Bike Touring with Intermittent Fasting and Low Carb Diet

I would like to know about the experience of other bike travellers with intermittent fasting and a low-carb diet. I think this way of eating could be especially useful for long, multi-day and remote trips. I notice if I ride my bike for some hours first before I stop to have breakfast I have the feeling I have more energy, even before breakfast. I noticed this before the intermittent fasting was hyped so I think it's not only in my head and I would like to hear other experiences with this. The next part is influenced by the hype and some books I've read. For some months I started eating as little as possible added sugar, even during biking. Before I started this I actually did the opposite, but now I have the feeling that eating a salad during the ride gives me more energy than eating special sports energy bars. So I'd like to know if there are others that also avoid sugar during their trips.

If it works, stick with it. 
When I am riding while fasting and burning fat + carbs (not in ketosis), I have even energy and can go on for hours in that state. I don't have extra energy, I have uniform energy. I do feel it when my glycogen stores run out, though, on occasion, so you need to understand yourself, your food intake and the amount of energy you are expending. Also, refined sugar can be very useful when cycling in extremely cold weather; it will get you to where you are going if you get run-down and need an almost instant pick-me-up.
If you're going to go bike touring, I'd have to say that you should be carbohydrate loading. That means plenty of carbs. Protein is good- it provides long-lasting energy. But it is not very good at providing energy that your body needs straight away. When I refer to carbs by the way - I'm not referring to refined white sugar white flour and the rest. More I'm referring to whole grains - brown rice, quinoa, millet and etc. Good carbs add energy and nutrients, fibre, etc, to the body. I'd be careful about cutting carbs, particularly if you are going to go touring
carbo-loading is building up before a competition day, so that's not possible to do during bike touring.
what I’m saying is - I don’t think it’s a good idea to avoid carbs when you need a lot of fuel to burn. And again I’m not talking about simple sugars either - I’m talking about more complex carbs
if you need instant energy that is surely true, but since you need to keep your heart rate relatively low, with a balanced diet you could avoid needing instant energy. Most foods have carbs in them already, so I'm also not talking about removing carbs completely.
Absolutely. Fat is a great power source even if carbs are absent. I prefer vegetable fat like avocados and bananas. Nuts.
Hmmm… bananas… there is about 0,3g of fat in 100 g of a banana. Bananas are mainly carbohydrates (plus a good source of fibre)…
I know. I'm not anti-carb. Just prefer keto.
At my age (59), I have to cut on sugar and I did so a year ago. I will soon start a long ride and I think I will be able to eat more sugary stuff. But now I don't have craving for sugar so I will observe the effect of eating no sugar vs eating some. I would not be surprised to have more energy when not eating sugar and also when not eating at all (or just a little). So much we don't know about the impact of food on our bodies. And it's different for each individual, we can't make generality.
I hope Apple implement in the Apple Watch 8 the function of reading blood sugar level. Knowing instantly the effect of food on the sugar level will help in deciding what is best for me. I think...
I do agree on fats and no sugar is a great way for energy, but for this to really work you need to be adjusted to this type of diet for a while. It doesn't work if you just decide to do it for just a couple of days.
very true. The first week of my turnaround was very difficult. Actually beforehand I couldn't even stand eating fat during and right before biking, I really needed carbs, but I needed to fuel all the time once I started eating during the ride.
I stopped eating sugar a long time ago, only honey and natural sugar in fruits are OK. I found that I don't like sugar anymore except for an occasional bite of very dark chocolate.
What I do is after my 6 pm meal I don't eat again till 1 pm or 3 pm the next day, one day a week, just water or instant juice. That with biking I lost a lot of weight from 215 to 180 target weight. But that's me. I experiment on myself to know myself better.
do you also do it during periods of all-day biking?
never on all-day biking. You need the nutrient replacement on long rides.
