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Nutrition, blood sugar, and riding

Old 08-08-15, 05:24 PM
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Nutrition, blood sugar, and riding

Hey everyone,
I have just gotten into road riding and love it! I am about 5'11" and weigh around 165, so pretty lean. No family history of diabetes, but my blood sugar has been in the 90s for the past several years at Dr. appts and so I don't want it to get any higher and enter the "prediabetes" zone. So I don't eat much sugar at all, drink nothing but water (and beer ), try to cut back on processed foods, aim for whole grains, etc. But when I read cycling nutrition threads I see a lot about loading up on carbs, which of course will load up your blood sugar as well.

My question is: if I carb load before riding, is that bad for my blood sugar? Or, can I eat a lot of carbs and then ride and burn them all up? Does it work that way? I don't really know much about how your body processes all of the carbs/sugar during a workout, and I want to make sure that I am 1) well energized as my rides get longer and 2) not doing anything to adversely affect my blood sugar.

Thanks so much!
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Old 08-08-15, 06:51 PM
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Let me start by saying that I am 67 y.o. and am a Type 1 diabetic. I monitor my blood sugars 6 times a day and take two types of insulin at least 4 times a day.

I have just completed a 2700 km ride from Perth to Pt Augusta "across the Nullabore" and have done it self-sustained.

Now to your hypothetical question: "IF ..."

No one can predict what will happen. In theory they can, but not in reality. There are too many variables and you are not measuring your blood sugar levels! THUS all bets are off if there is no way of collecting actual blood sugar data. I tested and used the results to adjust food and insulin in "real time".I often burned off my food, BUT not always because of the intensity of pedalling. I was more concened with dropping too low in the middle of the night (hypoglycemic).

I did lose weight. I also found I performed better when I had meat at breakfast (aka bacon, sausage, with egg). YMMV.

Try different things and see what works for you. I carried trail mix/raisins/figs for extra energy when needed before stopping for "a meal" - say after 40+ km. Drink plenty of water. During the Australian winter day I went thru at least 1.5 L of drinking, never mind what water was in my food.
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Old 08-08-15, 07:23 PM
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Carb loading requires some riding, or doing something else before carb loading in order for the carbs to load. So unless you actually need to load carbs and are doing all the things to enable that process beforehand, you are likely just adding sugar you don't need into your diet. Carb loading tends to work better for whole body exercises anyway because the glycogen is stored in the muscles and there is a hard limit to how fast the liver can inject more into the bloodstream. There is nothing wrong with complex carbs in proper proportion per meal, or extra carbs if you are going to burn them right away. I'd stick with a balanced diet and increase the carbs 1-2 hours before the rides.
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Old 08-09-15, 03:32 AM
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Don't bother with carb loading. Do make sure you eat enough before riding, and during the ride, to ensure your glycogen reserves are topped up and don't get depleted too fast. Complex carbs in (for example) oatmeal won't cause your blood sugar to spike too much before riding, and when on the bike simple sugars are fine. You burn them as you go so they don't generate the insulin response you'd get were you sitting on the couch. Eat about 60grams of carbs per hour (250kcal) while on the bike. You'll burn that off and anyway you can't absorb carbs much faster than that, so more is unnecessary.
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Old 08-09-15, 06:52 AM
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Thanks everyone, makes perfect sense. I eat a lot of complex carbs now so I will continue with that.
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Old 08-09-15, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Grad
Hey everyone,
I have just gotten into road riding and love it! I am about 5'11" and weigh around 165, so pretty lean. No family history of diabetes, but my blood sugar has been in the 90s for the past several years at Dr. appts and so I don't want it to get any higher and enter the "prediabetes" zone. So I don't eat much sugar at all, drink nothing but water (and beer ), try to cut back on processed foods, aim for whole grains, etc. But when I read cycling nutrition threads I see a lot about loading up on carbs, which of course will load up your blood sugar as well.

My question is: if I carb load before riding, is that bad for my blood sugar? Or, can I eat a lot of carbs and then ride and burn them all up? Does it work that way? I don't really know much about how your body processes all of the carbs/sugar during a workout, and I want to make sure that I am 1) well energized as my rides get longer and 2) not doing anything to adversely affect my blood sugar.

Thanks so much!
Conventional wisdom says that high blood sugar is the result of eating too much sugar (carbs). However there is a growing body of evidence that high blood sugar has less to do with the dietary carbs and mostly to do with your body's ability to process/metabolize carbs. That is: insulin sensitivity/resistance - and that is mostly determined by fat. Fat that you eat and fat that you wear.

But, in any case, stay away from free sugars and refined carbs that will spike your sugar levels (Unless taking them during a ride to refresh your store of glucose). Whole grains are not only healthier, they provide a longer release of energy into your system
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Old 08-09-15, 09:04 AM
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As always, GREAT replies from those who know. My numbers have not been good lately so watching intake more closely. Added sugars are bad but those in the whole food are not the same.

As GBMac mentioned, "body's ability to process/metabolize carbs" IS the current interest.
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Old 08-10-15, 11:06 AM
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Thanks for the advice everyone. I have felt fine in the saddle so far but I know that as my rides lengthen, I will need to intake more food/nutrients to keep my energy up. Just want to make sure I don't consume MORE than I need and inflate my blood sugar.
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Old 08-12-15, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Grad
Thanks for the advice everyone. I have felt fine in the saddle so far but I know that as my rides lengthen, I will need to intake more food/nutrients to keep my energy up. Just want to make sure I don't consume MORE than I need and inflate my blood sugar.
Yes, don't overeat. if you are going out for an hour or two just bring water, or try 1/3 gatorade 2/3 water for electrolytes. You have the calories stored in your muscles as glycogen and throughout the body as fat.

for a big ride, eg century, eat a normal portion of rice or oatmeal first and top off by snacking regularly on the bike. some guys I know have eaten a big breakfast to load up before a century and had GI problems.
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