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Pro riders food requirements

Just been catching up on todays Vuelta and Kirby and Sean were mentioning Roglic grabbing some gels etc etc...when Sean says riders are now being advised to consume 150gms of carbs every hour, sometimes 200gms.

Bearing in mind that not so long ago (like last week) most of us were told to consume 60gms every hour, 150 - 200gms seems way over the top.

I thought the human body could only digest and process 60gms an hour max, before you explode.

Were Kirby and Sean having a brainfart moment??
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  • ProssPross Posts: 29,614
    https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/45/2/e2.17

    This says 30-60 grams per hour during exercise. I found some interesting stuff a couple of years ago regarding calculating calorie consumption during a marathon based on pace and weight then how long you could go based on starting with a full tank.

    I've seen something before saying some people can take on 100g plus per hour but most of the things I've read agree with the above figures and the key is to keep topping up the tank.
  • NcovidiusNcovidius Posts: 138
    edited 1 September
    We’re dealing with professional cyclists. At their maximum exertion. Training and nutrition is studied and monitored very closely by the physios and dieticians, who do get paid a lot to do what they do. University research departments are heavily involved in all sorts of parts of the ‘back room work’ for the teams as well. As a result, training programs ,diets / nutrition tend to be far more individually tailored to particular riders, and scientifically determined, than ever, of late. If Rog has been told he needs that much fuel, at his targeted exertion level, then I’d hazard a guess that it’s not just a finger in the air / cigarette packet calculation.
  • ProssPross Posts: 29,614
    That article in my link above is from the British Journal of Sports Medicine in relation to elite athletes albeit just the abstract. That's hardly a cigarette packet calculation. However, if the calculations say 150g/hour is what an individual athlete requires but their body can only physically absord 60g they would have problems.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220
    If you're into training at all there is a lot of stuff on basically training your gut.

    Most people off the couch will be able to absorb 60g/hr. You can increase that by mixing types of carbs (glucose/fructose and maltodextrin etc). Then there are other products (look up Maurten which is made of seaweed) which can increase uptake still further.

    I am also on the trainerroad forum and listen to their podcast, it's obviously pretty possible to get up to 100-120g/hr for a normal person. They had an interview with Keegan Swenson (very good MTB rider) in the most recent one and I think he said he was doing 120 or 150 when he won Leadville.

    If you took someone who wasn't used to it and made them try to take on 150g/hr of simple carbs they'd just sh!t themselves but like anything your body can get used to it.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220
    Pross said:

    That article in my link above is from the British Journal of Sports Medicine in relation to elite athletes albeit just the abstract. That's hardly a cigarette packet calculation. However, if the calculations say 150g/hour is what an individual athlete requires but their body can only physically absord 60g they would have problems.

    Not all of the energy comes from carbs taken on during the ride though, a lot of it comes from muscle/liver glycogen stores and fat stores.
  • redvisionredvision Posts: 2,746
    In the last couple of years there have been products developed which help the body to absorb more carbs per hour - SIS beta fuel for example.

    I've always thought one of the most impressive things about pro riders is how they feed themselves. A few of years ago I was lucky enough to have breakfast with the garmin sharp team on a stage of the tour of Britain. I was tucking in to a bowl of cereal and was absolutely stunned to watch the riders going through huge bowls of plain rice with eggs on top, and even some sweet things (Chelsea buns and other cakes) as well, just over an hour before the race start.

    They were explaining the number of calories they have to consume each day and how hard it is to do that. That was back in 2012 and obviously since then nutrition and sport science have evolved but the base number of calories riders need per day appears to be roughly the same - the G documentary on iplayer highlights this and how hard it can be.

  • oblongomaculatusoblongomaculatus Posts: 587
    edited 2 September
    I heard that exchange too. It set me wondering what recreational riders such as myself need to consume. My speed is usually between half to two thirds the pro's, so half to two thirds the carbs? It's probably more complicated than that, but assuming that is the rate, then I should be consuming somewhere between 75 and 135g per hour, depending on how fast I'm going. The gels I mostly use have 22g each, so between about 3 and 6 per hour, or the equivalent in other food sources. This seems rather a lot to me. My actual rate is about one gel every 45 minutes to an hour, which seems to work pretty well most of the time.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,372 Lives Here
    Think of it the other way - all that power generated needs to come from somewhere.
  • andyrrandyrr Posts: 1,625
    Just chiming in here - Sivakov on The Cycling Podcast said that on one of the Vuelta stages which lasted 5 1/2 hrs he burnt 6000 calories, so to try and, if not keep up with that rate of energy usage but at least supply a large proportion of that without having a massive 3 course meal at the start of the day will necessitate pretty sizeable intake on a stage.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,372 Lives Here
    I suspect a lot of the training is about getting your body to be more effective at converting food to power
  • kingstongrahamkingstongraham Posts: 17,783
    They don't have the option of stopping for a nice lunch half way round like most sensible recreational cyclists would when doing a long ride in the mountains.
  • redvisionredvision Posts: 2,746
    Thinking about the amount of energy bars, drinks and particularly the gels they consume each day, how do they avoid tooth decay?
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220

