Thursday, December 16, 2010

A fasted state makes you faster?

My biggest limiters in cycling have always been my power to weight ratio and my back. I'm desperately trying to eliminate them for the coming season, and an interesting article in yesterday's Times may have offered a solution.

See the chart below? It's pretty typical of most years: I start out heavy after the holidays, slowly chip away at my weight before racing season, hit a 3-4 week window when my power goes up and my body weight goes down, either win or dictate the winner of a race in mid-summer, and then fall apart again.

The wins have all come in either flat crits or rolling road races. I've never finished a "hilly" road race with the leaders. Ever. The one time I made the podium in a technical, undulating crit in Santa Cruz, I crashed on the third lap and raced with an anguished fury that sustained a weird, Hulk-like transformation.

This year was a double-whammy: my bulging discs kept me off the bike and out of the weight room for almost all of December, January, and February. I'd have a good week followed by a week of laying around and grousing about the pain. I was heavy and had no aerobic base in April, so I sucked until July, had one good race day, and stopped racing because the bottom fell out under all that aerobically unsupported intensity. 

Two additions this year have defended against re-aggravating my back: yoga and chiropractic care. I go to at least one yoga class a week, and I've maintained my monthly DC appointments even after all the symptoms have faded.

So I've been on the bike more this fall than any in my recent memory. I've done almost no intensity, just spun around for 2-3 hours with Bryan on Tuesdays, gone long by myself most Saturdays, and ridden to the shop and back on Sundays. In between, I sneak in lunch-time rides of about an hour most days, and I've lifted weights at least two days a week.

As you can see in the graph, I'm at 201 right now. My body fat's around 13%, and I'm nine pounds ahead of last year's schedule. IF I can get my power at threshold back to 375 watts AND weigh 185 by race season, I'll have that magic power to weight ratio of ~4.5 watts/kg. The highest I ever made it was 4.07, and I won a race or two at that ratio.

I know I'll never be able to climb with the leaders in a Cat 3 race. But if I can limit my losses and stay close on the rollers, I can bridge on windy flats and rollers.

But how in the world can I lose weight without riding long base miles? And how in the world can I ride long when I saw THIS out my office window this morning?

Yes, Mike. Gravel. Okay, Mark, gravel. Rafal? Gravel. I'm getting a 'cross bike. I'm there. But still, most weekdays are a little too busy to drive 30 minutes to find gravel to ride.

So I'm on the trainer. I've now ridden three days in a row for an hour at a time. Tuesday and Wednesday featured some tempo and sub-threshold work, while today was just 60 minutes of aerobic spinning. (Breaking Bad? Bad choice for the trainer. It depresses the hell out of me at 6:00 AM)

I should go ride the trainer with the guys at the shop. But again, 20 minutes to get the damn bike on the car, pack a bag, set up the trainer, etc's a time-suck. And I have a book to write.

So here's the Times piece. According to a new study in the Journal of Physiology, exercising before breakfast in a fasted state burns mucho fateo:

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. [. . .] The men who ate breakfast before exercising gained weight [. . .] 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.”
The experimenters gave all three groups a high-fat diet typical of the holidays. One group didn't exercise at all, one ate a big breakfast before exercise, and the third group worked out before breakfast but ate the same amount of calories AFTER the workout.

I accidentally put myself in the third group by getting on the trainer right after getting out of bed and eating breakfast with my kids about twenty minutes after finishing the workout. I'm NOT eating a totally high-fat diet (I'll cheat like hell on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve), so I'm curious to see if my fat loss will be steady as I follow this plan.

As my coach once proclaimed, "EOB at 193? DAMN!"

Let's see what happens over the next four weeks. As always, your thoughts are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. We do a lunch ride almost everyday from the UP Center, some gravel, road bike path, what ever. The 20 mins your worried about could be spent riding down to meet us. I rode the trainer probably less than 10 times last year, any more than that and I end up hating my bike. So when can we expect you? I'm interested in hearing your Merckx story anyway.