How a pro maximizes carb intake at the world’s biggest events.

By Larry Warbasse

INTRODUCTION

Endurance sports have gone through about as many nutritional waves and trends as the general population has – in the 12 years I have been a pro, I’ve done tried low fat, low fiber, low carb; I’ve tried recovery shakes in place of lunch, fasted rides, protein shakes in my bottles, even bottles full of bulletproof coffee.

The latest wave, though, is one that is here to stay. And that is fueling. Fueling well. Fueling with about as many carbohydrates as your body can handle.

A RISING TIDE…

It’s a trend that began around 2018-2019, with some research in ultra-distance mountain runners showing that the runners who fueled with 120g/h of carbohydrates performed better and saw better recovery from the race.

From there, it took some time before further research was completed; but in the interim, us pro cyclists started to up our carb intake. It used to be 60g/h. Then it went up to 90 if you were getting really crazy. And finally the last few years, we have been consuming 120g/h in about every hard race we participate in. Some guys are even pushing it further now.

…LIFTS ALL PERFORMANCE

Without a doubt, consuming such high levels of carbohydrates has been a game changer in racing. It gets you to the finish fresher, with more energy in the tanks, and more power in your legs to finish the day off strong. It helps you recover when you have hard days back to back in both training or in stage races. It allows us to put up with a higher workload over the course of the season. And consuming such high levels of carbohydrates is made significantly easier by having a high carb drink to consume. It’s why I’m so excited about First Endurance’s high carb EFS-PRO.

CHO A LA LARRY

On the most intense days, liquid calories are my go-to on the bike, as that’s the quickest and most efficient source of carbs. When the race is really on, sometimes you only have the time to take a slug from a bottle or knock back a gel rather than fiddling with a wrapper or choking on a bar or rice cake. So having a few bottles of high carb mix makes it infinitely easier to hit your fueling targets for the day, and if it’s a race of 5+ hours, that means upwards of 600g of carbohydrates! (Thankfully, we aren’t just sitting on the couch while downing that!)

I find starting off hard training days with two bottles of high-carb mix on my bike sets me up perfectly for the day ahead. If it’s warmer, it’s potentially all I will consume, but if it’s colder outside, I will consume a mix of a high carb drink mix and either gels or homemade rice cakes.

In really intense races – like the mountain stages of grand tours – I usually start off with one bottle of high-carb mix, one bottle of normal mix, and a whole ton of gels in my pockets. Then we will usually have a feed bag in the feed zone with another bottle of high-carb mix and normal mix, as well as more gels.

On slightly less hard days of racing, I do like to mix up my nutrition choices – often by adding some bars or chews in addition to the typical gels we consume. While at home, I often make some rice cakes; recently, I have also been making some “carb cakes” as I like to call them: essentially a homemade cake that is almost purely carbs and very little of anything else. I use applesauce in place of oil and maybe just throw in some chocolate chips for taste. According to my training partners, they’re actually pretty good!

FUELING = TACTICS

Since fueling has now become a sport within our sport, having multiple options on how to consume our carbs has become more and more important. It’s why I’m so excited that First Endurance produced the high carb EFS-PRO. We now approach every race with both a tactical strategy and nutritional strategy – it’s become that important – and once again, First Endurance has made it even easier for us to achieve our sporting goals.

December 26, 2023 — First Endurance

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