As cyclists, we tend to be really focused on getting enough carbohydrate before riding. Carbs are important, but a diet too high in them can lead to dips in energy and ultimately, bonking. So, how about using fats for fuel?
Making sure there is enough fat in your everyday diet could be the difference between finishing your ride a whimpering wreck or pushing home feeling as strong as you did when you set off. Here, Vicky Ware explains everything you need to know about using fats for fuel and how they can help you on the bike.
Fat Stores in Muscles
Along with the fat stored under your skin – which we focus on when thinking of body fat – there are stores of fat inside muscle. These stores are used for energy during exercise. Studies have shown that people who have higher fat diets have more of these muscular stores than people who ate less fat, potentially meaning they can keep going for longer during exercise.
Replace Some Refined Carbs with Fat
Your body changes the fuel it uses for energy depending on what you’re doing at any given moment, and what your everyday diet includes. If you have a diet high in protein and fat with some carbohydrate, your body will mainly burn fat for fuel when you’re sitting around – along with some carbohydrate and protein. If you have a diet high in refined carbohydrates, you may be burning a lot of carbohydrates even when you’re resting.
Ideally, you want to be burning as much fat as possible while cycling, leaving your limited carbohydrate stores for when you really need them. Fats take longer to break down into energy your body can use, while carbohydrates are easily broken down into energy. This is why your body uses fat at rest – when it has time to get the energy, and carbohydrate during intense exercise when you need a lot of energy quickly.
Replacing the refined carbohydrates in your everyday diet with ‘good’ fats will improve your body’s ability to burn fats for energy rather than carbohydrate even when exercising.