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4.1 Carb Loading or Bowel Cleansing

January 21, 2014

A Ride To Hawi...

Well, that was interesting.

The other day, when I rode to Hawi and back, about 106 miles,
I did my usual fueling, hydration, etc and things seemed to go well until about Waikoloa, on the way back.

I found I was getting a bit tired, after 80 miles, that's to be expected, but several things were a bit unusual:

  1. It was great that Gu and Gatorade seem to be effective after about 2-3 minutes.
    There I am, slogging along, I have a big drink or eat a Gu (with 8-10 oz of water) and, almost immediately it seemed), I could feel the energy in my legs, my speed crept up, hills were easier, etc.
    => great to have a supporting Stomach Curmudgeon and no work for the Osmotic Police or the Sodi(um) Jerk.
  2. But I was feeling a bit dehydrated and then, about 3 miles from the Condo while pushing up a minor hill, my right quad Mule wanted to curl into a ball (i.e. a cramp)!  My left big toe muscle/tendon that goes back to the heel, was whining about it too!
    => well hydrated, electrolyted, fueled and cramps??  WTF?

Then, that night, every hour on the hour, I deposited water in the toidy.
My weight, at the end of the ride was X, my weight in the morning was X-4%!  That's a huge amount of water to "deposit".

Dehydrated With Lots Of Fluid?


  1. my Mules were cramping due to dehydration
  2. water/fuel/electrolytes were moving beyond the Stomach Curmudgeon
  3. the fuel was being absorbed
  4. the water was not being absorbed

WTF?  Why wasn't the water be absorbed?
Were my bowels "plugged" so the water didn't more far enough to be absorbed well?

Carb Loading vs A Bowel Plug?

This experience shed new illumination and perspective on the well know BKM of "carb loading".

Doing a bit of web search from a "keeping the bowels open" and remembering my colonoscopy experiences :-(, I found a couple of interesting quotes:
" The last day of your carbo loading will be centered on simple carbohydrates,.."
"If you’re prone to stomach issues on race day, you may consider staying away
from high fiber meals (salads) within 48 hours of your race day."
" Loading is usually done starting 3 days prior to the event."
".. she never ate a very big meal the night before a marathon, as it usually
would give her trouble the next day. She preferred to eat a bigger lunch..."
".. Be sure that you carbo-load, not fat-load..."
Minimize fibre-rich food.."
"  It’s also a good idea to wake 3 hours before your race to eat a high carb breakfast..
This allows your body time to process your fuel, excrete any unused portion,..."
"<<<make up/recite your own personal experience on the wonderfulness of carb loading>>>"

Carb Loading, Sarb Loading, Mostly Foolishness?

When I think about the body and fuel storage, it is very clear that

  1. the fuel stores keep themselves full (unless stupid things happen)
  2. the excess fuel is snarfed by the Fatty Piglets
  3. without replenishment, it's all gone in an hour or so...

So, what is with this "carb loading" thing for events longer than 6 hours?

Not Carb Loading, It is Digestive Clearing!

So, what if the actual value/effect of "carb loading" is about the same as the bowel cleaning for a colonoscopy? (by the way, the Doc let me eat Gu and Gatoraide the day before, it has little to no residue!  Could have gone for a bike ride :-)

That would explain a number of my experiences:

  1. in 2008, my first successful "STP in one day", I had a energy bar and water on the bus ride up, spaghetti with simple tomato sauce for a 3pm dinner, and then a scone and coffee for breakfast
  2. in 2011, when I bombed on Rush Hill Rd, 115 miles in, I had had a huge 3pm dinner: burger, fries, milk shake, pie with ice cream desert, etc.  Starting about 50 miles I was dragging and got to Centralia an hour behind my needed time.
  3. On the Hawi ride (and others), I had had a normal afternoon dinner and pop corn in the evening.

Bottom line:
with clear digestion: 200 miles OK, with non-empty: 100 miles is pushing it!

Explains "Carb Loading" Behaviors

The certainly explains why Carb Loading is so popular and why the "research" is so fragmented.
They are doing something, with good effect but the rationalization is garbage!

So, for my next long rides, I will make sure that my food the day before is:

  1. sufficient - not trying to starve myself, keep my energy level up
  2. low on "high digestion time" foods, very low after noon!
  3. and breakfast? It should digest/pass on in 2 hours or so.

Bottom Line:

OK, it seems pretty straight forward:

  1. Fat Piggys who fuel you while you ride
    always retire at 65 (%Max Heart Rate)
  2. if the ride is short (< 1 or 2 hours) do whatever
    use stored fuels
  3. if the ride is interesting (2-3 hours) don't eat a heavy breakfast
    need to process fuel, bit of water
  4. if the ride is longish (> 4 hours) clear the decks!
    need to process fuel, absorb water/electrolytes
Keep the bowels open unless you want a !!FAIL!! at STP!

Recent Commentaries
in Mud Splats Book

STP:MudSplats - March 14, 2017
2.5  A Long Distance Ride
STP:MudSplats - June 20, 2015
4.5  Hydration Bowel Cleansing
STP:MudSplats - February 25, 2015
4  Fueling
STP:MudSplats - February 25, 2015
4.4  NYT - Fats or Carbs?
STP:MudSplats - February 24, 2015
4.3  WSJ - Ease Up On Water
STP:MudSplats - June 28, 2014
4.2  Fattening Up The Greedy Piglets
STP:MudSplats - January 21, 2014
4.1  Carb Loading, Sarb loading!
STP:MudSplats - May 24, 2013
2.4   Of Aerobars
STP:MudSplats - May 17, 2013
2.3   Gu'y Wonder Legs!
STP:MudSplats - April 10, 2013
2.2  Of Tires and Rims Strips
STP:MudSplats - April 09, 2013
2.1  Checked Your Tires?
STP:MudSplats - April 08, 2013
2  Bike Experiences
STP:MudSplats - February 09, 2013
3  Bike Technique
STP:MudSplats - February 09, 2013
3.1  Shoulder Slalom
STP:MudSplats - April 05, 2012
1  Introduction:Mud Splats on my bike

Mud Splats

1   Introduction:Mud Splats on my bike
  April 05, 2012
2   Bike Experiences
  April 08, 2013
2.1   Checked Your Tires?
    April 09, 2013
2.2   Of Tires and Rims Strips
    April 10, 2013
2.3    Gu'y Wonder Legs!
    May 17, 2013
2.4    Of Aerobars
    May 24, 2013
2.5   A Long Distance Ride
    March 14, 2017
3   Bike Technique
  February 09, 2013
3.1   Shoulder Slalom
    February 09, 2013
4   Fueling
  February 25, 2015
4.1   Carb Loading, Sarb loading!
    January 21, 2014
4.2   Fattening Up The Greedy Piglets
    June 28, 2014
4.3   WSJ - Ease Up On Water
    February 24, 2015
4.4   NYT - Fats or Carbs?
    February 25, 2015
4.5   Hydration Bowel Cleansing
    June 20, 2015
Carpe Diem: What you can envision, you can achieve!sm
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