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  1. #1
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    Fueling with fat during a ride

    First a little background. I'm a type 2 diabetic currently controlling my blood sugar with diet and exercise. I have found great success with a ketogenic diet and my body is currently doing very well fueling with fat.

    Now for my issue. As my body fat has dropped (last measurement was less than 8%) and my time on the bike increased, I am finding myself pushing past the point where I need to refuel during a ride. My ability to sustain my effort drops significantly around the point where I have used up the calories I've eaten in my recent meals. While I do slow down, I appear to be a long way from bonking as I still do well on climbs and seem to be able to sustain the lower effort for quite some time. Everything I'm reading is pushing the need for carbs. While the best information does say to avoid the simple carbs, they are still pushing more carbs than I am willing to eat. Since I'm also reading that you need to get better at burning fat and that you can fuel long rides with fat, I'm trying to figure out the best way to take on more fuel during a ride using fat.

    One thing I've considered is taking some oil with me and drinking 1-4 oz (250-1000 calories) at some point during the ride before I hit that wall. Before I try that, I thought I'd see if anyone else is doing that and if there is anything reason not to try that. Is there a better fat fuel source? Any idea on how long it will take to make that energy available? Any suggestions on timing when to eat it?

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Drinking Oil ........... <<< shudder >>>. I couldn't even get that down!! Have you actually tried drinking oil???? YUCK!!!!!

    OK, putting that thought out of my mind ...


    Why not try nuts? I just posted in another thread in Road the nutrients in salted almonds and salted cashews. You can eat them by themselves, or you can get granola bars that are full of nuts (and other things). Those granola bars often have a reasonably high fat content.

  3. #3
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    I have not tired it yet, but I figure an ounce at a time of some flavored olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil would not be too bad. I have thought about nuts, but I find a get tired of them in pretty short order (though probably not an issue during a ride) and being solid, I'm wondering how well I will deal with it during a ride.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    In addition to nuts, I also eat beef jerky (protein and salt) and potato chips (fat, carbs, and electrolytes). I have, on occasion, brought cheese with me on rides too.

    If I stop for a lunch break on a ride, I'll usually choose something that is fairly high in protein, fat, and sodium ... and carbs too.

  5. #5
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    If I were to stop and eat, I'd probably just eat the way I'm used to with maybe a bit more protein and salt. What I'm really trying to do is fuel as I ride so I don't have to stop.

    My longest uninterrupted ride is 29 miles (hit the wall I'm talking about at around 23 miles) and I have a goal of doing a 66 mile ride (with a 1000' climb in the middle) before winter. While the 66 mile ride will include a lunch break in the middle, I want to be able to ride 40-50 miles without needing to stop before I do that ride.

  6. #6
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    A little more information on the type of riding I'm doing (in case it is relevant). I ride a mountain bike on gravel/dirt roads with lots of hills. Some of the hills are around 20% grade. I aim for 12MPH on most rides, but if I'm doing a lot of climbing, I'm happy doing around 10MPH. One recent 26 mile ride I've done included a 1500' climb followed by a 500' climb. On that ride, I did not hit the wall (did it after lunch, so I had eaten plenty already that day), but I did not quite make my 10MPH.

  7. #7
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    Just remember nuts have incomplete proteins. Just an FYI. I think there are more calories from fat in nuts then protein anyway. Homemade grandola bars work well but the honey might give you problems...
    I just like riding. Check out my Bike Training Blog.

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    Even diabetics can consume carbohydrates. I understand that exercising muscles do not require insulin to uptake carbohydrates from the blood stream. Aerobic exercise is one of the best ways for a type II diabetic to manage their disease. You can take in controlled amounts of carbohydrate because your muscles will take them up and they will not spike your blood glucose levels. I had a friend with pretty advanced type II. He did frequent blood sugar tests on his own blood during rides. I got to be the control (the little jabber still ****** though even if you are a control). The thing was, my blood sugar started low and stayed constant. His started higher than mine and steadily declined through a 50 mile ride. He had to eat some source of carbohydrate to keep from getting a low blood sugar. One day we got back from a ride and he had gotten quite short tempered and highly grumpy. It was not like him. Normally he is well mannered, placid tempered and good humored. I looked at him and said "stay right here". I went into my house, I got a small glass of orange juice (about 4 ounces), gave it to him and said "drink this". A few minutes later, he was back to normal.

