Stage One: Fueling Before

Since we’ve long known that muscle rich in glycogen (carbohydrate) generally produces improved performance [2], 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 [4].

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 [1].

*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?

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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 [1].

Head to page three for an in-depth look at the best carbohydrate fueling recommendations during your ride.

You can also return to the introduction, or skip to fueling after.