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  1. #1
    Senior Member shortshorts's Avatar
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    How many miles should I ride before worrying about eating?

    How many miles should I be riding before I need to worry about eating protein after my rides?

    I'm not a racer or anything, but I ride my bike everyday and my avg is usually 20 miles a day.
    Sometimes if the weather is crummy or I'm busy I'll just zip to the grocery store or something, which is about 4 miles each way.

    Every time I ride I like to push real fast, not just cruising around.

    There are probably other factors that go into it, like heart rate and not just the overall distance, but my cycling computer is kind of basic and mainly has speed and miles.

    Is something small like a 10 mile ride going to matter if I eat anything afterwards?
    Or is 20 miles even enough?
    Usually I'll chomp a clif builder bar (20g protein), but I don't know if I'm being excessive or not.
    I'm a pretty slim with pretty good leg muscles, but I'm not ripped or anything.
    I weigh about 145lbs, if that matters.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by shortshorts; 04-11-10 at 04:35 PM.

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    You don't really need protein for that distance (beyond what you usually need in a normal day's exercise), but you defiantly should have something in you stomach 30-1hr before the ride. Fruit/small roll/ half a sandwhich/ etc.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    If you eat something before you head out for your ride, you should generally be able to ride a couple hours before needing to eat something.

    I usually bring a granola bar or something with me on almost all my rides, but if they are fairly short (under a couple hours) I won't eat unless I happen, for some reason, to feel a bit shaky ... which doesn't usually happen.

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    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    How many miles should I be riding before I need to worry about eating protein after my rides?
    Usually, protein is listed as secondary to diets formulated for exercise.

    In other words, you should be just as or more concerned about your "timely" eating of carbohydrates during or after exercise. Typically, you learn these things through trial and error. And as you suspect, everybody is different.

    Typical professional advice would include drinking if you exercise for more than 30 minutes. And snacking if you plan to exercise for more than an hour. Obviously, the harder you exercise, the more important diet becomes.

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    Senior Member shortshorts's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the advice fellas!

    I kinda don't know what I'm talking about, but I thought the point of ingesting protein after a hard workout was to build muscle mass?
    I thought I read somewhere that the acid that builds up in you when you're exerting yourself, it'll eat at your muscle tissues, so you have to give it protein to build the muscles up...?
    That sounds really ridiculous as I read what I just typed, but I thought thats how it works.

    I usually do have some cereal or snack before riding, mainly I just wanted to know if there is some kind of after-workout concoction I'm supposed to be eating or drinking to help my body recover & get super tough.

    ........like, super duper tough.



    I've ordered a training/diet book online, but I just wanted to get a good headstart on things before it arrives.

    Thanks again!

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    I get up in the morning and ride without eating. I can do about 60 miles without eating. After that I need some fuel. Before a century, I will eat a little bit. Also on long rides it is always best to eat before you need to. There is a lag time between eating and the stuff getting into your bloodstream.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shortshorts View Post
    I kinda don't know what I'm talking about, but I thought the point of ingesting protein after a hard workout was to build muscle mass?
    Cycling is an aerobic sport. You are not going to build muscle mass.

    I usually do have some cereal or snack before riding, mainly I just wanted to know if there is some kind of after-workout concoction I'm supposed to be eating or drinking to help my body recover & get super tough.

    ........like, super duper tough.
    At this point nothing you eat is going to make you tougher. You need to ride more to do that. Optimizing your caloric intake after a ride becomes important when you are expending a significant number of calories on your rides and you need to replenish before the next day of training. Given that you generally start with around 2000 Cals worth of Glycogen in your muscles and liver, a 1 hour ride isn't going to deplete those stores. Just eat normally and you'll be fine the next day.

