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"refueling" on an Imperial Century vs. a Metric Century

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"refueling" on an Imperial Century vs. a Metric Century

Old 10-10-20, 09:17 AM
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"refueling" on an Imperial Century vs. a Metric Century

Now at age 69. In the past year, I have ridden several 50-milers and previous to that, Metric Centuries often. I can ride the 50-milers with just two water bottles and on the Metric Centuries, maybe take a granola bar or something. Post ride, I'd drink a lot but otherwise feel fine and recover quickly. Without a lot of terrain, these rides take between about 2.5 and 4.5 hours.

However, on Imperial Centuries, I need to make many more stops and eat frequently. Recovery takes longer too. Assume weather and temperature are not an issue, (not too hot nor too cold).

My question is . . . should I be eating and drinking more on the "shorter" rides? Other than being mildly dehydrated, am I doing my body damage?
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Old 10-10-20, 09:41 AM
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I eat for Energy.
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Old 10-10-20, 09:58 AM
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66 here. I ride 50 to 60 milers with my slightly younger buddies, usually hilly, pretty much every weekend. We seldom need more than one or two bars, or sometimes instead will stop for a sandwich if we see a nice place. Water consumption depends largely on temperature. I don't think that causes any harm, though I do try to have a fairly protein-rich post-ride meal to help with muscle recovery. A flat 100-miler wouldn't prompt me to prepare any more than a 60 miler. However, a century with serious climbing, say 6,000 to 10,000 feet, requires that I start paying more serious attention to nutrition. Even longer rides (i.e. I rode the Deathride last year [130 miles, 16,000' of climbing] absolutely require serious attention to nutrition, including forcing myself to eat and drink continuously, starting very early in the ride. This is because you are expending calories faster than your body can assimilate them and no matter how careful you are you will still end the ride with a big calorie deficit. On the really hard rides not paying attention to nutrition means that you bonk and DNF.
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Old 10-10-20, 11:05 AM
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Your body won't absorb enough in the stomach or gut to replace the energy you are expending. The rate of absorption varies from one form to the next and one individual to the next. Carbohydrates in general are faster absorbed than fats or proteins. Carbs are also more rapidly converted to energy once they are absorbed. And..... some carbs are much more easily absorbed and converted than other carbs.

So the key, IMO, IMHO and from what I experience is that you need to start drinking and eating foods that will give you some energy from the time you start riding. If you wait till near the end of your ride, sure, you'll feel a boost, but overall, you'll have much less energy left than if you started fueling your body from the start.

I can ride for many miles with just 125 to 180 Calories of carbs in my 24 oz bottles. One bottle every 50 to 70 minutes depending on temp and effort. If I didn't have to stop and urinate, then I wouldn't have to stop at all other than to refill my bottles. A box of raisins or a cookie is a treat after mile 50 or so, but not a necessity. This works for short and long 100 mile rides.

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Old 10-10-20, 11:10 AM
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No, no damage. It's more likely that eating less or even nothing on shorter rides improves your ability to do longer rides, by forcing your body to improve transfer and use of fatty acids, also known as fat burning. The issue on Imperial centuries and longer rides is that you'll run out of fast-burning fuel: carbs in the form of glycogen. One can't climb well once the glycogen is gone. Fueling right from the start and keeping it coming is the key to doing long rides because that spares glycogen. Long distance riders don't even consider 100 miles a long ride. That's maybe the lower edge of the spectrum of long rides. IME the first 3 hours of a long ride are the most critical. Fueling right from the start initiates the correct pattern for the whole ride, and starts sparing glycogen right away.

Thus the idea of improving fat burning by eating less or nothing on short rides is also a method of glycogen sparing for long rides, by getting your body to substitute fat for carbs at the lower end of effort.
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Old 10-10-20, 02:12 PM
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Just listen and respond to what your body is telling you. From what you’ve described it sounds very normal. I normally eat a lot more in the back end or back half of a ride than I do the first half of 80-100+ mile rides. But I normally eat a much larger than normal pre ride meal.
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Old 10-10-20, 03:30 PM
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For an Imperial century, McVitie's Chocolate Digestives. For a metric century, French pastry.
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Old 10-10-20, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by volosong View Post
Now at age 69. In the past year, I have ridden several 50-milers and previous to that, Metric Centuries often. I can ride the 50-milers with just two water bottles and on the Metric Centuries, maybe take a granola bar or something. Post ride, I'd drink a lot but otherwise feel fine and recover quickly. Without a lot of terrain, these rides take between about 2.5 and 4.5 hours.

