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Can you burn fat if you eat carbs on a ride?

Old 03-08-17, 07:28 PM
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johngwheeler
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Can you burn fat if you eat carbs on a ride?

This may be a newbie question, but I'm wondering whether it's possible to burn fat (for weight loss) if you eat carbs during a ride.

I'm vaguely familiar with the idea that it is more efficient to burn glycogen stored in the body from consuming carbs, that to generate glucose from burning body fat. I haven't done many long rides yet, but the recommendation seems to be to eat some carbs every 90 minutes or so to prevent "hitting the wall" and running out of energy.

My question is how this affects cycling as a means of exercise for weight loss. If you are constantly stocking up on carbs, then presumably the body burns well little fat?

Is the fat loss something that occurs after the ride?


Thanks!

John
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Old 03-08-17, 07:41 PM
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Is the fat loss something that occurs after the ride?
This is the key than 100% of people who are not successful miss.

Weight isn't lost while exercising, it's lost during the day and night when one is eating appropriately and letting the body use it's stored reserves to repair and prepare the body for the next bout of exertion.

I've done fasted riding, training in ketosis, training with fats only and other eating styles and diets. I have had the most success at eating between 150-250 calories an hour while riding and during non-exercise times eating less. When I was riding fasted or in ketosis my body would flip out and I would get these insane cravings for sugars after riding. Made it extremely hard to lose weight. If I eat more during my ride it is easier to eat less after and my body seems to be ok with letting go of fat.

Read up on metabolic flexibility. People's bodies are different and what works for me may not work for you.
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Old 03-08-17, 07:41 PM
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Are you counting macros? Are you in a calorie deficiency?

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Old 03-08-17, 07:51 PM
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What Spoonrobot says. ^ It's the time off the bike when this happens.

Riding during ketosis is pretty miserable, though like anything you can get used to it I guess, and even train for it. It feels like riding with a 50lb sack of cement strapped to your back. Worth trying for the experience, but if you make a habit of it, you will likely turn yourself off of cycling. You don't need to eat carbs every 90 min while on the ride though, probably, but everyone is different. I can go 3 hours or so. What you eat the night before matters a lot.
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Old 03-08-17, 08:49 PM
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Agree with the above with one caveat: on moderately paced rides of 1-2 hours, I'll usually only drink water and not eat. Moderately paced meaning mostly at or below VT1: https://www.acefitness.org/blog/1165...ng-vt1-and-vt2
Many very well-trained riders who post on these forums can do that for 3-4 hours with no problem either during the ride or after. Lance was famous for going for 6 hour moderate rides in the Texas winter with only the water in his bottles.

This is a good thing to do in winter or early season. Below VT1, a well-trained individual will burn no glycogen and thus will not feel the need to replace it. All the energy comes from fat. This type of training increases the maximum fat burning rate, which means that gradually you'll cruise faster and faster at the same moderate output. When going hard, a larger portion of energy will still come from fat.

OTOH, as reported by the above commenters, riding a normal hard hilly ride and trying not to eat is not a good plan at all. If I'm going to push myself, I take food along to allow 125-250 calories per hour of almost pure carbs if I need it. However I usually wait until I feel a little hunger pang to eat. I don't just stuff it down. Eating frequent small amounts is the way to go. I'll frequently eat a tiny bit every 15'. You'll still lose weight. Calories in < calories out (CI<CO).

The thing is, very few people can move more than 250 calories/hour across the stomach wall, no matter how many they burn. So if you're averaging 500 calories/hour but only eating 200, that's a 300 calorie/hour deficit which really adds up if you ride enough. Many people find that a quick recovery drink, like chocolate milk, immediately after a ride will shut off the hunger to replace those missing calories.

