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Nutrition during long ride

Old 07-09-23, 07:58 PM
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Nutrition during long ride

Hi all - so I know this is not an exact science (and probably talked about a lot), but I was reading nutrition requirements for a long ride (greater than 3 hours), and the benchmark is that you need to get anywhere between 60g-90g of carbs into your body every hour. My question is, that's a lot of carbs! A banana is about 30g, the energy gels have maybe 20g/22g. A bottle of gatorade has about 34g. So, even on the low end, to consume 60g of carb per hour is a lot - I mean, you'd need to have a banana and an entire bottle of gatorade, which seems like a lot to me, and mixing energy gel and a drink like gatorade is not recommended (based on what I am reading). I went purely on energy gels and water for 5 hour ride, and I felt pretty nauseous towards the end (had 1 energy gel packet every hour).
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Old 07-09-23, 08:39 PM
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Likely the amount of carbs per hour varies depending on the amount of carbs/calories expended per hour. It's far easier for a pro team to determine this because they have the funds and access to performance testing facilities that the average "rider" doesn't have access to unless a lot of extra cash floating around.
If I'm on a recovery ride...zone 1...for 30-35 miles I only drink an hydration liquid of water and, currently, Hammer Nutrition's Heed. It's 27 grams of carbs per scoop and the recommended use is 1 scoop per 16-28 oz of water which is what I use. It seems to work and has a light flavor...lemon/lime.
During hard training...interval day/climbing day...I generally use one or two gels...Hammer N...one gel per hour...again, it seems to work.
During zone 2 rides of 40-60+ miles I consume the same gels...one per hour.
I use the HN Heed for all my rides.
This is less than the 'pro's' use but I'm not a pro by a long shot.
I don't expend the calories elite/pro riders expend and try to consume the carbs that are in line with what I'm burning.
I suggest experimenting...perhaps adding an extra gel depending on the level of activity...perhaps trying one per half hour during a hard workout and thinking about how your energy levels felt afterwards when you have recovered and can think about how you feel compared to past, similar workouts.
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Old 07-09-23, 10:24 PM
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The energy gels are hit or miss for me - in the sense that the first few times I took them, I felt fine, but then the last few times I felt really nauseas (I was told it was because of the caffeine in them). Maybe I have to experiment with different gels.

I tend to ride more in zone 3, and sometimes zone 4 because it's somewhat hilly here. Also because I'm possibly out of shape I am able to hold zone 3 for 4 or 5 hours, and also did a century ride in zone 3.... I just can't tell the right amount to ingest :-/
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Old 07-10-23, 05:33 AM
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The GI system supposedly adapts to high carb intake. That’s how the big boys and girls do it. However, and with all due respect, it’s unlikely your requirement is anywhere near 90 g/hr. The requirement is based on physical work output per unit time at the predicted mix of carb and fat oxidation, not the stress experienced. The pros do a lot of work to need that 90 g.

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Old 07-10-23, 08:55 AM
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Go by what your stomach tells you. If you load it up with too many carbs, you will likely feel bloated or queasy and your performance will suffer. Depending on everything about you, you might not tolerate that much carbohydrate per hour. I know I don't and I've been riding for many years. Though I don't do competitions so I don't have any requirement to be at my tip top performance other than to do what I do in the time I want to do it in.

So decide how you wish to get your carbohydrates. I put them all in my bottles and I shoot for about 150 - 180 Calories per hour. Occasionally 200 Calories. But any way you wish is okay if it works for you. Just start taking them a little bit every 10 to 20 minutes along the way. You'll never replete your energy deficit while riding. So you have to just continually replace what you are losing. Don't cram them in all at once, then you'll risk that bloating and queasiness that will hurt your performance on long rides.
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Old 07-10-23, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
The GI system supposedly adapts to high carb intake. Thats how the big boys and girls do it. However, and with all due respect, its unlikely your requirement is anywhere near 90 g/hr. The requirement is based on physical work output per unit time at the predicted mix of carb and fat oxidation, not the stress experienced. The pros do a lot of work to need that 90 g.
I agree, I don't think I need 90g, but the range is like 60g-90g, I don't even go with 60g - the energy gel packets are like 22/24g each, and I take 1 of them per hour.... I don't know if that's enough or too little - i.e. I don't know if at the end I'm tired/fatigued because I didn't get proper nutrition or I'm just out of shape
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Old 07-10-23, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
Go by what your stomach tells you. If you load it up with too many carbs, you will likely feel bloated or queasy and your performance will suffer. Depending on everything about you, you might not tolerate that much carbohydrate per hour. I know I don't and I've been riding for many years. Though I don't do competitions so I don't have any requirement to be at my tip top performance other than to do what I do in the time I want to do it in.

