There have been countless training trends emerging over the years for every single sport you can think of. And while the basis of cycling training has, on the whole, remained pretty consistent there have been a few movements within cycling training that are worth some attention. One of which is the concept of Fasted Cycling.
What is Fasted Cycling?
Fasted Cycling (much like the other forms of fasted exercise), also known as “Training Low” is the act of getting your daily dose of cycling exercise without eating beforehand, usually for an extended period of time (often anywhere from 6 to 16 hours). Drinks are allowed, but no solid food.
It sounds like a strange concept - for as long as anybody can remember cyclists and cycling experts have said we should eat at least a little bit of something before a ride to keep our energy levels up for the task ahead - but there are actually several health benefits that come from fasted cycling.
What does the science say about fasted cycling & where does it come from?
When your body begins to get tired and your energy levels become depleted, this is when the body’s own magic kicks in and it calls on your supplies of carbohydrates in your system to act as a source of energy - this is why many cyclists choose to eat a carb-based breakfast before a ride.
But with fasted cycling, your body does not have this option because you haven’t eaten for several hours, and anything that was in your system has long been put to good use by now. So instead, the body calls on the reserves of fat already in place which are, in themselves, stores of energy.
How does fasted cycling affect your body?
While on the face of things fasted cycling sounds like the ideal weight loss method - anything that means your body will be forced to use up your fat will no doubt aid in lowering your overall body fat percentage - but in actuality many people choose to to do fasted cycling or fasted exercise in general for other health reasons.
Some studies have suggested that fasted exercise can help the body regulate not only where to take energy from, but where improvements are needed too. In layman's terms, because your body does not have its usual reserves of energy to draw from, it forces its own processes to improve as a sort of ‘back-up.’
There are also some studies that show fasting in general can help improve everything from sleep to even life expectancy.
How does fasted cycling affect your performance?
In the beginning of your fasted cycling efforts you may feel much more drained than usual, especially if you’re used to getting a pretty tough workout after consuming carbohydrates.
However, after you’ve been trying it for a while (but it is not recommended you fast for every ride - more on this soon) you and your body will adjust to its new way of working and you should begin to feel much better, and possibly even better than you did before.
While some have reported drastic physical changes in their performance (increased strength, stamina etc) the main change you should notice is in your focus. Many athletes who fast say they feel as though they have quicker reaction times and an increase in desire to succeed.
What do I need to do to try fasted cycling properly?
Unlike other training methods, fasted cycling is relatively easy to do, if you have the willpower. All it requires is that you don’t eat anything in the time leading up to a ride. For example, if you last ate at 6pm in the evening and are heading out for a ride at 8am, this gives you a 14 hour window of fasting - a pretty good number, considering many opt for the slightly more extreme 16 hours.
Many people who are used to fasting before a ride would recommend some form of caffeine (espresso works perfectly) and/or vitamins (orange juice is a favourite of many) to help give you the quick boost that food would normally provide, before you head out.
But be sure to refuel once you’ve completed your ride. Your body will need the calories to recover.
Is fasted cycling just for professionals?
No - in fact many professional cyclists who are training every day, or perhaps multiple times per day, are probably fitting in some fasted cycling without even realising it!
Fasted cycling is probably better suited to those casual or amateur cyclists looking to perhaps live a little healthier, improve their overall performance, maybe lose a little weight or just to try something new.
So… if you’ve been looking to up your cycling game and try something new that might give your health and your performance the extra “kick” you’ve been after, fasted cycling could be worth trying out!
Please note: Fasting for long periods of time can have adverse effects on some people. If you’re worried how you might react, it could be worth discussing with your doctor first.
But if you’re looking to put your new fasting training method to good use, or if you’re just looking for your next big cycling getaway, Freewheel Holidays have a wide selection of the very best cycling holidays in Europe in exceptional locations that are ready and waiting for you to explore!