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Endurance Cycling – How to Make Carbo Loading Work For You

The body can only absorb so many calories per hour while on the bike. If you can increase the amount in the system before an event, you will increase the time you can go before running out of gas. Learn how to carbo load in a simple effective way to improve your long distance endurance.


The idea of carbo loading has been around for a long time but people have a hard time understanding how it works. The key is to deplete the muscles in the week before the event and the in the window immediately after you will ingest extra carbohydrates so the body stores more then it usually will. There are many different approaches to this but I suggest one that is easy to follow and yields big gains in glycogen storage.


As you should be reducing your training load (tapering) before a big event, carbo loading is easy to integrate into your program. If your event is on Sunday, you want Wednesday to be your depletion ride. Ride for 60 minutes at an aerobic pace. Then finish the ride with 3 minutes at an all out pace (120-130% of your functional threshold power). Then do a 10-15 cool-down. You only want to be drinking water during this workout.


Now is when the carbo loading starts. Over the next 4 hours you want to consume 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. A 150 pound rider would need to ingest 300 grams of carbohydrate (1200 calories from carbohydrate). Spread it out every 15-30 minutes. This can be food, energy drink or gels. Your body will retain 10-20% more carbohydrate in the muscles than usual with this protocol. I usually suggest starting it off with a recovery drink that has 80 grams of carbohydrate and 20 grams of protein immediately after exercise.


On the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, limit your riding to a maximum of 60 minutes per day in the aerobic zone (70-75% of your functional threshold power). For most riders, I recommend one of those days to be a full rest day. One the days leading up to the event you want to make sure your diet is high in carbohydrate with moderate protein and healthy fats.


By having the single depletion ride and reduced workload the body will store extra carbohydrate thereby increasing the time you can ride a given pace before running out of fuel. In addition, even with carbo loading, you still need to take in calories on the bike for long events lasting longer than 3 hours. With the extra muscle glycogen you will hold more water in the muscle cells which means you will start the event a couple of pounds heavy but as it progresses the water will be released as the carbs are burned. The extra stored fluid will delay time to dehydration in hotter weather as you can never drink enough to replace all the water you sweat out. When you carbo load the legs can sometimes feel heavy the morning of the event but you will have more energy once you get going. This feeling is normal and not anything to worry about under usual circumstances.


It’s in you to become a better cyclist. Helping you get there is my number one goal. Equipment, riding skills, fitness and nutrition all have to be dialed in to reach your potential. To take your next step on that journey visit http://www.cyclecambridge.com

 

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