My epiphany, Fat is good for me and my training!
I've been road ridding seriously for 4 years now, after the first year i lost a bit of weight just ridding, and for the second year i started racing and wanted to lose weight. Like so many other morons out there i saught to eliminate fat from my diet completely. I also went on extreme calorie deficits only eating twice a day and most of it being saturated with sugar. I managed to lose weight from 175 down to 160 in a couple of months though and had a good racing season till i herniated (tore) two discs in my back. For the past two years i've been recovering slowly and i'm finaly starting to feel a bit better, albeit my handle bars will never be more then an inch lower then my saddle, but i'm still a decently strong rider. I started planning for base trainning in October getting everything organized so i could have a good start to the season. I've identified the need to raise my Functional Threshold Power, and increase my overall aerobic endurance base.
Even though i've read the Cyclist training bible, and Base Building for cyclist's many times i still refused to eat fat beyond the trace amounts found in select foods. This year however I decided to track my calories to make sure i would lose weight during base training for next summer. I downloaded a free calorie counter spreadsheet and started using it as i started base training;
The first two days of regular eating i noticed immediately that i was only getting about 11% of my calories from fat, and even though i have protein shakes, i still wasn't getting a good enough supply of protein in my diet either. It was over 70% carbs!!!!!!!! From pasta's, oatmeal cookies, energy bars, cereals, and fruits. All healthy food choices, but only part of a healthy diet.
History: Over the past 3 years since i've been avoiding fats, i can vividly recall having my first, and a few subsequent BONKS on long rides, even on easy solo rides. The reason is that I was eating so many carbs and so little fat that my body was starting to prefer carbs as a main source of energy. This had a two fold negative effect. On longer rides i would have to eat 5 or 6 snacks and consume 3-4 water bottles of gatorate just to keep going. And any fat i was eating wasn't fully being utilized properly since the constant sugar highs and lows were playing havoc on my insulin levels.
There where other much more unpleasent sides to my high carb diet too, i was always hungry. I'd eat a full meal of whole wheat pasta and still be hungry 15 minutes later. I was frequently tired in mornings for several hours after waking and afternoons seemed to drag on forever at work. I can't directly say that an unbalanced diet led to my spinal injury, but i'm sure it didn't help. And, bowel movements were also difficult and painful.
Fast forward to present day. I've been on my balanced diet as recommended by several cycling books of 50% carbs, 25% fat and 25% protein and i feel great. These numbers can vary slightly depending on the time of the year, like maybe 55% carbs 20% fat, 25% protein during racing season when you're doing more high intensity work. Or if you're working a part time job putting in alot of steady miles, then higher fat, like 40% carbs, 35% fat, 25% protein might be more appropriate. The fine tunning is up to you, your schedule, and how your body currently runs.
It's only been two weeks and i've noticed an almost immediate improvement in my energy levels. Even though i'm limiting my calories to 2100 a day + energy used biking (measured by my power meter) i'm no longer hungry all the time. My body is getting everything it needs instead of just a big'ol bucket of carbs, and i'm down 2lbs. Bowel movements no longer hurt, and my low intensity endurance is already starting to show positive results. The best part is that, i can still eat pizza! It's a good source of protein, and not to bad on the saturated fats.
If anything i have a hard time consuming enough healthy fat and protein everyday. Whey Isolate protein really helps, and so do almonds for healthy fats.
Indeed you want to keep saturated fat to a minimum (with the exception of saturated fat found in coconuts), and trans fats should be almost be entirely avoided.
But monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fats are quite healthy, and can actually lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Fat also releases more energy then carbs or protein, it's the most efficient source of energy our body has, and in quite an abundance! The only drawback is that it takes quite a bit of oxygen to convert fat to energy, which is why our bodies slowly switch to a higher percentage of carbs when we increase the intensity.
So instead of skim milk in the mornings i've picked up So good, a soy based milk type drink which has more healthy fat and less saturated fat then regular diary 2%. Same goes with ice cream. So good ice cream, tofuti frozen desert, or rice dream!
I've also been maintaining a consistent sleeping schedule getting a minimum of 8hrs, sometimes 9. Even if i'm not tired and i wake up after only 6 hours, i'll just lay there and relax.
25%-35% fat (eat as little saturated and trans fat as possible!)
appropriate calorie intake for your age, height and weight (there are plenty of tracking programs online, and free online daily calorie needs calculators available)
8+ hrs of consistent sleep!
I hope this helps someone, cause it sure made a big difference for me already.
Long Distance Cyclist
Yes, fat IS good for you. It just amazes me that people don't know this ... but I guess there was that whole low-fat craze a few years ago which pumped out a whole lot of misinformation. What got me was that even Weight Watchers bought into it. I read over a low-fat Weight Watcher diet, and it was packed with sugar. The thing is ... in order to give low-fat food any semblence of flavor, you've got to add sugar. And sugar is worse than fat because it provides extremely short-term energy, and you've got to eat more of it to keep your energy levels up.
Some sites with good food/nutrition information:
I get about 25%-30% of calories from fat over the course of a typical day, say about 3,000 calories. However, on days where my caloric intake is higher, I've found that the additional calories are about 75% carbs and 25% protein. I.e. I have pretty much an upper limit of fat that I will consume on an absolute scale. However on light days, where my caloric intake is lower, the fat % scales pretty consistently.
