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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 05-09-13, 09:41 AM   #1
WonderMonkey
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Riding on empty stomach

If I was wanting to burn energy from the best places (pre-stored, fat cells, etc) what are your thoughts on riding on an empty stomach first thing in the morning?
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Old 05-09-13, 10:05 AM   #2
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I'm been eating an 1800 max diet for several months and I've been playing around with food timing. I haven't found breakfast to make a difference one way or another. What I have found is the day before a high intensity workout that moving 200 calories of carbs to dinner helps me go harder the next day. Another thing I've found is a banana ASAP after a workout is about the best way to lessen any post workout feelings of depletion.
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Old 05-09-13, 10:29 AM   #3
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I think those are good thoughts and many people follow that. What I don't want to do is in pursuit of one day's gain I make the next ineffective. I think that all depends on how far you push yourself, etc.

My thoughts are that I want to use the energy stored in fat as quick as possible. I also want my body to work hard to recover. What I DON'T want is to push that too far and not be able to ride the next day, etc.
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Old 05-09-13, 10:32 AM   #4
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if it's a short sub 1 hr ride, then I'd think that is fine in the morning then have a decent breakfast when you're done. Anything in about the 2hr range I start to feel it power/strength wise. Try it out for a couple weeks and see how the body feels, what you THINK and what your body DOES can be two different things.
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Old 05-09-13, 10:33 AM   #5
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I think it's a bad idea, from personal experience only. I did a short ride once on an empty stomach, I bonked pretty quickly. I don't know for sure it was because of that, but since I'll have at least a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat toast before I head out. If I do bonk, or feel sluggish it's much later in the ride.
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Old 05-09-13, 10:34 AM   #6
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I think those are good thoughts and many people follow that. What I don't want to do is in pursuit of one day's gain I make the next ineffective. I think that all depends on how far you push yourself, etc.

My thoughts are that I want to use the energy stored in fat as quick as possible. I also want my body to work hard to recover. What I DON'T want is to push that too far and not be able to ride the next day, etc.
When I commute, I don't eat until I get to work (distance anywhere from 3 to 10 miles). I don't have any problems doing this, but I'd listen to your body carefully. Bonking is bad* and can ruin your day.

* "Bad" is probably over-stating it. If you ride too far and bonk, you've learned something. I would just try to avoid it...
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Old 05-09-13, 10:37 AM   #7
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if it's a short sub 1 hr ride, then I'd think that is fine in the morning then have a decent breakfast when you're done. Anything in about the 2hr range I start to feel it power/strength wise. Try it out for a couple weeks and see how the body feels, what you THINK and what your body DOES can be two different things.
My commute into work is between an 1 and 1.24 hrs depending on "things". I may try it and see how the body feels, as you mentioned.
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Old 05-09-13, 10:39 AM   #8
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I think it's a bad idea, from personal experience only. I did a short ride once on an empty stomach, I bonked pretty quickly. I don't know for sure it was because of that, but since I'll have at least a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat toast before I head out. If I do bonk, or feel sluggish it's much later in the ride.
Some of that may be what you eat the evening before. Or not.

I like to punish my body as much as possible yet not do damage or impact the mid or long term goals. My ride in is no concern. I'm thinking of the ride home and the next day. If I find myself over-eating to make it through then I've lost any potential benefit.
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Old 05-09-13, 10:40 AM   #9
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I hate doing anything on a completely empty stomach--it just seems like I have a sour stomach, I get nauseated a bit faster, and I leave more room for heart burn. Usually its just a sour feeling. When I commute to work, I eat a couple of hard boiled eggs or a peanut butter (no jelly) sandwich an hour before I head out.
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Old 05-09-13, 11:17 AM   #10
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As you can see from the conflicting personal anecdotes, it depends on you. You're going to need to experiment and find out what works for you. Also, what is your purpose in riding and how does this effect it?

For me, my objectives are performance oriented. I can ride hard (race, training, whatever) for up to 2-1/2 hours without eating prior utilizing my blood glycogen stores (I suppose I could last longer if I went slower, but I haven't tried it). In fact, I have found that if I eat closer than 3-hours to my start, I can bonk badly. (Haven't figured out a physiological explanation, but I figure it has something to do with: eating "turns on" my digestive "engine" and convinces my body to get its energy needs from there. If I don't keep it coming, my body begins to shut down thinking I don't have any more.)

