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Balancing Weight Loss and Long Distance Cycling

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Balancing Weight Loss and Long Distance Cycling

Old 01-24-16, 11:50 PM
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Balancing Weight Loss and Long Distance Cycling

I am having a little bit of trouble balancing cycling longer distances with weight loss.

I'm still on a weight loss mission ... but I am nearing my goal (26 kg down ... 2 or 3 kg to go). My weight loss has been going great! Much better than expected. So what I'm doing is working for me ... for the most part.

However, I have been increasing my cycling distances again this summer ... getting back up to the distances I used to cycle.

I cycle a long-ish distance (100+ km over hilly terrain = a strenuous 5+ hours for me) on a Saturday, burn quite a few calories, and eat most of them back over Saturday and Sunday. But on Mondays I am ravenously hungry!! I'm OK again on Tuesday, but Mondays are difficult.

I want to keep losing weight, of course, but on the other hand, my head is telling me "EAT!!"


A few additional points:

-- I am in a constant, slight, calorie deficit in order to lose weight, and have been for most of the past year. I'm not starving myself or severely limiting my food intake ... most of the time I feel quite comfortable. I'm just eating a little bit less than what I burn. So I probably do not have the entire 1500-2000 calories we are presumed to have in storage.

-- In general, throughout the week, I eat a variety of food including: vegetables including the beans/legumes family, whole grains, lean meats, some dairy, and fruit. I eat very little sugary food (except for fruit ), rarely drink alcohol, and prefer not to drink my calories.

-- I am somewhat lactose-intolerant, so chocolate milk isn't even remotely appealing.

-- On the morning of a long ride, I eat 3 whole eggs (whites and yolks) and 2 pieces of good quality whole grain toast, which seems to work really well during the ride.

-- I track my calories burned as I ride so that I can replenish approximately half of my calories burned along the way. We stop for lunch (chicken sandwich, if I can get it) + I usually eat good quality, low sugar granola bars.

-- I eat after the ride, and what I eat varies depending upon what we are hungry for ... but I try to include a good combination of carbs, protein, and fat. I had a meaty pizza after Saturday's ride ... lots of carbs, protein and fat. And I feel comfortably full then.

-- On Sunday I devoured about 1/4 of a roast chicken and a plate full of roast veggies for dinner, so again, I followed up with a decent mix of protein and carbs. I ate other things as well, during the day, and felt comfortably full then.


But despite all that, come Monday morning and I could clean out a grocery store. I don't, of course. I continue to eat what I would normally eat on a Monday.

  • So I am kind of wondering if maybe there might be something I could do differently.
  • And I am kind of wondering why this occurs.

Last edited by Machka; 01-27-16 at 04:40 AM.
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Old 01-25-16, 12:15 AM
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As I get older, I find I have to scale back what I eat. I don't do it drastically but instead reduce amounts a little here, a little there, aiming to leave the table a little less full. I've gone to thin sliced bread. I make my cheese or meat sandwiches 1/2 sandwiches. Yogurt at breakfast is now only about a tablespoon and 1/2. I find if I consistently eat less, I get by with less. I make exceptions for fruits and veggies and don't set limts on either.

If I used to eat 3 eggs before rides, I'd go two. Maybe downsize energy bars. I used to eat Clif Bars. Now it's Luna Bars.

I say this and I am sitting close to my maximum weight. I'd like to weight 5 pounds less now and 10 pounds come summer. (I did get a little piece of grace 4 and one half decades ago as a college freshman; the awareness out of the blue that this body should never, ever weigh more than 160 pounds. I start dieting as soon as I hit 161. Never weighed more than 165 and those few times only briefly. Staying aware is easy. Don't need a scale. I am tall and skinny, As soon as people start saying I look good I know I'm hitting that number.)

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Old 01-25-16, 12:18 AM
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I'm eating less than I burn ... no worries there. I successfully lost 26 kg in 2015 and am now down near the bottom of my normal BMI range.

It's the ravenous hunger a day or two after a long ride that has me curious.
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Old 01-25-16, 12:21 AM
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I started cycling 4 months ago, and was obese (I still am )

when I started, I weighed 95.7 kg (211 pounds) ... on my 1st ride, after 1 mile, I was knackered and struggled to breathe. I persisted, and ride 5 consecutive days in a row, and cut out sugar, beer, and try to eat balanced and healthy.

