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Is there a low (no) carb fuel for long rides?

Old 03-16-14, 11:21 AM
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Is there a low (no) carb fuel for long rides?

i have been using high carb liquids (gatorade) and gels (GU) for energy on longer rides as well as cliff bars, etc. i have decided to go low (NO) carb diet to loose some lbs.. what do you eat and drink for energy that is low carb or no carb? is there such a thing? i though about bringing a bag of bacon or dried meats for energy, just wondering if that would give me the fat turned to carbs that i need for long trips. can't seem to find much on nutrition for no carbs while riding and what to eat before a long ride. should i just blow off the carb diet for the long rides?
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Old 03-16-14, 11:31 AM
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I had a buddy who tried this. He was on the Adkins diet After about 50 miles he was shot. We forced him to drink a bottle of Gatorade. After about 15 minutes, he was good to go again.

The time to restrict carbs is NOT during a long bike ride. Analogy: your car will weigh less and get better gas mileage just before the gas tank runs dry leaving you stopped on the side of the road.
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Old 03-16-14, 12:08 PM
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If you plan on riding long distance low-carb, then you will also have to keep your intensity much lower. The reason for this is that fat fuel is much slower burning then carb fuel. High glycemic carbs provide instant energy but they don't last very long... fat is slow release fuel but also much longer lasting then carbs . It's very easy to deplete all the glycogen stores very fast. OTOH your body has enough fat stores to provide energy for many days. If you never done this before then start of easy, it takes a bit of time for your body to adept and reprogram itself to using fat instead of carbs for energy, first few rides may be a bit of a shock your system. Don't cut out all the carbs from your diet because it will affect your athletic performance too much, you can eat about 100-200 grams of healthy carbs and still loose weight, just avoid junk carbs.
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Old 03-16-14, 12:28 PM
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I have Type 2 diabetes and part of my controlling it is low carb. But now when I ride long distances. I eat as needed so the body is fueled. Complex carbs early on but also simple carbs during to keep energy up. It won't take long for you to figure put what is best for you.
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Old 03-16-14, 12:57 PM
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Water plus the ample amounts of excess fat you carry on your body. You don't need to eat additional fat for fuel and it wouldn't get digested fast enough to be of any help.

Your performance will be lower without any carbs.
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Old 03-16-14, 01:46 PM
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You might check out the link below of a blog by a doctor who is an elite cyclist/swimmer and low carb guy.
He talks about how low carb diet affects performance and how to do low carb fueling while riding.

Start Here ę The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D. The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D.
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Old 03-18-14, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Ursa Minor
You might check out the link below of a blog by a doctor who is an elite cyclist/swimmer and low carb guy.
He talks about how low carb diet affects performance and how to do low carb fueling while riding.

Start Here ę The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D. The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D.
Honestly, I haven't found Dr. Attia's advice to come close to working for me. He seems like a smart guy, but on the carb thing he tries to do the jedi mind trick.

If you want to turn the intensity up, you have to fuel it with carbs. If you don't like sugar, then stay with something like waxy maize. Honestly, there isn't a lot of difference. I think that starches or glucose are probably better options that fructose or sucrose, but overall, when on the bike, you want fuel that your body can quickly mobilize.

If you're riding for less than 2 hours, try taking just water. It shouldn't be that big of a deal.
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Old 03-18-14, 02:22 PM
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Carb burning is for energy. Fat burning is for hibernating.
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Old 03-18-14, 02:53 PM
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A riding buddy tried putting chunks of dark chocolate in his (dry) water bottle. It did not go well.
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Old 03-18-14, 03:28 PM
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I went on a low carb diet to drop half my body weight (315->165). Worked great, and I still keep my carbs relatively low (around 25% of my total calories). But on days when I ride (or the night before a race/big ride) I go ahead and eat carbs. Carbs are the fastest available energy, and as long as you don't go overboard (i.e., consume 1000 calories to fuel a 500 calorie ride), you'll burn the carbs while you ride.

