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Monday, March 30, 2015

Cycling While Fasted

Conventional wisdom: fuel, fuel, fuel, or horrible things will happen to you!  You'll bonk, you won't get the best out of your workouts, and things will just generally go off the rails.

No Fuel?

I have been reading a bit more about endurance athletes working out in a fasted state.  This article provides a pretty good summary, including some of the actual scientific studies that have been done.

The studies have generally been small, but suggest there may be something to this.  So I tried it.

Every impulse I have is that this is wrong... years of gulping down sports drinks have made me feel like I rely on getting those energy hits.

The Test

A two hour ride, with lemon juice + table salt mixture (pottassium+sodium) and a few Nuun tablets (only 10 calories each, so close enough to fasted for the purposes here).

Oh, and I was at the end of my 16 hour "fast" window... by the time the workout was done I had fasted for 17 hours.


Shockingly it went great.  Really, really great.  I had energy the entire ride, no sense of fatigue (other than what I would normally feel).   I honestly expected my energy output to be too high for my body to produce from just what was already in me (fat, glycogen) - and thought I would bail on the ride at some point to find some sugar, oh sweet wonderful sugar... but nope, got to the end no problem.

The Strava Data:


I certainly can't conclude this is a better or worse way to train, as I have no idea what the adaptations from this will be.  All I know is I felt good.  The studies suggest this kind of training increases your ability to store glycogen, significantly - so if true, then fasted training should lead to me having more energy in a race.

What I can conclude is that a lot of what I've come to know has been wrong.  I've relied on energy drinks, but that could be as much of a mental crutch as a physical need.

It will be interesting to try this in the summer for a truly long ride.  Until then I will make a weekly fasted ride/run part of my schedule, and we'll see!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Cruising and Waistlines

We took an 8 day cruise over March Break.  Here is what I learned that is relevant to exercise/fitness.

The Boat

Independence of the Seas - one of the Royal Caribbean monstrously huge ships.

The Gym

The boat we were on had a pretty good gym, complete with treadmills, Concept 2 rowers, bikes... lots of classes too if that's your thing.  Free weights, machines.  All the basics.  The treadmills were especially cool - they faced forward out the front of the ship.  I used one while we pulled out of the San Juan harbour, through the straight next to the old fortress... it was just amazing.

The Track

Not so cool - the running track.  They put beach chairs on either side, just inches from the track... leaving nowhere for beach chair users to walk except, you guessed it - the track!  They would wander across, walk the wrong way, 2 or 3 abreast, completely unaware that runners were there... I didn't even bother trying, one look at it and I knew I'd be too frustrated.  Stuck with treadmill.

The Pools

The pools were useless for swimming, they were packed and small.  At best you could bob - no way a person could exercise in them.  They had a designated lap swimming time (6am-9am) but that didn't make the pool any bigger!

The Ocean

Our boat stopped at a bunch of ports, all of which had amazing Caribbean beaches nearby.  I did a lot of ocean swimming, a little for exercise, but also just to look at fish.  

The Food

Holy smokes.  You hear about the food on cruise ships, but it really is unreal.  Buffets for breakfast and lunch, sit-down fancy dinner where you can order as much as you want (double entrĂ©es, even!).  And if that's not enough, there's other food places you can pop into any time you feel like it... grab a slice of pizza or a hotdog.

All free!

I ate like a crazy person.  I couldn't stop myself.  I didn't try to stop myself.  It was delightfully gluttonous.

The Result

Plus 5-6 pounds.  I hope some of it is water weight or something, but the mirror tells me it's real.  Ouch.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My Intermittent Thoughts on Intermittent Fasting

I've been doing the Intermittent Fasting thing for 2 months now, pretty much solid.

Some thoughts...

It's Pretty Easy To Stick To

Of all the dietary changes I've tried to make in my life, fasting from 7:30pm to 11:30am the next day has been the easiest to adjust to and stick to.  I could do this forever, I don't really crave food anymore until lunch.  I've only "cheated" when I was genuinely sick, and even then only for a day here or there.

The Weight Loss Isn't Automatic...

Weight loss is definitely easier because you just naturally eat less.  But if you keep piling on the calories (alcohol and gorging!) then the needle won't move.

... But Stopping the Weight Gain Was

Even if I eat kind of crappy, my weight doesn't go up like it had been before fasting.

Pushing The Fast

The 16 hour fast with 8 hours of eating was a good starting point, but I find I've been drifting more to a 17 hour fast 7 hour eating window, sometimes even more fasting.  Just depends on how I feel.  If I'm still full of energy and not feeling hungry, I don't rush to have that first meal of the day.

Exercising On Empty Works!

I have been shocked with some of the workouts I've been able to pull off.  At the end of the 16 hour fasting window, I went for a 14km run without any calories.  No trouble at all, plenty of energy for a long steady run.  This goes against so much runner's wisdom... but there is a small group that preaches working out on empty to simulate how you will feel on kilometer 30 of the marathon.

Key word being "steady" - anything with intensity I don't have the same success while fasted... so I do my intensity at the end of the eating window rather than the fasting window.

Stop the Pseudoscience, Please

Finally - I have noticed a strong correlation between people doing intermittent fasting and many other far less proven things.  Bulletproof, Paleo, Detox, Anti-Gluten, etc... so ultimately I just stopped talking to other people doing it online, they were driving me nuts.  Intermittent Fasting has many supporting studies behind it - that is a huge part of the appeal to me.

Detox is complete nonsense.
Bulletproof is a fad you can lump in with grapefruit/southbeach/etc.
Paleo is based on a completely faulty view of how evolution works (and people only like it because they get to eat more bacon).
Gluten tastes delicious and unless you have Celiac Disease, eat up!

Show me the science, people!

Verdict:  Works for Me

I'm going to stick with it, possibly forever.  It's just really easy, fits my lifestyle, and I feel great.