Riding on an empty stomach

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Riding on an empty stomach

Postby ColinOldnCranky » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:52 am

I came across this aricle of a couple of years back. IT falls well within my own belief on both weight control and endurance performance that has served me extremely well for, um, 46 years. And I certainly do indulge myself with a high-calorie high fat diet.

I admit readily that I was trolling inthis instance for support for the concept.

There are plenty of articles out there that subscribe to opposite strategies. I have less issue with alternatives though I do get annoyed by good-old-mom homiliies.

Anyway, for what it's worth, it claims to prove the benefit of bonk-training sort of strategy for weight control and insulin takeup. Which are prime motivators for me.

It is at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/phys-ed-the-benefits-of-exercising-before-breakfast/

Phys Ed: The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS


The holiday season brings many joys and, unfortunately, many countervailing dietary pitfalls. Even the fittest and most disciplined of us can succumb, indulging in more fat and calories than at any other time of the year. The health consequences, if the behavior is unchecked, can be swift and worrying. A recent study by scientists in Australia found that after only three days, an extremely high-fat, high-calorie diet can lead to increased blood sugar and insulin resistance, potentially increasing the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Waistlines also can expand at this time of year, prompting self-recrimination and unrealistic New Year’s resolutions.

But a new study published in The Journal of Physiology suggests a more reliable and far simpler response. Run or bicycle before breakfast. Exercising in the morning, before eating, the study results show, seems to significantly lessen the ill effects of holiday Bacchanalias.

For the study, researchers in Belgium recruited 28 healthy, active young men and began stuffing them with a truly lousy diet, composed of 50 percent fat and 30 percent more calories, overall, than the men had been consuming. Some of the men agreed not to exercise during the experiment. The rest were assigned to one of two exercise groups. The groups’ regimens were identical and exhausting. The men worked out four times a week in the mornings, running and cycling at a strenuous intensity. Two of the sessions lasted 90 minutes, the others, an hour. All of the workouts were supervised, so the energy expenditure of the two groups was identical.

Their early-morning routines, however, were not. One of the groups ate a hefty, carbohydrate-rich breakfast before exercising and continued to ingest carbohydrates, in the form of something like a sports drink, throughout their workouts. The second group worked out without eating first and drank only water during the training. They made up for their abstinence with breakfast later that morning, comparable in calories to the other group’s trencherman portions.

The experiment lasted for six weeks. At the end, the nonexercising group was, to no one’s surprise, super-sized, having packed on an average of more than six pounds. They had also developed insulin resistance — their muscles were no longer responding well to insulin and weren’t pulling sugar (or, more technically, glucose) out of the bloodstream efficiently — and they had begun storing extra fat within and between their muscle cells. Both insulin resistance and fat-marbled muscles are metabolically unhealthy conditions that can be precursors of diabetes.

The men who ate breakfast before exercising gained weight, too, although only about half as much as the control group. Like those sedentary big eaters, however, they had become more insulin-resistant and were storing a greater amount of fat in their muscles.

Only the group that exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. They also burned the fat they were taking in more efficiently. “Our current data,” the study’s authors wrote, “indicate that exercise training in the fasted state is more effective than exercise in the carbohydrate-fed state to stimulate glucose tolerance despite a hypercaloric high-fat diet.”

Just how exercising before breakfast blunts the deleterious effects of overindulging is not completely understood, although this study points toward several intriguing explanations. For one, as has been known for some time, exercising in a fasted state (usually possible only before breakfast), coaxes the body to burn a greater percentage of fat for fuel during vigorous exercise, instead of relying primarily on carbohydrates. When you burn fat, you obviously don’t store it in your muscles. In “our study, only the fasted group demonstrated beneficial metabolic adaptations, which eventually may enhance oxidative fatty acid turnover,” said Peter Hespel, Ph.D., a professor in the Research Center for Exercise and Health at Catholic University Leuven in Belgium and senior author of the study.

At the same time, the fasting group showed increased levels of a muscle protein that “is responsible for insulin-stimulated glucose transport in muscle and thus plays a pivotal role in regulation of insulin sensitivity,” Dr Hespel said.

