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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 08-03-07, 06:14 PM   #1
Tom Stormcrowe
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Fat Burning and Cycling Article

Health - Burn fat better
By Joe Beer
Health - Burn fat better

Health - Burn fat better (BikeRadar ©)

For fitness riders, the question "Why would I want to be able to burn fat?" begs the obvious answer - to get in better shape and look it. But for fit athletes who already have a well-worked lipolysis system, the answer might not be so obvious.

But tapping the body's fat in training increases endurance, reduces the likelihood of 'bonking' and increases fitness. So how exactly do you improve it?

Starting with the basics, you have two choices of fuel; carbohydrate and fat. Carbs provide around 1,500 to 2,000 calories when muscles are fully 'carbo loaded'. This 'higher-octane' fuel can help you go long by combining with fat use or it can fuel quick efforts or sustained high-intensity riding on its own.
The fat stored under your skin and within muscles themselves is a very high calorie fuel depot

Even lean riders like Lance have over 30,000 calories stored as fat, and there are quite a few fit riders carrying well over 100,000. This is clearly a significantly larger potential fuel source than carbs. Fat use generally increases steadily as a ride draws out, starting with the use of fat droplets stored in the muscle and then gradually using fat circulating in the blood stream that is coming off the 'chub' stores spread around the body.Tapping the generous body fat stores saves limited glycogen, but remember even at steady riding levels you will still use carbs.
FAT BURN TIP Keep the ride intensity under 80% of your max heart rate (HRmax) and ride for long periods

Build the engine

Training is crucial for optimising your dual fuel burning engine. If you can increase your oxygen carrying capacity and the architecture of fat use by riding regularly you will be many times more efficient than the irregular rider.

Studies show that one effect of training regularly is that less lactate is produced at a given level of effort. For example, unfit people ( may have a significant increase in lactate (LT or Lactate Threshold) at 50%VO2max. Trained athletes ( are likely to have this same lactate increase at around 70 to 80%VO2max.

More importantly, data suggest that fat usage may be 80% higher in athletes compared to obese individuals. Data from well-trained riders in the study (VO2max of suggests that fat use stops above 87%VO2max, and the peak area is around 45 to 65%VO2max. This equates to around 70 to 85%HRmax. If you want to work out the approximate percentage of VO2max you are working at, use this equation... %VO2max = (%HRmax x 1.345) -50 Eg riding at 80%HRmax gives (80 x 1.345) - 50 = 57.6% VO2max

FAT BURN TIP Training regularly, even turbo training sessions, helps use fat as fuel more than any special food, supplement or psychological trick and during a 2-hour endurance ride does not save glycogen but it does significantly decrease the use of fats stored within the muscle fibres

Type One 'endurance' muscle fibres were found to be the main area of fatty droplet use. Interestingly, glycogen storage after fasted sessions, on water alone, was much greater than the feeding during the ride. This suggests these fasted water-only rides up to 2 hours could be used to boost peak levels of fat use by 50% and post-exercise muscle glycogen storage by 200%.

However, for all those pulled in by 'fat burning' spinning sessions, aerobics classes and 'step', be sure you are number savvy. Fat use probably only provides 0.5g to 1g per minute. This will be greater during later stages of training sessions and in very fit riders (maybe 600 to 800 calories per hour). But, a carb meal 30 to 90 minutes before your ride will greatly turn down your fat burning engine, switching to more carbs.
Fasted rides (when you don't eat before going out) on water or fasted rides on a 5% fluid replacement drink tap fat

Have breakfast after the ride (if you're going over 2 hours eat breakfast on the bike in the form of regular carb foods - about 40 to 60g per hour)

Take a rider with bad meal timing; lack of consistent riding, who's training too hard and fat use will be very poor. However, if you leave 2 hours between eating and riding, train fasted up to 2 hours once a week, keep in your steady riding zone (60 to 80%HRmax) most of the time and stay consistent, then you will be a good fat burner.

Author: Joe Beer
About Joe Beer


I have been an active multi-sports athlete for 20 years and have competed in triathlons and duathlons for 19 seasons.
I have written regular magazine articles since the early 1990's.

I love the sport and work I do - I feel that it is a precious gift.

I thank my parents Mick ("Burt") & Hazel and family for their never ending support,
Who would have ever thought that the sickly child would ever be an Ironman?

I thank my friends and training partners for their advice and humour,
Graham, Mick, Phil, Dick, Eric, Rich, Earle, Mark and all the rest of you.

All the editors who have been patient with my writing and deadline scraping,
I may have cut deadlines close but I still get a thrill from penning every new article.

Thank you to all the athletes who have put their trust in me,
You have made me proud and made all the hard work worth while.

I continually innovate new ideas, demonstrate smart concepts and educate others.
If you follow this you will be fitter, become faster, go further and be smarter.

Finally I thank my partner Sharon who has made my life complete.
You make me happy and contented, and a better man.

Joe Beer, Braunton, North Devon, UK - February 2003.
. “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”- Fredrick Nietzsche

"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." - Immanuel Kant
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Old 08-03-07, 06:47 PM   #2
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Makes sense. My first two rides of the week are chock full of energy. Probably from the carbo-loaded weekend

I have to muddle through the rest of the week.
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Old 08-03-07, 07:31 PM   #3
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Thats a great article. I'm just finishing a 3 month base program. This low intensity work REALLY helps. Also interesting about riding while fasting.
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Old 08-03-07, 07:55 PM   #4
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Well I just don't know if what I do to commute will ever help then. I ride 8.5 miles in the morning, work for 2 hours ,ride home 8.5 miles and then eat breakfast. I don't know if I am riding enough to burn fat. I eat before I do the same thing in the afternoon, maybe I shouldn't. But I tend to feel bonking coming on if I don't eat before the afternoon.
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Old 08-03-07, 11:55 PM   #5
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This all sounds good and reasonable, but should we take nutrition advice from someone named Joe Beer?
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Old 08-04-07, 12:44 PM   #6
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Great read. Apparently I've been doing this the right way and never knew it. I almost alway ride after work in the late after noon and early evening. I never eat supper before hand but I do have a small bite(half a sandwich) to eat before I head out on the ride. My tummy is usually gowling by the time I'm done. I only drink water also. My thought process was this. The half sandwich would provide carbs and calories to get the fat burn going, but not enough to run on just carbs. So far it seems to work.
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