First of all, you need know the difference between fueling versus carb loading.
Always fuel yourself with carbs before any ride. This is standard because carbohydrates are the easiest type of fuel for your body to use, and it can be utilized when energy demands are high. So when you need to pick up the pace, or hit it hard going up a hill or on a sprint, carbs are your friend.
Now for loading…
Carb loading is something that happens over the course of a week in prep for a big event or long ride. It is meant to maximize the carbs your body has in storage. To put it simply, go on a long ride to deplete your body’s carb stores. After the ride, hit up the never ending pasta bowl and keep your carb intake high all week while tapering down your rides. Your body will build it’s carb storage and make you last longer without hitting the wall.
So if you are considering a carb load, ask yourself 2 questions.
1. Am I conditioned to do a long ride? – If you don’t have the legs to keep your pace for a long ride, then your limiting factor is likely your conditioning. Loading will help with fuel, but your legs will probably give out before your fuel does.
2. Is my ride long enough to need a carb load. – We are all different. Based on genetics and level of training, we will burn through fuel at different rates. It is pretty safe to say that if you are going to ride at high intensity for 2 hours or more, you will need at least a good fueling before and during the ride. The longer and more intense the ride gets, the more beneficial a load would be.
Now you are fully equipped to decide whether or not you are in need of a carb load.