Carbohydrates vs Fasted Training – Planning Smart
Your choice of nutrition (or no nutrition) should depend on the type of session you are doing; the desired outcome and in what phase of your training you are. When you plan a particular training session decide if this is an easy to moderate session, or one where you are going to push the boat out. There are good reasons to use carbohydrates for racing and some training sessions and equally good ones to go without at others.
Why carbohydrates when you are Racing?
If you want to go hard in a race, or training session your body needs 60 to 90 grams of carbs per hour to perform optimally.
When your body works hard your fuel will come from your own bodies fat and carbohydrate stores. Your body will burn both at the same time; to start with more fat than carbs and after a while this changes to more carbs than fat. After some time you will run down your bodies own carbohydrate stores and hit the proverbial wall and being left with only some body fat is not going to work!! That is why it is needed to have a steady stream of carbohydrates coming in as this will be your main fuel for a great part of your race. If your body does not have access to carbohydrates, your body will likely start to metabolise your muscle tissue and that is not what you want. The harder you push, the longer your race the greater the need for carbohydrates will be.
As it is highly likely that you are going to burn a lot more calories than 90g of carbs per hour and the body won’t be able to digest more than 60-90g of carbs per hour; you do need that steady stream of carbs from the start and not wait until you get tired, or hungry. The advice is to try to be as close to 60-90 grams of carb intake per hour as possible.
The above is just how it works unless you are very sure that you are able to stay in a keto (fat burning) zone, with a low carb intake, (which would require extensive training and knowledge to adapt your body), this requires a lot more than just doing some fasted training sessions and even for those who are serious ‘keto athletes’ there is a limit to this strategy.
Nutrition during Training
Although it is wise to practice with your race nutrition during training, you don’t want to do all your training loaded with fast carbohydrates.
Practicing with race nutrition is a good idea for various reasons. If you do most of your training fasted, or on low/slow release carbs your body is unlikely to cope all of a sudden with high amounts of fast carbs during a race. Your body needs to be able to produce the right enzymes to digests high amount of carbs. Therefor in the few months leading up to a race you need to include regular training sessions with these products. You want to know what you find tasty; do your intestines cope with it; practicing with getting a gel down during a bike and a run, the logistics of how to carry it, can you swim 2k after drinking 300ml of energy drink? Useful to know these things well before a race.
Training with Carbohydrates for the hard sessions
As explained above your body performs best at top level when well fueled on carbohydrates. In order to get stronger muscles, more power, more endurance you need hard training sessions powered with carbohydrates, such as time trial sessions, intervals, track sessions. Well fueled you will be able to push harder and this will stimulate your muscles to become stronger and will increase your cardiac output. Of course you can do an hours of hard training on an empty stomach, but you are likely to be able to push harder when your body has readily access to carbs.
Training without Carbohydrates (fasted training), or with slow release carbs
You do not want to take full on fast carbohydrates every training session. Your body fat is another source that your body will use as fuel during racing. By incorporating several training sessions a week on either
slow release carbohydrates or completely fasted, you train your body to use fat more efficiently as a fuel source. The ability of your body to use fat as a fuel source is extremely valuable when you are racing longer races. This type of training session would be your slower easier rides or runs, not much longer then 2 hours for most people. Perhaps a good idea to have a gel in your back pocket incase you need some help getting back..
Slow release carbohydrates (Isomaltulose) prevent insulin spikes and help with burning fat for longer (Training Mix and Juice Bars).
Fasted training is best done in the morning without breakfast, no food, no gels, no energy drink, just electrolytes (Stealth Hydration Tablets), or an electrolyte drink with a very low dose of carbs (Superhydration mix)
Training for weight loss
If your main aim is weight loss, you could decide to do all your training fasted. However even here there is a case to use carbohydrates for some sessions. You are likely to be able to train for longer, or push harder with carbs and this in turn will help you burn calories. Stronger muscles, more endurance all means that you will create a bigger engine and burn more in the longterm. Slow release carbohydrates will give you that steady stream without spiking your insulin levels, while still allowing you to burn fat for longer.
Tip— the caffeine in a black coffee (no milk, no sugar, no other food, no carbs) before a fasted session will help you burn more fat!