"As all cyclists know, muscle glycogen is an important fuel source during most any ride, whether easy or more intense and depending on your training intensity, muscle glycogen can become significantly depleted in 75 to 90 minutes."She recommends as much as "3 g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight (1.4 g per pound), or 225 g for a 165 lb. cyclist." I've tried to eat that much; it's not fun! I now believe that it isn't always necessary to eat that much, depending on various things. Sometimes eating less can help us become faster cyclists, believe it or not.
What changed my mind on this issue was a few things:
- I remember my early days of big rides when I'd ride for 3 to 5 hours with no food. Or maybe just one energy bar at most. I didn't know any better but never bonked that I recall.
- I read several articles in which sport nutritionists and athletes discussed eating less as a way of enhancing fat-burning capability. That in turn spares the more-powerful muscle energy source, glycogen, which thus allows them to be faster in long races.
I recently did a test of this theory: With 891 calories for breakfast I did a workout ride with teammates for 5 hours including 75 minutes of race-speed climbing up Bonny Doon Road on just plain old water. I kept my power in the correct training zone ("L4") and burned 2,464 calories. Not bad! That means the other 1,573 calories came from my energy reserves. Some undoubtedly came from my dinner the night before, but if "when you wake up in the morning, your liver glycogen stores are only about one-fourth to one-third full, at about 80 grams worth of carbohydrate" is true, then obviously a very large portion must have come from my fat stores.
So, am I lean too? Yeah, I think 6% body-fat qualifies. But I'm more concerned that I can save my glycogen for finish-line sprints, and that also seems to be working better now.
Here are some articles for reference:
- Cyclists consider fasting to lose weight, VeloNews
- How to burn fat better, Cycling News
- Winter Bike Training, UltraCycling Magazine
- The Jonathan Vaughters Interview, Part II, Belgium Knee Warmers
- Low Carbohydrate Training, TriFuel
- Maximize your ability to burn fat as fuel, Hunter Allen, TrainingPeaks blog
Ciao, not "chow," for now!