Slow nutrition for slow rides?

I was wondering about 3-5 hour training endurance rides. Since it is for training, should I consider eating foods that do have some protein/fiber as well as slower-absorbing carbs, since I am not looking for a glucose spike? I am not sure where the usual quick-absorbing mix would be of help when I want to avoid peaks and insulin surges, and instead draw on a pretty steady level to keep my lower carb needs met.

Am I missing something here?

Interested to hear what the experts say…

My understanding is that if you are exercising you won’t get a blood sugar spike. Different rules apply and simple sugars are no longer evil.

But I know there are products like UCAN Superstarch that claim to deliver slow release carbs for athletes so interested to hear if there is definitive science on any of this.

What @geeceee said- during exercise the same rules don’t exactly apply. Sugar is most easily absorbed into the body and is an important fuel during long rides like that of 3-5 hours. What I would consider is your carbohydrate combustion rate. That will really determine what you need to replace with, and this is contingent upon your intensity of the endurance ride. If you’re dipping your toes into the Tempo range regularly on that ride, then you can see combustion rates of >100g/hour, which is going to require a very high intake during in order to manage performance.

On the other hand, if you’re in more of an aerobic threshold effort (e.g., Seiler Zone 1, <2mmol lactate, Coggan Zone 2, etc.) there is still variability in combustion rates, but you could usually expect much smaller carbohydrate contribution, which would decrease the need to consume higher amounts of sugar.

I would consider it more about how much replacement do you need to offset your losses. Regarding the UCAN Superstarch, they actually had a class action lawsuit filed against them (that has since been settled) because the claims on the web site were not in alignment with the scientific literature and were solely based on internal data. I’ve never tried it, so can’t speak to personal experience.

Find out how much you’re burning (INSCYD is one easy way) at different intensities and then bring the appropriate number of Swedish Fish to fuel that hourly need. Just ask @trevor about his Swedish Fish or watch Chris throw fish at him in Episode 200!


@ryan You had to bring up the Swedish fish didn’t you?!

Hey, swedish fish are my favorite type of fish!

Check out Vespa at You are (or, should be, a fat-burning machine. You have plenty of fat to fuel you through a 3-5 hour endurance ride at Zone 2 pace. You may have to supplement your ride with a few carbs, but they can be liquid-based like UCAN or SPIZ.

cycling Friars? That is where your link took me :grinning:

I think he meant

Indeed. Sorry about that.

no problem, it was amusing. I looked at the site, thanks. I also looked around, having tried all sorts of bars during endurance/long tempo rides. It turns out that Mars bars have less fat than a lot of other “healthy” bars, little fiber to slow absorption, a large amount of carbs, some protein, costs about half as much, and tastes great, of course. Just bought a couple of boxes, and in my first ride loved eating them. If your type of ride makes breath rate and chewing a hassle, these go down quickly.

How much carbs you’ll want will depend on what kind power you are putting out during your endurance rides. For 3-5 hours endurance where I don’t enter any tempo zones then 15-20g of carbs once an hour works fine.

Sometimes I’ll head out with snacks for my endurance rides but I’ll just drink water to find where my limits are. How long can I go at my endurance pace without eating before it begins to impact my performance, and how does it manifest itself as the ride progresses? I don’t have a power meter outdoors, so go off my HR and RPE. Probably not something the coaches would recommend, but since I ride ultra endurance rides, I think it is worth knowing what it feels like when you’ve under fuelled and the effects you see. Then during an actual event you can recognise the signs early and deal with it before it becomes an issue. This isn’t every endurance ride, just now and again, maybe once every couple of months.

On the note of protein and fat. I’ve read somewhere that digesting protein and fat takes a lot longer than carbohydrates. Thus if you want to get the carbs in as fast as possible try and avoid too much protein and fat. I tend to eat the majority of protein once I’ve finished an endurance ride in the 3-5 hour duration.

I normally eat a very low-sugar diet. I’ve felt much better on long slow rides eating food with some protein and fat, and fewer simple sugars. Homemade rice bars, potatoes, dried fruit, nuts, etc. It seems to give me a steadier energy level without spikes and crashes. For packaged food I’ll take something like a RX bar. I usually drink something like Skratch so that’s giving me some sugar.

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