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  1. #1
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    Adapting Low Carb for MTB

    I am 220lbs (Fat), and I ride 3 days a week from 1 to 2 hours and have been since early in the year. The weight doesn't seem to be coming off despite high intensity work outs.

    I have always had good success with low carbing at less than 90g per day when working out. I want to do it again since it has worked for me but I dont want to sacrifice my workouts due to weak legs. I wasnt cycling when I was low carbing years ago and I understand now that carbs are what we need for endurance. I know its not a life style change but I feel confident that once the weight is off, my riding will keep it off.

    So can I adapt a low carb diet to MTB by adding carbs at the right times before riding? If I am going to ride hard for 2 hours at 6PM, at what schedule should I add the carbs so they are ready for my body to use?

    Thanks,

    David

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    I've done what you suggest - low carb and work out. I did it while training for my first marathon (went from 260 to 220lbs) without much trouble. I also do it some while biking now and again to keep my weight in check.

    I will tell you that trying to do long endurance runs / rides while low carbing is doable, but very tough. I'd recommend either significantly adjusting your speed expectations, or plan do more of a "light" carb prior to significant events. You will feel tired and have no choice but to go slower. When I did it I was more in the 30 carb range - very low, so you may not have as much trouble with 90.

    When I was running I used low carb to get to a size that I could feel good about my fitness level. I basically low carbed from 260 down to 230 while running. Once I hit the 230 size, I transitioned to a more traditional low fat diet. Then lost the last 10 or so watching what I ate and "getting the furnace hot" to burn food and fat. I am 6'3" and big frame so 220 was as low as I could reasonably go. At that weight folks thought I was too skinny.

    Bottom line, yes you can do it. Go slower and expect to be more tired. The good news is that once you switch to a more traditional diet, your endurance and times will quickly improve.

  3. #3
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    thanks for the info

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    just don't try and train high intensity on low carbs.

  5. #5
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    Low carb training will trigger your bodies starvation mode causing you to gain more weight. Take a really close look at what carbs you eat prior to trying carb starvation. It doesn't work long term trust me. I have many friends in the nutrition and supplement industry and a few naturopaths and the concensus is carb starving=body starvation mode=when you do eat carbs or fats your body will not burn them, rather it stores them.

    The best way to loose weight quickly is to eat every few hours, but in smaller quantities, thru out the day and minimize your trans/saturated fats. Stay away from as much processed foods as possible and STOP eating fast food anything immediately. Minimize on your salt intake. Post longer workout drink Coconut water to replenish your lytes.

    You can try supplements if you want. For example I prefer Douglas Laboratories Pro PCA fuel. It's an explosive supplement and doesn't have side effects.
    Last edited by Svard75; 06-15-2012 at 12:48 PM.

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    What an average american considers "low-carb" is likely still high in carbohydrates even for endurance sports. I believe to lose weight with exercise you will need to consume a normal amount of carbs but in the form of grains rather than sugars. High fiber bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice. Make those three your carbohydrate staples along with fruit and veggies and you'll melt fat and gain endurance.

    What's probably just as important is to continue to increase your exercise load. If you go out and ride 1-2 hrs at a time your body will adapt extremely well to that workload. Make your rides progressively longer and you will see continued gains in your fitness and physique.

    -cheers

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    Thanks for the tips...

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    Nutrition is kind of controversial and I disagree with most things in post #5 and 6.

    Low carb does not trigger starvation, as long as you get adequate fat and protein.
    Losing weight means losing fat, and to lose fat, you need to teach your body to burn fat, and not burn carbohydrate as an easy way out. Eating small meals very often teaches your body that food is readily available, and thus it won't feel like burning off stored fat.

    Most saturated fats are not bad.

    Greater than 90 minute exercise at high intensity is bad for losing weight because it damages the body and thus requires even more food to repair it.

    Grains may not be good for you.

    Here are a bunch of links, all pulled from one site. I invite you to read the articles and decide for yourself if you believe them.

    How to Maintain Muscle While Losing Weight | Mark's Daily Apple
    A Case Against Cardio (from a former mileage king) | Mark's Daily Apple
    Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy? | Mark's Daily Apple
    Why Grains Are Unhealthy | Mark's Daily Apple
    Is Saturated Fat Healthy? | Mark's Daily Apple

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    Quote Originally Posted by beanbag View Post
    Greater than 90 minute exercise at high intensity is bad for losing weight because it damages the body and thus requires even more food to repair it.