So decide how you wish to get your carbohydrates. I put them all in my bottles and I shoot for about 150 - 180 Calories per hour. Occasionally 200 Calories. But any way you wish is okay if it works for you. Just start taking them a little bit every 10 to 20 minutes along the way. You'll never replete your energy deficit while riding. So you have to just continually replace what you are losing. Don't cram them in all at once, then you'll risk that bloating and queasiness that will hurt your performance on long rides.
What are you drinking, and how much quantity of liquid is 180/200 calories per hour?
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Old 07-10-23, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by rahm0277
I agree, I don't think I need 90g, but the range is like 60g-90g, I don't even go with 60g - the energy gel packets are like 22/24g each, and I take 1 of them per hour.... I don't know if that's enough or too little - i.e. I don't know if at the end I'm tired/fatigued because I didn't get proper nutrition or I'm just out of shape
You can actually do the very simple math if you have some software that gives you calories or kj for your rides, plus some kind of conservative estimate for your substrate oxidation ratio. On the other hand, I think most people here have just titrated their intake to what makes them feel okay. I haven't looked into how one trains the gut to tolerate those loads, but it's out there.

As to how to knowing if and how fueling is helping you, it's easy: Ride hard for three hours, then ingest a good slug of sugar and note the reduction in misery. Figure half of that is placebo and go from there.

Last edited by MoAlpha; 07-10-23 at 10:56 AM.
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Old 07-10-23, 11:59 AM
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My bottles are about 24 fl oz bottles. I prefer to take a few gulps every 10 minutes and a bottle lasts about 50 minutes in 80 - 90 F temps. At higher temps I might empty a bottle in 30 minutes, in lower temps they might last more than a hour. I ride a lot of my rides over zone 3 HR for a good portion of them. And many of the short climbs I do at an all out effort.

Currently I make my own mix from mostly maltodextrin and a little bit of sugar or stevia to make the taste of the maltodextrin a little more tasty and Kool-aid powder too gives some flavor.

But I have used Hammer Nutrition's Heed for a long time, and before that fruit juices diluted with water to bring the Calorie concentration down some since I didn't tolerate that many Calories worth of carbs for my rides back then.

For very long rides over 3 hours, I do sometimes take power bars, gels, candy bars or dried fruit such as raisins, apricots or figs. But those really are more for just a treat. As I really do all my Calorie replenishment with what's in my bottles. And for 3 or less hours I've not needed anything other than what is in my bottles. Some might prefer to have one bottle water and the other mix, but I don't need that since my mix is probably more diluted than theirs and I sweat so much that I don't need to pour water on me to cool.

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Old 07-10-23, 04:14 PM
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I don't keep track of how many carbs or calories i eat during my rides. During longer rides I just stop every 90 minutes or 2 hours and have a drink or a snack. Chocolate milk is my favorite, I also like granola bars and various types of pastries. I don't use energy gels or sports drinks. Can't imagine only eating sugar, I need proteins and fats.
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Old 07-11-23, 04:42 AM
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60-90 per hour is recommended/used by the pro's during races, at race speed, so they have enough energy at the finish and are not completely depleted for the next day's stage.

Much of the dietary advice we see is for racers - carb loading, recovery, hourly intake. Typically, all more than our bodies need and can process. The ability to store and process is the key - pro athletes are not only trained to ride hard, but they are also trained to store, process and use the calories.

And compared to us normal Joe's - they can spend more time at or near threshold on longer rides, more time in the high carb burning zone's.

The majority of my longer/century type rides are spent in the Zone2/fat burning range, some low Zone3 range that requires small amounts of carbs - and some time at threshold near the end of the ride. I like to give it the beans in the last 10 or so miles. Fuel for the rides typically = an energy bar or banana every hour, and some sips of a 50/50 water gatoraid mix - and a moderate amount of normal food at the lunch stop (if I even stop at all). 30-50 grams per hour max.
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Old 07-11-23, 06:02 AM
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Pros and top amateur riders are often taking on 120g+ of carbs per hour during a hard, long event. But most ordinary riders struggle with more than 50-60g per hour. That's about my limit anyway on a hard endurance ride. I try to start off with solid foods, but if I'm riding at tempo or above it's all gels and liquid carbs for me. Eating becomes almost impossible at that point, but I can drink fine.

If you are not bonking on your endurance rides then you are probably consuming enough carbs to get by. More carbs is generally better for performance, but harder on your stomach. It takes time to train your stomach to cope with more carbs while riding, especially at a fast pace. It's probably not that good for you either, but that's another story.
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Old 07-11-23, 08:58 AM
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It actually is a science but us mere mortals do not have the instrumentation or expertise handy, thus, we fall victim to Big Drink. Pros are tested for VO2 max and RER. They know the percentage of fat vs "carbs" that they are burning at different levels of power over time.

