Stage One: Fueling Before
Since we’ve long known that muscle rich in glycogen (carbohydrate) generally produces improved performance , the next step was understanding the most effective way to maximize glycogen levels in the muscle and liver.
This research led to the discovery of “supercompensation”; the body’s ability to rebound from low levels of glycogen, by later driving higher levels of glycogen storage in muscle .
What came of this research was carb-loading protocols, as seen below.
In short, early carb-loading (as seen on the left of the image) began with exhaustive exercise, followed by a few days of a low-carb diet, then finished up with a high-carb diet in the days leading up to a competition.
While these strategies boosted glycogen storage, they also came with downsides like GI problems, lethargy, and poor recovery .
*image from Jeukendrup, A.E. and M. Gleeson, Sport nutrition. 2019.
More moderate carb loading (as seen on the right of the image above) generates a similar boost in muscle glycogen without many drawbacks of the first yo-yo approaches [5, 6].
Moderation is achieved by incrementally reducing training volume while increasing carb intake in the days leading up to a competition.
While carb-loading may be an effective method to boost glycogen storage, is it the best way to fuel before your event?
As we shift our attention to fueling during an event, it can be helpful to begin narrowing our focus to the specific demands of our training session or event.
In a practical sense, the longer and harder a ride is, the more crucial it becomes to increase your hourly intake of carbohydrates while on the bike .
Head to page three for an in-depth look at the best carbohydrate fueling recommendations during your ride.