In other words, working out before breakfast directly combated the two most detrimental effects of eating a high-fat, high-calorie diet. It also helped the men avoid gaining weight.

There are caveats, of course. Exercising on an empty stomach is unlikely to improve your performance during that workout. Carbohydrates are easier for working muscles to access and burn for energy than fat, which is why athletes typically eat a high-carbohydrate diet. The researchers also don’t know whether the same benefits will accrue if you exercise at a more leisurely pace and for less time than in this study, although, according to Leonie Heilbronn, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia, who has extensively studied the effects of high-fat diets and wrote a commentary about the Belgian study, “I would predict low intensity is better than nothing.”

So, unpleasant as the prospect may be, set your alarm after the next Christmas party to wake you early enough that you can run before sitting down to breakfast. “I would recommend this,” Dr. Heilbronn concluded, “as a way of combating Christmas” and those insidiously delectable cookies.
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by BNA » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:31 pm

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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby CXCommuter » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:31 pm

I had not heard of this study but it mirrors my weekday regime of cycling to work mon-fri eating nothing and only having water (40-45minutes/21km each way). I do feel worse when cycling in the morning compared to the evening ride home but I still do it at a moderate to strenuous rate (commuter cup racing anyone?) then have breakfast at work. I have lost 20kg over the last 12 months due to this and cutting back on excess sugar consumption (principally coke etc). Importantly my resting heart rate and blood pressure has and is still dropping (not really a problem before though) and aside from iron stores my recent checkup was very good. Iron depletion was a result of blood donations, decreased iron abosprtion due to use of proton pump inhibitors (to reduce stomach acid) and the amount of exercise I was doing.

I completely agree with the articles outcomes and do not think it is a Troll ColinOldnCranky
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby ColinOldnCranky » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:02 pm

Some of the comments following the article indicate that this sort of regime results in feeling crook. It probably does. However my answer is that the very act of still doing the exercise that you would have been doing on a full charge of stored glycogen trains your bodies metabolism to go looking for those replacements for energy. I gravitated to it as I did to interval training which also trains the body to use those extra deeper energy pathways, a method which does not seem to engender the same doubts. Go figure.

Much as interval training works for sport requiring good anaerobic performance, once "trained" there should not be any issue with feeling low, nauseous, etc. IMO and in my experience.

Personally I can't remember what it felt like at the start as I have been on this sort of thing for a very very long time.

For serious elite athletes there is also a need to often train with no energy issues. I understand that elite swimmers for example, may train in this mode and at other times with fully loaded with energy at the start depending on what the purpose of the session is. However I also note much swimming publications focus only on the need for full energy complement before training to maximise what I guess to be training for technique. Any elite swimmers out there who have trained in elite programmes? College, AIS, etc?
Last edited by ColinOldnCranky on Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby macca33 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:14 pm

99% of my early to mid-morning rides are on an empty stomach - perhaps with only a cup of tea in addition to the obligatory water and i've ridden for as long as 75Km on occasion. I've only ever suffered hunger flats - feeling of reduced energy and stomach groans - on a few occasions, so reckon it isn't such a bad way to do things - within reason - you do have to eat, or you will get sick. The early exercise on an empty stomach certainly gets the metabolism going and utilising stored fat to fuel the muscles has to result in fat / weight reduction - if post-exercise intake is reasonable.

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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby ColinOldnCranky » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:31 pm

Another but focussing on the performance outcomes. Again a small sample size - 14 riders. At http://sweatscience.com/training-without-breakfast-boosts-glycogen-stores/
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby march83 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:48 pm

Yeah, I do this. Combined with eating low carb I have no real issues with knocking out decent 2-4hr rides with good IF, good NP and improved recovery. The +1 also appreciates that i can come home and spend the afternoon doing things rather than passing out on the couch in an insulin coma like i used to.

