The benefits of fasted riding

Fasted riding is a useful training technique for fat burning and training your body to turn fat into fuel a bit faster. If you want to burn some fat and get lean, integrating an early morning ride into your training regime could pay real dividends.

At its most basic, fasted riding trains your body to use fat more readily as fuel. This is useful for longer rides, sportives or for general fat burning. It can also help reduce the depletion rate of glycogen, giving you longer between feeds or help prevent the bonk. Both of which are good things.

Fasted riding also builds up the enzymes and other physical elements needed to help convert and transport fat. These are useful on and off the bike and are a benefical by-product of this kind of training.

Do it properly or don’t do it at all

There are a few caveats I need to add when talking about fasted riding. If you read my piece on bonking, you will know that you need to be very careful of your energy use during cycling. If you decide to use fasted riding as part of your training, there are a few points you need to bear in mind first.

  1. Any ride has to be at low intensity
  2. Be aware of the symptoms of bonking and always have an emergency gel on hand
  3. Try a fasted ride on a turbo first if you’re not sure you can handle it
  4. Watch for commuter traffic

That first point is very important. Your glycogen stores will be low from the night and you won’t have much ready energy. As our bodies burn fat at a slower rate than glycogen, we need to keep the ride at low intensity so our metabolism can keep up. If you begin feeling light headed or lethargic, slow down.

Contrary belief

Now, here’s something a little contrary. If you don’t have time for a 1 -2 hour slow ride before breakfast, try intervals. While the importance of low intensity exercise cannot be overstressed, if you simply don’t have the time in the mornings, you can still gain some benefit out of interval training.

A quick 30 minutes interval session will help drain your glycogen stores but it will also help burn fat. It has the added advantage of setting you up for a calorie deficit which will force the body to burn fat throughout the day. Just be careful to monitor yourself throughout the day afterwards.

Recover well

It is always necessary to recover properly after a ride with a proper meal or recovery drink. This is even more important after a fasted ride. You need to replace carbohydrate and protein after any exercise and your body will crave nutrients and energy so you have to provide it. Have a healthy breakfast and/or a recovery drink, whichever works best for you.

Integrate a fasted ride once or twice a week and you will quickly become a fat burning powerhouse. Alternatively, add it in every now and again to force your body to improve its adaptability, it’s entirely up to you. Just don’t overdo it and don’t do it for every ride. The idea is to make your body adapt to change quickly and to even the mix of fuels to keep you going.


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