However, on Imperial Centuries, I need to make many more stops and eat frequently. Recovery takes longer too. Assume weather and temperature are not an issue, (not too hot nor too cold).

My question is . . . should I be eating and drinking more on the "shorter" rides? Other than being mildly dehydrated, am I doing my body damage?
Do I understand correctly that you can ride 50 miles in 2.5 hours? If that's what you meant, it's incredibly impressive, especially at 69.
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Old 10-10-20, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
The issue on Imperial centuries and longer rides is that you'll run out of fast-burning fuel: carbs in the form of glycogen. One can't climb well once the glycogen is gone.
I'm at a loss to figure out what physiological process is subject to the angle of gravity so lack of glycogen would affect climbing but not riding when the road is level.
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Old 10-10-20, 05:59 PM
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I can do 50ish miles with little to no food. If I am doing more then that I start snacking right away. Waiting to long to start doesn't work.
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Old 10-10-20, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
I'm at a loss to figure out what physiological process is subject to the angle of gravity so lack of glycogen would affect climbing but not riding when the road is level.
You're such a jokester on here! Well, you see, most folks just diddle along on the flat and then have big trouble getting up a hill because they're overgeared and don't climb 4000' every Sunday like they should. But of course you're right that one can't ride on the flat very well either, once the glycogen is gone.

And in fact, everyone's correct in going much harder on the hills than on the flats because that's how one TTs a course, always much harder on the hills, simply because wind resistance increases as the square of speed and thus power as the cube. So it makes perfect sense to do zone 2 on the flat and 4-5 on the hills. But you know all that.

And if one does enough of that and doesn't eat, one will find that, like you say, speed'll be like 15 on the flat and 3 on the hills. Now then, 15 will get one to the finish in reasonable style if the course is flat all the rest of the way. Been there, done that. But if one thinks that's suffering, wait until the next 10% grade and really suffer. It's an issue of max possible watts. 120 watts on the flat and 120 watts on a hill are two very different levels of pain and frustration, hence my focus on reduced hill climbing ability. So sorry that I left out the frustration of being so slow on the flat.

Of course the low-carbers will probably come in here and say, hey, you don't need glycogen at all once you get fat adapted. Uh-huh. IOW, by the time you get fat adapted, you'll be used to climbing hills slowly and it won't bother you.
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Old 10-10-20, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
And in fact, everyone's correct in going much harder on the hills than on the flats because that's how one TTs a course, always much harder on the hills, simply because wind resistance increases as the square of speed and thus power as the cube. So it makes perfect sense to do zone 2 on the flat and 4-5 on the hills. But you know all that.
What I know is that it has been shown through modeling and examination of successful time trailersís power files that increasing power by 5-10% on climbs compared to a steady effort and reducing by similar amount on descents works best. Iíd call that slightly harder or easier, but thatís just terminology.
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Old 10-11-20, 06:04 AM
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Am I the only one who considers riding a good excuse to eat?

Due to a wrecked left side, I have to get off the bike and stretch every 45 minutes or so, at that time, I usually eat something, not a lot though and hydrate. But, I am in no hurry.
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Old 10-11-20, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
I'm at a loss to figure out what physiological process is subject to the angle of gravity so lack of glycogen would affect climbing but not riding when the road is level.
It's not physiological, it's psychological. Many people don't attack the flats like they do climbs. And many climbs introduce and require an effort that forces your body into the upper HR zones that use some of the bodies energy reserves. It is true there isn't much difference between climbing a hill in zone 5 or going on a flat at zone 5, with respect to energy reserves. Hills just simply force people that don't otherwise do interval training to do intervals. Some are lousy at it, others better.

It's the mindset of how you go about riding, not the physiology of what's going on with your body.
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Old 10-11-20, 10:52 AM
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People here may tell me that I'm doing it wrong, but for an imperial century I'll make one stop and eat something - usually something like a Probar "meal" bar. Then, in the second half of the ride, I'll eat 2-3 energy chews every 5-10 miles (that's 2-3 cubes, not 2-3 packages of chews). I have a small bag mounted on my top bar, with the chews stored in a ziploc, and so they're easy to reach without stopping. If I don't have the energy chews, I'll lose steam in the last 25 miles and either need to stop again or just finish feeling ragged and slow.

All of this is always built on having a good breakfast. Far more than I would eat for breakfast on a non-ride day.

