To determine the upper limits of steady-state exercise performance and carbohydrate oxidation late in exercise, seven trained men were studied on two occasions during prolonged cycling that alternated every 15 min between approximately 60% and approximately 85% of VO2max. When fed a sweet placebo throughout exercise, plasma glucose and respiratory exchange ratio (R) declined (P less than 0.05) from 5.0 +/- 0.1 mM and 0.91 +/- 0.01 after 30 min (i.e., at 85% VO2max) to 3.7 +/- 0.3 mM and 0.79 +/- 0.01 at fatigue (i.e., when the subjects were unable to continue exercise at 60% VO2max). Carbohydrate feeding throughout exercise (1 g/kg at 10 min, then 0.6 g/kg every 30 min) increased plasma glucose to approximately 6 mM and partially prevented this decline in carbohydrate oxidation, allowing the men to perform 19% more work (2.74 +/- 0.13 vs. 2.29 +/- 0.09 MJ, P less than 0.05) before fatiguing. Even when fed carbohydrate, however, by the 3rd h of exercise, R had fallen from 0.92 to 0.87, accompanied by a reduction in exercise intensity from approximately 85% to approximately 75% VO2max (both P less than 0.05). These data indicate that carbohydrate feedings enable trained cyclists to exercise at up to 75% VO2max and to oxidize carbohydrate at up to 2 g/min during the later stages of prolonged intense exercise.