    Eating oil or fats will not help your body maintain its carbohydrate equilibrium. Of course, diabetics often respond quite differently to different foods and situations.

    Fat will fuel your body at about half power. Your climbing sounds more intense than that. Your climbing has to be partially fueled by burning carbohydrate. You body will either use its glycogen reserves or catabolize protein to make carbohydrate (not a really good thing).

    Think about trying small measured doses of carbohydrate. GU is a good source.

  9. #9
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    Eating fat or oil or nuts will not provide fuel for your ride. You have plenty of stored fats, even at 8% BF, such that there is no benefit to ingesting more. Like PatW mentions above why not try eating some carbs during the ride and testing your glucose at the end of the ride? The body behaves differently while exercising than when you're sedentary.

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    I do eat a few more carbs before and after a planned longer ride, but I'm not willing to go a lot higher. I also know that, back when I still had 12+% body fat, I had the same level of energy even when I went over 2 hours on a ride. This has changed with a drop below 8%. I'm guessing (and it is just a guess) that my body has gotten a bit more stingy about giving up the stores than it used to be. As I mentioned before, I'm not out of energy, just unable to sustain the higher level. Since it seems to correspond to when my dietary calories are used up, it would seem to be able to pushed back by adding dietary calories.

    As to the statement that fat will not provide the fuel, that does not seem to be a settled fact. I do know that glucose is used at higher effort levels, but what I'm reading in my research seems to indicate that fueling off of fat is possible and in fact desirable for longer distances.

  11. #11
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    PatW is correct. It is a settled fact that fat will not provide proper fuel for higher intensity efforts, like climbing. You need to use the carbohydrate energy pathway. Most long distance riders fuel off carbs with 15%-25% protein and a little fat, probably less than 10%. Your body should not have an issue with carbs while riding and immediately after riding. Start testing your blood sugar while riding, at least every couple hours. Going too low is bad for you. Carbs with a little protein will help you keep it even, just don't eat too much at any one time. A little every 15 minutes is about right. You might do fine adding just a sports drink, but be sure to also bring plain water so you can feather the effect.

    One does run into all sorts of claims on the web. There's a whole subgroup who eat nothing but raw meat and claim incredible athletic feats while doing so. Ignore that stuff.

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    I agree that efforts like climbing will need glucose. I'm also sure that I have not used up my store of glucose in my muscle or liver as my climbing efforts were still going well.

    I have read about burning fat for long distances being a way to extend your glucose store, this is what I am trying to do, but I want to add fat during the ride and not just burn what I have on board.

    After re-reading my original post, I seem to have left out what I mean by not being able to sustain the effort. I'm determining effort based on heart rate. On my ride out and most of the way back, I was pretty comfortably sustaining a heart rate in the 140s except for the hills. Climbing I'd get into the 150s or 160s, down the other side I'd drop into the 120s or 130s (unless I really concentrated on powering down the hill). Once I hit the wall I was referring to, I was having a hard time getting my heart rate out of the 120s. Keeping my heart rate in the 120s was no problems, I could have gone on for many miles that way, but pushing into the 130s really hurt. Once I hit a climb, I'd be able to bring the heart rate back into the 150s and 160s and it really did not seem any worse than it did on the way out. I did mange to keep my cadence pretty consistent throughout the ride at around 80 BPM.

    So far, I'm not hearing any first hand (or even second hand) information about this not working and how it went down, just strong beliefs that it wont. Certainly the majority of the information I have read tends in that directions, but I guess I'm stubborn enough to try and see, first hand, what happens. Since my normal diet is currently mostly fat, I know my body is well tuned to digest it and use it. Given that fact, am I overlooking any obvious danger in trying to fuel my longer rides with oil? If not, I guess I will find out first hand if I'm being stupid or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hyegeek View Post
    I do eat a few more carbs before and after a planned longer ride, but I'm not willing to go a lot higher. I also know that, back when I still had 12+% body fat, I had the same level of energy even when I went over 2 hours on a ride. This has changed with a drop below 8%. I'm guessing (and it is just a guess) that my body has gotten a bit more stingy about giving up the stores than it used to be.
    My guess is that your fitness has improved as your weight has dropped and that you are riding harder than you used to. If you're not using a powermeter this would be difficult to confirm.

