SPECIAL OFFER Tour of Flanders 2025 available!

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to receive our Newsletter with exclusive offers, trips and promotions

Wait, want to hear more from us?

Sign up to receive our Newsletter with exclusive offers, trips and promotions

Low Carb Riding ?


More Info

Game Changers or What the Health, fasted, high protein, low protein, keto etc. What ever your personal diet habits, its fair to say there are some timeless and effective strategies for fuelling your riding. Kenyan distance runners famously drink only sweet tea before a long morning run and whilst this extreme form of fasted training may not be for you, there are things that the average cyclist can learn from the principles of low carb training.

Most of the ideas behind low carbohydrate (aka fasted training) are hardly revolutionary. Cyclists having been heading out on training rides in the winter & early spring for this sort of training for over a century. Modern scientific techniques have allowed examination of the effects of fasted training to see where benefits truly lie.

So, the (sort of simplified) science behind it.

If you can increase the use of fat as fuel then this helps to spare your limited muscle carbohydrate stores. Hey presto, you should be able to train, race, compete for longer, faster & farther without hitting the infamous ‘wall’ (bonking). In terms of biological effects, the most obvious are seen inside muscle cells as an increased numbers and size of mitochondria (often described as the powerhouse of the cell) which use oxygen to release energy from fat and sugars. Established Nutrition science has it that it is a lack of carbohydrate that stimulates these changes in the cells.

However, to make the most of your training you need all four macronutrients: water, protein, fat and carbohydrate; at the right time and in the right amounts. Your muscles will use most of their carbohydrate stores in around 120 minutes of continuous exercise such as a zone 2 bike ride. After this, your muscles rely on carbohydrates released from the very limited stores in the liver, and stored fat from within the muscle and all over the body.

The benefits of fasted training will be seen after this 2 hour period, so you can eat and drink carbohydrates during training without ruining the session given that digestion and absorption of anything you eat or drink will take at least 20 minutes. Indeed, you can even start to fuel normally at around the 90-minute mark in order to make the most of your training.

If you use low carbohydrate training wisely you can maximise your training adaptations without compromising your health or training intensity. Adjusting your carb intake to match your training will take your performance to new heights.

Top Tips for Optimising Low Carb Training

  • You don’t have to go to the extremes of fasted training to benefit from the effects of low carbs – you can eat proteins and fats without impacting on the results
  • Low carb training doesn’t have to mean no carb training – you can afford a small amount and still benefit
  • Low carb training increases your muscles’ ability to use fat as fuel so you can keep exercising for longer – building this type of training into your regime is important if this is your goal
  • Low carb training only works at low intensities – adopt it when your session is something like a zone 2 ride
  • Overdoing it on low carb training can stress your body – I don’t advise doing more than three sessions a week on low carbs and only one of those should be running as this has a higher body stress level compared with cycling or swimming
  • After around 90 minutes of low carb training you can fuel with carbohydrates and still benefit from the effects

The potential benefits of low carb training are significant for an endurance athlete and is a vital part of improving racing performance provided it is managed within these guidelines.

For more nutrition tips, check out our training partner Vitfor