If I know I will be riding longer than that, I will take food with me and start eating it after the first hour. I aim for about 200-400kcals/hr--any more and it sits in my stomach and makes me feel poor. This equates to 2-3 gels (110kcals/ea). This is entirely inadequate for my cycling energy needs (900-1,000kcals/hr). Hence, why I can bonk if my system relies entirely on energy from what I eat. As opposed to relying on what I have stored (blood glycogen, at stores, or muscle stores).
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Old 05-09-13, 11:44 AM   #11
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Like many other things "it depends", but it is something that you can train your body to do better (utilize stored fat).

I don't have endurance cycling experience to relate (yet), but as a beginning runner last year it was fascinating for me to see how my body changed in its utilization of energy sources.

At the start of my longer (i.e > 10K) running about this time last year, I needed to fuel before hand and fairly frequently during my long runs. I typically followed the recommendations of clif/Gu and was consuming about 100 calories of fuel 15 - 20 minutes before the run and then about every 45 minutes (approximately 3.75 - 4 miles for me) during the run. If I didn't do this, I would bonk very quickly around the 1 hour (5 mile) mark.

Slowly, my body became better at using stored fats - the metabolism actually gets better at using the energy stores.

By the end of summer/early fall, I had moved my weekday runs - averaging about 1 hour - to early morning before breakfast and I was used to just getting up, dressing in my running gear and stepping out the door. I never had problems on those 1 hour runs with energy at that point.

By November, I was at the point that 90 minute runs no longer needed extra fuel at all.

Longer than that and I will add fuel before/during the run. I also will fuel before and during a race as I am going harder during the race than during normal training runs, but for typical workouts I don't worry about fuel much at all any more.

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Old 05-09-13, 01:27 PM   #12
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for a normal 1 to 2 hour workout it is fine. Longer, harder rides will have your body protesting.
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Old 05-09-13, 02:34 PM   #13
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I usually go for "spirited" rides in the morning that last 45-60 minutes depending on how much time I have. I never eat before I go and only bring something about 100-150 calories with me and eat it only if I feel necessary. And by spirited I mean 16-18 MPH average moving speeds on a 30 year old steel frame.

And when I go for longer rides, several hours or 20 miles plus, I usually eat something light and bring stuff with me. Recently I have been training my body to rely on it currently stores versus what is in my stomach. My wife is amazed at how I can ride for 40+ miles and eat very little before and after. I usually don't get hungry until about an hour after a long ride and then my body just wants to rest, that is when I replenish the stores, and then go about my day.

I do know if I eat heavy either right before I leave, or the night before, I feel sluggish and heavy on my rides. For instance, this week I had pizza (probably too much) the night before I planned on riding. So I got up and did a spirited 13 mile ride about 5-6 hours after I had eaten (didn't sleep a lot I know) and felt and rode sluggish. Nothing incredible about the ride other than I was up and moving with such little sleep and operated throughout the day normally.

However 2 mornings later I was up and in the same amount of time, so about an hour, I did 15 miles afterward and felt great. I had no breakfast, a small 100 calorie snack on the ride about 30 minutes in, and had a healthy dinner the night before. Same thing the following day morning ride, in fact I was on par to do more miles in the hour window I was riding but I got up 15 minutes too late so I was limited to 45 minutes.

And I commute to work on a bike about 10 miles round trip.

But I agree with everyone else, its up to your body. I have never been big on breakfast at all.
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Old 05-09-13, 03:22 PM   #14
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My daily rides are typically 60-90 min rides in morning. I have found that if I don't eat at all I get nauseated, eat too much and I'm sluggish. I usually eat half of a PBJ on my way out the door and then when I get back a banana smoothie.
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Old 05-09-13, 03:56 PM   #15
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When I was commuting (about one hour each way) I always rode on an empty stomach, and had beakfast when I got to work. This seemed to me to be the best strategy, both in terms of conditioning myself to be a fat-burner and of recovery - one should get some protein and carbs in after a workout. Never came close to bonking or feeling exhausted.
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Old 05-09-13, 05:29 PM   #16
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I will happily stand corrected on this, but I'm pretty sure I recall that if your body goes into a starvation mode kind of phase, like can happen if you workout with no fuel in the tank, your body will choose to eat at the muscle before it will attack the fat. When I have on occasion tuned into the Biggest Loser TV show, I have seen the trainers going crazy on people thinking they can workout without taking in the calories. You need the fuel for your body to work to smash the fat.