    I suspect a lot of the training is about getting your body to be more effective at converting food to power

    Yeah exactly this. As per my post above - unless you go out of your way to improve at it, you'll just end up in a lot of discomfort if you try to have lots of carbs on a ride.

    I usually don't pay so much attention to it, probably one gel (or on a more sensibly paced ride, Soreen etc) every 45 - 60 minutes. If I go with the club fast group I find eating at all quite difficult so it is amazing how the pros manage it when they are going full gas.

    Couple of weeks ago I did a 165k, 3000m ride in Yorkshire, and tried to actually hit those kind of carb targets (60+ per hour) and I found it fairly uncomfortable, had to stop a couple of times to use the conveniences...

    I'm thinking for harder rides I should move to having some carbs in my bottles - I have always used zero cal electrolyte tabs but my weight is about where I want it now and I probably would ride better if I had more carbs...
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 16,811
    I recognised that top athletes performing at the top of their game demand unusual input for unusual output. I do however think that recreational cyclists overthink their needs. It is recreational. Stop and have a coffee break or lunch as required.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,372 Lives Here
    pblakeney said:

    I recognised that top athletes performing at the top of their game demand unusual input for unusual output. I do however think that recreational cyclists overthink their needs. It is recreational. Stop and have a coffee break or lunch as required.

    Yeah. Ultimately one’s ambitions are always more than what is feasible with the training one actually does, so you end up trying to eek out the extra advantage.
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 7,312
    I've never found eating and riding a problem - I could certainly neck more calories than I could burn or probably absorb even in a race without it making me feel sick.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220

    I heard that exchange too. It set me wondering what recreational riders such as myself need to consume. My speed is usually between half to two thirds the pro's, so half to two thirds the carbs? It's probably more complicated than that, but assuming that is the rate, then I should be consuming somewhere between 75 and 135g per hour, depending on how fast I'm going. The gels I mostly use have 22g each, so between about 3 and 6 per hour, or the equivalent in other food sources. This seems rather a lot to me. My actual rate is about one gel every 45 minutes to an hour, which seems to work pretty well most of the time.

    The carbs you should take in during exercise is more linked to what you can absorb and use than what you are putting out. And it's certainly not proportional to speed! It's linked to power=work done. The link between power and speed is not linear (mainly because the increase in power needed to overcome wind resistance is not linear). So it's not as simple as saying because you are going half the speed you're burning half the calories - it's actually probably a lot less...

    The reason it's more linked to what you can absorb is because you are normally going to be burning well in excess of what you can actually consume during the ride - 60g of carbs will be about 240 calories which is basically what you'd burn riding at ~70 watts for an hour. Even 120g is only in the region of 135 watts for an hour, and it would take practice for you to be able to absorb that much.

    You've got 3 basic fuel sources: glycogen, fat, plus any additional carbs you take on during the ride. Glycogen is easy to access, and energy from fat is rate-limited, so you'll tend to use glycogen preferentially.

    There's a difference between what you "need" and what might offer a performance benefit - generally speaking if you're fuelled before the ride, you'll have enough glycogen stores for maybe up to 2hr at sensible pace, maybe 90 minutes at a harder pace.

    So a 3 hour ride with a couple of gels/bars etc. should be manageable for most of us mere mortals, even if it's not necessarily going to give us the best performance (I would guess that's the kind of thing a lot of us do when we ride recreationally or club rides etc)

    The problem with this is that glycogen replenishes slowly so if you are doing longer rides or you are riding hard on back to back days you can't rely on this approach. Hence why the pros need to be getting in as much carbs as possible.

    https://www.trainerroad.com/blog/how-to-use-carbs-for-maximum-performance/ - the blog is a bit of a fluff piece but has some stuff about g/hr and the podcast linked will be a more detailed discussion.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220
    pblakeney said:

    I recognised that top athletes performing at the top of their game demand unusual input for unusual output. I do however think that recreational cyclists overthink their needs. It is recreational. Stop and have a coffee break or lunch as required.