For world class athletes who can do 250-300W average in zone 2 ride (not NP, average) on 4 hour rides, they are burning 900-1100 kcals/hour. They need to consume higher amounts of fuel not merely for today's ride but to attempt to keep glycogen levels up for tomorrow's 5 hour ride.

Fit clubs riders might average 150-200 watts ave on a 4 hour zone 2 ride or 2000-2800 kcals total over the ride. Most club riders do not do back to back to back 3-4 rides, so, they are just fueling today's ride. Assuming an average, mediocre RER and starting the ride with glycogen levels topped up and the liver topped with with glucose, the typical rider does not need 90 grams (360 cals) of carb per hour let alone 120 grams/hr. Some might need only 30g/hr, some none, but most club riders will do just fine on 150-200 calories per hour on a 3-4 hour ride. OTOH, trying to stuff 120 cals/hour down your throat when you don't need them often results in distress. (I know there are riders here who can routinely do over 200 watts average for 4 hours in zone 2 and they probably should or do have a coach)

Over on the long distance forum on this site, long rides start at 100 mile but usually 200km. where fueling is more critical.
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Old 07-11-23, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by rahm0277
I don't know if at the end I'm tired/fatigued because I didn't get proper nutrition or I'm just out of shape
If you are tired and fatigued for very long after the ride is over, then you probably didn't drink enough water during the ride to stay hydrated properly. And especially if your tired fatigued feeling lasts into the next day or so.

If at the end of the ride you are tired out but it doesn't last for very long, then you just rode hard. And frequently someone that's not in riding shape will ride a little too hard for their current level of ability. With experience you'll learn how to pace yourself for riding so that you don't tire out before the end of the ride. Whether it's a 1 hour ride, 3 hour ride or even more.

To learn if you are getting enough hydration during your ride, you can weigh yourself before and after. I use to loose 5 lbs or more in just sweat when I was not hydrating well. Today I can go for a ride in 90 plus degree temps and still be within a pound of my starting weight. If you loose more than 2% of body weight, then I'd say you are losing to much weight from sweat. Though some claim they lose 5% of their body weight and don't think it bad. Though they don't admit if they also feel tire and fatigued for extended periods afterward.

Also the carbs for the energy you are replacing is for the glycogen replacement that is used when you ride at a very high effort and pretty much go anaerobic. So if you stay at lower levels of output, you really don't have to have any carbs. Even a very lean person will have plenty of fat to convert to energy for a ride at HR Zones 2 and into zone 3.

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Old 07-11-23, 01:33 PM
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With all my multi day tours of many hundreds of miles all I ate was pancakes for breakfast and snacked on raisins until lunch of some kind somewhere. I never bonked and after 1000 miles my weight was exactly the same on the last day as it was on the first day. Now I do not eat igh GI raisins and instead make a batch of gluten free carob brownies with peanut butter and rice flour and carob powder and these work well as a snack food when bicycling.

I like pancakes as they were high in carbs and very easy to digest. Others eat pasta for carbs and then there is carb loading for racers that can be effective. But there is a very profitable industry built around selling special purpose foods to gullible people, as with Gatorade and Cliff and Keto bars.

The body needs to learn to go from burning sugars to burning fat and this takes conditioning by the individual. The more long rides you do the more adept your body will become at making the switch. This is as important with training as strengthening ones muscles or increasing oxygen utilization. There is no substitute for putting in the hours on your bike.
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Old 07-11-23, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
Go by what your stomach tells you. If you load it up with too many carbs, you will likely feel bloated or queasy and your performance will suffer. Depending on everything about you, you might not tolerate that much carbohydrate per hour. I know I don't and I've been riding for many years. Though I don't do competitions so I don't have any requirement to be at my tip top performance other than to do what I do in the time I want to do it in.


So decide how you wish to get your carbohydrates. I put them all in my bottles and I shoot for about 150 - 180 Calories per hour. Occasionally 200 Calories. But any way you wish is okay if it works for you. Just start taking them a little bit every 10 to 20 minutes along the way. You'll never replete your energy deficit while riding. So you have to just continually replace what you are losing. Don't cram them in all at once, then you'll risk that bloating and queasiness that will hurt your performance on long rides.

This is where you have to experiment and see what works best for you. You can read and take everyone's anecdotal advice but everyone's body is different. Experimenting does suck at times especially if you get it wrong and bonk. If you're training for an event, try to simulate and track what you eat/drink during a ride. Looking back and comparing notes helps to figure out your fueling strategy.


