The more you can learn to eat and burn, the faster you can go - if you want to ride fast for a long time outside you’ll need to eat and drink, a lot.

If you plan to ride for a long time outside in situations where you won’t have access to food then you should practice riding without eating. But if you want to ride as fast as you can for as long as you can, and you have pockets, you should practice eating as much as you can during your hard workouts.

I don’t think it’s either, or. Why not both? Why not train to be more fat adapted and less glycogen dependent AND identify your nutrition strategy for different types of events? My point is simply that you absolutely can train your body to perform just as well using fat in addition to stored glycogen as a fuel source for 60-90 min efforts. I personally prefer this than teaching my body that it needs sugar as it’s only fuel source.

Further reading and the linked podcast if you want more detail:

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Must admit, for 75 mins or less I’ll have a 750ml bottle of water and that’s it. Never saw need for food for an hour or so. If 90 mins then maybe have small bite of something (small muesli bar or similar) about half way, but not always.

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Totally agree. I very rarely take any sort of energy into the garage with me unless I am planning a significant ride. That would have to be over 90 minutes or early morning with no breakfast.

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I came across this blog post by Allen Lim on the Skratch Labs site, which seems to support what’s been said here with some other points on hydration and more.

Going to your point 2 it looks like the every-15-minutes plan would be good for gels, but eating more solid/‘real’/whatever-you-want-to-call-it food at the beginning of the workout and letting your stomach ‘trickle’ it into the system for you is equally good.

Personally I like this latter approach because ‘real’ food is cheaper, tastier and more easily available than gels, and you don’t have to worry about remembering to eat on a strict schedule while holding target power, staying aero, watching your cadence and staying motivated. Good gels are worth the price for the jersey-pocket convenience but if you are training indoors with a table nearby, you could be eating a baked potato, or toast and honey, or cookies :slight_smile:

I usually scoff all my food during the warmup and then get down to business with just low-cal hydration mix for the rest of the workout (I like Skratch but it’s more expensive and less convenient than other brands with tablets like High-5 Zero or SIS Go Hydro so that’s what I use). I also do most workouts last thing at night so I don’t like to make time for a large post-workout meal at 11pm when I should be going to bed.

I only ever use water for indoor rides of 90 minutes and shorter. I have a gel sat on the side next to the trainer just in case, but I’ve never needed it. I do my rides in the morning before breakfast, and haven’t had a problem with running out of energy during a year of low volume base, short power build and CX speciality.
I’m 6’ 2" and 82kg and don’t have a good diet, so it may just be that I’m carrying enough fuel to get me through the rides anyway.

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The NHS says that’s a healthy weight for that height and if it’s powered you through a successful year of Base-Build-Specialty then I’d say your diet is good!

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I don’t usually fuel for a ride of that length, but wouldn’t go out without eating beforehand. Water would depend on temperature and intensity, but usually one big one is all. I have to admit that the running accessories world really has got it going. All these “runners” who have their gel belts so they hydrate and don’t bonk on their 5K runs. See it all the time and it makes me laugh. All the good runners I know rarely bother with any of it, if at all.

The thing is, and this is is a truism but worth considering, fast (i.e. good?) runners can cover 5k so much quicker than slow runners. Some runners’ 5k ‘time on course’ might be well under 20 minutes, some closer to 1 hour. Either time could be an impressive achievement depending on that runner’s situation, their goals and what they have achieved before. And good nutrition will be different based on that ‘time on course’, which is going to vary with intensity; some runners might be working at threshold to cover 5k in 45 minutes, a huge effort and they should probably eat and drink accordingly. Easy to forget how slow we all were when we started.

The faster you can go, the harder you can go, because the finish line comes sooner (except that’s why the World Hour Record is so fascinating, because it doesn’t) so the event is shorter for you. By the same token, while riding a century sportive in 4 hours is really impressive, a rider completing the same century by pacing as well as they can for 8 hours has done a more epic ride IMO.

Anyway, on nutrition, I think we all agree it’s going to be individual. I’d hate for new TR users to think they’re doing it wrong if they aren’t shovelling in the carbs, or if they can’t get through a 1.5 hour workout just on water, or if they haven’t got special sports nutrition products. I remember when riding indoors for 90 MINUTES was a daunting achievement in itself, never mind intensity!

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Topped up you should have about 500kcal of glycogen “available” in your blood and liver plus another 1500kcal of muscle glycogen. This is why you don’t necessarily need to fuel for workouts less than 90 minutes. But this is topped up, and a normal person going through typical daily activities will burn a bunch of those calories. Even if working out first thing in the morning you will be a bit depleted.
Taking on some carbs 30-60 minutes before excercise will help to replenish your diminished stores.
It’s important to think about how much your unique daily life is depleting your stores, me sitting at a desk takes less effort than a doctor or nurse who are on their feet all day.

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Well said. This is one of my training objectives for 2019. Improve fat metabolism, AND also train my gut to absorb 200-300 calories per hour when needed in long events.
I’ve been doing long (4+ hours) endurance pace rides with no fuel to accomplish the first objective, and later in the season for my second objective, will start increasing the intensity of some of these long rides, while eating my target amount each hour.

Just water for me, up to 2 hours. If just sweet spot then usually nothing, but if doing VO2Max work then I might have a banana at the 1 hour mark, but that’s more mental that a requirement. I agree with the person above who said to find your breaking point then work backwards, no reason to “fuel”, introducing unnecessary calories if your body doesn’t require it. Especially if it’s only an hour and/or you’re going to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner after.