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Fasting and Nutrition

This past weekend, I was enjoying a post ride beverage at my neighborhood coffee shop. After 5 hours in the bight sunlight and oppressive humidity, it was time to cool down a bit. I was taking advantage of the air-conditioning and enjoying my ice-cold beverage, when a friend of mine rolled up. After a quick chat, I sat back down to finish my drink when I noticed my buddy had a jersey pocket full of at least a dozen goo packets. “What’s with all the goo?”, I asked. “I was going to head out on a long ride today, but decided against it because of the heat”, he replied. 


The subject of metabolic responses to exercise after fasting is gaining popularity. There is research going back thirty years, but your results may vary. I can get away with fasting and maintain hard efforts for an hour and a half until I need to take fuel. I have trained my body to respond to fasted rides, and I assure you, it took some time to adapt. There are still days where I don’t get it quite right, and I find myself on the back foot for one reason or another.

I also know strong riders that have to eat before any kind of high intensity workouts. I used to fall into this category before I taught my body to function properly after a fast. Despite the fact that I can get away with fasting on short, intense rides, on longer rides, I like to start with fuel in the tank. 

longer rides

Like in most things in life, on longer days, I keep it simple. I like having something filling and easy to digest, so I opt for oatmeal. I like to mix in some almond butter, chia seeds, and honey so I have a complex of more than just straight carbs. This allows me to get away with taking less food with me on a ride. I also notice my energy level doesn’t fall off a cliff at the two-hour mark the way it can if I am on a fasting ride.

on the bike nutrition

Now admittedly, I’m a bit of a frugal guy. The less I spend on little things like daily nutrition, the more I can spend on bike stuff. Back to my friend who I ran in to at the coffee shop, he must have had $15 worth of goo in his jersey pocket. That’s far from pocket change! Meanwhile, my on the bike fuel cost me about $1.50 for my 5 hour ride. 

My approach is a bit more old fashioned. It is also nowhere near as varied in taste or well packaged as a fancy sugar gel, but it’s just as effective. I also end up with far less litter at the end of a ride. I admit, you have to like pecan pie to be interested in my ride fuel. But honestly, who doesn’t like pecan pie? 

My on the bike nutrition consists of a sandwich bag filled with pitted dates and pecans. The dates have carbs and potassium, while the pecans provide protein, fat, and calories. I can start snacking on these after 90 minutes of a fasted ride. This keeps my energy levels high enough to maintain solid efforts. On longer rides, I can supplement my breakfast with the dates and nuts after a couple hours when I feel my energy begin to slide. 

Dried fruits and nuts. It’s as easy as that for cheap and nutritious on the bike fuel. If you like sugar gels, I’m not trying to persuade you to change what works for you. I also know plenty of dentists. They know that endurance athletes that favor sugar gels will keep them in business for years to come. Thanks for reading, and as always, keep the rubber side down!

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