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    I usually don't eat anything unless I'm riding 60 miles or more. And at that point I'm drinking a homemade mix of protein, carb, salt, and flavoring. If I'm riding 100 miles, I'll be eating something every 15-20 miles plus my mix. If you need to eat is dependent upon how fast you are going, hills or flats, how well trained your body is, is your body running on fat or carbs, your heart rate, are you riding in the fat or carb zone.

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    Senior Member shortshorts's Avatar
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    Hi, thanks for all the tips fellas.

    I'm not trying to get all ripped out muscles like Schwarzenegger or anything, I just meant my legs.
    You see pics of peoples legs on there and they've got thighs like tree trunks!

    The 10 miles or so is on a bad day.
    My usual is 20-25, and I keep going further and further.
    I've got alot of spare time for training right now and the weather here is great, so I'm trying to see how far I can go in a day.

    I went a little over 30 miles a few days ago and I felt real drained afterwards.
    But I figured my body just wasn't used to being super tough yet, and I gotta start somewhere.

    Is there a general rule for going _____ miles before I'd need to start caring about after workout nutrition, or does it just vary person to person?


    I'm probably way wrong, but my brain/stomach is just convinced I need that after workout clif bar. They're so tasty..

    Thanks again

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    Senior Member kleinboogie's Avatar
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    I did the CTS climbing power video today and noticed the trainer said that the body can exercise 1.5 - 2 hours without nourishment. Anything beyond that they suggest gels or energy drinks. Since it was a power video I imagine she meant to maintain peak power.

    Carmichael is big into loading with carbs and hydration before, during and after and I've found that to be a good idea. His book has the formulas based on weight and ride length and intensity. Since his latest stuff is based on time crunched cyclists the ratios of carbs, proteins and fats is skewed heavily to carbs.

    I follow his advice and it seems to work. As for eating, sometimes I can go hours without consuming big calories. Other times I have to have a clif bar or banana. Long rides I'm probably having Infinit drinks at 280-300 calories each. One per 1.5 hours or so.

    Listen to your body. Something I learned while I was losing 50 lbs. If you're hungry, eat. The body seems to know what's right. GL

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shortshorts View Post
    I'm not trying to get all ripped out muscles like Schwarzenegger or anything, I just meant my legs.
    You see pics of peoples legs on there and they've got thighs like tree trunks!

    The 10 miles or so is on a bad day.
    My usual is 20-25, and I keep going further and further.
    I've got alot of spare time for training right now and the weather here is great, so I'm trying to see how far I can go in a day.

    I went a little over 30 miles a few days ago and I felt real drained afterwards.
    But I figured my body just wasn't used to being super tough yet, and I gotta start somewhere.

    Is there a general rule for going _____ miles before I'd need to start caring about after workout nutrition, or does it just vary person to person?
    People who have legs like tree trunks do a lot of riding of various sorts. They might do an intense hill or interval workout a couple days a week, some long distance riding a day or two a week, and something in between a day or two a week. They've also been at it for a number of years.

    If you're going to be out riding for about 2 hours or more, bring something to eat and start eating at the 1 hour point ... about 200-300 calories per hour.
    If you're going to be out riding for about 2 hours or less, bring something to eat, just in case, and eat it if you get really hungry.

    As for after the ride ... eat what you would normally eat at that time of day.


    Quote Originally Posted by shortshorts View Post
    I'm probably way wrong, but my brain/stomach is just convinced I need that after workout clif bar. They're so tasty..
    You really are new to this if you think Clif bars are tasty! After eating all sorts of different energy bars (including Clif bars) for a number of years quite a few years ago, I got over them so that I can hardly even look at them anymore.