I am now at the stage where I cycle approx 100 miles (160km) per week, and have been loosing approx 1.5 pounds per week. I have become fairly fit, and now weigh 86kg (190 pounds) ... so I have lost approx 21 pounds in 4 months. As I'm getting fitter, I cycle faster and further and loose more weight.

I found that if I try and starve myself, I don't have much energy, so I try and eat 3 balanced meals a day, and some days, portions are large. I eat till i'm no longer hungry

don't starve yourself, and eat what your body craves .... the weight will drop off irrespective.

my target is 75kg (165 pounds), so I still have another 11kg to loose (24 pounds)
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Old 01-25-16, 12:27 AM
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For me, the thing that works is eating less consistently enough that my stomach shrinks. Then, even when I am ravenous, I eat less.

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Old 01-25-16, 08:00 AM
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I'm not doing much distance now. But I still do a little. I was having huge issues with hunger, as I'm also restricting calories.

For other reasons, I started religously consuming a recovery drink immediately post-ride. My formula for my drinks works out to be 0.8 gm/kg body weight in carbs and 0.4 gm/kg body weight in protein. So 45ish gm carb and 22ish gm protein.

Also for other reasons, I am eating way less on rides.

So last weekend, I did a 3 hour ride which yielded a 1200 cal deficit. I drank about 3/4 of my recovery drink after, on the way to lunch. Including lunch and the drink, it was around 35 grams of protein within 1 hour post-ride.

No hunger for the rest of the day (and unlike you, I don't eat all the calories back), it's a miracle to me that this is pretty much the norm now. I'm not sure but I think it's the protein- I've read you can only digest/absorb at most 10 gm protein/hr. So I think that lunch is just in my intestines being digested for 4 hours and that's why there's also no hunger.

The late-onset hunger I suppose could also be a cue that you are carb-depleted by the long distance stuff. Maybe that's why the hit of carbs post-ride is working for me. Getting the muscles fed right away is maybe resulting in them not crying for carbs later on. This part is pure speculation from me, not something I've read.

Ive gotten to the point where there's certain things I'm going to eat before, during & immediately after a ride. In my overall diet, I'll still eat pizza but it's not hugely likely I'd eat that as my post-ride meal, because it's got the carbs but not enough protein. Of course there's other social reasons people might grab pizza, so I'm not saying never.
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Old 01-25-16, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Heathpack
I'm not doing much distance now. But I still do a little. I was having huge issues with hunger, as I'm also restricting calories.

For other reasons, I started religously consuming a recovery drink immediately post-ride. My formula for my drinks works out to be 0.8 gm/kg body weight in carbs and 0.4 gm/kg body weight in protein. So 45ish gm carb and 22ish gm protein.

Also for other reasons, I am eating way less on rides.

So last weekend, I did a 3 hour ride which yielded a 1200 cal deficit. I drank about 3/4 of my recovery drink after, on the way to lunch. Including lunch and the drink, it was around 35 grams of protein within 1 hour post-ride.

No hunger for the rest of the day (and unlike you, I don't eat all the calories back), it's a miracle to me that this is pretty much the norm now. I'm not sure but I think it's the protein- I've read you can only digest/absorb at most 10 gm protein/hr. So I think that lunch is just in my intestines being digested for 4 hours and that's why there's also no hunger.

The late-onset hunger I suppose could also be a cue that you are carb-depleted by the long distance stuff. Maybe that's why the hit of carbs post-ride is working for me. Getting the muscles fed right away is maybe resulting in them not crying for carbs later on. This part is pure speculation from me, not something I've read.

Ive gotten to the point where there's certain things I'm going to eat before, during & immediately after a ride. In my overall diet, I'll still eat pizza but it's not hugely likely I'd eat that as my post-ride meal, because it's got the carbs but not enough protein. Of course there's other social reasons people might grab pizza, so I'm not saying never.
I'm not in a huge deficit during the ride. I am in a deficit, but I try to aim to consume at least half the calories I'm burning. So a 100 km ride might burn 2000 cal, and I'll have usually consumed at least 1000 cal during the ride, more if you include the approx. 500 cal I have for breakfast.

I do not all my calories back. As I said in my first post, I eat most of them back ... so I might still be in a 200 or 300 calorie deficit at the end of the day. And I try to have a good combination of carbs, protein and fat post ride. I do eat a variety of foods, not just a rather meaty pizza.

I feel good after the ride, and for the next day ... but it is the following day where I feel like I could eat anything that pauses long enough for me to catch it.

