Female triathlete cycling in a triathlon race.

Carbs Per Hour in Cycling


Fueling while on the bike in a triathlon is essential for having not only a good bike, but also having energy to run fast off the bike. One key aspect of fueling for cyclists is understanding the concept of “carbs per hour.” In this article, we will explore the importance of carbs in cycling performance, delve into the ideal carb consumption rate, and highlight various types of carbs that cyclists can incorporate into their diet to enhance their performance on the road.

The Role of Carbs in Cycling Performance

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body, particularly during high-intensity exercises like cycling. They provide readily available fuel for the muscles and help maintain glycogen stores, preventing premature fatigue. When it comes to cycling, consuming an adequate amount of carbs is crucial for optimal performance. 

Carbs Per Hour in Cycling: Finding the Sweet Spot

Determining the right amount of carbs to consume per hour while cycling is essential. However, the ideal quantity can vary based on factors such as intensity, duration, and individual metabolism. As a general guideline, most cyclists aim to consume 60-90 grams of carbs per hour during prolonged rides. This range helps sustain energy levels and delays the onset of fatigue. In the 2023 Tour de France, athletes are taping their nutrition plans to their bike handlebars to make it easy to consume fuel at regular intervals on the bike.

Different Types of Carbs for Cyclists


Glucose is a simple sugar that is easily absorbed by the body and serves as the primary fuel for muscles. It is found in various foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. Consuming glucose-rich foods or supplements during cycling helps maintain blood sugar levels and provides sustained energy.


Fructose is another natural sugar found in fruits, honey, and some vegetables. It is absorbed differently than glucose, utilizing a separate pathway. When combined with glucose, fructose can enhance carbohydrate absorption, allowing for a greater overall carb intake. Cyclists can consider incorporating fructose-rich snacks, such as dried fruits, to optimize their fueling strategy.


Maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate derived from starch. It is easily digestible and provides a rapid source of energy. Maltodextrin is often found in sports drinks, gels, and energy bars, making it a popular choice for cyclists during intense rides. Its ability to provide a quick energy boost without causing gastrointestinal distress makes it a reliable carb source.

Complex Carbohydrates: 

While simple sugars are vital for immediate energy, complex carbohydrates should not be overlooked. Foods like whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes contain complex carbs that provide a steady release of energy over a more extended period. Including these foods in pre-ride meals can offer sustained fuel for cyclists. To dive deeper into pre-race carbohydrate loading, check out our article on carb loading before a race.

Sports Nutrition Products: 

In addition to natural food sources, cyclists can rely on specialized sports nutrition products designed to optimize carb intake. Energy gels, chews, bars, and electrolyte drinks often contain a blend of different carbohydrates, including glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin, providing a convenient and efficient fueling option during rides.

Final Thoughts

To maximize cycling performance, understanding the concept of carbs per hour is crucial. Consuming an adequate amount of carbohydrates during rides helps maintain energy levels, delay fatigue, and enhance endurance. Incorporating various types of carbs, such as glucose, fructose, maltodextrin, and complex carbohydrates, allows cyclists to customize their fueling strategy based on their needs and preferences. Experimenting with different carb sources and finding what works best for individual performance is key. Remember, practice your fueling strategies in training, and never try anything new on race day. To build out your full triathlon nutrition plan, check out our article on Nutrition for Triathlon.

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