    I'm curious what you mean by this comment. What part of the body is damaged after the 90 minute mark?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by beanbag View Post
    Nutrition is kind of controversial and I disagree with most things in post #5 and 6.

    Low carb does not trigger starvation, as long as you get adequate fat and protein.
    Losing weight means losing fat, and to lose fat, you need to teach your body to burn fat, and not burn carbohydrate as an easy way out. Eating small meals very often teaches your body that food is readily available, and thus it won't feel like burning off stored fat.

    Most saturated fats are not bad.

    Greater than 90 minute exercise at high intensity is bad for losing weight because it damages the body and thus requires even more food to repair it.

    Grains may not be good for you.

    Here are a bunch of links, all pulled from one site. I invite you to read the articles and decide for yourself if you believe them.

    How to Maintain Muscle While Losing Weight | Mark's Daily Apple
    A Case Against Cardio (from a former mileage king) | Mark's Daily Apple
    Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy? | Mark's Daily Apple
    Why Grains Are Unhealthy | Mark's Daily Apple
    Is Saturated Fat Healthy? | Mark's Daily Apple
    I agree that posts 5 and 6 are the other side of the argument and I too disagree with them.

    I avoid carbs and gluten as much as I can. Dropping the carbs has not affected my cycling at all and the only time I now eat any carbs is before a ride and during a ride. I don't eat any carbs after a ride, even if it's been a long one (+60 miles). The weight has started to drop off and I've gone from about 240 to 225 in about 3 months.

    The hardest part of dropping carbs for me was dropping the beer, wine and sugar in my tea/coffee. There's no point going on a no carb diet if you still going to have a few beers now and then.

    I avoid the gluten for other reasons apart from weight loss, but it's helped enforce avoiding pasta, bread and beer.

    I truly believe the 'small meals often' approach is wrong. We've evolved to eat, store and burn and if you constantly eat then you are never going to burn off that stored fat.
    It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marzjennings View Post
    I agree that posts 5 and 6 are the other side of the argument and I too disagree with them.

    I avoid carbs and gluten as much as I can. Dropping the carbs has not affected my cycling at all and the only time I now eat any carbs is before a ride and during a ride. I don't eat any carbs after a ride, even if it's been a long one (+60 miles). The weight has started to drop off and I've gone from about 240 to 225 in about 3 months.

    I truly believe the 'small meals often' approach is wrong. We've evolved to eat, store and burn and if you constantly eat then you are never going to burn off that stored fat.
    How many carbs are you consuming pre and during your rides? The body can store up to two hours of fuel (carbs). Once your burn all of that off your're going to bonk. I bet you consume a lot of carbs before and during your rides, that way you don't have an empty tank at the end of your 60mi rides.

    In my personal experience, going on long rides like yours will burn lots of the excess fat that our bodies store for us to get up to a weight of 260. The carb/fat/protein consumption ratio is important for performance, but the shear volume of calories you are burning during and after a ride that long will lead to weight loss.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemiwinks View Post
    I'm curious what you mean by this comment. What part of the body is damaged after the 90 minute mark?
    Did you read the link about chronic cardio?
    Mountain biking in general damages the muscles and joints. That's why you feel sore afterwards. There's nothing really special about the 90 minute mark, except that the original point is that if you exercise at high intensity, you burn predominately carbs and not fat. So what is the point of burning off all your carbs, only to have to replenish it later, and now you need extra protein to repair muscle as well?

  13. #13
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    Folks its hard to sometimes understand what REAL carbs are vs processed carbs.

    Read this Carbohydrates - What Should I Eat? - The Nutrition Source - Harvard School of Public Health

    Then this Carbohydrates: Good Carbs Guide the Way - What Should I Eat? - The Nutrition Source - Harvard School of Public Health

    Everyone's body is different so coming onto a forum and asking for advice will start all kinds of discussions but following any of them could set you back. Go and see a nutritionist or naturopath and have them assess what works for you.

    Cheers

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemiwinks View Post
    How many carbs are you consuming pre and during your rides? The body can store up to two hours of fuel (carbs). Once your burn all of that off your're going to bonk. I bet you consume a lot of carbs before and during your rides, that way you don't have an empty tank at the end of your 60mi rides.