However, if I eat right to the upper limit of my calories for that one ravenous day, then I seem to be OK again. And maybe that's just what I need to do. Kind of have a restocking day.

Last edited by Machka; 01-25-16 at 08:34 AM.
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Old 01-25-16, 08:36 AM
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If its white, throw it out. No breads, potatoes, etc.....and beer. Large salad on Monday......lots and lots of lettuce. You will feel full and satisfied.
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Old 01-25-16, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by hockey
If its white, throw it out. No breads, potatoes, etc.....and beer. Large salad on Monday......lots and lots of lettuce. You will feel full and satisfied.
I don't eat white bread. I quit eating white bread back in the 1970s.
I rarely eat potatoes. Maybe once a week. Sometimes about once a month.
And I haven't had a beer in about a decade ... blech. I could probably count on one hand the number of beers I've had in my life. Maybe part of the other hand.

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Old 01-25-16, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I'm not in a huge deficit during the ride. I am in a deficit, but I try to aim to consume at least half the calories I'm burning. So a 100 km ride might burn 2000 cal, and I'll have usually consumed at least 1000 cal during the ride, more if you include the approx. 500 cal I have for breakfast.

I do not all my calories back. As I said in my first post, I eat most of them back ... so I might still be in a 200 or 300 calorie deficit at the end of the day. And I try to have a good combination of carbs, protein and fat post ride. I do eat a variety of foods, not just a rather meaty pizza.

I feel good after the ride, and for the next day ... but it is the following day where I feel like I could eat anything that pauses long enough for me to catch it.

However, if I eat right to the upper limit of my calories for that one ravenous day, then I seem to be OK again. And maybe that's just what I need to do. Kind of have a restocking day.
Well good luck. It sounds like you've already figured out what works for you- just eat more on your hungry day.

I understood from your post that you are hungry two days post ride. I'm not particularly hungry two days post ride, so that's why I replied to you. Maybe that part did not come across in my post. I guess what I was saying is that I have figured out how to mostly manage hunger while losing weight and training intensely. Not that its a non-issue, just that its manageable.
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Old 01-25-16, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I do not all my calories back. As I said in my first post, I eat most of them back ... so I might still be in a 200 or 300 calorie deficit at the end of the day. And I try to have a good combination of carbs, protein and fat post ride. I do eat a variety of foods, not just a rather meaty pizza.
I suggest to stop thinking about replenishing calories burned and focus on replacing carbs. On a long ride if you aren't going too hard maybe half or more of the calories burned will come from fat. There is no need to replace those. Pizza is great and I'll never refuse but eating a lot of fat and protein after a long ride is not necessary. In your example you said you burned about 2000 Cals and ate 1000 on the ride. Those 1000 where likely mostly carbs and at that point you probably didn't need to eat anything more than normal.

I would eat a little less while riding and cut down the fat post ride.
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Old 01-25-16, 08:55 AM
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Riding long distance take energy which comes from food.
Enjoy the food and the long rides.

Let your food intake adjust to your needs to keep riding.

I did a NY to LA 4200 miles and Gained one pound.
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Old 01-25-16, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Heathpack
Well good luck. It sounds like you've already figured out what works for you- just eat more on your hungry day.

I understood from your post that you are hungry two days post ride. I'm not particularly hungry two days post ride, so that's why I replied to you. Maybe that part did not come across in my post. I guess what I was saying is that I have figured out how to mostly manage hunger while losing weight and training intensely. Not that its a non-issue, just that its manageable.
Yes, I am hungry two days post ride.

Not the day of the ride (i.e. Saturday)
Not the day after the ride (i.e. Sunday)
The next day (i.e. Monday) ... on Monday, I am sitting at work ravenously hungry.
And then the next day (i.e. Tuesday), I'm OK again ... no matter what I've eaten or not eaten on Monday.

So I am sticking to my calories. I'm not going overboard on Monday (despite the fact that I really want to), and I've lost weight at a pace I'm happy with.

I just wish I weren't so hungry on the Monday ... and kind of wondered whether maybe I should eat more on the Monday.
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Old 01-25-16, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I just wish I weren't so hungry on the Monday ... and kind of wondered whether maybe I should eat more on the Monday.
What I was saying is that I suggest you try a specific carb and protein dose post-ride and see if that solves it for you. There are real physiologic reasons to give it a whirl.

