Ultra Endurance RecoveryLet’s talk recovery. The weather is stellar in most of the country meaning you likely abandoned your (unexciting) base mile training plan and are going a little harder than you should, yes?  The Tour de France is a grueling event because it is so hard to recover from one stage to the next. That’s why teams employ various tactics to rest their GC riders in the slipstream of the peleton on easier days and tend not to hammer each and every day. Conventional wisdom in endurance racing circles holds that the glycogen window is the penultimate opportnity for replenishing glycogen stores. The recovery story goes something like this:

  • You race hard and deplete your glycogen levels (stored glucose in the liver, blood and muscles)
  • You know that glycogen synthesis happens 2-3x faster in the 30 minute window immediately following that hard race or workout so…
  • You take in carbohydrates immediately after exercise to replenish those glycogen stores.

All sounds good but what about stage races like the Tour de France, TransAndes, BC Bike Race and hard microcycle workloads that are specifically designed to stress the body and force adaptation? Replenishing glycogen stores in the glycogen window is a bare minimum for recovery in these environments.

You actually need to be thinking about recovery while on the bike because full glycogen recovery takes between 24-48 hours. So at best it’s a deficit management exercise to stay with the pack day after day and be competitive. At worst the paceline drops you leading to the big climb at the end of the last stage in a tight race. So what to do?

Look for energy sources that contain Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates, ideally maltodextrin and fructose, so you can start to recover for the next stage, while racing. In addition to helping prevent central fatigue, research shows that introducing additional BCAAs during both light and intense training can increase muscle protein synthesis after exercise – which will help muscles recover and be ready for the next day’s training or racing.  And combining maltodextrin and fructose will allow greater absorption of carbohydrate during exercise compared to maltodextrin alone – resulting in less glycogen utilization, and decreased requirement for glycogen resynthesis after exercise , ie. better recovery.

This is why Roctane products have BCAAs and a ratio of complex to simple carbohydrates to aid in recovery during and after intense or very long efforts. Replenishment of glycogen stores during the glycogen window is likely not enough to achieve peak performance day after day after day in ultra endurance efforts.


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