    In my personal experience, going on long rides like yours will burn lots of the excess fat that our bodies store for us to get up to a weight of 260. The carb/fat/protein consumption ratio is important for performance, but the shear volume of calories you are burning during and after a ride that long will lead to weight loss.
    You only bonk if your intensity is too high for fat burning alone (may not be 100% scientifically accurate but you get the idea). In the past I've done a lot of 3 hour road rides where I didn't eat or drink anything other than water, with no energy issues, as long as the intensity was fairly low (LSD pace).

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    I have been following a paleo diet of meat, fruits, veggies and nuts with some dairy for a few years now. No bread, pasta, or other processed carbs. This has greatly improved my body composition and energy levels. I usually ride twice a week for 1-2 hours at a fairly high intensity and I have no problem with energy. Every now and then I have a 3-5 hour ride and all it takes is a little planning to avoid burning out or bonking. Eat sweet potatoes and some fruit before, pack a banana, jerky, nuts and a decent protein bar (I like clif builder bars-not paleo but they work well for a long ride) and you're good to go. This works for me and I agree with the posters above who said you don't need bread and other processed carbs. Check out the paleo diet, it's simple and it works. Good luck!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by beanbag View Post
    Did you read the link about chronic cardio?
    Mountain biking in general damages the muscles and joints. That's why you feel sore afterwards. There's nothing really special about the 90 minute mark, except that the original point is that if you exercise at high intensity, you burn predominately carbs and not fat. So what is the point of burning off all your carbs, only to have to replenish it later, and now you need extra protein to repair muscle as well?
    From your personal experience, do you feel like your legs have gotten weaker from mountain biking? I'd bet they have gotten much stronger. And I bet that's because you are tearing the fibers as your charge up hills, over roots, and out of turns. Then when your muscles are all used up you repair them with protein and refuel them with carbs. The author of the link you posted doesn't dispute my point. He is just pushing for a more foundation/base/endurance miles training program. He also said he does sprints and hill repeats every week to get stronger.

    Mountain biking strengthens and grows the muscles. Crashing damages them.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemiwinks View Post
    I'd bet they have gotten much stronger. And I bet that's because you are tearing the fibers as your charge up hills, over roots, and out of turns.
    Right, they get stronger from hard efforts, not prolonged efforts. The point is that for weight loss while maintaining strength, you should do sprints for strength and long slow rides for fat burning. (Actually, the latter part is not even necessary for weight loss.) Long-ish rides at medium hard effort mainly deplete carb supplies.

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    Beanbag is right. Cycling doesn't really build strength. Doing sprints will build some strength in your legs but if you want to add functional strength you need to do some olympic lifting in the gym. In general cycling builds muscular endurance, or primarily slow twitch muscle fibers. Pure strength is going to be fast twitch muscle fibers, built through weight lifting and maybe some plyometrics.

    Low carb works great for cycling if you know how to do it properly. I've been eating paleo for a little over 2 years and have seen my cycling performance increase dramatically. However I was already thin and wasn't trying to lose weight when I went paleo, but I think it will work well for anyone.

    You really don't need to eat carbs before a ride. Your body should have about 1 hours worth of stored glycogen and you can't increase this with carb loading, so don't carb load, it's a bunch of BS! My rides are generally 1 to 1 1/2 hours long at a very high intensity, where I am burning glycogen, not fat. I like to eat a GU about 30-45 min into my rides. If I were going to ride at a more moderate pace I find I don't need the GU as I'm not really dipping into my glycogen reserves.

    As Beanbag pointed out Mark's Daily Apple is a great website with tons of information.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by djonesax View Post
    I am 220lbs (Fat), and I ride 3 days a week from 1 to 2 hours and have been since early in the year. The weight doesn't seem to be coming off despite high intensity work outs.

    I have always had good success with low carbing at less than 90g per day when working out. I want to do it again since it has worked for me but I dont want to sacrifice my workouts due to weak legs. I wasnt cycling when I was low carbing years ago and I understand now that carbs are what we need for endurance. I know its not a life style change but I feel confident that once the weight is off, my riding will keep it off.

    So can I adapt a low carb diet to MTB by adding carbs at the right times before riding? If I am going to ride hard for 2 hours at 6PM, at what schedule should I add the carbs so they are ready for my body to use?