Go ahead an have a yogurt, a piece of fruit, maybe a bowl of cereal or granola bar before you ride and add a carby snack every 45 minutes or an hour while you ride. If your total calories are less than your total expenditure for the day, you'll still lose weight in the long run, and you'll be able to take advantage of the boost in available energy.

FWIW, don't sweat it too much when you see you've gained a few lbs the day after a big ride. That's just your body stockpiling water and fuel to repair itself. Stay the course and your weight will continue its downward trend in the long run.
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Old 03-18-14, 09:16 PM
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Most folks' limit for calorie consumption while riding is 250/hour. I figure that for most rides under 12 hours, one can eat about half what one burns, thus many riders don't even need the 250. The rest comes from glycogen and fat. IOW don't even worry about it. Eat to fuel your effort, mostly carbs. Over 3 hours you want some protein too, maybe even a little fat, but not much. You'll go faster and actually burn more fat.
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Old 03-19-14, 08:09 AM
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Since I am diabetic, this is a major concern for me. As noted in other posts you need some carbs for long rides. I reconmend various fruits either fresh or dried. Oranges, grapes and raisins seams to work best for me. Typically, I will eat about half of the callories that I burn on the ride. You may also want to look at the glysemic load of what you are eating. A low glysemic load means it is easier for your body to process the sugar in the food. I also take trail mix with me which I eat if I find myself running out of energy while on the trail.
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Old 03-19-14, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by mrtuttle04
Since I am diabetic, this is a major concern for me. As noted in other posts you need some carbs for long rides. I reconmend various fruits either fresh or dried. Oranges, grapes and raisins seams to work best for me. Typically, I will eat about half of the callories that I burn on the ride. You may also want to look at the glysemic load of what you are eating. A low glysemic load means it is easier for your body to process the sugar in the food. I also take trail mix with me which I eat if I find myself running out of energy while on the trail.
Type 1 or 2? The Type 1s I ride with eat the same as everyone else. Clif bars, gels, blocks, sports drink, etc. The difference is that they track their blood sugar during the ride so they know how much and when to eat. They're in their 50s and still riding hard, so they're doing it right. Almost unheard of just a decade ago.
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Old 03-19-14, 09:47 AM
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Lots of good info here.
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Old 03-19-14, 10:14 AM
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In the day to day I practice low carb eating and have been riding every day at moderate intensity and have had not had any issues, when I crank it up I like to make my own power bars with oatmeal, nut butter, raw nuts, and a small amount of honey. These have less sugar than commercial products, the honey is better for you, and it has a nice macro profile with the distribution of fats, protein, and carbs.

I have tossed these to fellow riders on longer trips and they describe them as being rocket fuel... it gives a quick boost from the simple sugars in the honey, the oatmeal has a longer burn time, and then you have some protein and fats in reserve.

The kids still have trouble keeping up with me on longer rides.
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Old 03-19-14, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by mrtuttle04
Since I am diabetic, this is a major concern for me. As noted in other posts you need some carbs for long rides. I reconmend various fruits either fresh or dried. Oranges, grapes and raisins seams to work best for me. Typically, I will eat about half of the callories that I burn on the ride. You may also want to look at the glysemic load of what you are eating. A low glysemic load means it is easier for your body to process the sugar in the food. I also take trail mix with me which I eat if I find myself running out of energy while on the trail.
If you check your blood sugar levels during exercise, you'll see that you don't have the massive spikes you'd ordinarily see from carby foods. Don't be afraid to eat things that are ordinarily off limits. You might consider trying a few things and testing yourself on your training rides to see how YOUR body responds to different foods during a ride.

(FWIW, weight loss, exercise, and a hard look at my diet reversed my diabetes - won't work for everyone, but it's doable!)

