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Eating too much on the bike?

Old 12-02-15, 01:13 PM
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merlinextraligh
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Eating too much on the bike?

We've all heard you need to eat before you're hungry, and that you need to consume 250-300 calories per hour while riding.

This is good advice for long hard rides where you're going to deplete stored glycogen, and outrun your ability to replenish calories.

But for the majority of the rides most of us do there's no need to eat at all.

Take my ride today as an example. 3hours, 2minutes, 52.6 miles, endurance pace, 1730 calories burnt (based on power meter data, and the assumption that 1kj = 1 calorie).

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No food, and 2/3rds of a bottle of water. Hungry for lunch at the end, but otherwise no problem not eating.

Had I followed the 300 calorie recommendation ( a gel every 45 minutes, and a couple of bottles of Gatorade for example) I'd be at 900 calories, then a recovery drink, 1150, then a big lunch, and all the sudden I'd have consumed more than the 1700
I burned.

So if you want to lose weight, are riding a lot but not losing weight, you may well want to consider how much you're eating on the bike.
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Old 12-02-15, 01:36 PM
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As far as I know, the issue with eating on the bike relates to recovery time when you expect to be riding at a significant fraction of your performance capacity for many days in a row.

Or if you plan to ride hard in the morning and work in the afternoon.

Keeping up with calorie consumption lets you maintain your reserves, with the assumption that you will need them later (say, on tomorrow's mountain stage after today's flat stage.) I am not a racer, but I have heard racers on TV talk about how they didn't eat or drink enough the day before and burnt out the next day. Since so few of us are riding stage races, I don't think the same replenishing program applies.

I usually bring a couple energy bars, but unless I bonk, I just ride on. I can usually grab a big meal and a nap before work. If not, I really struggle at work while my body tires to rebuild, replenish, and run normally all at the same time. Like yourself, I figure I can burn fat--I have about 5000 miles worth--instead of burning an energy bar or gel.

When I was doing a 45-day tour, I was very careful to eat and drink frequently because an off-day could really suck. The miles weren't any longer, but they Seemed a lot longer.

If I could ride at your pace I might use up my fat reserves a lot sooner.
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Old 12-02-15, 01:43 PM
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Couldn't agree more.
Everybody is different of course but I see too many people over analyzing what they consume while on the bike like it is life or death. And I am talking about people that regularly ride less than two hours at a time.
If you do not have any specific health issues there is no reason at all to obsess over this.
Professional athletes in many other sports regularly go all out for two hours+ with nothing but some water and/or gatorade.
Eat something suitable before you ride and again after you ride. It is really that simple.
Bonk is such a silly word. You would think everybody that buys gels by the case is riding solo in death valley without a cell phone every ride lol
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Old 12-02-15, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
As far as I know, the issue with eating on the bike relates to recovery time when you expect to be riding at a significant fraction of your performance capacity for many days in a row.
No doubt. And I thought about putting that in the original post. Doing a stage race, or just long hard consecutive days, its key to eat to recover for the next day. That recovery for tomorrow starts in the last hour of the ride, and continues with eating something for recovery shortly after you get off the bike.

When I was doing the US Pro Challenge, (670 miles in 6 days, with 10,000 feet plus of climbing each day, at race pace) the drill was recovery drink immediately off the bike, followed by a burrito, or similar with 15-30 minutes, then massage, then a big dinner. But that was racing 6-7 hours a day in the Mountains.

Unless you're doing back to back really hard days, you don't need to consume anything for recovery after a ride, and if you do ,you need to subtract those calories from your overall daily allotment.
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Old 12-02-15, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by bakes1 View Post
Bonk is such a silly word.
Well, I generally get up before five a.m., drink a cup of coffee, and go riding for a couple hours at nine a.m. So yes, sometimes--not often--I reach a state where my body simply cannot metabolize fuel as fast as I am burning it. A state where I have no immediate energy stores (glycogen) and nothing digesting in my intestines, and my body is struggling to burn fat or whatever else it can find -- and it can't find anything. If you have been there, you know how great it feels--especially if you are still a long way from home.

Yes, "bonk" sounds silly, but that is the accepted term for the situation I am describing. I would gladly consider an alternative term, if you care to suggest one.
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Old 12-02-15, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
Take my ride today as an example. 3hours, 2minutes, 52.6 miles, endurance pace, 1730 calories burnt (based on power meter data, and the assumption that 1kj = 1 calorie).
I got similar numbers when I did Washington Pass this fall. 2 hours 54 minutes came to 1,682 kJ. I did fewer miles than you but more elevation gain. Enjoyed a banana at the top, and two water bottles, one with a Nuun tab.

