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Training & Nutrition Learn how to develop a training schedule that's good for you. What should you eat and drink on your ride? Learn everything you need to know about training and nutrition here.

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Old 11-13-03, 03:40 PM   #1
rippo
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my ride and Atkins

i know the whole Atkins thing has been discussed ad nauseum, and quite forcefully too. i'm not trying to start up another round of "it's bad for you!", "it's good for you!". i just want to share my experiences, especially how it relates to cycling endurance. this is a long email, but i want to be precise.

at the beginning of the year, i started the Atkins diet. i was then about 205 lb. i was on it for two months or so, and initially lost 5 pounds but then soon gained it back. i feel i did a pretty good job at sticking to it, however my two 'modifications' were not giving up diet coke (nutrasweet/aspartame) and not giving up coffee. i found that i was hungry more than i thought i'd be, and i would have full meals plus three Advantage bars and other snacks throughout the day.

as for exercise, i ran a little...five miles, two or three times a week.

anyway, i gave up the diet and immediately gained 10 pounds!

so in june i took up cycling, bought a road bike and have (after working up to it) been doing 70-90 miles per week, about 1/3 of that some serious hills. i'm in much better shape as a result, and my cardio capacity is much improved. heck, my calves even look all muscle-y!

but i didn't lose any weight. even gained a pound. yeah i know, i probably lost some fat and gained some muscle, because i was definitely thinner.

recently, after reading about yet more positive studies on low-carb diets, my wife wanted to give Atkins a try, and so i agreed to give it another go. this time however, i decided to cut out the diet coke. rather than a extra-large size every day for lunch, i might have one or two per week, size small. the diet *does* specify that nutrasweet whacks out your blood sugar, making you hungry. i chose not to give up coffee however.

it's been three weeks, and my wife has lost five pounds and i've lost eleven. so that puts me at 205 now (from 216). i eat noticeably less than i did the first time on the diet, and my appetite is much-diminished. so i'm sticking with the thought that diet coke was doing me in. of course exercise can reduce the appetite as well. i'm not counting carbs this time because i know what to eat, so it's a more relaxed version.

when i went on the diet the second time, i was worried that my cycling would suffer. i read one post on this forum by someone who said his average speed immediately dropped 2 mph when he went on the diet.

so that first ride after starting the diet, i psyched myself out. i was exhausted half way into a route i do several times a week, and was sure i wouldn't finish. but then when i got home, i realized i was .2 mph under my all-time record for that route! i was tired because i was working hard, not because of any physical problem.

since then i've set new average-speed records on both my one-hour flat ride and a two-hour all-hill ride!

this i find sort of puzzling. i know the body can get energy from all three sources: carbs, fat and protein. so i was sure that i'd suffer a bit, but apparently i can burn fat well enough to keep me going, even on my longer rides.

mind you, i bring some diluted gatorade and some fig newtons on the longer ride, so i'm getting some carbs during the actual ride. but recovery has been ok, no worse than before.

if i were cycling 200-300 miles per week, or racing, i might have trouble on this diet. but heck, if i was cycling that much i probably wouldn't need to diet at all!

your results may vary! but i wanted to let people know that low-carb diets don't necessarily make your cycling suffer. but they don't always work either...even on the same person!
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Old 11-14-03, 01:53 PM   #2
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One to two hour rides are definitely do-able on the Atkins diet, especially with a sports drink and some figs. I don't think a long ride (3 to 5 hours) would be however unless you were basically eating carbs the entire ride. Which probably is not a bad think since you are hopefully burning them off immediately during the ride. I've know a couple of people that have tried a modified Atkins Diet and kept up their cycling (120 - 200 mi/week). They basically did the diet except they ate a healthy dose of carbs about 3 hours before their long rides, and supplemented their rides with some type of carb sports drink during the ride, plus some fast acting carbs while riding.

I think the main concern regarding Atkins and cycling, especially long distance or endurance cycling, is that you can actually get to the point where you body starts breaking down muscle for energy during your rides instead of fat. And that is very unhealthy. The main way to avoid this is to keep your riding at low intensity so your body has the time to use the available carbs or fat, instead of trying to cannibalize muscle.

High intensity workouts with low carbs is actually a bad thing. It might feel good, but in the end you are really burning muscle, not fat.