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Old 03-19-14, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Type 1 or 2? The Type 1s I ride with eat the same as everyone else. Clif bars, gels, blocks, sports drink, etc. The difference is that they track their blood sugar during the ride so they know how much and when to eat. They're in their 50s and still riding hard, so they're doing it right. Almost unheard of just a decade ago.
I am type 2. I do not check as I am riding but I do check every morning. Thanks to a change in diet and my bike riding my blood sugar has been under control for the last 9 months and the doctor has taken me off of two of the three medicines that I used to take. When riding, I pay attention to what my body is telling me and eat when I start to loose energy.
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Old 03-19-14, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by bbbean
If you check your blood sugar levels during exercise, you'll see that you don't have the massive spikes you'd ordinarily see from carby foods. Don't be afraid to eat things that are ordinarily off limits. You might consider trying a few things and testing yourself on your training rides to see how YOUR body responds to different foods during a ride.

(FWIW, weight loss, exercise, and a hard look at my diet reversed my diabetes - won't work for everyone, but it's doable!)

BB
Thanks for the info. Yes I do relax my diet some especially when I ride more than 20 miles. I am doing the same thing as you to reverse my diabetes. As of my last doctor's visit, my diabetes is under control and I am now taking less medicine (I am down to 1000mg of metformin twice a day). If I can completely come off the medicine and maintain my blood sugar, I will then considered my diabetes reversed.
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Old 02-28-24, 04:35 AM
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Hi there, I am a Type 2 Diabetic, managing a fairly serious medical condition by exercise and diet (Keto and intermittent fasting alone). In conjunction with a conversation with my doctor, I decide to stop taking all diabetes medication. I stopped taking meds, once my diet plus medication was actually pushing me into Hypoglycemia. I've been on this drug-free regime now for some 6 weeks now, and so far, it's working well for me. I have way better Glycemic control than I ever had on the various failed diabetes drug regimes I have been on. I wear a Freestyle Fibre 2 sensor, which gives me live blood sugar data, and also gives alarms if I am heading towards a hypoglycemic event. I do however find my energy levels low, during exercise, In day to day life I feel very well, energy levels good and cognitively alert. I would say that my FTP has taken at least a 25% hit. I can still sprint, for very short bursts. I had considered, during longer rides, using Keto compatible snacks such as mixed nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc) as fuel. I am considering that I may be able to use just my admittedly excess body fat, as my fuel source on these longer rides? Your thoughts please and your own Keto cycling experiences would be gratefully heard. My first sportive for this year, 2024, is the New Forest Classic, in April, with easy to moderate hills, and I will only be doing the 100K route. 7 Years ago I successfully managed my diabetes for some 5 years on a Keto / Caveman style diet, but I would disregard the diet during events, reverting back to complex and simple carbs during a ride. However, my diabetes severity and insulin resistance has increased with age, so I am loathe to mess with my body and poison it with carbs just for the sake of riding in sportives and socials, etc. I really don't want to fall off the Keto wagon and end up going back to a life of suffering carb cravings and uncontrolled diabetes again. I think one of the best things about on Keto is not being hungry all the time. Have you any experience of conducting longer rides on Keto only? Would I just keep myself topped up on fluids during the ride, and take rest stops, when blood sugars drop too low, to allow my body's Ketosis to catch-up and carry on converting energy from fat? Arguably, as a type 2 diabetic, my conversion of energy from glucose will always be relatively poor, compared to a non-diabetic, due to high insulin resistance.

IMO You cannot reverse type 2 diabetes. I don't care what Dr Michael Mosely says! You can however reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and have your blood sugars in the normal band, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, bits falling off you, and all the other nastiness associated with T2 diabetes. I have faced the fact that I will also be prone to adverse effects from a complex carb diet. This is from personal experience. I now consider carbs to be toxic to my body and the way it works (or doesn't), I reduce my carb input as much as I reasonably can.

Last edited by Shredhead757; 02-28-24 at 05:16 AM.
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Old 02-28-24, 05:06 AM
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Originally Posted by mennace
should i just blow off the carb diet for the long rides?
I would do this. Work out roughly how many calories you need for the long ride (eg Strava will give you a good idea) and then eat/drink approx half of those calories with simple carbs as you go along. If you are riding at a fast pace then consuming more than half your calorie burn is actually pretty difficult anyway. For example if you were burning 500 calories an hour then eating/drinking 250 calories an hour is a good target. That would be typically 1 bottle of carb drink or an energy bar etc. You wonít gain any weight either. In fact you will lose a little in the process.