I'm probably an outlier, but this works really, really well for me.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby RonK » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:07 pm

ColinOldnCranky wrote:I came across this aricle of a couple of years back. IT falls well within my own belief on both weight control and endurance performance that has served me extremely well for, um, 46 years. And I certainly do indulge myself with a high-calorie high fat diet.

I admit readily that I was trolling inthis instance for support for the concept.

There are plenty of articles out there that subscribe to opposite strategies. I have less issue with alternatives though I do get annoyed by good-old-mom homiliies.

Anyway, for what it's worth, it claims to prove the benefit of bonk-training sort of strategy for weight control and insulin takeup. Which are prime motivators for me.

Yes, this my regular practice. I don't eat before exercising (no appetite at 5am anyway) and have no trouble completing a fast 60km ride, drinking only water. I like to have a cooked breakfast at the end of the ride but not of the humungous proportions I see some riders eating. I think it is far too easy to overcompensate with food, particularly if weight loss/control is your exercise goal. Can't remember the last time I bonked, it was so long ago.

On longer rides i.e. 80 -100km I do need a small snack and in hot weather to replace electrolyte (a Powerade and a sticky bun).
Last edited by RonK on Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby Sparx » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:13 pm

I can manage 3hrs on no food or water (in winter anyway) as long as I drink like a camel before I leave. Also no breakfast before I ride to work.

I actually feel worse riding home in the afternoon, more likely to bonk then.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby bychosis » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:20 pm

I normally have breakfast before riding, but can see that for some it would probably work. Overall it seems that balanced everything is the best way to maintain your health/fitness. That is different if you are trying to change something though.

I can usually go for 2-3 hours without much more than water (after breaky). If I'm going out before breaky I generally only make it for an hour or less, but then my body likes to start the day pretty much first thing with a decent bowl of weetbix.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby warthog1 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:12 pm

Well I am back to work on Mon, worse luck, after hols. I am going to give this a crack and have brekky at work. Thanks Colin.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby Rex » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:24 am

Been doing this for about 18months while commuting. I eat pretty much what I want and I keep off the 30+kg I lost.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby singlespeedscott » Sun Jun 09, 2013 7:08 am

I have been pretty much doing this for the last 25years. Even as a kid I never ate much breakfast. I think it's compensated by me eating like a pig at diner time :)
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby AndrewBurns » Sun Jun 09, 2013 7:24 am

I think this technique should be used with some caution depending on the type of exercise you're doing and the make-up of your body. I have very little if any weight left to lose and I've found that riding more than about 30km after not eating anything will drop me into hypoglycaemia territory... That said I used to ride 24km to work in the morning and every time I did that if was before dinner without any problems, I just don't think I could go much further without some fuel.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby RonK » Sun Jun 09, 2013 7:49 am

It is interesting (and amusing) to contrast the experiences of posters here with the comments from the food-obsessed in this thread.

I first experienced this many years ago when I was a farm worker. It is the normal practice for many farm workers to start early and get a solid one or two hours work done before breakfast.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby Rex » Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:19 am

Yeah if I decide to ride extras before brekky I really notice the drop in energy after 1.5-2 hours.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby am50em » Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:20 pm

I am another one who rarely has breakfast, as I am never really hungry first thing in morning. I do eat a banana and fruit muffin after getting to work.
I did try having a light breakfast before longer rides but it made no real difference to performance and I feel better riding on a completely empty stomach. I have also cut out the Powerade drinks pre/during/post rides at least during the cooler months.

Today did 3 Gorges (northern Sydney) 68km, 1050m ascent in 3 hours on a cup of coffee (milk no sugar) before leaving and a single muesli bar eaten on ride. Only drink water on ride. Today Strava says 33 Achievements including PRs on the climbs Galston West and Berowra Waters East with 3rd fastest time for Bobbin Head so it works for me!