Do you think this would be because on the higher days you're attempting to replenish the carb stores after a long / hard workout in that 30-45min window right after excersize?
Originally Posted by umd
Oh its absolutely because of that. Well I mean not just in the window, but just in general, on days when I ride hard & long I just generally make up the difference with carbs. Sport drinks, bars, bread, etc.
Originally Posted by krazyderek
would rather be biking
It's cool you've realized that fats are friends not foe, and are important for endurance athletes. What book/books are you referring to, just out of curiosity? I'm kind of surprised they'd advise 50% cals from carbs, because that's a minimum recommendation for the average human - endurance athletes should consume anywhere from 55-65%. Also - "The reason is that I was eating so many carbs and so little fat that my body was starting to prefer carbs as a main source of energy." The body always prefers carbs, because it's the most efficient energy source. Also, pertaining to protein, dietitians won't advise any more than 20% cals from protein for anyone, unless a person is recovering from surgery, significant inury, etc. Assuming your getting the right amount of total cals, that much protein (25%) is going to be converted to fat and stored by your body. And if you're going to eat that much protein, you should drink more water, because your kidneys will need to filter and get rid of the excessive urea compounds.
I definitely agree that people shouldn't shy away from those healthy fats though. Some cultures that have plant oils/fats closer to the bottom of their food pyramid have lower incidences of heart attacks, coronary related disease, etc. Neat stuff.
I just follow Oprah. Doesn't everyone?
I have read two books in the last year that have changed my eating. The first was The Palio Diet for Athletes co-authored by Joe Friel and the other is Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. About myself, I ride, 2-300 miles a week, year round. I am 43 years old and my weight had crept up over the years to around 195. I was eating a low fat , high carb, high protein diet with brown rice and all whole grains for my entire adult life. I was hungry all the time. I carried 195 lbs. well, as I am a very "big boned" person. A year ago I changed my eating to reflect a combination of the above books. I eat no processed food. No rice, pasta, bread or anything processed on days I do not ride hard. On days that I ride hard (1 day per week, that includes tempo, sprints, hillclimbs, ect and lasts 4-5 hours) I eat carbs like i would have previously following Joe Friels plan. I had problems with blood sugar spikes and dips previously during and after rides but no more. I have even forgot to bring enough food on a hard ride and continued my workout thinking at some point that I would bonk and it did not happen. My weight is below 180 lbs eating <100 grams of carbs per average day. I eat meat, fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables. I do not watch my fat intake but I would guess it is pretty high as is my protein intake. My doctor says my blood numbers are good (he is also athletic) and that for me forty is the new twenty. My bp is 110/65 with a resting heart rate in the mid 30's. Fat is good.
Originally Posted by SeanMA
The body burns far more fat than carbohydrate, it also prefers to store energy in the form of fat.
People notice that the body tightly regulates blood sugar and falsely assume that it is a “better” fuel source. As for your bodies “preferred fuel” it depends on the type of cell and on average it’s not carbohydrate. Only neurons and a few other cells types prefer carbohydrate, other cells prefer to burn amino acids (glutamine in particular), with the majority of cells burning fat.
It is true that as exercise intensity increases the body increasingly burns carbohydrate. This is because as exercise intensity increases fast twitch muscle fibers are recruited and these fibers burn more carbohydrate than slow twitch muscle fibers. Slow twitch muscle fibers do almost all the work during daily activities and burn primarily fat; so overall if you had to pick one energy source you would have to say muscles prefer fat.
Even if you look at the metabolic workhorse that is the liver you can’t say it prefers carbohydrate. If anything you can make a stronger case for ethanol. If you feed a mixture of ethanol, fat, carbohydrate and protein into the portal vein the alcohol is metabolized preferentially. The classical explanation of alcoholic liver damage stems from this fact (although we now know that oxidative damage also occurs due to the alcohol metabolizing enzymes). The liver becomes fatty because the its busy eating the alcohol instead of normal foodstuffs. It can’t allow excess carbs to kick around (remember the tight regulation part) so it converts them to fat as well, making the problem worse.
I’m not advocating a low carbohydrate diet or anything. I’m just trying to dismiss the idea that carbohydrates are somehow superior; a notion often propagated by those who try to scientifically justify their nutritional religion (veganism, etc).
would rather be biking
I agree that the body burns more fat than carbohydrate in summation, and also prefers to store energy as fat. I was far too general in my statement about carbs being the preferred macronutrient, and looking back at it, I think the OP is talking in a "daily total" sense as you explained. My Bad. Good info, thank you.
Originally Posted by Enthalpic
The books i've read so far on training are Cyclist's Training Bible, and Base Building For Cyclists. I also have an interesting book called An Apple A Day which talks about the benefits of various foods, and little articles on each one talking about common belief's and studies done to back them up, or lack there of.
I'll have to check out those other books, i think I had my eye on that Good Calorie, Bad Calorie one. Outside of eating i was also looking at a stretching book, which i think was simply called, Stretching.
Diet still going strong, i'm 164.5lbs, 5.5lbs have melted off me in 3 weeks of eating a higher percentage of fat. I discovered that i had ABS hidden under my spare tube. I can't imagine what's going to happen in 3 months, i doubt i'll get anywhere near the lower end of my BMI weight range of 140lbs, but even if i get to the high 150's i'll be a happy camper.