Are low carb training plans a thing of the past: The GCN Show

Dan Lloyd and Si Richardson look at race fuelling strategies and why low carb training plans might not be all that we thought they were

Clock20:00, Tuesday 23rd January 2024

There has been plenty of discussion and opinion over the years as to the role of a low carbohydrate diet when it comes to training and performance in cycling.

On one side, there’s the view that cycling without carbs can have a detrimental effect on performance and potentially an individual's overall well-being in the long run. On the other hand, there are plenty of pro cyclists who have implemented low-carb or fasted diets into training plans seemingly to their benefit.

Indeed, our own Dan and Si were encouraged to follow it at certain points in their career – although how much of the associated benefits they managed to reap remains to be seen.

Perhaps, most notably it was adopted by Team Sky when they were at their most successful during the 2010s, with Chris Froome often pretty open about the fact he was training on low carbs - even during a rest day of the Tour de France in 2016 that he then went on to win.

The basic idea behind low-carb training is that it’s supposed to make your body more efficient. It encourages you to use fat as fuel, saving valuable glycogen stores and making carbohydrates an even higher octane fuel when dipped into during a race.

Nevertheless, as Dan and Si discuss in more detail, recent research has effectively debunked that theory. The study carried out by Gorka Prieto-Bellver, followed 17 ‘highly-trained’ male cyclists who were split into groups of those using restricted carbs and those on a high-carb training program. The basic conclusion was that there was no discernible difference between the two groups. So the benefits we thought could be gained from fasted training seemingly aren't there at all.

This is significant because it means there’s no real need to take the risks that are involved with the diet, like complete rider burnout, for the associated performance gains. After all, there doesn’t appear to be any of note.

A low-carb diet is the reason Dan cites for his recent performance against reigning Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard and reigning Vuelta a España champion Sepp Kuss in a highly contested Zwift challenge. Well highly contested by Dan at least. If you want to know the outcome of that one check out the video here and here’s a little snippet to whet your appetite.

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If you're looking for a little motivation to keep active through January you don't have to go to the lengths that Dan did. You can still get involved in our 30 in 30 challenge which is running throughout January. We have Zwift events you can take part in, hosted by our presenters and the beauty is that they are no-drop events you can ride at your own pace.

Elsewhere the guys look at how things don’t always go smoothly, even for the titans of cyclocross as Tom Pidcock, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert all had minor mishaps during their races at the weekend. Van Aert’s perhaps the most potentially painful of the three…

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Hacks and Bodges

On to your Hacks and Bodges submitted this week. Don't forget if you have one you'd like to share with us to be featured on the show submit it via our uploader and please remember to include as much detail as possible.

Milk Carton rear light from Alex

Alex tells us that at first he thought this might be an attempt at a mudguard, but then realised it was joined onto the rear light. It remains to be seen whether this then makes the carton glow red or not, so hard to say how effective it is.

Groupset spotlight from Paul

Paul found that when he rides after dark he struggles to see what gear he's in. To avoid cross-chaining and see what gear he was in, he mounted a pen flashlight with rubber bands to the right-rear chain stay. The picture shows the result.

Camera mudguard from Peter

This is a solution for anyone running a seatpost-mounted camera during muddy, wet riding conditions. To keep it protected and then be able to see the collected footage properly, Peter has come up with the camera mudguard. Sleek, yet still big enough to prevent the mud get onto the lens.

Everesting clock from Andy

Andy recalls fondly when he was into 'Everesting' and fitted a hideously big sprocket to get up the steepest hill on the Mendips in the UK 42 times. Well, he doesn't do that any more and instead has turned the sprocket into a clock.

Coming up on the channel this week*

Wednesday 24 January: How not to be annoying on a group ride

Thursday 25 January: Manon Lloyd looks at how the menstrual cycle affects your riding

Friday 26 January: Alex Paton takes his ultimate crit bike to some super fast crit races in Adelaide, Australia

Saturday 27 January: We do some sweat testing with the GCN presenters to see why some get so dehydrated at races

Sunday 28 January: Alex Paton rides with Tiffany Cromwell and Valtteri Bottas in Adelaide.

*Video schedules are subject to change

Did you know: You can now listen to The GCN Show as a podcast. That means you can still get all the insight from the latest episode of the GCN Show without actually having to look at Dan and Si at all, if that's ever been an issue for you. Search for "Global Cycling Network" on your chosen podcast provider.

GCN's The Cyclist’s Cookbook: Food To Power Your Cycling Life
GCN's The Cyclist’s Cookbook: Food To Power Your Cycling Life

The Cyclist’s Cookbook brings together 67 of Nigel’s most-loved delicious and nutritious recipes from a hugely successful career at the cutting edge of performance cycling nutrition in an accessible, practical and inspirational celebration of food, cooking and cycling culture for every cyclist. Within its 244 pages, The Cyclist’s Cookbook covers the fundamental principles of how to fuel your cycling – alongside insights into ingredients, cooking, equipment, and more – The Cyclist’s Cookbook brings together everything that any cyclist could want: easy to make but incredibly tasty everyday meals and snacks; indulgent celebration dinners and treats; pre-ride, on the bike, and post-ride recovery food and drinks, through family favourites, time-crunched, healthy and nutritious ‘fast’ food – and everything in between. The wide range of recipes in The Cyclist’s Cookbook reflects carnivore, omnivore, pescatarian, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets and demands, all wrapped up with Nigel’s wealth of WorldTour knowledge, advice, and insights that will help you take the guesswork out of powering your cycling life, every day. “Nigel’s experience will help you eat and ride better” — Si Richardson, GCN Presenter Product Details: Pages: 244 (120gsm) Size: 246mm (h) x 189mm (w) Cover: Paperback Cover Finish: 280gsm, with anti-scuff matte laminate and spot UV gloss finish Weight: 700g approx. Please note: There may be some additional shipping charges for orders consisting of 2 or more books. However, our customer service team will contact you after you have placed the order to advise on delivery options. Click here to explore all GCN best selling books

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