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    Eating while riding has a lot of variables. If I'm riding with weight loss in mind I will shy away from food and try and maintain a 135-145hbm this keeps me in a fat burning zone. If I'm training I'll use a mixture of electrolytes, carbs and protien in a liquid form. If any ride is going beyond 3 hrs I always have gels with me. This is what works for me and there are variations on this depending on weather conditions I.E. wind, heat. Always stay hydrated and have some carbs after hard rides. I'm on my 4th season and have went from a 6'1" 305lbs Fred to a 201Lbs Fred.
    Best thing about cycling is when I'm at work I'm thinking of cycling, when I'm cycling I'm thinking about cycling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
    Cycling is an aerobic sport. You are not going to build muscle mass.
    Depends where you start. My legs are way bigger now than when I started. There is a difference between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by youcoming View Post
    Eating while riding has a lot of variables. If I'm riding with weight loss in mind I will shy away from food and try and maintain a 135-145hbm this keeps me in a fat burning zone. If I'm training I'll use a mixture of electrolytes, carbs and protien in a liquid form. If any ride is going beyond 3 hrs I always have gels with me. This is what works for me and there are variations on this depending on weather conditions I.E. wind, heat. Always stay hydrated and have some carbs after hard rides. I'm on my 4th season and have went from a 6'1" 305lbs Fred to a 201Lbs Fred.
    Fat-burning zone. Groan.

    As a percentage of calories burned, fat provides more at lower exercise intensities. Hell, it provides an even higher percentage at rest. In terms of actual calories burned, you get more from fat at higher intensities. The percentage is smaller, but the total calories is much higher.

    If you increase your VO2 max, you also use the same mix of substrates at the same relative intensities (% of VO2 max). That is, raising your VO2 max lets you burn more fat at higher rates of work. Yes, VO2 max is not as trainable as other factors, but it is trainable to some degree. It just takes hard work.

    Every time I hear or read "fat-burning zone" I scream on the inside. The logic just doesn't hold up in most cases (marathon-type events are another story...but you also are dealing with other limiting factors).

    The effects of intervals, for example, on beta oxidation and fat loss are pretty well studied at this point.
    Last edited by tadawdy; 04-20-10 at 01:51 AM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Short asks:
    Is there a general rule for going _____ miles before I'd need to start caring about after workout nutrition, or does it just vary person to person?
    Cranium answers:
    Typical professional advice would include drinking if you exercise for more than 30 minutes. And snacking if you plan to exercise for more than an hour. Obviously, the harder you exercise, the more important diet becomes.
    What part of this simple, but accurate answer can't you understand? Nutrition isn't "mileage based." Nutritional needs are individual requirements that vary among the young and old, the fast and the slow, and the fat and the thin.

    So on one knows "how many miles" to go before you eat. Someone else incorrectly states that protein and "muscle mass" do not figure in aerobic exercise. This is also false and or misunderstood by some readers.

    Protein, like all nutrients in an important contributor to good health. And it is more important for those people trying to improve fitness in ANY sport. It' just not any more important than carbohydrate.

    Once, again the most simple subject in the world - completely screwed-up on the Internet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
    Depends where you start. My legs are way bigger now than when I started. There is a difference between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy, though.
    Perhaps but, in general, the strength required for endurance cycling is low and riding a lot is an inefficient way to bulk up. If you're doing a lot of anarobic intervals it may be different.

    Those riders you see with thighs like tree trunks are born with those and they tend to gravitate to the types of events (crit, track) where they have more success.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shortshorts View Post
    I kinda don't know what I'm talking about, but I thought the point of ingesting protein after a hard workout was to build muscle mass?
    If your into bodybuilding, bodybuilding workouts, lifting heavy weights, limiting cardio & putting away the calories (7000+ per day).

    Chris Hoy as teenager & young adult was pretty thin, it was only when he got into the gym & started performing heavy squats etc did his legs start developing. Any long endurance work on the bike would be detrimental to any gains made in the gym to the circumference of his thighs.
    Last edited by $ick3nin.vend3t; 04-20-10 at 10:09 AM.

