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Carb loading (cycling weekly) is reckoned to be useful for exercise over about 90 minutes, so is probably a good idea for all-day riding. Done properly you're taking on extra carbs starting 36--48 hours before the event.

I've seen some advice online but it's all from gel/energy drink manufacturers, so biased towards their products and away from proper food.

So: How does this translate to multi-day riding? Or in more detail:

  • Is it as simple as starting loading 48 hours before the first leg, and taking on as much as you can during/between the rides?
  • Should you start fuelling earlier in the first leg than you would if the next day was a rest day?
  • Should dinner in between be heavy on the carbs to partially refuel, or contain plenty of protein for recovery?
  • Is it very different to fuelling the same distance in a single ride

Example (though the question is meant to be a general one):

For rides of a century (160 km) or more I attempt to do it properly rather than just scoffing a big plate of pasta the night before. For shorter (e.g. 100 km) rides I might or might not bother. A week from now I've got a 100 km ride on the Saturday afternoon followed by 200 km on the Sunday. I'm not planning to set any PRs and it's not going to be hilly but for the first and last 100 km I'll be loaded for camping, so I reckon on 5--6 hours door-to-door the first day and 11-12 the second. I have a reasonable tolerance for gels, but get on better mixing them with real food.


A couple of related questions:

  • Heavy on the carbs and plenty of protein aren't mutually exclusive, of course. – David Richerby Apr 20 '18 at 15:20
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    @DavidRicherby that's true. In this case I'll be good and hungry, but it would be good to know what to prioritise. – Chris H Apr 20 '18 at 15:24
  • Please clarify - is your event a high output race or is it a tour? I find both my digestion and throat shut down and sulk after a hard-effort 4-5 hour race, so eating anything more than gels and icecream is difficult. If you're touring, there will be more rests and easier access to food so this won't be an issue. – Criggie Apr 21 '18 at 0:45
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    @Criggie closer to a tour in theory, at audax pace. I reckon on over 5 hours for the first day's 100km, while a hard effort for me would be well under 4. – Chris H Apr 21 '18 at 6:42
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Summing up the comments, advice received elsewhere, and experience having tried it:

  • Hydration is just as important. You don't want to start the second day even slightly dehyrated (which you wouldn't notice sat at a desk, so may nopt be expecting if you're used to single-day rides). Start rehydrating as soon as you finish the first ride, even if you think you don't need it.
  • A proper dinner on the night in between rides (carbs and protein) and a proper breakfast (carbs). If you're starting a hard effort early, you may have your own approach to breakfast.
  • Do try to keep carbs topped up on the first day, whether this is by proper food or gels. The choice is likely to be a matter of preference and ride type.
  • Carry more gels/sweets/energy drink than you think you'll need on the second day, and/or be prepared to stop and buy something.
  • I've written this to sum up what I've learnt, and so the question doesn't stay unanswered. I'd rather accept a better answer from some one with more experience of such things. I found the second day pretty tough, but a stiff headwind for most of the last 100km (with big panniers) didn't help with that. A broken rear shifter cable reducing me to a 3-speed for 70km until I could get a replacement might have tired me out more than normal too – Chris H Apr 30 '18 at 21:08

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