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    Carb loading - yay or nay

    Is there any benefit from going out of your way (above and beyond your normal diet) to do carb loading before a long distance event, say, a double century? Assuming that I take things easy leading up to the event, under 5 hours of saddle time in the week before, and no riding for 48 hours before the start. (Also, is that a reasonable pre-event schedule?)

    In theory, with that little riding, I should be topped up even on normal diet, but experience usually trumps theory...

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    Randomhead
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    if you look up what actual carb loading is, it's no wonder it has been shown not to work. Basically starving yourself of carbs and then loading up on them.

    As far as a riding schedule, I don't go out of my way to ride lots before an event, but I don't slack off much either. I prefer not to go really hard the two days before, but if the local club runs their time trials this year I will probably ride them even though they are the thursday before a saturday event.

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    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I think if you stick with a good balanced diet prior to the event you should be fine. A lot of people scale back the riding the week before a double. What you're describing sounds ok to me. When I ride on the day or two before a big event it's never hard. Just an easy spin to keep things loose. What double are you planing on doing?
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I think if you stick with a good balanced diet prior to the event you should be fine. A lot of people scale back the riding the week before a double. What you're describing sounds ok to me. When I ride on the day or two before a big event it's never hard. Just an easy spin to keep things loose. What double are you planing on doing?
    Solvang Double.

    I did 100mi / 10k ft last Sat, 1 hour recovery ride Sun, 1/2 hour yesterday, spirited 23 mi / 2300 ft today. The double is on Saturday and I'm not planning to ride until then.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I don't carb load, but a couple days before a long ride, I try to make sure I'm eating adequately or maybe just a bit more than normal.

    For me, it's more important to eat regularly during a long ride than it is to eat before a long ride.

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    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hamster View Post
    Solvang Double.

    I did 100mi / 10k ft last Sat, 1 hour recovery ride Sun, 1/2 hour yesterday, spirited 23 mi / 2300 ft today. The double is on Saturday and I'm not planning to ride until then.
    Well you picked one of the easiest doubles to do for your first one. It's a beautiful ride too. Try not to go out too fast in the begining and eat right on the ride and you'll be fine.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    if you look up what actual carb loading is, it's no wonder it has been shown not to work. Basically starving yourself of carbs and then loading up on them.
    I used to know the biological reasons for why that could potentially increase your ability to store carbs, but I'm sure most of the benefit has always been psychological. Our spaghetti dinners the night before a cross-country race in high school were great for morale.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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    Nay

  9. #9
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Back when I was racing, I would have a veggie dinner the night before a big race. I still try to do the veggie dinner the night before a long ride; veggies are easier for your body to digest. And you have to load up, or you get hungry again. I usually hit a Chinese buffet if I'm out of town.

    However, I have a theory about eating and efficiency. If you look at most racers, they are pretty thin. But most recreational riders, and a lot of randonneurs as well, tend toward the chunky side. The reason for this is that as you become a cyclist, you find that the extra hours spent training develop a pretty big appetite. The cyclist quickly learns that he or she has pretty much carte blanche to eat whatever they want, as much as they want, and it doesn't make them fat because they're burning it all off anyway. They take this as an unalterable benefit of cycling, and they brag about this to their friends.

    However, the human body is extremely good at adapting. The more you ride, the more efficient your body becomes at riding. So I believe that what once took 400 calories per hour to do back when you were starting to ride now takes maybe 300 calories per hour, just because you (and your body) are much better at it. However, if you're still eating the copious amounts you have become used to, the inevitable weight starts to develop. Racers get around this by going harder as they become more efficient, rising to higher levels of performance. I'm not sure recreationals and randonneurs do the same. Yes, they might increase their distances, but this usually involves constant eating and drinking during the ride, plus the large post-ride meal.

    In my own case, I tend to eat/drnk very little during my training rides. I've done centuries (in miles) on less than one small waterbottle (and some fruit at the rest stops). I am constantly amazed at how many bottles the typical cyclist on a century ride puts away. Of course, in hot conditions, I'll drink considerably more, but here in the cool, rainy Pac NW, I just carry one bottle on the bike. And I've been able to maintain pretty much my racing weight.

    So as far as carbo loading, I think a good, balanced diet over the long term is a better idea, but if you must carbo-load, go veggie. Save the heavy meat for after the ride, but don't go overboard on it.

    Luis

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    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Different people are using different meanings for "carb loading." So I can't really comment - except to say that I believe a high carb meal is superior to a typical meal prior to most athletic events.

    I think there can be benefits to some people in practicing a true "carb loading protocol" that involves a glycogen depletion phase as well. However, these kinds of things are so specific to the athlete and event = especially the timing and volume - there's little use in guestimating whether it works for anyone else.
    Sorry about my comments - I thought you wanted honest feedback.
    2003 Lemond Wayzata - 2002 LeMond Malliot Jeune

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    For better or worse, I tend to stick with Gretchen Reynolds when it comes to stuff like this; she typically stays up to date on the latest research.

    Sounds like increasing carbs the day before may provide some assistance. However, it doesn't sound like it's that big of a difference. E.g. it isn't likely to save you from a DNF.

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/1...or-a-marathon/

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    Senior Member mprelaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    For me, it's more important to eat regularly during a long ride than it is to eat before a long ride.
    ^^^ This.

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    True carb loading, with exercising to exhaustion, carb depletion, and super compensation, has been used to turn in some pretty impressive performances - for events lasting 3-4 hours. Aside from the unanswered causation vs. correlation questions (world-class athletes turning in world-class performances isn't exactly headline news) the simple fact is that nobody can load up enough carbs to effectively deal with a 10 hour event. So the short answer is that if you want to have a great first third of a double, then carbo loading might be your answer.

    Beyond that, most folks seem to think that "carb loading" means eating lots of spaghetti for a few days beforehand. This is harmless, but isn't going to make you go any faster either. I personally have found that a healthy, well rounded diet in general, combined with the traditional road racer's steak and rice breakfast on the morning of the event, is the best approach for consistent energy and performance. YMM, as always, V.

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    As opposed to carb loading I think you want to optimize your fat burning ability in preperation for your double. Since I'm typing on my phone and there are innumerable better sources of information on this topic than me I will not go into a tyraid about this. Burn fat and you'll be happy. Burn carbs and you'll bonk. Google it to find out more.

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