For me, if I'm riding for any longer than an hour first thing in the morning, I will usually have a muesli bar or something else before I ride. If I don't, that time frame after the hour is up can be well and truly down on output.
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Old 05-09-13, 05:50 PM   #17
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I do my morning 11 mile commute on an empty stomach without issue. When doing any ride longer than an hour, I start with a half a PBJ and a banana about 20 to 30 minutes before I start.
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Old 05-09-13, 06:27 PM   #18
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What do pros, who race for a living, eat before a stage? That should be the starting point of any inquiry on pre-ride nutrition.
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Old 05-09-13, 09:12 PM   #19
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for a normal 1 to 2 hour workout it is fine. Longer, harder rides will have your body protesting.
I'm thinking along these lines.
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Old 05-09-13, 09:15 PM   #20
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I will happily stand corrected on this, but I'm pretty sure I recall that if your body goes into a starvation mode kind of phase, like can happen if you workout with no fuel in the tank, your body will choose to eat at the muscle before it will attack the fat. When I have on occasion tuned into the Biggest Loser TV show, I have seen the trainers going crazy on people thinking they can workout without taking in the calories. You need the fuel for your body to work to smash the fat.

For me, if I'm riding for any longer than an hour first thing in the morning, I will usually have a muesli bar or something else before I ride. If I don't, that time frame after the hour is up can be well and truly down on output.
I think this is true but what I have found helps this is a product called Catalyst.
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Old 05-09-13, 09:16 PM   #21
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What do pros, who race for a living, eat before a stage? That should be the starting point of any inquiry on pre-ride nutrition.
Their objective is different from mine. They want performance and recovery. I want to burn as much fat as possible while minimizing any downsides. I want it all! Their body weight is at or near exactly what they want and obviously mine is not.
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Old 05-09-13, 11:43 PM   #22
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For me, I can go 2 hours on an empty stomach without a problem. Beyond that, the rest of the day is terrible if I do not eat before the ride. Listen to your body, but the theme is pretty consistent from reading the responses of others.
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Old 05-10-13, 02:30 AM   #23
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What do pros, who race for a living, eat before a stage? That should be the starting point of any inquiry on pre-ride nutrition.
Pros are seeking to maximise their performance. Most of them couldn't be less interested in losing weight.

It is really difficult to eat for weight loss and train intensively for racing, because being in calorie deficit usually results in some degree of glycogen depletion, which makes it more difficult to hit the levels of intensity required in interval training.
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Old 05-10-13, 05:47 AM   #24
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Pros are seeking to maximise their performance. Most of them couldn't be less interested in losing weight.
Indeed, I'm willing to bet that many pros are trying hard to not lose weight. They have their body fat where they want it and they don't want to lose any muscle. A different regime than most of us...
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Old 05-10-13, 07:20 AM   #25
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Some of that may be what you eat the evening before. Or not.

I like to punish my body as much as possible yet not do damage or impact the mid or long term goals. My ride in is no concern. I'm thinking of the ride home and the next day. If I find myself over-eating to make it through then I've lost any potential benefit.
This was my mind-set last season. I wanted to ride every day. I'm 56 so I don't know how well this relates but I believe one of the reasons I craved sugar was to replenish glycogen. My problem was that I overdosed and switched off the leptin feedback. 100 calories from a banana ASAP probably gave me 90% of the benefits of 1000 calories of cheesecake 10 hours later. (I rode mainly in early mornings and craved in the evenings.) Another mistake I made was riding at medium intensity all the time. I wasn't recovering fully enough to be able to go really hard like once a week. I would think that the discipline to take 2 hours most days for a ride you could do in an hour would be tough.
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