    Thanks,

    David
    You are not really riding enough at this point to really have to worry too much about carbs. Three days a week between 1 - 2 hours each ride translates into a rather low volume week of riding where you probably don't even use up your glycogen stores as it is. If you do use them up, it would certainly be the odd occasion on a day when you go full tilt for 2 hours - and recovery wouldn't be too difficult due to your low volume, rest days and what you are eating. If you are using an energy drink during these intense 2 hour rides, I would doubt you fully deplete your glycogen stores during the 1-2 hour rides. If we believe your time on the bike, then you are riding 3 - 6 hours per week with 4 rest days. Not really enough to stress your system where the weight could come off.

    Even if you are riding "full tilt" on those 3 days, it may not be the best way to lose weight. Have you thought about increasing your volume on the bike? Perhaps adding 2 more days per week of easier effort road rides of 90 - 120 minutes each for example. High intensity rides serve a purpose, but you don't have to go full tilt every time you straddle a bike. It sounds like what you really need is to go through a base building phase of high volume, lower intensity to start shedding the weight. 6 hours a week would be a bare starting minimum, and shooting for 8 to 10 would be a better starting point with going above 10 even better. At the higher volume, then I would start worrying about your carb/protein/fat balance - but not at 3 - 6 hours per week.

    And of course - what type of carbs you are eating should enter the discussion. "Lean carbs" would be ideal...

    The top ten carbohydrate sources/categories are:

    10.) Brown rice: The key here is brown, with the fiber husks in place. Rice allergies are rare and it digests readily without too much distress, bloating or gas. It is best for fat loss to keep serving sizes under 1 cup cooked or ¼ cup dry weight.

    9.) Steel cut whole oatmeal: Not the rolled oats you grew up eating, but maybe what your grandmother grew up eating. This is the whole oat with all valuable fiber and nutrients in tact. It takes a bit longer to cook, but the nutty flavor and slower insulin response are worth it. As with brown rice, keep serving sizes under 1 cup cooked or ¼ cup dry weight.

    8.) Quinoa: Another high fiber, gluten-free cereal grain. Higher fiber and mineral content than the oats or rice for even better insulin control. If taste doesn’t suit you at first, mix 1:1 with oatmeal until you get used to it. Once you are, you’ll be hooked!

    7.) Yams/sweet potatoes: These tubers are best prepared baked, in the skin. Not much more carbs than a regular russet of similar size, but more fiber, vitamins and minerals. I like them baked, then refrigerated cold and sprinkled with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

    6.) Winter squashes: Butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti or acorn squash are all very nutritious and now can be found in markets year round in most places. Cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and bake them skin side up over a ¼” of water. These are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals and a nice change of pace.

    5.) Peas and Legumes: Most beans varieties and green peas fit this bill. Choose from black, pinto, navy, kidney, white, red, chickpeas, garbanzo, etc. beans or green peas, as all of these are high fiber and very filling. Protein content, along with the fiber, fills you up without filling you out by keeping insulin response low. For best results, soak and cook slowly. As a snack, try hummus!

    4.) Colorful fibrous veggies: Red, yellow and orange bell peppers, green beans, beets, yellow summer squash, zucchini, purple eggplant, carrots, parsnips, red and green chili peppers… the colors mean carotenoids, and plenty of mixed carotenoids means more antioxidant coverage. A wide variety of colorful vegetables in your diet will improve your health and make your skin glow. There is almost no downside to the amount of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber (at low calories) they provide.

    3.) Super fruits: Fruits are great foods, full of fiber and enzymes, and with their quick digestion yet slow insulin response makes them ideal for an instant energy boost. But not all fruits are created equal and most don’t even make this list, but a select few make it almost to the top. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates, cranberries, and acai are amazing foods. You will feel the difference when you eat them versus other fruits. They are excellent when your sick, or when you workout hard, for that extra level of protection. High antioxidant, phytonutrients, enzymes, fiber and vitamins at moderate calories give you a lot of bang for the buck. They also have cleansing alkalizing effects on you internally, which along with all the antioxidants, provides an enormous immunity boost and keeps your digestive system functioning properly.

    2.) Leafy green vegetables: Kale, sea kelp, turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, chlorella, wheat grass, endive, alfalfa sprouts, spring green lettuces, spirulina, and spinach are so low calorie, yet so nutrient dense, they rank very high on my preferred carbohydrate list. Include these several meals a week and they will cover almost any base you missed. They’ve got the minerals, phytonutrients, fiber and vitamins in high quantities. These also are alkalizing and cleansing, keeping your digestive system running at full capacity.

