Practicing Carb-fasted Workouts
Carb-fasted workouts have also achieved some penetration in the elite running ranks. Trent Stellingwerff, a Canadian exercise physiologist and coach, has used the approach with athletes including 2:10 marathoner Reid Coolsaet. He prescribes two to three such sessions per week during base training and one to two per week in peak training before a marathon. Some of these sessions consist of a long morning run at low intensity after an overnight fast. Others consist of a moderate-duration afternoon run following a high-intensity morning run and a low-carb lunch. As you see, there is some diversity in how carb-fasted workouts are used at the highest level of endurance sports. Nevertheless, there are four general guidelines that we can draw from their collective example.
MAKE SURE YOU’RE READY
A majority of elite endurance athletes still do not practice carb-fasted workouts. Purple Patch coach Matt Dixon, for example, never prescribes them to his pro clients, who include 2014 70.3 Vineman winner Tim Reed. And those elites who do employ this method do so sparingly. What this pattern suggests is that carb-fasted workouts are not an essential key to major breakthroughs in fitness and performance, but are, at most, a way to squeeze out an extra one per cent when you’re already doing everything else correctly.
According to Dixon, very few recreational triathletes are doing everything else correctly. For example, studies have shown that the typical age-grouper spends too much of his or her training time at moderate intensity and not enough at low intensity. An athlete who is making this mistake will get far more benefit from fixing it than from doing carb-fasted workouts. In fact, for such athletes, carb-fasted workouts are likely to be counterproductive because they will add stress to an imbalanced training program that is already unnecessarily stressful.
EASE INTO IT
Your first carb-fasted workout should not be a 100-mile ride begun on an empty stomach and fueled with water only. When incorporating this method into your routine, it’s best to dip your toes in the water instead of diving in head first.
In the latter part of his professional triathlon career, former Ironman World Championship bike course record holder Torbjørn Sindballe of Denmark did what he called “zero-cal rides.” These bike rides were fuelled with water alone, but were preceded by a normal breakfast, so they weren’t as challenging or stressful as true carb-fasted workouts. Sindballe’s first zero-cal ride was relatively short – 1.5 hours – but as he adapted to them he was eventually able to go as long as five hours without hitting the wall.
Begin your foray into this territory in a similar way. Do a relatively short zero-cal ride or run, wait a week or so, and then do a slightly longer one, and so forth. If you decide after a while that you would like to