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The Feed's Guide to the TDF: High-Carb Fueling

It’s all about carbs per hour.

The Tour de France is well underway, with the first high-mountain stages of the Tour having taken place last week. For those decisive final moments on the last climb, riders must be vigilant about their fuel intake. Ensuring they have enough glucose in their system helps to retain the glycogen in their legs…when they need it most.

Their nutrition strategy, however, kicks off a day earlier. Now more than ever, riders are implementing a high-carb fueling plan, beneficial not just for the day's performance but also to ensure a strong performance the next day. You can imagine how important this is day after day for three weeks.

Below, we’ll guide you on applying a high-carb fueling method when you're training for over 90 minutes. Trust us, this adjustment could be the most impactful change to your fueling approach (and performance). More carbs = more energy = more power.

First off, let us share our top high-carb products handpicked below. Then, we’ll get into how to implement this strategy.

High-Carb Drinks

High-Carb Gels, Chews, and Bars

How to embrace High Carb Fueling:

Consider this: your body can fuel your training through carbs and fats. The former is akin to 100-octane jet fuel, while the latter is more like 75-octane fuel. Carbs provide more speed and energy, while fats deliver longer-lasting, but slower performance.

When engaging in moderate to high-intensity activity exceeding an hour, your body depletes most of its stored glycogen (carbs). In fact, most athletes training above zone 1-2 burn around 3g of carbs per minute. That’s around 180g an hour!

High-carb fueling involves replenishing these carbs during training or racing, allowing you to utilize carbs as your primary energy source for extended periods without digging yourself into a hole.

Does it work? The recent record-breaking marathon times stand as a testament to the impact high-carb fueling can have on performance. For instance, it's rumored that Kipchoge ingests a staggering 130g to 150g of carbs per hour!

There's a caveat though. Some people, myself included, start to experience stomach upset when consuming about 80g of carbs per hour due to a saturation point for processing carbs, leading to nausea or worse.

The new generation of High-Carb products offer a solution – they are much easier on your stomach. Through a mix of drinks, gels, and chews, most people can consume up to 80g of carbs per hour without any issues.

Gels, Chews, or Mix?

Here’s a simple strategy, depending on your preferences:

Consume a gel or a serving of chews every 30 minutes. Regular gels/chews provide around 60g of carbs per hour, while high-carb options (Beta Fuel and Enervit Carbo) deliver 80g.

Mix a high-carb drink in your bottle or hydration pack and sip it over one to two hours to maintain a consistent carb intake in between your gels and chews.

Pro Tips:

  • Begin your carb intake right from the start of your workout. Stopping halfway can lead to a "sugar crash" or bonking.
  • Don't wait until you are done the first hour to start taking Gels and Chews. Start right at the first 30 minute mark.
  • Organize your nutrition by the hour before your workout to keep track of your hourly carb intake, a technique many pros use.
  • If you can't stomach many gels or chews, include a digestible bar like Maurten Solid or the new Styrkr Bar in the first one or two hours.
  • Many Tour riders will start with a bottle of High-Carb Drink mix (like Maurten, SIS Beta Fuel, or Enervit) and another bottle of regular electrolyte drink mix (like Skratch).

Embrace high-carb fueling to improve your overall performance – day after day. You'll feel better and typically burn more calories because you can push harder for longer.

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The Feed. / Thursday, July 13, 2023