    1.) Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, bok choy, napa cabbage, Chinese cabbage, green and purple cabbages are maybe not as high in micronutrients as the leafy green vegetables or super fruits, yet they contain DIM or Diindolymethane, a phytonutrient that acts as an estrogen disposal agent. Excess estrogen plagues almost anyone who is overweight or has practiced poor dietary habits for any amount of time. When you rid yourself of excess estrogen, you free up testosterone to do its job of building muscle at the expense of body fat. It is best to consume these incredible foods in large quantities. Try broccoli rabe or baby bok choy, sautéed in a little olive oil, with sea salt and garlic. Try mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes, it’s terrific.


    Low carb eating is not "no carb" eating, yet the argument always raises eyebrows. I successfully dropped from 212 to 180 using a low carb diet and have kept my weight in the 177-187 range for about 7 years now. Both through volume of exercise and choice of the carbs I do eat.

    In terms of the timing of when to eat (no matter what it is), fueling 2 - 4 hours before the ride (depending on what you eat) should be ideal for your evening 2 hour ride.

    BB
    The 14 warmest years have all occurred in the 16 years since 1997.

  20. #20
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    Not all Carbs are bad. You need complex cabs, not starchy junk carbs. And quite simply, you need to take in less calories than you burn. It's really not hard. I counted calories for 3 months, and went from 250 to 215. I am almost 6'3" and pretty much where I want to be. If I can do it, you can too.

  21. #21
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    get this book! Got me into shape and helped me with motivation! Nutrition is a big part of it. And cutting out carbs isn't necessarily good.

    Welcome to You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises by Mark Lauren

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    Cycling doesn't really build strength
    Well you take a Clyde (myself) on a 29er and ride mostly uphills that are rocky and rooty in (Pa.)

    That has built a lot of strength in my legs! I do 2 really long and hilly road climbs at this time also (and start and end my ride with a challenging rocky hill.)

    My thighs and calves seem an inch bigger because of this cycling now (and I have added 20 pounds to my leg extension on my home gym.)
    Last edited by 247; 06-27-2012 at 10:01 PM.

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    If you are worried about how cutting carbs out will affect your energy levels I recommend cutting all carbs except beans and other legumes (lentils are a great option). I have found that cutting out all traditional carbs (breads, pastas, rice) and eating a serving of legumes at least twice a day has helped me loose fat while continuing to train with good energy levels.
    Just my two cents.
    -Barret

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    Quote Originally Posted by MX283 View Post
    Beanbag is right. Cycling doesn't really build strength. Doing sprints will build some strength in your legs but if you want to add functional strength you need to do some olympic lifting in the gym. In general cycling builds muscular endurance, or primarily slow twitch muscle fibers. Pure strength is going to be fast twitch muscle fibers, built through weight lifting and maybe some plyometrics.

    Low carb works great for cycling if you know how to do it properly. I've been eating paleo for a little over 2 years and have seen my cycling performance increase dramatically. However I was already thin and wasn't trying to lose weight when I went paleo, but I think it will work well for anyone.

    You really don't need to eat carbs before a ride. Your body should have about 1 hours worth of stored glycogen and you can't increase this with carb loading, so don't carb load, it's a bunch of BS! My rides are generally 1 to 1 1/2 hours long at a very high intensity, where I am burning glycogen, not fat. I like to eat a GU about 30-45 min into my rides. If I were going to ride at a more moderate pace I find I don't need the GU as I'm not really dipping into my glycogen reserves.

    As Beanbag pointed out Mark's Daily Apple is a great website with tons of information.
    I've been pedaling a pedicab for 4 summers and my results in the gym have skyrocketed. The slow-twitch v/s fast-twitch viewpoint is relevant at the peak of performance, but at the mortals level (us) simply biking a lot will make your legs a lot stronger all around.

    According to CTS (lance's famous coaching system), carbo loading does work. But again, that's speaking for the elite athletes. For us simple folk, be don't need to crush down a pound of pasta the night before a 2 hour ride.


    I think all of us on this topic are very dogmatic in our ways because what we have tried has worked for us. For the sake of the OP, I think his best bet to lose weight is to spend more time in the saddle pedaling and enjoying the great outdoors. He can take bits and pieces from our arguments and carve out himself a diet that is low in bad carbs and high in nutrients.

    Cheers

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    Forget about fad diets and don't over complicate the process. Just eat properly (Never go on a diet, change your diet) and excercise on a regular basis. It is that simple!

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