Should women carb load before a long ride?

We hear the term carb loading quite a bit in cycling, but should we be doing it too?

I've had a great question asked in my inbox this week:

"I've got a long group ride this weekend which I’ve been looking forward to as part of my training. I'm currently day 2/3 of my bleed. And it’s a heavy one….. Recently I’m bleeding quite heavily for a good 5 -6 days.
So I really want to get the nutrition right to avoid hitting the wall!
What should I be eating/drinking over the next 1-2 days (if carb-loading isn’t ideal) specifically for this point of my menstrual cycle?"

This is a brilliant question!

Absolutely, carb loading just doesn't work for women. The protocol was developed through testing on male cohorts. Our female sex hormones mean we metabolise carbohydrates differently. Where women say it does work for them, they were more likely in calorie deficit and they just felt better for eating.

Ok, so, ALWAYS, you need to make sure you are fuelling any activities you do in the week. This means consuming enough calories for your basic bodily functions (approx 1200-1500kcal), your normal daily activities (200-600kcal), plus enough to cover calories burned during exercise (use a heartrate monitor for an estimate of calories burned on the app or device you use to record your workouts and rides). You've heard me say this 100 times already, QUALITY protein (Becca 😉💪🏽) is essential for making real progress, supporting your training, aid recovery, and maintaining muscle mass as we get older. This should be around 30g per meal and after training, or 40g if you are Peri or Post Menopausal.
Stay hydrated with a minimum of 2 litres a day, PLUS about 500ml per hour of moderate to hard exercise.

This should be what you are doing all the time anyway. It doesn't need to be very different before a long ride. You could possibly drink a little more, especially during the summer, but it is also possible to overhydrate.
When you start menstruating you enter the Follicular Phase of your cycle. During these 1 to 2 weeks you are a little more reliant on carbohydrates for energy. This doesn't mean reaching for the gels or energy drinks! Still opt for real food energy sources, on and off the bike, just have a little more than you do in the Luteal phase, the 1 to 2 weeks before your bleed starts, where you are better at using lipids (fat) for energy.

I guess fluid requirements maybe affected by a heavy bleed too, and the extra carbs will need a little extra fluid to digest, so, yes, ensure you keep on top of your hydration.

This will be a great opportunity for you be more mindful of what you're eating and drinking, and reflect on what worked and didn't work. If you get home and find you need to eat everything in the kitchen that doesn't need cooking, then that's a sure sign you didn't eat enough. Another sign you didn't eat enough is a slow recovery. If you are still fatigued 24 to 48 hours later, you may have spent to long in calorie deficit and hampered your recovery. If you get to the end of the ride and realise you've not needed to use the toilet at all, there's the sign that you didn't drink enough. Urine colour may not be a good indicator, as it can be affected by vitamin and other supplements, as well as what you've eaten.

Here's you homework for this week 😉 Take a listen to this podcast with Dr Stacy Sims.