To your point, my "I'm pressed for time" evening loop requires about 225 kJ (7 miles, about 25 minutes) and a bottle of Gatoraid is 250 kc.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:00 PM
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The only times I have ever bonked is around mile 21 running a marathon. I get tired and hungry while riding, but even doing a century ride I never bonked. I don't take food on a ride less than 50 miles.

Hydration on the other hand is vital. I am always sure to bring plenty of water. Dehydration kills performance much faster than calorie deficit.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
W
Take my ride today as an example. 3hours, 2minutes, 52.6 miles, endurance pace, 1730 calories burnt (based on power meter data, and the assumption that 1kj = 1 calorie).
After years of riding, I know my body well enough to know that I would not be able to keep up an endurance pace on a 50 mile ride without taking in some added nutrition.
But in general I agree with your point.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:18 PM
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I think a lot of has to do with what HR zone you stay in for the majority of the ride.

Slower pace, you burn fat. Plenty of that to spare for most of us.

Faster pace, you burn glycogen and you have MUCH less glycogen in your body than fat, hence the need to replenish.

I can tell immediately when I get off the bike what I burned. If I'm starving, glycogen. If I can wait a while to eat, fat.

I've started wearing my HRM more to help keep me out of that glycogen burning mode on most rides.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:25 PM
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Can we lock this thread now, or do we have to wait until someone is crying because they got called fat?

Oh ****.

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Old 12-02-15, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by BoSoxYacht View Post
Can we lock this thread now, or do we have to wait until someone is cry because they got called fat?
I AM FAT!!!

Now I can cry?

And re: Jarrett2's remark---even though I am slow, I try to push just a little as much as possible because I don't wan't to stay fat--but I also want to be strong. I can lug the extra pounds around if my heart, lungs, and legs are up for it, and while not as efficient for fat-burning as a slower, more aerobic pace, I have a history of heart and lung issues so I really want to get those systems working as well as possible.

If I was burning fat, I could do Boston-LA without eating, probably. Pushing a little, two hours after eight-ten hours hours without food is sometimes enough to make me really hungry.

I had noticed that after some rides I was not as eager to eat--I will try to watch for the pace/hunger correlation.

I learn all kinds of interesting things here.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:36 PM
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I'm glad I don't waste my time doing silly things like counting calories.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:36 PM
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There is a thread in this forum called " why cyclists are so fat " . Like you said people are eating too much food while on the bike and they wonder why they can not lose those extra weight .
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Old 12-02-15, 02:39 PM
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I eat way too much for this sport - whether I'm on the bike or off.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Nachoman View Post
After years of riding, I know my body well enough to know that I would not be able to keep up an endurance pace on a 50 mile ride without taking in some added nutrition.
But in general I agree with your point.
+1. And there is no mention of elevation gain, or lack thereof.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:51 PM
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Anything over 30 miles and I have to eat. I did 41 on Black Friday and did not bring any food, by mile 30 I was starving. Fairly flat, 17 mph avg pace. Didn't bonk or anything, just very very hungry by the end. I hate gels and see no reason for gatorade unless I am out for a very long ride, and only because I want a change up from water. I usually make a quick PB&J. Just some carbs, protein and sugar...all real food.

The last century I did I experimented with eating all real food and it really helped me feel good through the whole thing. Good enough it was worth riding with my Carradice packed up with 2 baguettes, a few PB&J sandwiches, some cookies and dried fruit. The rest stops only offered up granola bars and things like honey buns...no way did I want to eat only that and some crummy gel.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
We've all heard you need to eat before you're hungry, and that you need to consume 250-300 calories per hour while riding.

This is good advice for long hard rides where you're going to deplete stored glycogen, and outrun your ability to replenish calories.

But for the majority of the rides most of us do there's no need to eat at all.
Right. Usually I don't need to eat on rides under 4 hours and ~1800kj/Calories which is around a metric century.

Take my ride today as an example. 3hours, 2minutes, 52.6 miles, endurance pace, 1730 calories burnt (based on power meter data, and the assumption that 1kj = 1 calorie).
Training (lots of endurance miles) and diet (fewer carbs) can get your fat utilization to 65-80% at an endurance pace (under 75% of FTP, 90% of LTHR). At 1800 total that's 360 - 630 Calories and 90 - 158 grams of glycogen.

Your liver has 100, and muscles 400 although there's no way to move muscle glycogen to other muscle fibers so that in your upper body and type iix fast twitch fibers is inaccessible.