For my shorter 2 Gorges ride (50km) no museli bar. Hunger flats only occurred on longer 4 hour rides.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby wombatK » Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:35 pm

Interesting paper Colin, at least for those pursuing weight loss goals rather than training for performance. The main difficulty for most people would be finding the 4 "strenuous" sessions totalling about 6 hours before breakfast. It might be more workable for people if something similar could be achieved with shorter interval training methods with maybe 20 to 30 minute sessions.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby ColinOldnCranky » Sun Jun 09, 2013 6:46 pm

wombatK wrote:Interesting paper Colin, at least for those pursuing weight loss goals rather than training for performance. The main difficulty for most people would be finding the 4 "strenuous" sessions totalling about 6 hours before breakfast. It might be more workable for people if something similar could be achieved with shorter interval training methods with maybe 20 to 30 minute sessions.


Its use is a relelvant to performance as strong as it is to weight control. I first started on it to sustain extremely high levels of physical output for sustained periods - I was a serious squash player for many years. In actual competition I would NOT be fasting, rather I would charge the body with the usual easy sources or energy such as carbs. Once the first rounds of competition had reduced the sugars in blood and liver it would then go to those other places that the morning fasting prepared it for. And of course I would still be eating and recharging between rounds.

I need to make it clear however that day-to-day post fasting and exercising I also replenish those reserves with all the calories I need for the day because weight loss was not my objective. These days it's more about weight control as I am beyond intense sports.

You are right of course about the long hours. Though after an evening meal at 7pm, no snacking and then reasonably intense activity such as a quick ride to work you still probably deplete your blood and muscles pretty quickly, so compelling the body to dig deeper. My two hours a day unicycling would probably equate only to a hard half hour on a bike.

The other requirement is to not succumb to lethargy that will arise while the metabolism learns to go that bit deeper. ie still work at the usual level despite being tired in the early weeks.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby warthog1 » Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:54 pm

I've had a crack at this for my 55 minute morn commute yesterday and today. I have felt fine during the ride and it gives me an extra reward when I get to work so I reckon I'll stick to this routine. Thanks Colin :)
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby durianrider » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:07 pm

march83 wrote:Yeah, I do this. Combined with eating low carb I have no real issues with knocking out decent 2-4hr rides with good IF, good NP and improved recovery. The +1 also appreciates that i can come home and spend the afternoon doing things rather than passing out on the couch in an insulin coma like i used to.

I'm probably an outlier, but this works really, really well for me.



So what is your watts per kg (AT) 5 mins. How many grams of carbs you eat per day on average?

What is your current height and weight.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby durianrider » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:13 pm

The study involves 28 men put on a diet of 50% CALORIES FROM FAT lol! How do you say 'heart disease, obesity and diabetes in the post...'.

Here is a good article from PCRM. http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topic ... or-success

I know I know...people want to keep eating donuts, bacon and eggs thinking all they have to do is skip breakfast and they will be as lean as Bradley Wiggins...

I wonder why those Kenyans are so lean? Less than 10% of their calories come from fat or protein. Over 80% coming from carbohydrates.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby Marty Moose » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:23 pm

I ride 40k's most mornings I can this with no breakfast easy. The ride is always form with intervals or hill repeats. I think it may help with weight loss due to increased levels of Interleukin 6 released due to training with low blood sugar. I'm not sure this time is long enough but its worth a look in some of the studies online. Ride also had an article about this a few issues back. I don't agree with low carb at all mitochondria need carbs to produce energy.

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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby march83 » Wed Jun 12, 2013 8:22 pm

durianrider wrote:So what is your watts per kg (AT) 5 mins.


my W/kg (AT) 5mins is currently more now on a controlled carb diet than it was this time last year on a low fat, low protein, high carb diet. the number itself is irrelevant however outright power is higher and weight is lower.

How many grams of carbs you eat per day on average?


It depends. as low as 30g, as high as 100g. average would be around 60g. if i eat them in any significant quantities they come from sweet potatos, berries or bananas. the rest are from the mountains and mountains of veggies i eat or tiny traces in proteins.