    Yeah, I mean I got by fine on the club ride last night with 2 soreen lunchbox loaves (about 40g carbs total), and that was 2h40 at a very hard (for me) pace.

    I did have 2 pints straight afterwards. Recovery drink ;)
  • I am definitely not a pro...

    Just recently I've started trying to do regular ~2 hour rides, after my latest of numerous setbacks this year.

    My 4iiii power meter reckons I'm burning ~1200 Calories each ride, with weighted average power of ~200W.

    With overweight me @ ~84Kg, 9Kg bike, ~2.5Kg kit/water/pocket stash.

    If I was going out for longer, I'd take a bag of jelly babies and after the first hour, start eating one every ~4mins to get 60g of carbs an hour. Sometimes I feel awful when I get back from these rides, if I've tried to keep the power up and do vo2 max efforts up the hills.

    Maybe on these longer planned rides, I should start eating the babies earlier, to reduce the after effects of harder/longer rides?
    ================
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  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,372 Lives Here
    I don't know if any of you have this but given I don't have a large amount of time, the majority of my rides are short and hard, with various intervals, so when I do do a long ride, I can definitely keep up without going into the red much at all but I guess because of the lack of longer distance rides, I do find the tank is just empty after a while. No energy, nada. I assume this is because I've not trained my body to get good at replacing the energy stored as I exercise, and my body is not efficient at doing that.
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 16,811

    I am definitely not a pro...
    ...
    Maybe on these longer planned rides, I should start eating the babies earlier, to reduce the after effects of harder/longer rides?

    I do similar rides, intensity, and weight. I might take a banana. Although I have a porridge breakfast first and lunch after the shower. I'd suggest that at least one of us is doing it wrong. Depending on what "it" is. 😉
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220
    edited 2 September

    I am definitely not a pro...

    Just recently I've started trying to do regular ~2 hour rides, after my latest of numerous setbacks this year.

    My 4iiii power meter reckons I'm burning ~1200 Calories each ride, with weighted average power of ~200W.

    With overweight me @ ~84Kg, 9Kg bike, ~2.5Kg kit/water/pocket stash.

    If I was going out for longer, I'd take a bag of jelly babies and after the first hour, start eating one every ~4mins to get 60g of carbs an hour. Sometimes I feel awful when I get back from these rides, if I've tried to keep the power up and do vo2 max efforts up the hills.

    Maybe on these longer planned rides, I should start eating the babies earlier, to reduce the after effects of harder/longer rides?

    If you're really interested I would suggest looking elsewhere than the Pro Race forum on BR :smile:

    The TrainerRoad forum is much more geared towards these types of Qs (the training bit of this forum is quite quiet these days).

    Suffice to say your power meter is giving the most accurate estimate of calorie usage you are going to get outside of lab tests - weighted power isn't important for work done, that's just the raw average - but the conversion is pretty simple:

    One kj through the pedals takes approx 4 kj (i.e., one calorie) because we are not very efficient - efficiency varies a bit between people but it's much more stable than in, say, running where you can see big efficiency improvements. Various apps use 23-25% and most people are in that range. So it's a pretty good estimate to just use a 1:1 of kj through the pedals to calories burnt.

    Back-calculating, to do 1200 cal in 2hrs you need to average 167 watts through the pedals, and it makes sense your weighted average is a bit higher than the raw average.

    Almost certainly enough to deplete your glycogen stores in any case. Then for the longer rides, the 60g of carbs is only another 240 calories (4 cal/g for carbs), and if you're only doing that later in the ride it makes sense that you'll be feeling pretty depleted by the end. I know I do too - sounds like our club weekend rides which will be 3 or 4 hours at a decent pace where I quite often end up feeling awful.

    If you're expecting to do another hard ride within 24 hours then some kind of recovery drink/food straight after you get off the bike is a good idea. Glycogen doesn't replenish very fast and you need it for hard efforts.