A couple buddies and I went out for a century this past Friday; it was a training ride to prepare for the Mammoth Gran Fondo. I know from experience that I need to consume 60-80 grams per hour to keep well fueled. Looking back, I had consumed 430 grams of carbs and 3.5 liters of water over a 5.5 hour time period which puts me at 78 grams/hour. On the bike fuel primarily consumed as SIS gels, Stinger gummies and Flow Formula. We stopped along the way for a bagel, coffee and a Coca Cola as well. I roughly eat something every 30-40 min and take a sip every 15-20 min after the first hour. Timing is another thing that is up to you to find out. I don't think you need to be super regimented but keeping to a regular interval helps.
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Old 07-11-23, 04:30 PM
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just did 101 miles on sunday and 2 cliff bars and a banana were perfect. two 26 ounce water bottles with a packet of liquid IV in each and two plain 16 ounce water bottles at about 70 miles I drank a 20 ounce bottle of coke that I shook up to de-fizz it. at the banana at about 30 miles and then one cliff bar at around 50 miles and the other at around 75 miles. Never bonked or felt drained, walked the dog and mowed the lawn no issues. next day felt 100% normal, took a 21 mile mtb ride and today did ~43 mile road ride at a decent clip. never ate anything on the ride today and only drank about 20 ounces of water.
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Old 07-12-23, 09:33 AM
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How many grams of carbs one needs on a long ride depends on one's conditioning and how hard one rides, meaning not necessarily how hard it feels but how many watts one is putting out. So it's hard to recommend anything at all precise not knowing anything substantial about the individual. How's that for waffling? Do you use a heart rate monitor or power meter? A heart rate monitor is a good aid for figuring out how hard to go and how much to eat. A power meter allows one to figure out, over time, exactly how much to eat.

I don't use gels, don't like the packaging, and I think the bolus is too large. If you want to use gels in (IMO) a more sensible way, Hammer Nutrition sells their gel in pint bottles and then 6 oz. squeeze bottles for a dispenser. No waste, no mess, and one can dispense the exact amount one wants. IME the best way to fuel on a long ride is a small amount every 15 or 20 minutes. That keeps one's blood sugar stable and gives one continuous energy all day. Another simple program is to use Clif bars. I open a couple packages and break the bars into quarters, put them in my jersey pocket and eat a quarter bar every 15'. I've done many long rides on mostly Clif bars. Another option is Clif Shot Bloks. Each blok is 8g carbs and they dissolve relatively slowly in the mouth. But too much of any one thing gets boring or tires the mouth.

A heart rate monitor helps in that if one's heart rate is higher than it should be for the effort, you're probably dehydrated. If it's lower than it should be, you're probably low on fuel.

Nausea after a 5 hour ride on gels is probably not drinking enough plain water. We see that all the time with riders who are starting to ride longer distances. I call it "sloshy stomach." What happens is that stomach osmolality gets too high and nutrients won't cross the stomach wall, the stuff just sits there. That's more likely to happen with too large a bolus of simple sugars. The cure is to sit on the curb or verge and drink water until you feel your stomach emptying. I never use sports drinks for that reason: I want to have plain water to add to my stomach as needed. No Gatorade, etc.

My personal choice after many years has been to dissolve a couple cups of a 7:1 mix by weight of maltodextrin and chocolate flavored whey protein in a water bottle. Such a bottle lasts me at least 3 hours or about 50 miles, so I carry more mix in Ziploc bags, one cup per bag, in my saddle bag and mix another bottle as needed. Of course for really long rides, say more than a double, I supplement with stuff from convenience stores. Packaged fruit pies work really well.
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Old 07-17-23, 01:47 PM
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My Sunday rides are generally about 4 hours. I start after breakfast and coffee - usually breakfast is an 8 oz full fat yogurt, with about 33g of carbs. Then during the ride, 2 bottles of drink mix totalling 60g. And halfway through I stop for a bit and usually eat a package of energy chews, about 39g. So, on the bike over 4 hours, that's 25g. I'm tired at the end, as one would expect from riding for 4 hours, but not exhausted, or bonking. I used to just drink the 2 bottles but that led to near-bonk several times and actual bonk once, so I added the half-way food break.