Hydration is important. For my century yesterday, with temperatures mostly in the 50s, I carried 3 water bottles and that was fine for the whole ride. When it's warmer, I'll need a convenience store for refills unless I carry a hydration pack.
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Old 10-11-20, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
What I know is that it has been shown through modeling and examination of successful time trailersís power files that increasing power by 5-10% on climbs compared to a steady effort and reducing by similar amount on descents works best. Iíd call that slightly harder or easier, but thatís just terminology.
Quite so. But you're discussing TT races in a thread devoted to fueling for a century. TT races are normally only ~40k, 1/4 the distance. The issue I was bringing up in discussing fueling is glycogen maintenance. We have a limited amount of glycogen. A 40k TT race, say an hour's ride, does not have the potential to cause a rider to run out of glycogen, whereas a 4-8 hour century certainly does.

Thus while the principle of going hard on the hills still applies to a century, there are usually more than enough hills to burn up all the glycogen a rider can carry. The trick to getting one's fastest possible time on a century is to ride the hills as hard as possible, while not quite burning all one's glycogen. This means that one will ride the flats in zone 2 and the hills as much as possible in zone 4, a much large difference between effort levels than one will use in a 40k TT. I've proven this theoretical concept in practice on many, many century and longer rides.

One could draw a series of graphs with percent of time to be spent in zone 4 on the Y axis and distance between 0k and 400k on the X axis. Courses and routes commonly used around here have between 50' and 70' of elevation gain per mile. On those graphs, zone 4 and above time would vary between 100% and 0 at that graph's limits. Graphs of flat rides would show zone 4 and above percentages going from 100% to zero somewhere around mile 25.

For the reader here who's contemplating riding centuries, or any long hilly rides, the "trick" to improving one's time or even finishing while feeling good is of course training, but also experience with varying efforts between the flats and the hills and seeing how hard one can go on the hills without bonking and how easy on the flats without losing time. And don't forget to eat!
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Old 10-11-20, 11:20 AM
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One thing that's worked well for me is to not eat anything but my own bars, gels, and powders until the 100 miles is done. These organized centuries usually have way too much food at the rest stops and I used to indulge and it bogged me down. Sometimes I'll have a handful of something salty like Fritos because I get cramps. I just put my mind in "not eating" mode and have a fueling plan figured out ahead of time and follow it. Then at the end of the ride, I feel used up, but not wasted.

Example: bars at start and mile 50, gels at the intermediate rest stops, and a bottle of endurance drink every hour.
I didn't pay the century fee to eat the sandwiches and potatoes and candy they pass out along the way.
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Old 10-13-20, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
I didn't pay the century fee to eat the sandwiches and potatoes and candy they pass out along the way.
Gee, that's why I paid the fee!

I end up trying some new things on supported centuries. A few of them I like. And I discovered pickle juice!
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Old 10-15-20, 01:19 AM
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Originally Posted by fujidon View Post
Do I understand correctly that you can ride 50 miles in 2.5 hours? If that's what you meant, it's incredibly impressive, especially at 69.
Sorry. That was a typo. Should have been "2.75" hours, (i.e. two hours and 45 minutes). Nice lightweight bikes and no wind or a tail wind makes that quite possible, (just a tad over 18 mph average). At 69, can still do that . . . if the conditions are right. For most of my rides, my goal is for a 15 mph average. Can usually hit that, unless there are a lot of hills.
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Old 10-15-20, 04:18 AM
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I'm 61 and don't take in anything but water for rides of less than 100K. However, if I'm going further I'll eat cliff bars or the like prior to the 100K. In events where I'm going longer than 100 miles and looking to go as fast as possible (RAIN Ride for instance @ 160 miles) I will use power gels only at regular intervals washed down with water. No energy drinks, ever.
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Old 10-24-20, 06:14 AM
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Eating versus drinking versus gels as a substitue for eating solid food.

Would a smoothie with the right ingredients help speed up digestion, rather than solid food?


On a 80 mile ride, I stopped after 50 miles for a rest period. That rest period was at home. There I quickly drank a pre-planned smoothie. This was my experiment.

In that smoothie was a combination of things that I thought would help to refuel and somewhat hydrate. The rest period lasted about 1 hour which I thought was more time than I planned.

It worked and I did not "bonk" or lose substantial energy. But not the "shut up legs" that the famous German rider would say.

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Old 10-24-20, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
Eating versus drinking versus gels as a substitue for eating solid food.

Would a smoothie with the right ingredients help speed up digestion, rather than solid food?


On a 80 mile ride, I stopped after 50 miles for a rest period. That rest period was at home. There I quickly drank a pre-planned smoothie. This was my experiment.

In that smoothie was a combination of things that I thought would help to refuel and somewhat hydrate. The rest period lasted about 1 hour which I thought was more time than I planned.