Good luck with the diet.
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Old 11-14-03, 02:11 PM   #3
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thanks!

one thing i've noticed is that on nights before rides where i have a salad as opposed to a meat+veg meal, i seem to do better. no doubt because i've got some extra carbs in my system. it's difficult for me to eat three hours before a ride, because i go first thing in the morning...i'm lucky if i can have an hour before pedal-time.

i've been watching for the telltale smell of ammonia, which is supposed to indicate you're burning muscle. i noticed it once on a long ride *before* i started the diet, but nothing since then. so for my relatively light riding schedule, this seems to be working.

oh and the wasteline has definitely reduced, so there's some good fat-burning going on.

my theory is that, if i'm burning 1000 calories per hour on a ride (i calculated that based on something i'd read), i can afford to put a few hundred calories of carbs into my system beforehand.
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Old 11-14-03, 02:21 PM   #4
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Yeah, I hear ya. I've been doing the same thing in the mornings and it's almost impossible to carb up 3 hours before hand. But I'm not on a diet, so I don't worry about it too much. I just bring a water bottle with Accelerade in it ( I cut it in half for taste) and that seems to me just fine. I don't usually do more than 2 hours in the mornings. I think you will be fine if you keep your rides under 2 hours and try not to just hammer the entire time. Plus, low intensity is the key to fat burning.

I would also not worry about your average mph too much. Hours riding is the bigger factor. You aren't racing anyone, so mph should not be a big deal. Plus, if you keep with the low intensity and ride longer, you'll notice a big gain in your mph when you go off the diet and begin to ride at high intensities.

The other thing that is also important is take on some carbs and protein within a half hour of finishing your rides. That is the optimum period of time to get those proteins and carbs back into your muscles so they can re-energize and heal themselves.

Good luck and it sounds like you are off to a good start.
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Old 11-14-03, 02:53 PM   #5
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i'm not sure i could do a low-intensity, long ride most of the time. well first off, i'm not sure what you're calling low intesity and whether my 'high intensity' is actually high at all. during the week i've got basically an hour of actual riding time before i have to be at work. so i tend to bust out pretty hard...can't seem to help it! on the weekends, well i usually have a hill ride and so i'm working pretty hard there too. a personal failing i guess: i seem to have only two speeds, "max" and "off". something i should work on.

i've got the after-ride snack down cold though. tomatos, cheese, a slice of ham or turkey, a little olive oil and oregano...keeps the post-recovery zonks away.
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Old 11-14-03, 10:47 PM   #6
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Just a clarification:

The Atkins diet is one specific branded diet under the heading of ketogenic diets. It has a lot more to it than just lower carbs. People throw around the brand because it has been marketed so heavily.

A low carb, medium protein, high fat diet with carbs (sports drinks etc) when under duress is called a targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) because you are trying to take in carbs at the required times.
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Old 11-15-03, 08:21 PM   #7
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i'm not sure i could do a low-intensity, long ride most of the time. well first off, i'm not sure what you're calling low intesity and whether my 'high intensity' is actually high at all. during the week i've got basically an hour of actual riding time before i have to be at work. so i tend to bust out pretty hard...can't seem to help it!
you should get a heart rate monitor and keep below about 70% effort (typically below about 140 hr). what walker said about high intensity being bad on low carbs is right on - and we as cyclists tend to have a hard time taking it easy for some reason ...
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Old 11-17-03, 02:25 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by keithnordstrom
you should get a heart rate monitor and keep below about 70% effort (typically below about 140 hr). what walker said about high intensity being bad on low carbs is right on - and we as cyclists tend to have a hard time taking it easy for some reason ...
Yes, good points. A HRM will definitely help you keep tabs on what your intensity is during the ride. And of course, there will be times when you go into high intensity (hills). I know I have a very hard time keeping my intensity down on hills, even if I'm taking it easy. I also like to go all out, especially if I'm with other riders. For a long time I would just ride almost all out... not so hard that I would burn out, but just under that so I could ride for 2 or 3 hours. But I was just bulking up on more muscle, I wasn't losing fat (or I wasn't losing as much fat as I could have been).

To ride at a high intensity (80% + Max HR, or there abouts), you need the carbs in your system, or you body will start canabilizing itself. Whereas at lower intensities (60 - 70% Max HR) your body can convert fat into energy. And your body doesn't start doing that until you've been on the bike for a while (45mins to 60 mins, depending on your body).

A hour to 3 hour ride at low intensity with a high cadence will really burn some serious fat off.
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Old 11-17-03, 06:46 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by P. B. Walker
Yes, good points. A HRM will definitely help you keep tabs on what your intensity is during the ride. And of course, there will be times when you go into high intensity (hills). I know I have a very hard time keeping my intensity down on hills, even if I'm taking it easy. I also like to go all out, especially if I'm with other riders. For a long time I would just ride almost all out... not so hard that I would burn out, but just under that so I could ride for 2 or 3 hours. But I was just bulking up on more muscle, I wasn't losing fat (or I wasn't losing as much fat as I could have been).