What is your current height and weight.


my weight is considerably less now than it has been at any other time in my adult life. height has not changed in that time.

ultimately, I am a more functional human being at work and at play eating less sugar and more fat from things like avocados, coconuts and very occasional animal sources. I have in the past eaten diets that consisted almost exclusively of grains and fruits but it never helped me stay lean nor afforded me any particular benefits on the bike. My cognitive function is improved when i eat less sugar and my energy levels are more stable. I don't find myself falling asleep at my desk and i don't have to rely on caffeine to get me through my day. All my markers for heart disease have improved dramatically since reducing my carb intake. Basically, I've spent a lot of time doing self-experimentation and I've found something that works quite well for me so i intend to continue to do it until i have reason to change.

I think the suggestion that there is 1 diet to rule them all that every human should eat that will allow them to operate optimally is false. I think i've found mine as you seem to have found yours. on that topic i'd just like to mention that i take the time to respect your dietary choices and take interest in your posts, so i'd appreciate if you'd do the same for me.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby durianrider » Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:38 am

Marty Moose wrote:I ride 40k's most mornings I can this with no breakfast easy. The ride is always form with intervals or hill repeats. I think it may help with weight loss due to increased levels of Interleukin 6 released due to training with low blood sugar. I'm not sure this time is long enough but its worth a look in some of the studies online. Ride also had an article about this a few issues back. I don't agree with low carb at all mitochondria need carbs to produce energy.

MM


Correct MM, its ALL about mitochondria. The more we have as cyclists, the more wattage we can produce relative to our natural potential. Body will not stimulate sufficient mitochondria production if the simple sugars are not there to fuel them. It will not produce them if there is not sufficient stimulis either.
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Re: Riding on an empty stomach

Postby durianrider » Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:43 am

march83 wrote:
durianrider wrote:So what is your watts per kg (AT) 5 mins.


my W/kg (AT) 5mins is currently more now on a controlled carb diet than it was this time last year on a low fat, low protein, high carb diet. the number itself is irrelevant however outright power is higher and weight is lower.

How many grams of carbs you eat per day on average?


It depends. as low as 30g, as high as 100g. average would be around 60g. if i eat them in any significant quantities they come from sweet potatos, berries or bananas. the rest are from the mountains and mountains of veggies i eat or tiny traces in proteins.

What is your current height and weight.


my weight is considerably less now than it has been at any other time in my adult life. height has not changed in that time.

ultimately, I am a more functional human being at work and at play eating less sugar and more fat from things like avocados, coconuts and very occasional animal sources. I have in the past eaten diets that consisted almost exclusively of grains and fruits but it never helped me stay lean nor afforded me any particular benefits on the bike. My cognitive function is improved when i eat less sugar and my energy levels are more stable. I don't find myself falling asleep at my desk and i don't have to rely on caffeine to get me through my day. All my markers for heart disease have improved dramatically since reducing my carb intake. Basically, I've spent a lot of time doing self-experimentation and I've found something that works quite well for me so i intend to continue to do it until i have reason to change.

I think the suggestion that there is 1 diet to rule them all that every human should eat that will allow them to operate optimally is false. I think i've found mine as you seem to have found yours. on that topic i'd just like to mention that i take the time to respect your dietary choices and take interest in your posts, so i'd appreciate if you'd do the same for me.


Fair enough mate. The reason I ask is Ive never met a low carber with decent watts per kg. Im genuinely interested though and have been requesting power data since 2009 on the subject but of all the low carb crew out there, nobody has come forward with any Training Peaks, Strava data etc. I even offered one Australian cycling coach a 1000$ if he could supply me with evidence low carb athletes could produce more w/kg than high carb athletes. He said ' I sure will!'. He never got back to me though lol!

If someone gave me 5$ to show data, I would do it!
Here is Lance Armstrong on low carb.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfLQVNavI8Q

I was at the Uni last night in the exercise physiology lab doing some ergo's on the watt bike. I made sure I was well sugared up so the data was sufficient for the study. They also advised me to 'ensure sufficient carb intake prior'. They screen peoples diets and reject low carb followers due to the well known fact that someone in ketosis will not be able to produce sufficient wattage for any study based on improving cycling efficiency. If you are in Radelaide though, I can get you on the study and you could be the first person from the low carb community to prove the entire sports science community wrong when they say 'low carb athlete will not out perform a high carb athlete of similar VO2max'.
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