  18. #18
    Junior Member gunnadropya's Avatar
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    Your question is one most of us ask at one time or another and it can be a very detailed answer to a basic answer. Of course you always need to be taking in protien with our diet and there are variables to how much you need daily as well as many schools of thought. So my answer to your question is that yes you need to take in protien as well as other macro and micro nutrients after any type of work out, the main factor to how much you take in is how hard you work and what type of work your doing. You certainly don't need to specifically eat protien after and hour ride at a moderate pace what you take in the rest of the day should be sufficent, on the other hand if during that hour do say a 15 min warm up followed by two sets of say 10 x 40/20 intervals for a half hour then a 15 min cool down I would then consider something for recovery.

    I usually have a recovery drink after a ride but if its a moderate ride of less than 1 - 1 1/2 hrs I may pass on it and just have something to eat with in a half hour of finishing my work out. Fueling, is a work in progress and very confusing because of all the info out there all the products that swear they are the best and because most of us are not bio engineers that know how the bodies chemical process really works. You doing research and asking questions is the right thing to do, you just have to try somethings weeding out the bull crap, and tailoring what is good to fit your work outs and your bodies needs. Take care
    Last edited by gunnadropya; 04-23-10 at 09:10 AM.

  19. #19
    jamesss
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    You also have to look at what body type you are. I am 6'0 at 155 a mix ectomorph and mesomorph. Look it up. Everybody is different.
    Last edited by jamesss; 04-23-10 at 09:23 AM.

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    I find that any ride I expect to burn more than ~1,800 calories, I better be consuming some carbs right before or during the ride. My typical sat. am ride is usually around 2,000 calories of effort and I will drink 2 bottles of sports drink and a cliff bar or bannana about half way in. I'll also have a high carb breakfast before hitting the road. This is much more than I need for a 3 hour ride, but I don't want to get into a deficit situation. My understanding is that you typically only put about 200 calories an hour into your 'tank', so it's important to eat before you need to since you are burning calories much faster than you can refuel on a hard ride. On shorter or easier rides, I usually just bring one bottle of sports drink and water.

    I'll do a choc milk and whey protein shake after my rides, which has some additional carbs and a good mix of fast acting protein (whey) and slow acting protein (milk), which I hear is a good thing. After adding the whey to my routine, I've found that my recovery time after hard rides has gotten quicker.

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    These are my rules of thumb:

    If you're riding 25-35 miles, make sure you're not riding on a completely empty stomach, but no food is required during the ride.

    If you're riding more than 25-35 miles, bring a gel, a bar, cookies etc. and eat them during the ride. BUT you should start eating BEFORE you hit the 25 mile mark (this is a bit counter-intuitive, since you would not do this on a 25 mile ride). If you don't, you'll bonk later in the ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dizzy101 View Post
    If you're riding more than 25-35 miles, bring a gel, a bar, cookies etc. and eat them during the ride. BUT you should start eating BEFORE you hit the 25 mile mark (this is a bit counter-intuitive, since you would not do this on a 25 mile ride). If you don't, you'll bonk later in the ride.
    +1. Eat before you're hungry and drink before you're thirsty. I would agree with the mileage numbers above. Much depends on your body type. I'm fairly skinny so I almost always ride with at least a few calories in my water bottle - though I hardly ever ride less than 30 miles. I can ride ~ 1 hr on just water. But even a few minutes over that and I can tell I need some calories. If I tried 2 hours without any calories I would be hurting big time. But I know many folks who can go 2-3 hours without any food and do fine.

    For 20 mile rides I would focus more on hydration than food. Drink plenty, especially in summer heat. I am a big fan of enjoying a big ol' cold glass of chocolate milk right after the ride. It doesn't build muscle, but is very helpful in refueling your body and helping in recovery.

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    I'm glad someone mentioned the fat burning zone. The fat burning and carb burning zones change with the fitness, weight, cadence, speed, type of terrain, effort applied to the pedals, and training regiment of the rider. Have you trained your body to run on fat rather than carbs? The amount of food, protein and carbs taken in depend upon the previous plus the frequency and distance of your rides.