    Obviously this all depends what you want out of the ride, sounds like you are trying to go hard so fuelling is more important then, especially on a longer ride. If it's an easy ride or whatever then it matters a lot less, you can pretty much get through a ~2hr ride on minimal food and your body's stores, but for longer rides it's different. And I'm not the best example as I also regularly feel absolutely terrible after rides!
  • I heard that exchange too. It set me wondering what recreational riders such as myself need to consume. My speed is usually between half to two thirds the pro's, so half to two thirds the carbs? It's probably more complicated than that, but assuming that is the rate, then I should be consuming somewhere between 75 and 135g per hour, depending on how fast I'm going. The gels I mostly use have 22g each, so between about 3 and 6 per hour, or the equivalent in other food sources. This seems rather a lot to me. My actual rate is about one gel every 45 minutes to an hour, which seems to work pretty well most of the time.

    The carbs you should take in during exercise is more linked to what you can absorb and use than what you are putting out. And it's certainly not proportional to speed! It's linked to power=work done. The link between power and speed is not linear (mainly because the increase in power needed to overcome wind resistance is not linear). So it's not as simple as saying because you are going half the speed you're burning half the calories - it's actually probably a lot less...

    The reason it's more linked to what you can absorb is because you are normally going to be burning well in excess of what you can actually consume during the ride - 60g of carbs will be about 240 calories which is basically what you'd burn riding at ~70 watts for an hour. Even 120g is only in the region of 135 watts for an hour, and it would take practice for you to be able to absorb that much.

    You've got 3 basic fuel sources: glycogen, fat, plus any additional carbs you take on during the ride. Glycogen is easy to access, and energy from fat is rate-limited, so you'll tend to use glycogen preferentially.

    There's a difference between what you "need" and what might offer a performance benefit - generally speaking if you're fuelled before the ride, you'll have enough glycogen stores for maybe up to 2hr at sensible pace, maybe 90 minutes at a harder pace.

    So a 3 hour ride with a couple of gels/bars etc. should be manageable for most of us mere mortals, even if it's not necessarily going to give us the best performance (I would guess that's the kind of thing a lot of us do when we ride recreationally or club rides etc)

    The problem with this is that glycogen replenishes slowly so if you are doing longer rides or you are riding hard on back to back days you can't rely on this approach. Hence why the pros need to be getting in as much carbs as possible.

    https://www.trainerroad.com/blog/how-to-use-carbs-for-maximum-performance/ - the blog is a bit of a fluff piece but has some stuff about g/hr and the podcast linked will be a more detailed discussion.
    Thanks for the detailed response. You have confirmed what I suspected - that it's more complicated than half the pace = half the nutrition needs.

    I'm interested in nutrition in the way it applies to me specifically and the way I ride, because I find the way I feel during and after a ride varies dramatically, and I have yet to find a pattern. For instance, yesterday, I had a 45 mile ride at a moderate pace (by my standards) and was so tired afterwards I could barely stand up and remained immensely tired for the rest of the day. On the other hand, last Wednesday, about 75 miles, finished with the feeling I could do another 30 or 40. Fizzing with energy all evening. What I ate and drank wasn't much different. I do do a lot of long or very long rides, sometimes on successive days, so what you say about glycogen might well apply. Are you saying that extra carbs can compensate for low glycogen levels if you ride in this way?
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220
    I mean, possibly, but there's a lot else which could be at play.

    I don't know how long the 45 mile ride took you, but if you had those kinds of issues afterwards I might be looking at what I had eaten beforehand on the day (and possibly the day before), and what else I had done recently - for example, another ride the day before could have left you depleted and then if you don't fuel well during the day you will be going into it in an already-depleted state.

    Fundamentally though, your glycogen stores are finite and getting energy from your fat stores is very rate-limited. This is how bonking happens, you run out of glycogen and don't have enough glucose available, and can't access more energy from fat quickly enough.

    Like I said above I would have thought most people would be able to get through a 2-3 hour ride on fairly minimal fuelling provided they are eating normally the rest of the time, so if you're only riding say ~3 times a week recreationally for 1-3 hours each time it is probably not worth worrying about too much. But if you go into the ride already empty it stands to reason you'll struggle.
  • ProssPross Posts: 29,614

    Pross said:

    That article in my link above is from the British Journal of Sports Medicine in relation to elite athletes albeit just the abstract. That's hardly a cigarette packet calculation. However, if the calculations say 150g/hour is what an individual athlete requires but their body can only physically absord 60g they would have problems.

    Not all of the energy comes from carbs taken on during the ride though, a lot of it comes from muscle/liver glycogen stores and fat stores.
    Yeah, I alluded to that in my first post. The key is to keep trickling in enough carbs to ensure the glycogen stores never run out.