Or just keep doing what you're doing, if your happy with the weight loss and can deal with the hunger.
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Old 01-25-16, 09:14 AM
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I think the metabolism, the subconscious, or conscious mind says, I rode all day yesterday, I better load up calories for tomorrow, I probably will do it again. But then it does not happen right away. Eating to lose weight, and eating for a long ride are almost opposites.
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Old 01-25-16, 09:25 AM
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Ride more, eat more. I average about 180 miles a week with ~10k feet of cllmbing, and one metric per week. I eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Still losing weight. Lost 51lbs in the first year (238 to 187) and sure, in the early stages, when I could maybe manage 60 miles a week, diet was a concern. But not now. I generally do my metric on Tuesdays, so Monday is eat, eat, eat. If I was on whole grain, egg whites and vegetables, I honestly wouldn't make it. I wouldn't be able to put enough calories in my body with how much my stomach has shrunk. I have to eat through the entire day, and at least for me, caloric density is an issue-- I mean, 3/4lb of green beans is like 120 calories. I can eat that in one sitting and be hungry in 45 minutes, without even going near the bike.

On those times I have to stop for a snack mid ride, it's Milky Ways, mini donuts, and chocolate milk. Chocolate milk is the business-- 400+ calories in ~12oz.
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Old 01-25-16, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I'm not in a huge deficit during the ride. I am in a deficit, but I try to aim to consume at least half the calories I'm burning. So a 100 km ride might burn 2000 cal, and I'll have usually consumed at least 1000 cal during the ride, more if you include the approx. 500 cal I have for breakfast.
It may not have anything to do with being hungry 2 days later, but you don't need to eat that much during the ride. Keep in mind you've got approximately a 1500-calorie reserve of glycogen (varies a little depending on size/fitness). And unless you're riding pretty hard the whole time, your body _should_ be burning a significant amount of fat (but eating too much during the ride will give your body less incentive to do so). I recall a blog post from Training Peaks or somebody similar recently that recommended eating 20-30% of what you're burning; and even that is for longer rides, under 2hrs you should be able to get by with less (or nothing).

For a 3-hr, 2000kcal group ride I'll usually only eat about 400kcal. For a race I'll eat more since the intensity is much higher. Post ride I'll have a protein shake, and then regular lunch an hour or so after that.

I guess my point is, eating less while riding will have two benefits: you'll get more efficient/better at burning fat during rides; and the larger your calorie deficit on big ride days, the more leeway you have to eat extra a day or two later if you're ravenous.

[/quote]However, if I eat right to the upper limit of my calories for that one ravenous day, then I seem to be OK again. And maybe that's just what I need to do. Kind of have a restocking day.[/QUOTE]
I wouldn't worry too much about eating a specific kcal deficit every single day. Look more at the whole week and what the trend is. Having the occasional cheat day can even be beneficial to help prevent your metabolism slowing down when losing weight over a long period of time.

If your weight loss starts to stall at current activity and eating levels, try adding some extra training volume (or intensity) rather than a further reduction of calories.
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Old 01-25-16, 12:44 PM
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I'm in the carb depleted camp. Try dropping almost all the fat and switching the calories to carbs and protein. Carbs+protein immediately before: I use 15g whey + 50 cal. natural sugar. Chocolate milk probably OK, check the label. That's after a 400 calorie mostly carb breakfast 2 hours before. After the ride, recovery drink per Heathpack. I do the same. Then whatever else, but again, mostly carbs and protein. Have a piece of cheese or other fat right before bed because you should be still just a little bit hungry. Next day, back to your normal diet.

In my view, post ride hunger happens because the insulin released when you eat scours out your blood sugar, turning it into glycogen. That quits after the glycogen is replaced. Because you're a little calorie deficient, you may always be a little down on glycogen. If you didn't have hills, it wouldn't matter! We went out on the tandem yesterday and just slaughtered ourselves chasing younger more talented riders on singles up long hills. About a liter of beer fixed me right up. Bad boy.
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Old 01-25-16, 04:38 PM
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I use a healthy fat like nuts, nut butter, cheese, avocado ect. when nothing seems to satisfy my hunger on post ride days. I find the fats seem to keep me satisfied longer. Just be careful of the calories!
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Old 01-25-16, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by 2manybikes
I think the metabolism, the subconscious, or conscious mind says, I rode all day yesterday, I better load up calories for tomorrow, I probably will do it again. But then it does not happen right away. Eating to lose weight, and eating for a long ride are almost opposites.
Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Because you're a little calorie deficient, you may always be a little down on glycogen. If you didn't have hills, it wouldn't matter!
I suspect this is why it is happening.

