• Mark Turnbull

Fuelling On The Bike - Are You Getting Enough?

Carbohydrate intake is a perpetually hot topic in the field of sports nutrition. So if you’re wanting to ride further or faster, understanding your carb requirements is essential.

Carbs Before a Ride

  1. Carbs should comprise around 55-65% (6 to 10 g/kg of body weight/d) of your diet If you’re significantly under this range you might want to rethink your daily food choices.

  2. Start topping off your glycogen stores by consuming 200-300g of carbs in a mixed macronutrient meal, 3-4 hours before a race.

  3. Eat 50-75g of carbs 30-60 minutes before your race.

  4. Right before (<5 minutes) a race, knock down another 30-50g of carbs. This will give you a safety net if you find it difficult to eat while riding.

Carbs During a Ride

While eating carbs before riding helps to top off glycogen stores, during exercise carbs serve to maintain blood glucose levels. In simple terms, the more carbs you absorb while riding, the more punch you’ll have for a final KOM attempt or sprint for the line. So how many carbs exactly?

It Depends

Optimal carb intake depends on the intensity and duration of your ride. The harder and longer you ride, the more carbs you need. It’s easiest to think of carb intake on a continuum. Here are several general targets.

Carb Recommendations for Cycling

  • Ride between 30-75 minutes = Small amounts

  • Ride around 2hrs = 30g/hr

  • Ride around 2-3hrs = 60g/hr

  • Ride over 2 1/2hrs = 90g/hr

At carb intakes over 60g/hr, your carbs must come from “multiple transporter” sources. In simple terms, you need fructose in addition to glucose and/or maltodextrin in a roughly 2:1 glucose/fructose ratio. Example: 60g glucose and 30g fructose to fully absorb 90g/hr.

Putting it all together

These are general recommendations, not black and white rules. Furthermore, you have to train your gut to maximise carb absorption. Increasing your carb intake on the bike won’t happen overnight.


  • Eating carbs before and during a race is essential to maximizing performance.

  • Identify the intensity and duration of your ride/race to dial in your carb-fuelling strategy.

  • Practice your carb fuelling approach. Train your gut to maximise carb absorption during rides.

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