    As I mentioned before, I'm not out of energy, just unable to sustain the higher level. Since it seems to correspond to when my dietary calories are used up, it would seem to be able to pushed back by adding dietary calories.
    That could be, particularly if your diet doesn't contain many carbs.

    As to the statement that fat will not provide the fuel, that does not seem to be a settled fact. I do know that glucose is used at higher effort levels, but what I'm reading in my research seems to indicate that fueling off of fat is possible and in fact desirable for longer distances.
    Your body certainly will use fat for fuel and its ability to do so improves with fitness. Your body has a limited amount of Glycogen available in plasma, liver and muscle stores but it has essentially unlimited fat stores available. What makes you think adding more fat will help?

    Substrate utilization during exercise in active people provides a good summary of what your body uses for fuel during exercise.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
    Your body has a limited amount of Glycogen available in plasma, liver and muscle stores but it has essentially unlimited fat stores available. What makes you think adding more fat will help?
    Since my breakfast was mostly fat with a bit of protein and a few carbs, and the ride went well until around the time I burned off the total calories from breakfast (I know this is all approximate, but it seems close enough to not be a coincidence) at which point I could not sustain the effort, it seems like if I had stopped and refueled with another breakfast, I could have gone right back to what I was doing.

    In fact, when I got home, I did pretty much just that, I ate a second breakfast much like the first one. I then went out and cut firewood for a couple of hours. Since I did not start the day with firewood, I can't tell if I had the energy I would have, but I certainly was not dead on my feet.

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    Senior Member Guitarrick's Avatar
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    Have you tried using coconut oil? I use it for all sorts of things, even take a couple of tablespoons a day straight. Best stuff on earth.
    Quote Originally Posted by cs1 View Post
    You could always pick up a goat head from one of middle eastern vendors. Just strap that on your bike and ride it home.

    2011 Raleigh Sojourn

  16. #16
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    I use a lot of coconut oil and that was one of the choices I was thinking about for fueling during a ride. Either that or flavored olive oil.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Hairy Hands's Avatar
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    I can only make it about 2 hrs at my Normal pace on my low carb diet without needing food. Ive tried taking all my low carb foods, and while they do curb my appetite, I still find my pace slowing until I'm about 3 to 4 mph below my normal average. Once I have slowed down it seems I can handle this pace for many hrs with the low carb food. If during that time I need to climb a long hill or accelerate I have problems with dead feeling legs. On the other hand if I throw in some carbs like a Payday candy bar, spitz energy drink, or Capt crunch cereal I can sustain my Normal pace. I err on the side of caution and dont over do the carbs, and I stop eat any carbs an hour before my ride is complete. I eat no carbs after the ride either. This is working for me, but I am not a racer and mainly concentrate on long steady distance.
    ~John~

  18. #18
    Senior Member Hairy Hands's Avatar
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    I copied this from another post: Carbonfiber boy wrote it. It may be of some interest to you


    What your doctor is worried about is your spiking your blood sugar by eating stuff like simple sugars which stress your pancreas in response. So when you aren't riding, get your carbs from fruit and vegetables. Especially no beer, colas, sports drinks, stuff like that. No carby snacks like bread, sweet rolls, stuff like that. Only have a small amount of real carbs like rice, potatoes, cereals, stuff like that. Certainly no more than 1/4 of your plate simple carbs. On the bike is a different story, however, because your body responds differently while you are exercising.

    I ride with a couple of type 1 diabetics. Their regimen is no preride food. Nada. Nothing for breakfast if it's a morning ride, nothing within 3 hours if it's an afternoon or evening ride. That way they avoid spiking blood sugar and having that mess with their ride. Then during the ride, consume the standard 250 calories/hr., mostly or all carbs, if you are riding hard, less if you are taking it easier, down to maybe 150 cal./hr. So a lot more than you are eating now. Make an effort to eat more. It takes conscious effort to eat enough. So that's about 1 Clif Bar/hr., more or less. You don't have to worry about eating all those carbs because your insulin response will be very different than when you aren't riding.