If you are riding at an easy pace then you need far less carbs and can rely more on fat burning. You donít need to top up your fat reserves when riding, they are effectively infinite. So donít even think about processed dry meat as an energy source!

Shorter rides (sub 2 hours) donít really need much carb fuelling. I just drink water and maybe a single gel at around the 45 min mark if Iím doing a 2 hour ride at a fast pace. Otherwise nothing unless I feel the need.
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Old 02-28-24, 06:46 AM
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I rode 2 years either fasted or low carb. On longer rides over 20 miles or so just take a break long enough for your body to replenish energy stores from fat. One thing to be aware of is that it takes time to become adapted to burning fat as fuel. The first week I went low carb I hardly had energy to walk across the yard. Your body will go into full ketosis which needs to be tested by either a breath meter or strips you pee on. Once you are fully into ketosis you are burning fat for fuel. 3 months in ketosis and the mitochondria of every cell will actually change its form to more efficiently utilize fat as fuel. At that point you shouldn't have much trouble riding all day without fuel other than your body fat.

Our distant ancestors didn't have to refuel every hour while expending great amounts of energy hunting game for their next meal. If humans couldn't sustain high energy levels without constant refueling of carbs the human race would have perished long ago.

I like sardines for a snack while riding long distances, but I like to stop at a store to eat them, they are too smelly to carry the empty tin

Last edited by RH Clark; 02-28-24 at 06:50 AM.
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Old 02-28-24, 09:01 AM
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Old 02-29-24, 05:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Shredhead757
Hi there, I am a Type 2 Diabetic, managing a fairly serious medical condition by exercise and diet (Keto and intermittent fasting alone). In conjunction with a conversation with my doctor, I decide to stop taking all diabetes medication. I stopped taking meds, once my diet plus medication was actually pushing me into Hypoglycemia. I've been on this drug-free regime now for some 6 weeks now, and so far, it's working well for me. I have way better Glycemic control than I ever had on the various failed diabetes drug regimes I have been on. I wear a Freestyle Fibre 2 sensor, which gives me live blood sugar data, and also gives alarms if I am heading towards a hypoglycemic event. I do however find my energy levels low, during exercise, In day to day life I feel very well, energy levels good and cognitively alert. I would say that my FTP has taken at least a 25% hit. I can still sprint, for very short bursts. I had considered, during longer rides, using Keto compatible snacks such as mixed nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc) as fuel. I am considering that I may be able to use just my admittedly excess body fat, as my fuel source on these longer rides? Your thoughts please and your own Keto cycling experiences would be gratefully heard. My first sportive for this year, 2024, is the New Forest Classic, in April, with easy to moderate hills, and I will only be doing the 100K route. 7 Years ago I successfully managed my diabetes for some 5 years on a Keto / Caveman style diet, but I would disregard the diet during events, reverting back to complex and simple carbs during a ride. However, my diabetes severity and insulin resistance has increased with age, so I am loathe to mess with my body and poison it with carbs just for the sake of riding in sportives and socials, etc. I really don't want to fall off the Keto wagon and end up going back to a life of suffering carb cravings and uncontrolled diabetes again. I think one of the best things about on Keto is not being hungry all the time. Have you any experience of conducting longer rides on Keto only? Would I just keep myself topped up on fluids during the ride, and take rest stops, when blood sugars drop too low, to allow my body's Ketosis to catch-up and carry on converting energy from fat? Arguably, as a type 2 diabetic, my conversion of energy from glucose will always be relatively poor, compared to a non-diabetic, due to high insulin resistance.

IMO You cannot reverse type 2 diabetes. I don't care what Dr Michael Mosely says! You can however reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and have your blood sugars in the normal band, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, bits falling off you, and all the other nastiness associated with T2 diabetes. I have faced the fact that I will also be prone to adverse effects from a complex carb diet. This is from personal experience. I now consider carbs to be toxic to my body and the way it works (or doesn't), I reduce my carb input as much as I reasonably can.
T2, low carb, no meds here - at it for 5 years now.