So it's complicated, especially to start with, because the metabolic systems used by trained cyclists aren't trained yet. When you train, all you are really doing is training the chemical factories in your body to produce appropriate energy on demand. They respond very well to training, one of the little miracles of existence. The caveat there is that they respond to the type of training you do, so training inputs matter a lot and change the fitness outputs. Duh, but it's not necessarily that obvious.
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Old 03-08-17, 08:51 PM
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I'll chime in because I've been through this myself -

Most of the ratio of fat vs glucose burnt during a ride is determined by intensity. Fat is majority burned at lower intensity, and muscle glycogen at higher intensity. Thought it's not as simple as 0-100% for either carbs or glucose. You'll burn fat and some carbs up to the point where you cannot supply the energy required by fat alone, and glycogen comes in to supply the marginal energy requirements.

The key is staying fueled enough during the day/ride, so that you can finish the ride strong, but also recognizing that weight loss is a energy balance game. A typical well-rested male has about 1500-2000 Calories worth of muscle glycogen available.

If your ride is sub FTP, and the total energy expenditure of the ride is say, 1000 Calories, you probably don't need to consume any additional energy to rebuild your glycogen stores. Studies (of which I can provide if its reallllly required) have shown that after about 24 hours your glycogen level is replenished. However, if you do a long (>50 miles) or a hard paced shorter ride, you'll need to supplement your energy reserves with mostly glucose. Rule of thumb is that you can digest up to 300 calories from food per hour, wether it be from gels, cliff bars, or dare i say, rice krispy treats!

It's a topic that I could talk about for days, but that's probably enough for now.. . If you're really interested in some evidence based studies, check out pubmed and search for terms like "glycogen restoration in male cyclist" or "fat vs glycogen consumption", or similar. You'll find a lot of work.
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Old 03-08-17, 08:51 PM
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I must have been typing my post at the same time, CFB
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Old 03-08-17, 10:05 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
This may be a newbie question, but I'm wondering whether it's possible to burn fat (for weight loss) if you eat carbs during a ride.

I'm vaguely familiar with the idea that it is more efficient to burn glycogen stored in the body from consuming carbs, that to generate glucose from burning body fat. I haven't done many long rides yet, but the recommendation seems to be to eat some carbs every 90 minutes or so to prevent "hitting the wall" and running out of energy.

My question is how this affects cycling as a means of exercise for weight loss. If you are constantly stocking up on carbs, then presumably the body burns well little fat?

Is the fat loss something that occurs after the ride?
If your exercise intensity is very low (about the level of exertion of a casual walk), your primary energy source will be fat. As exercise intensity increases, you'll burn an increasing percentage of glycogen/glucose over fat until the point where you're exercising quite intensely and burning almost exclusively glycogen/glucose/carbohydrate. If your goal is to lose weight, it's worth realizing that you burn more calories with more intense exercise, so even though you burn a higher percentage of fat with low intensity exercise, you expend a far greater number of calories with intense exercise, making intense exercise a bigger bang for your buck from a weight loss perspective. It's also vital to realize that you want to lose body fat, not weight. Aiming to simply lose weight means that you could lose muscle if you're not careful about consuming adequate protein each day. The goal is to build muscle, which aids in weight loss because it's more metabolically active at rest than fat (which means well muscled people burn more calories/day just to stay alive than less muscular people of the same weight). You also want to build muscle in order to enable increased intensity/duration of exercise, which in turn allows you to burn more calories. Additionally, when exercising intensely for longer periods of time, your body will become glycogen-depleted. An essential component of recovery (ie setting yourself up for success in your next workout/ride) is replacing glycogen. This is generally speaking quite easily done with the standard American diet. For both protein-building and glycogen replacement, there is some evidence that intake of some protein & carb within 20 min of exercise will result in better recovery than just eating throughout the day- this is the basis for the concept of a recovery drink or meal. Personally I think this step is vital to controlling the increase in appetite that comes bundled with intense exercise. A recovery drink is more quickly absorbed than a solid meal. If you're interested in details on macronutrient and calorie composition of a recovery drink, let me know and I will expand on this idea.

As individuals become more well-trained, their ability to use fat as an energy source with exercise increases dramatically. This is part of the reason why trained athletes can ride harder and longer than untrained athletes. Being able to ride harder and longer should be a goal if you want to lose weight because you can generate a bigger calorie burn this way- and remember, it's a daily calorie deficit that causes weight loss and more specifically a daily calorie deficit in the context of adequate daily protein intake that causes fat loss.