That's for a normal ride of ~60 miles and ~3300 ft of climbing. If I throw in one of the local climbs (~1500 additional feet), I find I need to add another food stop.
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Old 07-18-23, 04:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
How many grams of carbs one needs on a long ride depends on one's conditioning and how hard one rides, meaning not necessarily how hard it feels but how many watts one is putting out. So it's hard to recommend anything at all precise not knowing anything substantial about the individual. How's that for waffling? Do you use a heart rate monitor or power meter? A heart rate monitor is a good aid for figuring out how hard to go and how much to eat. A power meter allows one to figure out, over time, exactly how much to eat.
I think this is what it comes down to. If I ride 4 hours at a slow Z1/Z2 pace I need little or no carbs. On such a ride I usually just take water and maybe one energy bar (about 40g of carbs total). But if I ride 4 hours as hard as I can then I'm going to take on a lot more carbs. At least 50-60g per hour in various forms (so over 200g total). Riding hard for me burns around 700 Cals/hour, so just under 3000 Cals over 4 hours. An hour at Z2 for me is around 450 Cals, so under 2000 Cals for 4 hours. My energy bars are around 250 Cals, gels and carb mix around 100 Cals each. So for a hard 4 hour ride I'm consuming around 1800 Cals, which is approx 60% of my total burn.

From an interview with a pro cyclist asked about ride fuelling for century events she advised consuming approx half of your calorie burn during the ride and then eat a good protein/carb meal post ride. The emphasis here was for a hard event ride. Pre-ride the focus is mainly on good hydration and light carb loading in the days leading up to the event. Eating your own weight in pasta the night before is very much an old-school approach that the likes of Team Sky put an end to years ago. Personally, I just eat normally before an event, but drink a lot more water than I normally would in the 48 hours beforehand, along with a few hydration tabs. Rice, chicken and fresh veg are my main pre and post ride foods. But that's what I mainly eat anyway.
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Old 07-18-23, 08:46 AM
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The pro's might can eat or drink back half their Calorie expenditure during a ride, but I can't. I guess I'm just not a pro!

Key to me is that consuming too many carbs during a ride can make me bloated or queasy. And that hurts my performance. So one has to find their own tolerance and not just try to cram the max a pro or well conditioned amateur might consume and then find out they feel bad and then don't fuel with anything because they had a bad experience.
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Old 07-18-23, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
The pro's might can eat or drink back half their Calorie expenditure during a ride, but I can't. I guess I'm just not a pro!

Key to me is that consuming too many carbs during a ride can make me bloated or queasy. And that hurts my performance. So one has to find their own tolerance and not just try to cram the max a pro or well conditioned amateur might consume and then find out they feel bad and then don't fuel with anything because they had a bad experience.
It's all about what they consume. I also consume about half my burn, burn taken to be my total kJ. For me the trick was experimenting with consumables until I found a way to do it that did not result in what I call "sloshy stomach." The contents just won't go across the stomach wall. That's partially due to going hard, which pulls blood away from the stomach, and partially due to what one has consumed. If I don't consume that much, eventually I'll bonk. A "long ride" for me has been up to 18 hours. One only has so many grams of glycogen to give.

Took me a few years of research and experimentation. Sloshy stomach is a symptom of having too high a stomach osmolality. When that happened, I'd sit in the shade, take 2 Endurolytes and drink water until I felt my stomach empty.
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Old 07-18-23, 10:12 AM
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Highly-Branched Cyclic Dextrin has a very low osmolality and is something that empties very well for me. I can do 400 cals per hour with a 25% mix with fructose. I can take much less per hour on other carbohydrates like maltodextrin. HBCD is a true ergo aid. Much longer time to exhaustion with it.

https://www.skratchlabs.com/products...39988027981895

https://firstendurance.com/products/efspro

https://firstendurance.com/blogs/art...-for-endurance

https://www.journalofexerciseandnutr...oad/100/89/104
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Old 07-18-23, 01:21 PM
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A Tour de France racer can burn 400-500 calories per hour during a race but these men are traveling along at 30+ miles per hour for hour after hour. At 30 mph the air drag they need to overcome is 4 times greater than for a recreational rider pedaling along at 15 mph.
https://www.healthline.com/health/ho...ou-burn-biking

The body adapts with training to become more proficient in switching from carbs in the stomach to body fat to power muscles. Fat is a better energy source in food and I like to make brownies that have peanut butter which is an excellent source of fat, or snack on nuts which are also a good fat source. Sugars cause sugar spikes in the blood and are not a good source of energy on a ride.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/blood...spikes-5216913

This is not rocket science and not any different than what experienced cyclists knew and used on their rides a half century ago. What has changed is the profitable marketing of magical food products like Gatorade and keto bars to the public which is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
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Old 07-18-23, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Calsun
Sugars cause sugar spikes in the blood and are not a good source of energy on a ride.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/blood...spikes-5216913
At rest, yes, but exercise mediated glucose uptake prevents spikes when riding.
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