In my continuing effort to find the limits of my new nutrition strategy, I rode 8.5 hours in the mountains of Southern California in a fasted state. Here is the headline, I rode in a fasted state (previous meal 13 hours prior) I rode the entire 8.5 hours on water (Crystal light flavoring) no exogenous calories, 13,200 feet of climbing in the first 90 miles with negligible loss of performance to wit, a Personal Record (PR) on the last 12 mile climb of the day. Cold temperatures in the 30’s, rain, sleet, winds and black ice … wait are we still in talking about riding in Southern California? You can follow me on Strava
Tommasini X-Fire Stainless Steel Custom
It is January and that can mean a wide range of weather. Some days it can be in the mid 70’s and short sleeves and some days it can mean winter clothing. We have had a cold spell for almost a week now. Before you think “oh you Californians are spoiled you don’t know what cold really is like” Let me tell you that this kid is a New Jersey transplant and he knows cold. He was also stationed, as a US Marine, in many parts of this country to include the great state of Washington where the winters were not pleasant when working outdoors on airplanes.
Often times after an epic ride I think to myself “Man what a difference a day makes”. Today, Sunday, it is mild and sunny and 58F. But yesterday, Saturday, oh yesterday was a different day entirely. As mentioned in the introduction, it was cold and raining and there was black ice lurking around many corners.
Why am I emphasizing the weather so much? Because cold temperatures put higher demands on your metabolism to keep your body warm and functioning properly. So what keeps the body warm? CALORIES! 8.5 hours of exposure to an average temperature of 44F is taxing on the body. So where did the increased amount of calories come from if there were no exogenous calories consumed during this ride? My fat stores! Being on a Ketogenic diet has afforded me the ability to tap into my fat stores while riding these long endurance training rides. The Ketogenic diet is high in healthy fats, moderate protein and very low carbohydrates.
My dear friends in the Midwest and other places like to give me grief because I complain about the cold when it’s only 65F lol! I know it’s all in good fun, but yes I am a delicate flower that doesn’t like to ride in cold temperatures. But here’s the thing -even when those friends of mine brag about riding in 40F or 30F they never have to deal with 30 minutes of descending at 40+ mph in 30F. The wind-chill factor makes the temperatures feel like you are riding in the low teens. It’s horrible to be wet, descending a mountain in the cold with black ice hiding around any corner. You have to be alert and react quickly but not abruptly. Your hands are frozen and you have lost dexterity and that touch. You know that special touch on the brakes … the gentle squeeze, the skill you have honed over the years and that you are very proud of as a free fall descender. Meanwhile you are wet and shivering and fighting to keep your machine under control the entire way down. It takes enormous skill level and a high degree of confidence to get it done. You HAVE to get it done … you’re not going to call for a ride. YOU have to get yourself down the mountain.
Look at the graph below you will notice the lowest temperatures of the day were on my final descent. After being on the bike 8 hours temps in the low 30’s and now begin a 15 mile descent. I should have been completely depleted of glucose and had poor muscle function and brain fog. So how was I sharp as a tack with such elevated mental acuity this late in the day after such a long effort? My body was creating Ketones and the brain loves to run on Ketones! Where did the Ketones come from? My fat stores!
Here is what I find most interesting about my entire ride yesterday. I PR’d the final climb of the day. Wouldn’t you think that I would be completely depleted not having taken in any calories on such a long ride? 6 hours and 20 minutes into the ride I hit the final 12 mile climb of 3,000 feet of gain with no calories consumed since when … 7pm Friday night! At this point we are talking 19.5 hours since the last time I consumed any calories!! Oh did I tell you that I had done a 72 hour fast just 2 days before this effort? Did I tell you that I am eating only One Meal A Day (OMAD)? Where did the calories come from to make this PR effort possible? My fat stores!
The training objective for the day was to ride at 3 w/kg. Yesterday morning my weight was 64.2 kg or 141.5 lbs. 3 w/kg for me is the top of Zone 2 Endurance zone from 140-189 watts. 3 x 64.2 kg = 192 watts I was very close to achieving my goal with zero averaging at 2.71 w/kg with a NP of 174 watts. Now let’s look at the final climb after 6 plus hours in the saddle I held 183 w NP for 2.85 w/kg right on target for up to 8 hours or riding. If you track Heart Rate data — I climbed it at 150 bpm max is 188 bpm. I am really excited about this result! The burning question is where did this energy come from? My fat stores!
FYI – this climb has a few drops so keeping a high power output for the entire climb is difficult to begin with and heck I’m an endurance guy so 200 watts over a long day on the bike is a good day 🙂
So what I am looking to achieve with the Ketogenic diet? What is the purpose of these no calorie endurance rides? I am searching for metobolic flexibility. This is the ability to use not only carbohydrates but my fat stores as well. If you are a “sugar burner” you will not successfully tap into your fat stores because you have not reset your metabolism to prefer fat burning. When you are a “fat burner” you can tap into your fat stores and use Ketones to fuel yourself. I am working on being able to use my Ketones for long steady state endurance events and when I need that burst of high intensity power use the glucose stored in my muscles. Being a Ketogenic athlete allows for glucose sparing for when you really need it.
How can this help me as endurance athlete? Think back to any race, event or training session when you have bonked. That was a horrible feeling wasn’t it? What if you can make yourself “Bonk Proof”? Many athletes fail to realize their full potential because of metabolic failures. That’s right they fail not because they weren’t trained properly with regards to their cardiovascular fitness or muscle strength, stamina or endurance. They fail because metabolically they are not using the most abundant and almost never-ending fuel source they have onboard … their fat stores! Bonk Proof consider the possibilities…
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How about a thousands thoughts? A thousand possibilities? Have you ever seen a tanker truck driving down the freeway or at your local gas station? Did you know that massive rig is using a diesel engine up front and towing gasoline in its trailer? The tractor is carrying 150-300 gallons of diesel to power itself but it is towing approximately 90,000 gallons of gasoline. What if the diesel is the stored glucose in your muscles and your liver and then gasoline is your fat stores? Consider the possibilities of tapping into the huge amount of stored energy you are lugging around with you everyday. If you are a “sugar burning” athlete when your 150 or 300 gallons of diesel fuel runs out you are either going to bonk or you need to keep replenishing during your event, race or training workout. But that means stopping to refuel and what if you can’t find something or you are running neck and neck with a competitor during a race? Do you take the risk and stopping to refuel or go until you bonk or hope that you don’t. Those fat stores are just sitting there… USE THEM!
By the way, I have also dispensed with the customary almost obligatory ingesting of protein/carbohydrate recovery drink within the 30 minute magic window. I mean who created this magic window? The nutrition companies? What did I have instead? I had coffee, mostly black lol I threw in a little Stevia.
One final note. I am very impressed with the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. It indicated a max elevation of 5,654 ft while the posted elevation sign was 5,665! Amazing under normal weather conditions but as mentioned throughout this post the weather was less than ideal! Well done Wahoo!
Some terms used in this post …. #sugarburner #fatburner #ketolifestyle #ketogenicdiet #fasting #intermittentfasting #omad