I am just starting to up my training on the bike and I need some help with nutrition. I am planning on doing some bigger event rides next year, one 60k and one 100k. I am fine with the training part of it, but the more I read about how to eat the more confused I get.
So, I have read The Cyclist's Training Bible by Joe Friel. He is pretty paleo, and the food and diet sections are written by Cordain, I believe. Friel explains that 90-95% of training for riding should be done at a low exertion level, ie <75% of lactic threshold. This is in the fat burning zone. The other 5-10% should be really hard training, such as hills and sprints.
So my questions are based around the paleo nutrition for the two different training methods.
Low effort - I plan to 4 rides a week for about 2-2.5 hours each at a low pace. As this is in the fat burning zone, should I eat carbs beforehand (riding after work, eat rice with my lunch) or can I do this on fat alone (coconut oil before ride)? Or should I do both? That Paleo Guy has written that you can ride at a fairly low impact without eating carbs, he has a coconut cream and berry smoothie. Is this optimal? What about fasted to increase fat burning ability?
High effort - I have some pretty amazing hills on my door step, so 1 ride per week in the hills for 2.5 hours, consisting of flat, and medium to high level hills, up to 12%. If I plan to do this on Sunday, I am definitely going to have carbs, but how much? Should I have starch for the night before, and something for breakfast? I like to ride really early in the morning and normally fast until lunch time. I understand that this is probably not going to work, so do I need to eat before the ride or would eating starch for dinner the night before be enough? I should have a huge carb feed when I get back, right?
Sorry that this is a pretty long and complex question, so I appreciate any answers.
Note, I appreciate that someone will say "you need to experiment and find what works for you, N=1". Thats fine, but I want to know what works for people, so I have a headstart.
I don't think you need 4x/week of slow efforts. You're wasting a lot of time doing that. Check out the way they structure training at crossfit endurance. It's a little tricky to translate if you're new to the site but I'm happy to help you out with any confusion.
I also agree with the high fat/moderate carb for cyclists. My fat burning zone is better than most people would even admit as being possible as a result of a few years of paleo eating.
To specifically answer your questions, as a cyclist I've found the carbs work well both before, during, and after your hard rides. On the easy rides, I eat low-moderate carbs with a lot of fat and don't need to eat anything during the ride if it's under 3 hrs. I like smoothies (avocado, berries, 3-4 raw eggs, coconut butter, regular butter, shredded coconut) before rides or meat/eggs/veggies types of meals with a good amount of fat.
You should also check some of the older threads here regarding cycling and nutrition.
I cycle to work 8 miles each way and recently did a 50 mile ride (ate ~700 calories during the ride I'd guess, about 50/50 carbs/fat). I eat <100g carbs a day in general and have never had issues. I also ran the Tough Mudder recently (10 miles all over a ski mountain) and had no hunger or fatigue issues. So that's what works for me. I've been following strict paleo for about 2 months.
The fact of the matter is that you can't burn fat anaerobically, so once you exhaust your phosphate, ATP, and creatine phosphate systems (takes about 30 seconds) your muscles will be performing glycolysis to generate energy anaerobically. You're likely the best judge of when you're hitting that point.
Eating a bunch of carbs right before you do high effort training is likely counter productive because it will increase insulin secretion, thus decreasing both blood glucose and FFA concentrations in your blood and further starving your muscle tissue of nutrients. If your glycogen stores are low and you regularly eat low-carb, starches the night before should be sufficient in filling your glycogen stores. You'll have to try it out and see.
You may also be interested in trying a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (google it). Ideally, you want your muscles to be glycogen-sparing, but have the glycogen when they need it, which that diet supposedly provides. I haven't been able to find any real studies supporting it's actual efficacy in practice, but the components of it have some scientific backing.
Just to add my two cents. I eat pretty strict high-fat Paleo and don't use any extra carbs for rides shorter than two hours anymore. Even the hard rides are OK as I can rely on glycogen for at least 90 minutes usually.
On long, fast rides (rare), I'll bring along maltodextrin to mix with water as needed. A long, low-intensity ride can be completely fat-powered, just avoid anaerobic excursions. Spin up the hills.
I would not ride 5 x 2 hours a week, though. Too much might put your heart at risk, among other problems. Better to get in one or two HIIT sessions and a heavy weight lifting session or two.
If you want to lose fat, you should definitely not eat any carbohydrates before the low intensity rides. If it becomes a problem, then the intensity wasn't low enough. You'd want your glycogen stores topped off before the intervals though.