I think those things are great for the average person but do not see how this could be beneficial for a long or multi-day ride. Carbs and sugar are instant energy. If you are really rising the whole day I find it much more beneficial for my ride if I am constantly putting down high carb content foods and sugar during the ride along with hydration. With that said, once my ride is done and I am settled for the day I focus on protein to rebuild any muscle loss from the vigorous exercise.
do you find the sugar means your blood sugar crashes and you need constant food? So you need to keep topping up to either prevent the sugar crash or stop it as it is coming back down quickly? Just curious, I've tried all sorts of different foods, and be good to have all experiences
I don't normally eat like this unless on a long ride and yes there is a crash at the end of the day but in the end, it makes for a good night's rest when you're outdoors. I have been trying to think of things to start eating towards the last hour or so of my rides to help balance things out but not sure what the best thing is yet.
Depends on how intensely you push yourself. A really gentle but long ride could probably power on mostly fat. But if there are any hills or head-wind, then some carbs are needed. I find that I need to get close to 5000 calories/day to feel energized. I am already underweight, so I can't afford to lose any precious body-mass
Yes, what Wayne Ostler said. I’m 74 and have toured and raced 85,000+ miles over the last 30 years. During that time I’ve tried to analyze what works. Nuts, carrots, and PB&J (or honey) sandwiches are high on my list. Fasting is questionable — my opinion is that a little hunger-suffering might train your body to use stored fats.
Interesting question. I used to do endurance mountain bike racing, and 24-hour races over hilly terrain, we never stopped talking about food, and am now cycling around the world. I struggle to eat first thing so tend to eat little and often the first few hours, after that, I don't really feel hungry but I know I feel more energetic after eating. What we eat is driven by what's available but generally starts with carbs. Oats nuts and dried fruit. Snack on trail mix. Have a mix of carbs and protein for lunch and evening meals. Try and avoid sugar-loaded food but find sometimes nothing quite works as well as a handful of sweets! Feeling hydrated is often our issue even tho we feel we drink enough. An orange or grapefruit really helps with that. Sorry not sure if my comments any use at all!
I have exactly the same experiences as you during multi-day trips: first cycling and only when I get a bit hungry I do have breakfast. In addition, I avoid added sugars and I prefer to eat products with slow carbohydrates. So bread instead of an energy bar and rice instead of pasta. I know that pasta likes to be eaten by cyclists, but after a few hours I get hungry again or the next morning I start with a hungry feeling. So no pasta and absolutely no (added) sugar for me! If I eat too much sugar, my blood sugar level first rises enormously and shortly after that a huge drop. So much so that I start shaking and have to eat something. With slow carbohydrates, vegetables, dairy and sometimes some meat (but preferably vegetarian) my blood sugar level remains at a constant level.
that really sounds exactly like my experience.
And I thought I was the only one because I often hear cyclists say they can eat anything!
Nuts, avocados and peanut butter work for me as snacks. I find it important to either have more complex carbs like oats for breakfast, or plenty of protein - so eggs and avocado are a great start to the day. I feel I get more energy out of protein and can last longer before feeling hungry than if I eat a more carb-based breakfast. If you’re cutting carbs a lot (eg no oats or brown bread even) then just be super careful to make sure you’re getting enough fibre - so important for bowel health
Dude, the salad gives you energy because of the potassium, magnesium, and other nutrients your body needs. I experience the same. Intermittent fasting gives you a feeling of being more energetic because your body isn't pumping out insulin all day. Avoiding sugar should make you feel more energetic. Best of luck dude.
I did a five-day bike tour and had a hefty dinner of lasagna, bread, and a salad after a 50-mile day. I was hungry for another dinner in a couple of hours. make sure you get enough calories.
My first meal is at 14:00 and yes I have noticed that I have more energy. I have been doing 18:6 since October
What is your snack between main meals while bikepacking
next week I'm actually going on a multi-day for the first time since I stopped the carbohydrate food. I was thinking to take nuts, avocado, +80% chocolate and bananas with me for snacks.
Unless you are super organised, you will do IF even if you don't intend on doing so. Just be careful not to do it on a "hard" day because you will bonk, and that's not great. Sometimes you'll be in situations where you haven't planned very well, and, there's not much around. Those places are few and far between. Top tip: If you can find nuts, dried fruit, bread and jam, you'll always be fine.
One thing I will treat myself with is ice cream.