This regimen has put the T2 into complete remission, good luck on your journey and stick with it!!!

You can reverse T2 - absolutely. I've done it via very hard work and strict diet. I can now eat carbs without any issues. BUT - BUT BUT BUT - you can absolutely put it back into a forward gear and end up right where you started. The key words are reverse vs cure. You can't cure it - but you can put it into remission or "reverse". And no - not everyone can do it.

As for energy on low carb:
-It took me the better part of a year to get comfortable riding on a low carb/keto diet. It took about that long for my body to become fully fat adapted and efficient.
-I had many failures on the bike in that time period.
-Once fat adapted, low intensity rides are fueled by the stored fat in the body. You can seemingly ride forever at low intensity levels.
-High intensity levels require carb supplements. I find 30-40 grams per hour cover my needs.

-High intensity training sessions - 3x10 or 2x20 FTP intervals, 4x3 VO2 max internals - you need carbs. I will add a few hundred carbs the on the days of my high intensity workouts.

Stick with it - its a long road... but it can pay off in the end.

My choices were a life of insulin, finger pricks, oral meds and the typical poor outcome - or low carb and hard work. The choice was easy - but not easy to execute.
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Old 02-29-24, 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Jughed

-High intensity levels require carb supplements. I find 30-40 grams per hour cover my needs.

-High intensity training sessions - 3x10 or 2x20 FTP intervals, 4x3 VO2 max internals - you need carbs. I will add a few hundred carbs the on the days of my high intensity workouts.
This is the bottom line if performance is on your agenda. As an experiment the other day I did a relatively long, unfuelled (water only) ride in Zwift (2 hours) and then hit the Alpe at the end. I felt totally fine until I got halfway up the Alpe and then I suddenly lost all my top end power. Where I would normally be holding a steady 250W and putting in 280W efforts on the steeper ramps, I was suddenly struggling to hold 200W and felt flat as a pancake. Normally I would fuel a ride like that with at least 1 energy bar or carb bottle and a couple of gels for good measure. I didnít actually go as far as bonking, but my power was certainly limited after 2 hours riding fairly hard without carbs.
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Old 02-29-24, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
This is the bottom line if performance is on your agenda. As an experiment the other day I did a relatively long, unfuelled (water only) ride in Zwift (2 hours) and then hit the Alpe at the end. I felt totally fine until I got halfway up the Alpe and then I suddenly lost all my top end power. Where I would normally be holding a steady 250W and putting in 280W efforts on the steeper ramps, I was suddenly struggling to hold 200W and felt flat as a pancake. Normally I would fuel a ride like that with at least 1 energy bar or carb bottle and a couple of gels for good measure. I didn’t actually go as far as bonking, but my power was certainly limited after 2 hours riding fairly hard without carbs.
Yep. I did the 4 horsemen on zwift a few weeks back. I did the first 3 climbs at 220-240, radio tower at 300... eating only a small amount of carbs throughout.

Hit the Alpe at the 2:45 mark, which I did previously at 240-260, and completely exploded. 180 all the way up, total slog. Felt like complete poo... If I was on the actual climb, I would have been calling Uber to come get me.

But I can do metric centuries (62k) on The Big Ring at 200w with nothing but water and get off the bike feeling just like I did before I started.

I probably needed 60-80 grams per hour on the 4 horsemen vs the 20-30 I was consuming.

Edit: for shred head and others thinking of low carb.

I'm only adding carbs and heavy training for some upcoming planned rides - French Alps being one of the planned rides... Like I just said with my 4 horsemen ride on zwift, which is a good virtual training ride for days in the Alps - you absolutely need carbs and training. And the problem going from low carb to moderate or high - digestive issues. You don't want to bonk on the bike, especially in the middle of the mountains. Nor do you want GI issues!!!!

You don't want to be bonked out or pooping off the side of a cliff when 25k into the Galibier!!

For 95% of my other typical riding, limited to no carbs are required.

Last edited by Jughed; 02-29-24 at 07:23 AM.
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