The fasted training method for cycling is primarily one that you will need to personalise depending on your metabolism. Every cyclist will react differently to an empty ride, so always listen to your body. Cycling on an empty stomach is a type of training that has benefits but also risks, which you should be fully aware of. Furthermore, not all rides or types of training are compatible with riding on an empty stomach.
What do we mean by fasting when it comes to cycling?
Fasting means not eating overnight and skipping a meal before cycling, often breakfast. During this long period, the body is low on glycogen and activates fat loss by fuelling its stores.
Be careful not to confuse riding on an empty stomach with cycling while dehydrated. Liquid foods such as water, coffee or tea can be consumed during the fasting period.
Which cycling sessions should I do on an empty stomach? Cycling on an empty stomach is not recommended for beginners or inexperienced cyclists. In fact, it is recommended that you practise cycling on an empty stomach on a home trainer to see how your body reacts.
The main purpose of fasting cycling is to force your body to use up its fat reserves. Therefore, it is more difficult to cycle on an empty stomach, as your body will draw energy from fat reserves. Training sessions on an empty stomach should therefore be low intensity and, above all, of limited duration (1 to 1.5 hours maximum). It is important not to exercise at too high an intensity, as glycogen levels will be very low and the body will struggle to provide the energy it needs. The ideal session would be a 1-hour endurance ride on an easy track to work on your speed without forcing watts.
What are the benefits of cycling on an empty stomach?
There are many benefits to cycling on an empty stomach. Firstly, cycling sessions will allow you to lose body fat as your body will draw energy directly from it. It is also a great way to kick-start your metabolism early in the morning and promote recovery with what is known as an easy session for the body. Riding on an empty stomach will also reduce insulin levels and high blood sugar levels. This will improve your athletic performance.
What are the risks of riding on an empty stomach?
Cycling on an empty stomach is not without risks, so be very careful about this type of training and do not abuse it. Firstly, you can lose muscle mass if you do not train at low intensity. If your body can no longer get energy from glycogen or fat stores, it will go straight to muscle mass. You may then lose power and need to continuously ride at low intensities with a very high pedalling cadence. Finally, watch out for hypoglycaemia, known as cravings, which can end your fasted cycling sooner than you expect.
Cycling on an empty stomach, as you have understood, cannot be improvised and requires a very good knowledge of your body. Even though you may be attracted by its fat-burning effect, fasted training can also affect your strength. This is a session that should be done in fairly limited intervals for the amateur cyclist, so as not to affect power and intensity levels too much during the session.