In search of the next high carb superfuel for the Peloton

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The pro peloton is looking for more carbs than ever before, and the nutrition brands that partner cycling’s elite are scrambling to keep up.

Carbohydrate sports scientists are locked in a race of their own to discover new ways to deliver unprecedented levels of carbohydrates to athletes in the fastest and most efficient way possible.

There is a kind of arms race at the moment,” joked Tobias Christensson, head of nutrition at Maurten. Velo.

“We’re definitely seeing a trend for others to follow what they’re doing, looking to deliver more carbs, more easily, without any stomach issues.”

Thaddeus Pogar, Jonas Vingegaard, Mathieu van der Poel and the rest of the WorldTour race with radical new carb solutions that maximize their energy stores to levels not previously thought possible.

Riders are able to consume twice as much carbohydrate as a decade ago, and that translates into faster races and more intense competition.

And it’s a trend that carries over across the endurance world, from marathons and ultra-running to triathlons and cross-country skiing.

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Brands such as Maurten, Precision Fuel and Hydration, Enervit and Science in Sport are working with partner teams to answer cycling’s constant call to carb cycling.

“Five-six years ago, there were 60 grams per hour as the maximum for carbohydrate intake, then it was 90, and now it’s 120,” said Astana-Kazakhstan coach Vasilis Anastopoulos. Velo.

Since these extra high carb drinks and gels have been introduced, we have seen really positive impacts on riders. It’s a real game changer. Maurten was the first to do it, and many others are now following him.”

Teams become test studies as companies search for the next breakthrough in the growing sports nutrition market.

And the record pace peloton proved that high carb is where it’s at.

Last season saw the release of double-strength gels by Maurten and 226ers, Precision’s mega-carb drink mix and the Pogaar-endorsed Enervit range that boosts sugar and minimizes stomach issues.

There are many more examples in what is becoming the carb cold war.

Any brand without its own mega-carb solution risks being left behind by both professional peloton partners and the increasingly demanding amateur market.

Get with the ‘carb revolution’ or get left behind

Froome used early prototype science in Sports ‘Beta Fuel’ in his infamous attack on Finestra. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Maurten and Science in Sport opened up the world to extra-high-carb fuel when they developed new ways to navigate the “GI distress” that can derail an athlete when a sugar rush hurts their stomach.

The hydrogel transporter mechanism used by Maurten and the refined glucose:fructose ratio in Science in Sport’s “Beta Fuel” blew the doors off what athletes thought was possible and allowed them to compete harder than ever before.

“Beta fuel, Maurten and this whole new era of nutrition have brought us the capacity to fuel better, with better absorption and oxidation efficiency.” These products do not cause nausea and promote the desire to continue eating, said Ineos Grenadiers nutritionist Aitor Viribay Morales Velo.

You used to be able to fuel 120 grams an hour, and people did, but it was much more difficult. For example, you may have needed five or six gels. It was hard to stomach and hard to tolerate, mentally. Now it’s much simpler and safer.”

Beta Fuel drink mix was developed by Science in Sport and Team Ski ahead of Chris Froome’s infamous attack on the Colle delle Finestre at the 2018 Giro d’Italia.

Froome’s super-efficient, stomach-safe nutrition strategy was the cornerstone of the 80km solo escape that sank Simon Yates and is remembered as one of Froome’s greatest days.

We wanted a fueling strategy that was practically easy to implement, as opposed to unwrapping food when the race was going to be pretty intense. Consuming more carbohydrates from liquid would be a more practical solution on really high-intensity days,” former Team Sky nutritionist James Morton said of the Beta Fuel development process.

In the time since then, nearly every nutrition brand with a stake in elite endurance has released its own high-carb hay gel or super-strength drink mix.

Enervit and 226ers have worked with UAE Emirates and Movistar during the development of their new product ranges, Precision has collaborated with Lotto Dstni for a powdered drink launched this summer, and 6D is in a constant feedback loop with Soudal Quick-Step. The examples seem endless.

“Consuming 100+ grams of carbs per hour is the new norm in the pro peloton,” said Dave Colley of Precision Fuel and Hydration. “We have adjusted our range in recent years to make it easier to achieve these higher numbers.”

Bicycle racing is becoming more and more a thrilling competition.

Any team or nutrition partner that doesn’t keep pace with the modern “carb revolution” will be left behind.

What’s next in the world of super sugar?

What will be the next breakthrough in nutrition? It will probably all come down to carbs. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The question is how far can things go?

Professional cyclists, triathletes and ultra runners break the upper limit by eating more than 120g of carbohydrates per hour in competition. That’s almost double what was considered safe for the stomach just ten years ago.

Experts believe that this new threshold of 120 g of carbohydrates can be exceeded and that a new dietary norm will be established.

But as long as some continue to struggle to ingest much more than 80g per hour, something that significantly hampers their hopes of success, nutrition brands will continue to look for faster and easier ways to serve up sugar in a way that suits every athlete.

Some in the industry believe that wild new product innovation will be the basis of the next breakthrough, while everyone else suggests marginal development.

From space-age automatic dosing mechanisms to products refined for use in extreme heat or altitude, the carbohydrate industry is looking for methods to serve sugar in the simplest and safest way possible.

But no matter how far things evolve, one thing won’t change.

It will all come down to carbohydrates, the macronutrients of speed, strength, power… and athletic success.

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