Cycling for weight loss: By eating before your next morning ride you can maximize fat loss
The fasted cardio myth debunked
By Clint Latham – Get Free updates of new posts here
That’s right. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times; especially if you are involved in the body building community. If you want to maximize fat loss you need to wake up early and hit the cardio before a single calorie hits the pit of your stomach. But the science would actually indicate otherwise.
If you lived during the late 1990’s you likely heard of the health craze sweeping the nation, Body for Life. It was a health and fitness challenge put on by sports supplement company guru Bill Phillips. I was especially fascinated by this challenge as it was based out of my home town of Golden, CO.
In Bill’s chapter on cardio he had two basic principles.
1) Hit the cardio early before eating your 1st meal
2) Perform short high intensity interval cardio or HIIT
The idea was that the body had been fasting all night while you slept reducing blood sugar levels, decreasing muscle glycogen stores and further decreasing insulin levels. Thus if you hit the cardio before your first meal the body would have no choice but to use fat as its primary fuel source. Sending the bodies fat burning potential into high gear.
Ever sense countless cyclist have been clawing their way to their bikes tired and hungry in the hopes of shedding a few extra pounds.
The Human Body Doesn’t Operate in a Vacuum
Carbohydrate is the body’s gasoline. Thus if you have no gas in the tank how far will you be able to drive? Not very far and especially if you try to increase the intensity rate.
It’s constantly adjusting it’s use of fat or carbohydrate depending upon a variety of factors. Kent Hansen in his study, The Effects of Exercise on the Storage and Oxidation of Dietary Fat, found. “Generally if you burn more carbohydrate during your workout you will burn more fat post workout. “ While, research does show that fasted cardio can increase the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue, this only occurs at very low levels of intensity. In the study Regulation of plasma fatty acid oxidation during low- and high-intensity exercise, “Our data suggest that, in addition to suboptimal FFA availability, fatty acid oxidation is likely limited during high-intensity exercise because of direct inhibition of long-chain fatty acid entry into mitochondria.” If a body builder performs HIIT, they may see an increase in fat mobilization but that does not mean an increase in fat oxidation. Resulting in all those fatty acids being re-packaged and stored back into the adipose tissue. After all that suffering you put it right back where it came from.
Furthermore Jeffery F Horowitz in his article in the American Journal of Physiology, found that; “When trained subjects exercised at 50% of the their max heart rate, an intensity that equates to a slow walk, there was no difference in the amount of fat burned- regardless of weather the subjects had eaten or not.” These results continued to be the same until the subjects, that were fasted, exceeded the 90 min mark. Only then did the fasted cardio begin to show favorable results.
Thus what are we left with? The body will burn more fat when fasted at a lower intensity. But the volume has to be longer than 90 mins. Anything shorter and its a wash. And if we try to increase the intensity their is an inhibition of fatty acids being able to enter the mitochondria.
If you’re in the higher body fat percentages. (35% and higher).
1) The blood stream already contains a high amount of fatty acids. By riding in fasted state you’re not going to any have fuel readily available for your muscles to turn the pedals, ie glycogen. Forcing your body to oxidize the fatty acids in the blood stream to create fuel for your ride; while continuing to break down more fat into the blood stream. Now the blood stream is over flowing with fatty acids! Exceeding the amount that you can use as fuel.
2) Once you sit down to your post ride meal your body is now going to start using more carbohydrate as fuel and all those fatty acids floating in the blood stream…….. You guessed it get stored right back into the adipose tissue. Now we are right back where we started.
If you are in the average body fat percentages. (15-35% for men, 20-40% for women)
1) There generally aren’t any issues with fat mobilization, transportation or oxidation.
2) Your body can break down fat in a fasted or fed state for fuel during your ride.
3) By feeding the body before your next ride you are able to increase your ride intensity reaching and maintaining your Ride to 75. Thereby increasing your EPOC affect.
The effects of EPOC
Now if all that wasn’t enough; if we take into account the affects of EPOC. Commonly referred to as excess post exercise oxygen consumption. There’s no reason not to eat before your next ride.
The results in the study, “The effects of various intensities and durations of exercise with and without glucose in milk ingestion on post-exercise oxygen consumption.” by J Sports Med Physical Fitness 39: 341-347, 1999. Found that fasted cardio makes even less sense when you take into account the impact of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. EPOC, commonly referred to as the “afterburn,” which represents the number of calories expended after training. Eating before exercise promotes substantial increases in EPOC.
Where does the vast amount of calories from EPOC come from? You guessed it, fat! Not only will you have immediate fuel sources ready to power your to Ride to 75. Your body will continue to break down fat after your ride due to EPOC. While the percentage of fat to carbohydrate burn will lean to the favor of carbohydrate during your ride; that balance switches to fat post ride. Your muscles then act like a sponge to absorb your post ride carbs to replenish muscle glycogen stores.
The carbs you ate pre-ride were used to fuel your Ride to 75 and the post ride carbs you ate were used to replenish your muscle glycogen stores. All while your body continues to use fat as a fuel source during and after your ride and you avoided carbohydrates conversion to fat. By eating pre-ride you are getting your cake and eating it too!
The Take Away
Eat before your next ride. You’ll fuel your muscles to Ride to 75 and you’ll still reap all the fat burning affects of a fasted ride.
Do you agree? I love to hear your experiences with fasted cardio; so leave a comment below and tell me what you think.
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