Nutrition

Making sense of sugars for Endurance sports

Endurance athletes need to consume a high-carbohydrate diet to provide the body with the necessary fuel when training and racing. However, research has shown that the use of a glucose and fructose mix can enhance the availability of carbohydrates and improve performance in endurance sports, specifically cycling.

A glucose-fructose mixture is simply a combination of glucose and fructose. These two sugars can be absorbed by the body through different transporters, which means that when consumed together, the body can take in more carbohydrates than when consuming either sugar alone. This increased carbohydrate availability is thought to improve endurance performance.

Studies have shown that using a glucose-fructose mix during exercise can enhance performance in endurance sports. One study found that cyclists who consumed a glucose-fructose mix during a 2-hour ride had a 8% improvement compared to those who consumed only glucose. Another study found that cyclists who consumed a glucose-fructose mix during a 100-km time trial improved their performance by nearly 4% compared to those who consumed only glucose.

One theory as to why glucose-fructose mix is effective in improving endurance performance is that it allows the body to use carbohydrates more efficiently. During exercise, the body uses glycogen stores as a source of fuel. When these stores are depleted, fatigue sets in, and performance decreases. Research has shown that when glucose and fructose are consumed together, the body can use the carbohydrates more efficiently, potentially delaying the depletion of glycogen stores and reducing fatigue.

It is important to note that the optimal ratio of glucose to fructose in a mixture is not yet clear. Further research is needed to determine the most effective ratio. However, current recommendations suggest a ratio of 2:1 glucose to fructose for optimal absorption.

In conclusion, the use of a glucose-fructose mix during endurance exercise, specifically cycling, can enhance carbohydrate availability and improve performance. As with any nutritional strategy, it is important to experiment and determine what works best for each individual athlete.

How to put this into practice?

The amount of carbohydrates an athlete should consume on a bike ride depends on the duration and intensity of the ride. Here are some general guidelines based on recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine:

For rides lasting less than an hour, carbohydrate intake is not necessary as the body’s glycogen stores are sufficient to fuel the ride. There is no harm in fuelling if you are in a hard training block or are going into the workout depleted.

Rides lasting 1-2 hours, 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour is recommended to maintain blood glucose levels and provide energy for the muscles.

For rides lasting 2-3 hours, 60-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour is recommended to sustain endurance performance.

For rides lasting more than 3 hours, 90 grams or more of carbohydrates per hour is recommended to prevent fatigue and maintain endurance performance.

It’s also important to consider the intensity of the ride. During high-intensity efforts, the body may not be able to tolerate as much carbohydrate intake. It’s important to get your body comfortable to taking in carbohydrates on the bike in training. You don’t want to get to race day and experience gastrointestinal issues. 

It’s important to note that each individual’s carbohydrate needs may vary depending on factors such as body size, fitness level, and training goals. We recommend to experiment with carbohydrate intake during training rides to determine what works best for each individual.

A great energy product that we sell is Secret Training Big Energy. We have some in stock now. Big Energy offers 94g per bottle, so for those longer rides and races it is ideal. Kinetica Energy is also great and offers 41g per serving. It is perfect for the shorter sessions up to 2 hours.  They both have a mix of sugar sources in their recipe. 

Secret Training Big Energy

Kinetica Energy

Can we help?

At AeroFin Performance, our cycling coaching packages include individualised nutritional plans tailored to each athlete’s specific needs and goals. Our Coaching packages start at £80 per month and include personalised coaching, nutritional advice and performance testing. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you reach your cycling goals.

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