For you, being untrained, it is smart to consume carbs before & during exercise. Yes, you will burn glycogen/glucose preferentially during exercise if you eat but remember the goal is not to burn fat specifically during exercise but to create that daily calorie deficit. Obviously you want to eat less total calories before & during exercise than you burn, so that you have a net deficit from the exercise- for example, if you figure you might burn 400 cal/hr cycling and you consume 200 cal/hr, you'll wind up with a net deficit of 200 cal/hr. As you become better trained, you will be able to exercise more intensely (say burning 450 cal/hr) and for longer periods of time (say 2 hours instead of one). So now you might burn 900 cal and eat 400, giving you a net deficit of 500 cal. From there you can try to get away with eating less when riding, which should be doable with training, until you can generate quite large calorie deficits on a ride- I'm small (135ish pounds) and can routinely pop off rides with 1500 cal deficits, which is around my max and interestingly probably about equal to my glycogen stores.

Hopefully that makes sense.
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Old 03-08-17, 10:07 PM
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Haha, I wrote a long-winded response and in the time I took to write it, two others posted very nice responses of their own!
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Old 03-08-17, 11:01 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
This may be a newbie question, but I'm wondering whether it's possible to burn fat (for weight loss) if you eat carbs during a ride.
Yes.

At an endurance pace your energy balance can be 75% fat and 25% carbs. I eat about 10-12 Calories per mile out of the 30 I calculate off power meter measured energy output. That's about a pound of fat which can be noticeable after the swelling and water retention subside from a 200 mile ride.
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Old 03-08-17, 11:05 PM
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Originally Posted by KBentley57 View Post
The key is staying fueled enough during the day/ride, so that you can finish the ride strong, but also recognizing that weight loss is a energy balance game. A typical well-rested male has about 1500-2000 Calories worth of muscle glycogen available.
Although glycogen can't move between muscles or even fast and slow twitch fibers in the same muscle.

Run out of muscle glycogen, and supra-threshold intervals no longer work but otherwise it's not a big deal.

Run out of liver glycogen plus blood suger, and it's time to lie down.
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Old 03-09-17, 12:35 AM
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Eating right while riding is still a very small part to being overall succesful in losing weight. The hugely dominant effect is your overall diet. If your eating isn't properly planned and controlled WRT what and how much, its near impossible to exercise hard and long enough under normal conditions to lose weight through exercise alone.
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Old 03-09-17, 01:22 AM
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If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight.

How you want to accomplish that is up to you.
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Old 03-09-17, 02:51 AM
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
Eating right while riding is still a very small part to being overall succesful in losing weight. The hugely dominant effect is your overall diet. If your eating isn't properly planned and controlled WRT what and how much, its near impossible to exercise hard and long enough under normal conditions to lose weight through exercise alone.
Yes, I'm spending a fair bit of time studying my diet too. I'm 71kg and 178cm tall (c. 158lb / 5'10), and trying to get to 68kg, although I'm not fixated about the actual weight, more in losing the minimum 2-3kg of belly and butt fat that I have!

I try to restrict carbs and sugar for the most part, and fatty foods - although I do like cheese & yoghurt which doesn't help. Mostly fish, legumes and nuts for protein, and I often have whey protein drinks before and after exercise.

I have found it harder the older I get though. I was tyring various calorie restriction regimes (intermittent fasting), but think that a good diet of moderate calorie intake (< 2000) plus some moderate to intense exercise is probably a healthier option.

I think I will end up losing fat if I continue with longer rides, and keep some carb intake so that I don't "bonk".

John

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Old 03-09-17, 07:33 AM
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GREAT REPLIES!!!!!!

Want to burn more, resistance exercise is a BIG HELP....... Resistance Training Exercise - Weight Loss Resources
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Old 03-09-17, 10:55 AM
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John, my answer is probably well outside your context. And many of the previous answers are spot-on. To lose weight, just make sure you run a small Calorie deficit. Having said that . . .

