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Morning training - empty stomach

Hi all, I'm new to the forum. I've had an ambition to complete an Iron Man for a few years now, subscribed to 220 for a year or so and finally decided 2013 was the year I get serious about getting fit and doing my first triathlon.

I bought a bike last summer and love riding it and occasionally go running. My short term aim is to compete in a short triathlon this summer. The main thing holding me back is the fact I can't swim front crawl properly, so next week I begin lessons at my local pool to sort that issue out, which means bar some kit I'll be ready to start by tri 'career!'

Anyway, the reason I started this thread is because I applied to ride in the 'Ride London' event this August but was unsuccessful. However they still sent me a magazine with an outline (bike) training schedule. Throughout the plan it tells you to do morning rides before eating any breakfast as it encourages the body to use up excess fat.

Whilst I understand the logic, I've never come across this in any plans I have looked at before but was interested to know if anyone does this and how good (or not) the affects were? Going out hungry, even on a short ride, seems a little crazy but is it a case of mind over matter?

Thanks, Ian.


  • Hi Ian, and welcome to the forum. If you are aiming to get fit you've chosen the right sport. triathlon is brilliant for working your whole body, and the variety of exercises means you should never get bored.
    With regards the whole train on an empty stomach thing - I can see the logic there. I do this with my morning run, but only because I would be sick otherwise. If you find it too much of a shock, try this: A small bowl of a very light cereal like Rice Krispies before your morning exercise. You will probably find eventually, like I did, that it's only really your brain telling you to eat in the morning straight away. You really can last until after your bike ride. One thing I would recommend there - the first thing you have is protein rich - either a protein drink or a something like some poached eggs. This helps your muscles in recovery and also helps to make you feel full.
    I will also say this - like you, when I started training for my first 1/2 IM I could hardly do one lnegth of crawl. After persisting, I am now a fairly competent freestyle swimmer, and I love swimming more than ever. I can be done, so just keep pushing yourself.
    There is lots to learn about triathlon, so keep asking questions on the forum - it's a very helpful society I like to think.
  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425
    Ian, early morning rides pre-breakfast are high risk.

    You wake up glycogen depleted & so the theory, for which there is some scientific evidence, is that the body will use fat as a fuel if there is not much else available or will over time develop that ability. It won't get rid of excess fat but if it works you will burn fat as a higher proportion of your fuel during races so saving the limited stores of glycogen.

    The risks are that you will feel nauseous, react slower, faint or become immune suppressed. Not good things to experience on a bike. The only fuel the brain works on is glycogen, if it is in short supply it will shut things down to preserve its supplies, i.e. you will stop. Also you cannot be fueled by fat alone - there must be some glycogen present.

    If you want to try empty stomach training keep the rides short to start with, never go solo and always take some carbohydrates eat when your body starts to react.

  • it depends on the length and intensity of the exercise. if you've eaten properly the previous day then you're unlikely to suffer any ill effects from aerobic intensity exercise on an empty stomach. i long run for two hours regularly with no problems.
  • I usually train first thing, although I often have a small coffee before I get ready. For a short training session i just take some water with me to prevent dehydration. For longer or harder sessions I take an isotonic 4:1 carb:protein drink and energy bars on the bike to stop me feeling hungry. Over the winter it has helped me fit training around my life and lose a bit of weight too.
  • armiearmie Posts: 10
    If I'm up and out then its a glass of water or two. However if its a couple of hours before I train the a handful of nuts. (Protein and carbs). I saw the first post recommended breakfast ceral. Just don't take it with milk, alway a chance of runners trots if your running.
  • i reguarly train on an empty stomach in the morning, but keep the time down to an hour or less, i have done a 2hr bike ride on an empty stomach once, and to be honest i felt light headed towards the end, so stopped at a local shop and bought some cereal bars to see me home the last 5 miles or so.
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