I’m so down with this philosophy of nutrition. I’m planning to start my rides fasted during my first tour to accelerate the effects of fasting and get some of that sweet sweet autophagy happening!
In my experience, you just have to eat what is available?
Have a look through sites such as Diabetes UK or "The 8-week Blood Sugar Diet" to get further and more detailed information on reducing carbs/sugar and the use of 'clean' carbs such as salad, broccoli, and cauliflower.
I've read a lot of books about it already. But I want to hear about real-life experiences. If they talk about sports and food in studies/books it's always about short sessions or marathons.
We have been cycling for almost 2 years now. After our last winter break, we totally changed our diet. We don't eat any more pasta and we make our own bread made of nuts and seeds. The only problem is we need an oven to make it. We avoid added sugars. And we try to avoid carbs after our workout. It is an ongoing process of changing eating habits. But if you try to make a difference every day you will get there.
I've seen a YouTube video of an Indian bikepacker who makes bread without an oven. I'll look this evening if I can find it.
I guess you can dig a hole in the earth and make it really hot inside.
😆 funny chap, with a very cool oven!
This question seems nearly as absurd as asking about additional muscular/cardiovascular training and supplementation with vitamin D. Or not. At least, when doing sports, the damaging oversupply with glucose is nearly impossible, and the cell-repairing autophagy sets on or is increased. Based on my knowledge about nutrition and exercise, and complying with the probably best books about them: HOW NOT TO DIE(T) by Greger and EXERCISED by Lieberman, I recommend for the average person: - keep a daily fasting time window of best at least 16h. That means practically eat once or twice a day only - don't eat snacks around the clock - abstain from sweets with a high glycemic index - don't eat at least 4 hours before going to sleep, better have substantial breakfast - complex carbs and plant-based food are best for health, fat-based or ketogenic diet does not work well long term, although it is best for treating diabetes initially. Additionally, longer fasting (at least 36 hours) might be done once a month. The very active sportsperson can of course deviate from these rules. So he can always eat a banana or so and eat three times a day if a fasting period of 12 hours is kept.
it's not that absurd to ask, because most people call me crazy for doing that 😅 as you can also see from some of the comments. But the people that tried it seem to have positive results. 👍 Thanks for the book tips, the things you say are the things I also read in the books I already know, but it's always nice to have the input of other doctors, so I will probably read/listen to those books too.
I meant it rhetorically. I had written first 'The question is ...' instead of 'seems'. One of the most important strategies to get better knowledge is asking the right questions, even if seeming counterintuitive.
I wanted to hear from people that have experience with this kind of fasting during multiday rides, and those people are giving interesting feedback.
A vegan diet is the Best.
what is best for one person may not be the best for another one...
Ask the world. A vegan diet is the next-gen smartest food.
if you say so.🙏
that's something that many people say but is not true. Except if you have some medical conditions, we are all the same. But sometimes your body is hooked to some "drugs" nutrition, that's why adapting is hard.
yes, it's proven to be true. But with modern, nutrition-poor vegetables (especially in western countries), it's hard, even almost impossible, to get all nutrition without some supplements.
I am a vegan for 33 years. I am now 64. I often ride 100-160km and never rode out of energy!
You may try Flaxseed. Nutrition facts of Flaxseeds are: Flaxseed Sources include: USDA Amount Per 100 grams 100 grams Calories 534 % Daily Value* Total Fat 42 g 64% Saturated fat 3.7 g 18% Cholesterol 0 mg 0% Sodium 30 mg 1% Potassium 813 mg 23% Total Carbohydrate 29 g 9% Dietary fiber 27 g 108% Sugar 1.6 g Protein 18 g 36% Vitamin C 1% Calcium 25% Iron 31% Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B6 25% Cobalamin 0% Magnesium 98% *Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
and chia seeds
Agree with most of the comments. I have been on an 18.6 fasting regime for a few years. I can do a 20k run without breakfast. Muscles and liver typically hold around 1800 calories, enough for 2 hrs exercise. Low GI carbs obviously better than refined. I always have some protein and carbs within 20 mins of a hard exercise