It worked and I did not "bonk" or lose substantial energy. But not the "shut up legs" that the famous German rider would say.
Smoothies are great mid-ride meals. On our tandem, we would get them when touring if a smoothie place turned up. When sport riding, we never eat a meal or stop for more than ~15'. We might have a snack, usually an ice cream bar or a couple Fig Newmans, for me with coffee, and then back on the road. We get most of our nutrition on the bike. This is from say 45 to 200 miles, same routine, except no coffee on the long rides, caffeine tabs instead. It's important not to let the legs get cold. Except for the occasional Fig Newman, we no longer eat solid food on rides. My wife uses Ensure or its equivalent in one of her bottles. I use my homemade maltodextrin/whey protein powder in one bottle. We have plain water in the other bottle or use Camelbaks for long rides to cut down on the necessary water stops. So in our experience, liquid works better than solid food. It leaves the stomach more quickly.
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Old 10-25-20, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Smoothies are great mid-ride meals. On our tandem, we would get them when touring if a smoothie place turned up. When sport riding, we never eat a meal or stop for more than ~15'. We might have a snack, usually an ice cream bar or a couple Fig Newmans, for me with coffee, and then back on the road. We get most of our nutrition on the bike. This is from say 45 to 200 miles, same routine, except no coffee on the long rides, caffeine tabs instead. It's important not to let the legs get cold. Except for the occasional Fig Newman, we no longer eat solid food on rides. My wife uses Ensure or its equivalent in one of her bottles. I use my homemade maltodextrin/whey protein powder in one bottle. We have plain water in the other bottle or use Camelbaks for long rides to cut down on the necessary water stops. So in our experience, liquid works better than solid food. It leaves the stomach more quickly.
Have you ever taken "yoga". The posture is in the standing position and bending the trunk down as if you are to touch your toes. But tilt the head upwards and hands to the outer sides of each foot. What is this supposed to do? It is about the heart and getting it back to recovery, say less than 90 beats per minute, depending on the individual.
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Old 10-25-20, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
Have you ever taken "yoga". The posture is in the standing position and bending the trunk down as if you are to touch your toes. But tilt the head upwards and hands to the outer sides of each foot. What is this supposed to do? It is about the heart and getting it back to recovery, say less than 90 beats per minute, depending on the individual.
Unless I'm dehydrated, my HR drops quickly. If it doesn't, I know I need to drink. I have had times when my HR wouldn't drop below 100 no matter what I did. In those cases, it was because I was exhausted.

Seems to me that HR would drop more quickly if you just sat down with elbows on knees and back straight. Even better, lie down flat on some grass and watch the clouds. Those are my favorite rest stop postures.
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Old 10-25-20, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
You're such a jokester on here! Well, you see, most folks just diddle along on the flat and then have big trouble getting up a hill because they're overgeared and don't climb 4000' every Sunday like they should. But of course you're right that one can't ride on the flat very well either, once the glycogen is gone.

And in fact, everyone's correct in going much harder on the hills than on the flats because that's how one TTs a course, always much harder on the hills, simply because wind resistance increases as the square of speed and thus power as the cube. So it makes perfect sense to do zone 2 on the flat and 4-5 on the hills. But you know all that.

And if one does enough of that and doesn't eat, one will find that, like you say, speed'll be like 15 on the flat and 3 on the hills. Now then, 15 will get one to the finish in reasonable style if the course is flat all the rest of the way. Been there, done that. But if one thinks that's suffering, wait until the next 10% grade and really suffer. It's an issue of max possible watts. 120 watts on the flat and 120 watts on a hill are two very different levels of pain and frustration, hence my focus on reduced hill climbing ability. So sorry that I left out the frustration of being so slow on the flat.

Of course the low-carbers will probably come in here and say, hey, you don't need glycogen at all once you get fat adapted. Uh-huh. IOW, by the time you get fat adapted, you'll be used to climbing hills slowly and it won't bother you.
I'd say its more the effort to get up the hill, rather than a lack of glycogen, and that takes a focus on conditioning, not nutrition. Get yourself in shape through aerobic and anaerobic training methods so you'll have the endurance and muscle/physiological conditioning to tackle hills on a long ride. As for nutrition, I'd just eat a balanced diet, and maybe eat some extra calories the day before a big ride. Anything I ate just prior to starting a long ride (or during it), including the OPs example of an imperial century, almost certainly won't be digested into usable 'energy' materials until after the ride is done (or near the end for an all-day ride). If I was in shape to do a long ride I'd be more concerned with drinking enough water as dehydration will suck the life out of you faster than a calorie deficit on a one day ride.
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