High carb fueling is the hottest trend in endurance sports and the results speak for themselves (like Kipchoge breaking the two-hour marathon barrier).
This new wave of fueling with a high level of carbs per hour was started by Maurten (pronounced Morton) a few years ago. It is the standard for endurance sports, and if you aren't doing it, you are at a disadvantage.
Even if you aren't competing, you will get much more enjoyment from your longer workouts if you add a high-carb drink.
The science works like this.
You have carbs and fat to fuel your training. Carbs are like 100 octane jet fuel, and fat is like 85 octane fuel. Fat will keep you going but at a much slower speed than carbs.
Put another way, the longer you can keep fueling with carbs, the more energy, power, and speed you will have.
Once you get over an hour of moderate to high-intensity activity, you will burn through all the glycogen (i.e., carbs) your body has stored up. So if you are only training an hour, stick with a low carb, electrolyte drink like Skratch, LMNT, SOS, or ERW. You don't need a high-carb drink for these shorter workouts.
The idea of high-carb fueling is to keep replenishing your carbs during your training/racing so you can burn carbs as your primary fuel source for longer.
Does it work?
Well, the faster and faster marathon times over the past three years show the impact that high-carb fueling can have on performance.
They provide between 80g and 100g of carbs per bottle. That is a lot! If you can consume one of these bottles per hour, it will do wonders for your performance in hours in multi-hour events.
Here is the catch
Some people (myself included) start to get an upset stomach at about 80g of carbs per hour. This is because you reach the saturation point of how many carbs (glucose, fructose, maltodextrin) your stomach can process. Then, your stomach revolts, and you feel nauseous or worse.
The secret of Maurten is that it forms into a gel when you drink it, bypassing digesting in the stomach and going to your small intestine to absorb all those carbs—protecting you from getting an upset stomach.
The downside with Maurten for some athletes is that it is pretty sweet-tasting and doesn't have a flavor. SiS Beta Fuel and Skratch Superfuel are alternatives that are both flavored.
Remember: the number one rule with high-carb fueling is that you have to do it through the end of your workout. So, for example, don't do a 3-hour ride and drink one 80g of carb bottle in the first hour and nothing else for the next two hours.
How high can you go?
Remember those marathon times I mentioned above. Many of these athletes are getting from 120g to an insane 150g per hour of carbs. Don't try this at home! These athletes train for months, slowly increasing the carbs per hour they can tolerate.
If you want to go above 80g per hour, consider using a Gel or Chews for any additional carbs. For example, a Gel is typically 25g of carbs, and a pack of Chews ranges from 20g to 25g of carbs.
How to start
Start with one high-carb bottle per hour. Then as you want to go up, add in two chews per hour. Do that for a week, then try three chews, then four. You get the idea.
Do you also use hydration with a High-Carb drink?
This is a question I get a lot. While you only need the high-carb bottle, I see many athletes (myself included) also bring a bottle of electrolyte hydration, like Skratch, with them.
For example, at the Tour de France, I see many riders starting with one high-carb bottle and one bottle with pure electrolyte hydration like Skratch. This works for them as they have a continuous supply of new high-carb bottles from their team car.
It might sound easy to consume 80g of carbs per hour. But trust me, it is not. You will have to be diligent about when you fuel (think every 15 minutes). It will feel like you are constantly fueling.
That said, if you get to 80g per hour, you will be amazed at how fast you can keep climbing or how pace doesn't fade. I equate it to feeling like the Energizer bunny. You can keep going and going.
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