To ride at a high intensity (80% + Max HR, or there abouts), you need the carbs in your system, or you body will start canabilizing itself. Whereas at lower intensities (60 - 70% Max HR) your body can convert fat into energy. And your body doesn't start doing that until you've been on the bike for a while (45mins to 60 mins, depending on your body).

A hour to 3 hour ride at low intensity with a high cadence will really burn some serious fat off.
The heart rate zone idea of training is a fantastic one but the archaic principle of fat burning zones is a little off. Unless you are on a ketogenic style diet, fat burning will occur most rapidly at higher intensities. Although it is not a direct action, the indirect nature allows more muscle preservation through anabolic and little catabolic activity while consuming more energy per unit time.

Moral of the story: high intensity cardio works fantastically to shed the pounds while sparing muscle mass unless you are on a ketogenic diet.
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Old 06-10-04, 08:46 AM   #10
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Even on a ketogenic diet you can still do high-intensity workouts.. just not on the standard ketogenic diet like the Atkins diet.. There are 2 different versions that are suited for people who work out a lot.
The cyclic ketogenic diet is most suitable for weight lifters who deplete their glycogen stores little by little. It works around a 5 day ketodiet Mon-Fri of 20 g carbs/day and a carb-up in the weekend (preferably clean carbs with little fat)
The targeted ketogenic diet is most suitable for hard-charging endurance athletes who will want to carb up, right before and during their training and e.g. races. If done carefully, they can be back into ketosis right after completion of the training..

So, yes you CAN combine interval /anaerobic training with a ketogenic diet, but not with a standard one.. only with a special type of ketodiet.
Though.. if the workout doesn't last longer than e.g. 20 mins, you can get by without as your body makes approx. 100 gms of glucose every day just out of protein.. just eat more protein and you're fine.
OTOH, it is a bit spendy to use protein as a source of glucose, so ingesting approx. 100 gms of carbs/day and work out hard at the same time, looks like a good idea.

At least in my training days, I'd typically eat around 50-100 gms of carbs on non-training days and 100-150 grams on training days.
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Old 06-10-04, 05:28 PM   #11
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I just don't get it -losing weight must be easier for me than other people. I ride bike about 5-6 hrs. per week and I lose weight- 35 lbs so far and I have done this three times in my life. Three of the rides are in hilly areas and the long ride on weekends (2 to 3 hrs) is a little less strenuous (maybe) and the lbs come off. I did quit snacking and drinking beer and I've never been a soda man, I feel luckly.
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Old 06-10-04, 06:10 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by oldspark
I just don't get it -losing weight must be easier for me than other people. I ride bike about 5-6 hrs. per week and I lose weight- 35 lbs so far and I have done this three times in my life. Three of the rides are in hilly areas and the long ride on weekends (2 to 3 hrs) is a little less strenuous (maybe) and the lbs come off. I did quit snacking and drinking beer and I've never been a soda man, I feel luckly.
You are lucky!

How old are you?

As i get older it gets harder to lose weight.
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Old 06-10-04, 07:49 PM   #13
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I'm not a spring chicken-52 and turning 53 in July.
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Old 06-10-04, 08:15 PM   #14
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I'm not a spring chicken-52 and turning 53 in July.
cky!

Okay, I got 12 years more than you. Those 12 years do make a difference, but you are still lucky.
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Old 06-11-04, 11:40 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by oldspark
I just don't get it -losing weight must be easier for me than other people. I ride bike about 5-6 hrs. per week and I lose weight- 35 lbs so far and I have done this three times in my life. Three of the rides are in hilly areas and the long ride on weekends (2 to 3 hrs) is a little less strenuous (maybe) and the lbs come off. I did quit snacking and drinking beer and I've never been a soda man, I feel luckly.
Everybody has different genetics going for them. There are some people for whom carbs are deadly for gaining weight. Go to Atkins Diet Bulletin Board to find a very large collection.

I'm one of those people. I'm 6'1", 193 lbs., 10% bodyfat. I work out six days per week and ride centuries at just over 5 hours. I average 100 grams of carbs, 185 grams of protein and 2200 calories per day. If I eat more carbs, I gain weight. If I eat less protein, I feel really weak.

Other people can eat 200-250 grams of carbs per day without any problems. I'm not one of them. I've come to believe that nutrition requirements for serious cyclists (or other aerobic exercisers) are more variable than a lot of nutrition articles take into consideration.
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