So if you want to lose weight, are riding a lot but not losing weight, you may well want to consider how much you're eating on the bike.
I shrunk 65-70 pounds from over 205 to 135-137.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 12-02-15 at 03:44 PM.
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Old 12-02-15, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by mapeiboy View Post
There is a thread in this forum called " why cyclists are so fat " . Like you said people are eating too much food while on the bike and they wonder why they can not lose those extra weight .
Yep, there are so many overweight cyclists who wonder why. The answers are pretty obvious - look at the feed/rest stations in organized rides, read the various threads where people advocate x calories per hour and most posters adhere to that for a 60 minute ride, look at the amount of donuts consumed during the coffee shop stops on group rides, and what those riders consume afterwards at McDonalds.
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Old 12-02-15, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
I had noticed that after some rides I was not as eager to eat--I will try to watch for the pace/hunger correlation.
Setting a max of 75-80% of max heart rate seems to be the divider.

Of course, going up a climb will briefly go over that.

I'm still working on finding the sweet spot myself. Mainly so I don't over eat when I finish the ride.
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Old 12-02-15, 03:10 PM
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The original post really represents an over-simplification of basic cycling calorie management.

We all have infinite fat stores for cycling purposes but a limited amount of glycogen, around 2500 calories. Fat is mobilized more slowly whereas glycogen is mobilized quickly. When working at high intensity, you're going to be burning mostly glycogen. At lower intensity (when you are burning through calories less quickly), you can mobilize a greater proportion of the calories you are burning from your fat stores.

Implications:
1. Everybody can exercise for about 2500 cal without needing to consume any calories (in theory). How many calories you burn is determined by how intensely you are working and your body size and your metabolic efficiency. Intense workout for me is around 550 cal/hr (I'm smaller than most of y'all). I don't want to bonk, so for me personally I know I'll need to eat when I have around 1000 calories of glycogen left, ie at around the 3 hr mark.
2. If you're riding casually (ie at lower intensity), you can ride longer without eating because you are mobilizing some proportion of your calories from fat. To some extent, though, this depends on how well-trained you are to the effort. A newby riding 12 mph will likely need to eat more than a cyclist with years of conditioning.

The deal with the 250 cal/hr is that that's the approx maximum number of calories that can be absorbed by the human body per hour (interestingly this number is independent of body size). If you're going to eat, this is the approximate maximum that you should try to take in (including liquid calories).

For me, I don't eat at all prior to or during intense short workouts or rides that are up to 2 hours, I do them all fasted. For longer road rides, I'll start eating at the 3 hour mark and eat around 250 cal/hr from that point on. If I'm doing an all-day endurance race, I start eating 15 minutes in and try to get in 250 cal/hr all day- mostly because I know my ability to digest food and absorb calories will become somewhat impaired after 7 or 8 hours of intense riding.

I'm not sure if the stuff OP is reading is just getting these basic facts mixed up or if OP misread them to construe that its is generally accepted that one should eat 250 cal/hr on the bike.

And @RPK79, you're an accountant- you should be great at counting calories and getting all this math to work out.
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Old 12-02-15, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Heathpack View Post
And @RPK79, you're an accountant- you should be great at counting calories and getting all this math to work out.
Nah, there's no money in counting calories.
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Old 12-02-15, 03:14 PM
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Yeah, I always laugh when some hen starts clucking on BF about whatever their latest Hammer Nutrition mailing told them what is best for on-bike nutrition.

Everybody is different, and one's nutrition requirements change over time in regard to their fitness, ride/race types, weather, etc. Even (gulp) genetics plays a factor.

I can do a 4500 kJ/7 hour ride on 400 calories and 20 oz of water, if I ate a lot the day before.

I don't F around during summer time stage races, but in the off-season I occasionally push myself to the brink, just for laughs.
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Old 12-02-15, 03:15 PM
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I rode 65 minutes this morning at a Z3/4 pace, and since then I've eaten 2 donuts and a cupcake brought in by vendors to my office and my normal excessive breakfast/lunch.

Question is... are my cleats misaligned or do I just need to get an 11t cog?
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Old 12-02-15, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by RPK79 View Post
Nah, there's no money in counting calories.
Typical accountant, making it all about the $$$.

Calorie counting is my secret weight loss weapon. Boy that works.

Bad news is soon I'm going to need a new skinsuit.
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Old 12-02-15, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
Well, I generally get up before five a.m., drink a cup of coffee, and go riding for a couple hours at nine a.m. So yes, sometimes--not often--I reach a state where my body simply cannot metabolize fuel as fast as I am burning it. A state where I have no immediate energy stores (glycogen) and nothing digesting in my intestines, and my body is struggling to burn fat or whatever else it can find -- and it can't find anything. If you have been there, you know how great it feels--especially if you are still a long way from home.

Yes, "bonk" sounds silly, but that is the accepted term for the situation I am describing. I would gladly consider an alternative term, if you care to suggest one.
I apologize as I did not mean to reference you when I used that term. As I was writing my post you had yet to reply
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