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Why aiming for 120g of carbs per hour is a mistake

Aug 04, 2022

 

This statement may be seen as controversial - but if I don't say it, then who will!??

Putting my Advanced Sports Dietitian's hat on, I can tell you that aiming for 120g of carbs an hour is a mistake!

And let me tell you why...

For the majority of you, it is a mistake, because you're not going to be able to tolerate that level of fueling.

  • The research (a paper in 2020* that came out of Spain by Aitor Viribay and his colleagues) was done with elite athletes, under very specific testing conditions. It's great research but not necessarily applicable to the average age grouper.
  • Intestinal absorption is the rate limiter - you can consume it, but it's of no value if your body can't absorb it and the longer you're out there for, the more things will back up in your gut.
  • If you are going to aim for 120g of carbohydrates an hour you need to build up to it, systematically and strategically, to avoid gut issues - nausea, fullness, slushiness, vomiting, diarrhea. You have to slowly train your gut to deal with that, absorb it and oxidise it for energy.
  • Unless you are doing back to back races and have little time to recover (like the competitors in the Tour de France or the Giro), you don't need this.
  • If you want to step your fueling up above 60 grams of carbs an hour, you have to rely on multiple transportable carbohydrates. The glucose channel maxes out at 60 grams an hour, so we need to rely on other types of carbs and sugars to increase our fueling beyond that. 
  • Before you even try to be elite in your fueling during training you need to get the foundations nailed first - periodise your day to day nutrition, learn to dial in your recovery nutrition - Triathlon Nutrition 101. 

To hear more about the research, how it applies to you, and what you need to consider before looking to hit the 120g carbs per hour target, listen to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy Podcast, EP 53 – Why aiming for 120g of carbs per hour is a mistake

 

LINKS

* Link to original paper (for some light reading :-)): https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/5/1367

Viribay A, Arribalzaga S, Mielgo-Ayuso J, Castañeda-Babarro, Seco-Calvo J, Urdampilleta A. Effects of 120 g/h of Carbohydrates Intake during a Mountain Marathon on Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Elite Runners. Nutrients 12(5), 1367, 2020. doi: 10.3390/nu12051367. 

 

If you want to start your Triathlon Nutrition 101 journey, join the waitlist for our next intake of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy in September.

 

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