I'm always a little bit calorie deficient, and with a few rare exceptions, have been for a year now. And the hills around here are a big draw on the energy reserves ... especially on 5+ hour rides.

I eat more than usual after the ride on Saturday (and no, not always pizza ... I do eat a variety of food ) and feel OK. I eat more than usual on the Sunday (different variety of food, not pizza ... this past Sunday it was roast chicken and veg) because we go out for another ride or a hike or something and I feel OK. But Monday I return to my usual smaller amount of exercise and, of course, smaller amount of food ... and I think my body stages a protest that day.

Back when I was doing a whole lot of long distance cycling (randonneuring, back-to-back centuries, double centuries, etc.), I just ate whenever I was hungry so I didn't go through this ... and back then I struggled to maintain my weight. I was forever dropping into the underweight zone. Unfortunately, I'm not quite at that level of exercise just now. I'm sort of caught between "increasing my exercise" and "exercising a whole lot".

And you're right, 2manybikes, "eating to lose weight, and eating for a long ride are almost opposites" ... I actually find it easier to lose weight during the winter when I'm exercising less.
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Old 01-26-16, 05:12 AM
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If you're hungry then eat. Stop obsessing about calorie numbers and eat. Avoid sugar because sugar provides absolutely no satiety, the more sugar you eat the more hungry you will be.
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Old 01-26-16, 05:19 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild
If you're hungry then eat. Stop obsessing about calorie numbers and eat.
That's how I gained weight in the first place!
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Old 01-26-16, 05:53 AM
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Have you counted your macros? Are you getting enough protein? Long distance cyclists need probably even more protein than heavy lifters since the volume and time involved is much. You should be getting about 1 gram per 1 bodyweight kilo.

When I'm ravenously hungry it's usually because I'm not getting enough protein after large exercise amounts.

I don't think it has to do with glycogen as the body can take care of itself on that regard pretty well. Otherwise you could eat an apple and be satisfied with that.
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Old 01-26-16, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by 2manybikes
Eating to lose weight, and eating for a long ride are almost opposites.
Ok, so does that mean that fueling with sugar and doing long rides and aerobic types of exercise is not an effective strategy for fat loss ??, because the type of food that people eat to sustain their long rides promotes fat gain ?? and the aerobic exercise itself doesn't provide enough intensity to keep the metabolism fired up ??

Personally I think it's the type of fuel that a person puts in their body that will determine if they loose fat or gain fat...And yes I also believe that aerobic exercise alone in not the most effective way to loose fat and the reason for that is because human body very easily adepts to aerobic exercise and there isn't enough intensity and stimulus. After your body adepts it stops responding. In order to loose fat one needs to provide enough stimulus and shock the body regularly with high-intensity exercise. HIT is the only thing that will keep the metabolism fired up for a long time and promote fat loss.
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Old 01-26-16, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio
Have you counted your macros? Are you getting enough protein? Long distance cyclists need probably even more protein than heavy lifters since the volume and time involved is much. You should be getting about 1 gram per 1 bodyweight kilo.

When I'm ravenously hungry it's usually because I'm not getting enough protein after large exercise amounts.

I don't think it has to do with glycogen as the body can take care of itself on that regard pretty well. Otherwise you could eat an apple and be satisfied with that.
MyFitnessPal does track macros and I look at them now and then. I just checked the protein report, and it looks like I'm pretty much on target for protein intake most days. I do see, however, that the three days prior to the event I was a little bit low on protein, so maybe I need to up my protein intake going into an event.

However, on Saturday, I had the eggs for breakfast just prior to riding, then when we stopped for lunch, we had chicken sandwiches ... one of my favourite mid-ride choices. I was consciously trying to keep the protein intake up during the event ... but maybe I need to think about doing that on the Thursday and Friday before an event.



I'll just clarify another point ... I don't eat much in the way of sugar. I don't add sugar to my coffee and tea. I don't drink sugary drinks. I rarely eat chocolates or candy or sugary desserts. Even the granola bars I use on rides are quite low in sugar. My main source of sugar is fruit ... I do like fruit, and specifically, I love mangoes which are indeed rather high in sugar. However, I limit my intake of them to a few when they are in season.
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