  24. #24
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    Food is not entirely necessary either. Some recently done studies are showing huge improvements in glycogen capacity over 4 week training periods if training is done in a fasted state(no food before/during exercise).

    VO2Max: "The highest rate of oxygen consumption attainable during maximal or exhaustive exercise" (Wilmore & Costill, 2007). This is a rough measure of fitness.

    Both groups started out with levels around 3.5 liters per minute (l/min), which is close to standards for untrained individuals. To put this into perspective, elite endurance athletes have about twice that capacity. One Norwegian skier topped this chart at 7.3 l/min. A more accurate measure of VO2Max is ml/min/kg, but in this study l/min was noted.

    Fasted: +9.7% increase
    Fed: +2.5% increase

    The fasted group increased their VO2Max significantly more than the fed group. Interesting.

    It's also noted that "Whilst peak power increased in both groups, there was a strong tendency for FAST to improve their peak power more than FED".

    Muscle glycogen content: This is measured in millimoles per kilo dry muscle and shows how much glucose is stored in the muscle. The sample was taken from vastus lateralis, a portion of the quads, since this was the main muscle exercised during the cycling sessions.

    Fasted: +54.7% increase
    Fed: +2.9% increase


    As you can see, the fasted group showed a dramatic increase in muscle glycogen content compared to the fed group. It's almost too good to be true.

    Citrate synthase (CS): This enzyme is critical for the initiation of the citric acid cycle, which regulates the mobilization of fat and converts glycogen into glucose for use during exercise. Think of it as a marker for fuel utilization efficiency.

    Fasted: +17.9% increase
    Fed: +19.1% increase

    While the differences between groups, on average, did not show any significant differences, these appeared when comparing the results obtained from the women with those of the men. When this comparison was made, fasted training was found to stimulate significantly greater increases in CS in men (+35%) than in women (+10%).

    On the other hand, fed training stimulated significantly greater increases in women (+25%) than men (+10%).

    Men attained a more much better response from fasted training, while women received a more favorable response from fed training.

    3-hydroxy-CoA dehydrogenase (HAD): Also a marker for fuel utilization efficiency, but this one is specifically involved in fatty acid metabolism. Think of it as a fat burning enzyme.

    Fasted: +3.5% increase
    Fed: +9.1% increase

    As was the case with CS, the mean increase above is a bit misleading, since there were big differences in between fasted and fed groups depending on gender.

    When looking at gender differences, females showed a stronger response than males (+5% fasted and +25% fed). This goes in line with prior studies which show that the HAD activity of female muscle is more responsive to the same training stimulus. Males in both groups showed only subtle change that was deemed non-significant (+3% fasted and -10% fed). However, fasted training seems to provide a slight edge once again.

    See the article link here.
    http://leangains.blogspot.com/2010/0...rance-and.html
    And Studies
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18276898
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19432594


    Food for thought....

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    Cycling is an aerobic sport. You are not going to build muscle mass.

    It may be true that experienced riders no longer gain muscle mass, but my history has been very much to the contrary. I started riding about two years ago. Over that period, my weight has been flat (maybe 3 pounds down), but I've lost 3-4 inches on my waist and gained several inches on my thighs and calves.

    Everyone has a unique combination of fitness level, body type, exercise regimen, goals, etc. You have to figure out what works for you. It is helpful to get ideas from what other people say, but you should take what they say as suggestions of what to try, not advice on what will work.

    I like to have some protein (yogurt shake, nuts, scambled eggs, whatever) after a ride of 15 or 20 miles, but not shorter. For a long ride (say, 50+ miles), I bonk by the end if I don't get some protein in during the early miles. Usually, I'll either use a nut-based exercise bar, or bring a PB&J sandwich. I've tried the short-term energy (such as gels), but I need 3-4 of those each hour to keep my going. Something with a little protein seems to work better for me and my crazy-fast metabolism.


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