    I find it far easier to deal with fuelling when cycling, where you can mix gels with bars or even proper foods, than when running a marathon where gels are my only option as I can't take on solid food whilst running. It has been the limiting factor in virtually every marathon I have run and is the reason why I never get close to the time all the predictors say I should achieve based on my runs at all the shorter distances (for which the predictors are impressively close). On a half I quite often don't take anything on, on cooler days I probably don't even have a drink, but for a marathon I really should be having a gel every 45 minutes. Maybe the answer is to run a marathon in 2 hours so I can rely on the glycogen stores!
  • Dorset_BoyDorset_Boy Posts: 4,358
    When not sat at home with Covid, I normally spend 12-14 hours per week on the bike covering around 400 kms. It is very rare for me to eat anything on the bike, though I do have energy drink in my bottles.

    Saturday is usually 4-5 hours, 130-140 kms. Coffee stop is 20 kms from the end. I have a yoghurt, bowl of porridge and a half banana for breakfast, and really don't need anything else until a late lunch . The cake at the coffee stop is a luxury and usually results in a bit of a sugar spike on the way home.

    I'm always staggered at how badly pre-fuelled so many recreational cyclists seem to be, and there really should be no need to eat anything on a 2 hour ride or less.

    If on a proper day in the mountains, or doing a century then I'll eat, though that's most likely to be a lunch stop.
  • Dorset_BoyDorset_Boy Posts: 4,358
    On my first Etape in 2015 it was too hot to chew, so gels were the only way to fuel, and I wouldn't chose to ever repeat having half a dozen gels over the course of a ride like that.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220
    Pross said:

    Pross said:

    That article in my link above is from the British Journal of Sports Medicine in relation to elite athletes albeit just the abstract. That's hardly a cigarette packet calculation. However, if the calculations say 150g/hour is what an individual athlete requires but their body can only physically absord 60g they would have problems.

    Not all of the energy comes from carbs taken on during the ride though, a lot of it comes from muscle/liver glycogen stores and fat stores.
    Yeah, I alluded to that in my first post. The key is to keep trickling in enough carbs to ensure the glycogen stores never run out.

    I find it far easier to deal with fuelling when cycling, where you can mix gels with bars or even proper foods, than when running a marathon where gels are my only option as I can't take on solid food whilst running. It has been the limiting factor in virtually every marathon I have run and is the reason why I never get close to the time all the predictors say I should achieve based on my runs at all the shorter distances (for which the predictors are impressively close). On a half I quite often don't take anything on, on cooler days I probably don't even have a drink, but for a marathon I really should be having a gel every 45 minutes. Maybe the answer is to run a marathon in 2 hours so I can rely on the glycogen stores!
    Yeah - I really struggled to get my Soreens in last night - I went with the fast group and it was a proper sufferfest for me (the IF was .91 i.e., the normalised power was 91% of my FTP, which means it was proper hard for over 2 hours). I was wishing I took some gels or something while I was trying not to choke. Normally with the intermediate group I can eat no problem.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,220

    On my first Etape in 2015 it was too hot to chew, so gels were the only way to fuel, and I wouldn't chose to ever repeat having half a dozen gels over the course of a ride like that.

    When I did Coast to Coast last year, my unfit mate had 30 gels... I was surprised he didn't violently sh!t himself.
  • I don't know if any of you have this but given I don't have a large amount of time, the majority of my rides are short and hard, with various intervals, so when I do do a long ride, I can definitely keep up without going into the red much at all but I guess because of the lack of longer distance rides, I do find the tank is just empty after a while. No energy, nada. I assume this is because I've not trained my body to get good at replacing the energy stored as I exercise, and my body is not efficient at doing that.

    Same thing for me actually. Not to throw a spanner in the works here, but I wonder what the digestion 'time' is for carbs, ie: from taking it in to actually being available in the muscles. I know gels can get in pretty quick, hence the reason why pros will often neck one at the bottom of the last climb etc but with proper food or solids I've always been a bit confused by what works and what doesn't, time wise.

    Most short rides I will just get away with some Zeros in a bottle and a single oat-grain or small flapjack bar at the tea hut. But on longer rides I've tried to stick to the 40-60gms of carbs every hour, but thats where the confusion starts for me. Do you consume that on the hour, every hour? or 45 mins in to allow for digestion? Or is it better to drip feed small amounts every 10 minutes? Find longer rides a struggle trying to get this right. Like you, maybe I just haven't trained my gut enough for longer rides.
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