    If you eat like that while you're riding, you shouldn't have to eat so much when you are finished with the ride. You can go right into your normal carbs-from-fruit-and-veggies routine and have a normal meal, because your glycogen will not be so diminished. You shouldn't feel so wiped out, in fact you should feel great. Your feeling wiped out is almost certainly blood sugar related and nothing to do with electrolytes. You have a ton of electrolytes in your body and it takes a heck of a lot of riding to really diminish them.

    What is happening to you is that you are greatly diminishing your glycogen stores while riding. So as soon as you finish your ride, your body's economy completely changes and your blood sugar goes to hell. Then you have that sugary Gatorade, which spikes your blood sugar, but that gets cleaned out pronto, getting used to replenish glycogen, and your blood sugar is back in the toilet and you feel lousy.

    So don't use a recovery drink unless you can't eat a normal meal right away. Even a recovery drink will only hold off the blood sugar demon for an hour or less. So you have to eat normally as soon as possible after the ride. Try eating a small but normal meal, waiting an hour, and having some more. Then maybe waiting an hour and having another small serving.

    IOW, it's OK to eat half a pizza, as long as you only eat one slice an hour. Of course stop when you aren't hungry any more. But start the after-ride eating process even if you aren't hungry. A symptom of low blood sugar is initial lack of hunger.

    Don't use Gatorade. You could try a sports drink like HEED or Cytomax, as long as you also have a bottle of plain water. I also separate my electrolytes out from my hydration and food. That way I have control over each nutritional aspect. I use Endurolytes, which are quite mild. About one/bottle of liquids seems about right, or one/hr. Some people use more. If you don't feel thirsty in warm weather, take more Endurolytes until you do feel thirsty.

    On a short ride of an hour, maybe even up to 2 hours, it's not really necessary to eat or drink anything, though a little plain water might be nice. Your regular diet will easily replace any losses.
    ~John~

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hairy Hands View Post
    I can only make it about 2 hrs at my Normal pace on my low carb diet
    That sounds very much like what I'm seeing. Have you ever tried eating oil?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hairy Hands View Post
    I copied this from another post: Carbonfiber boy wrote it. It may be of some interest to you
    I did come across this post before I posted. Guess I'm just a stubborn cuss that wants to do it my way.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Hairy Hands's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hyegeek View Post
    That sounds very much like what I'm seeing. Have you ever tried eating oil?
    No, never tried it. Seems like it would upset my stomach. Probably with something that drastic you will have to be the test dummy. Let us know how it works out for you.

    I believe you have plenty of fat on your body to fuel the ride, only at a much slower pace. Your body cannot burn fat at the same rate it burns carbs. Herein is the problem, go slower on fat, or consume limited carbs to keep the pace up. At any rate, you are merely trying to limit the sugar rush carbs give you which will not be a problem during exercise. Only time it becomes a problem is when your sedentary.
    ~John~

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    I'm planning on being the test dummy, but it will have to wait a bit as a family issue has just come up that will keep me off my bike for a week or so. I'm OK with going a bit slower, maybe what I'm seeing is all I will be able to do, if that's the case, I will try something else. I'm thinking fat being freed from the body has to be harder than fat already floating around. Guess I will find out. When I get to the experiment, I will post results, I have already mapped out a suitable ride to try.

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hyegeek View Post
    I will try something else. I'm thinking fat being freed from the body has to be harder than fat already floating around.
    ?????????

    And yes, please do post about your reactions to drinking oil.

  24. #24
    Member Jaguarundi's Avatar
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    Is all that fat okay for your heart? I know you don't have much on your body, but I wonder if having it in your diet alone could give you problems. I often eat a hard-boiled egg to avoid blood-sugar crash. I try to eat it maybe half an hour before I feel the crash. It stays with me well and seems to work.

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    Turns out, the thing that is bad for heart and for weight gain and for causing diabetes etc. is the carbs, not the fat. My cholesterol numbers have never been so good as they are now. Keep in mind, the explosion in obesity and diabetes has happen starting with the low fat high carb push in the 70s. Turns out the worst thing is high carb, high fat, followed by high carb anything else. The reason fast food gets such poor marks is the fat/carb combo, not the fat alone.

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