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Ask Nigel Mitchell: The high fat or high carbohydrate diet debate

Over on our Facebook page, we asked you to put your questions to Nigel Mitchell, Performance Nutritionist for Cannondale Drapac Pro Cycling Team. Here is the first in a series of answer from the expert.

What are your opinion’s on the high carbohydrate vs high fat diet debate?


“This is a really simple one for me, this is about what is the job you are expecting the body to do. When in a race situation like the Tour de France, probably with in a normal stage the body is using predominantly fat as an energy source. However, when the speed really ramps up your body is using more carbohydrates. So the way we are looking at feeding in a race like this, is that riders will be consuming carbs throughout but in the first half of the race they tend to eat more solids foods like the OTE Duo Bars, small paninis or homemade rice cakes. When the pace is faster it is products with fast release energy like Energy Gels that are used. During the mountain stages, the types of products used can be a bit more intermittent, dependent on the stage profile.  Ultimately it really is about the job you are doing.

If you are going out for a steady bike ride for a few hours you really don’t need to take on many carbohydrates. A mistake some people makes is that they don’t realise that even when you are doing very steady state exercise your body is still using some carbohydrates; your body is just not using quite as much. The harder the work, the greater the demand. You can’t look to what other people are doing. If you are riding in a group with mixed ability, you could have people within that group finding the ride quite easy and for other people it could be really quite hard. So rule of thumb is work out the training zones you are working in. When working in zone 3 and above you are burning much more carbohydrates and there fore need to replenish them whilst riding.”

Posted in: General, Nutrition Advice

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