Ultra-endurance racers literally cannot store and eat enough carbs to make it to the end of our races on carbs alone. For that reason, we focus on maximizing the use of fat during the race. And to maximize the use of fat, we are extremely careful to keep topping up the carbs. Why? Because to burn fat, the body needs carbs. If you run out of carbs (which is possible), your body can't burn fat very efficiently and it starts burning protein.

So, can you still burn fat if you eat carbs? Yes. To burn fat, you need a certain amount of carbs. For shorter distances, you've got enough on board to handle the job.
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Old 03-09-17, 02:07 PM
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Imagine this

Aerobic Capacity is how your body processes fat
If you work at FTP 60%, assume you'll be using 60% of your maximum aerobic capacity.
FTP is your Aerobic capacity so if you're functioning at FTP, you're at 100% of your aerobic capacity.
If you're at 110% FTP, you're using 100% Fat and then the extra 10% is coming from glycogen stores & blood sugar.

Either way, you'll still be burning fat. Your body will want to replenish the glycogen stores immediately and will readily absorb carbs during this time. : )
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Old 03-09-17, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Panza View Post
Imagine this

Aerobic Capacity is how your body processes fat
If you work at FTP 60%, assume you'll be using 60% of your maximum aerobic capacity.
FTP is your Aerobic capacity so if you're functioning at FTP, you're at 100% of your aerobic capacity.
If you're at 110% FTP, you're using 100% Fat and then the extra 10% is coming from glycogen stores & blood sugar.

Either way, you'll still be burning fat. Your body will want to replenish the glycogen stores immediately and will readily absorb carbs during this time. : )
Actually it doesn't work anything like that.

Here are a couple of graphs which illustrate the points which have been made in this thread:





FTP is typically 70%-80% of VO2max.
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Old 03-09-17, 07:54 PM
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If the goal is weight loss energy balance is what matters. It doesn't matter if you burn more fat during the ride if your body replenishes the fat stores later. Similarly, glycogen stores will be replenished after exercise (unless you are in ketosis.)
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Old 03-09-17, 08:29 PM
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I tried counting calories and hated it.

I've found that if I do a 20-minute HIIT interval session twice a week (plus some other longer easier ride) and eat healthy, mostly whole-foods...I will lose fat weight.

If I do intervals and eat junk, I will hold steady.

If I eat healthy and don't exercise, I will hold steady.

If I don't exercise much and eat junk (ie, the whole month from thanksgiving to Christmas) I will gain weight.

If I'm eating healthy otherwise, drinking sugar-water and eating granola bars on rides doesn't seem to stymie my weight loss.

(I'm 36, 5'9", and have gone from 165lbs at new year's to 156lbs in 2 months...while increasing fitness and strength on the bike.)
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Old 03-11-17, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
This may be a newbie question, but I'm wondering whether it's possible to burn fat (for weight loss) if you eat carbs during a ride.

Yes your body can burn fat for fuel while eating carbs, especially during low intensity aerobic-endurance type exercises....however, just because your body is using fat for fuel during exercise doesn't guarantee that you will loose weight.



Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
Is the fat loss something that occurs after the ride?

Burning fat after exercise can only happen after a very high intensity exercise. It's called EPOC...The secret to permanent fat loss is to keep your metabolism elevated while at rest and that can only happen by doing a regular high-intensity training and proper diet....To me proper diet means limiting sugar intake and using sugar only when necessary, such as during intense physical activities. Sugar can help you to train with greater intensity which in turn can help with burning fat and calories.
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Old 03-21-17, 10:54 PM
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Try not to train your body to rely on being fed during moderate rides.

A new rider can probably do 20 miles without food or sugar drinks.

Eventually, work up to 60 miles at moderate pace without nutrition.

If your ride spans a natural mealtime (lunch), bring a banana.
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Old 03-22-17, 09:39 AM
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Going easy burns more fat, going fast burns more carbs, but still some fat.


Eating carbs reduces fat burn, but you still burn some


If you're new to training and riding hard (for your ability) for sure take some carbs in, even 1/3 Gatorade 2/3 water in the bottle. You don't want to run out of blood sugar and bonk. As you train your muscles will improve their efficiency and capacity to store glycogen and you will be able to ride 1-2 hours with only water.
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