15 Phases of a Fasted Morning Ride

15 Phases of a Fasted Morning Ride

Do you like to ride early? I sure do. In fact, I’d say at least 75% of my 19,700 Zwift miles have been done before the rest of my family wakes up. These early morning fasted rides help me build a lot of base fitness, teach my body to burn fat, and are just a nice way to start the day.

Today as I rode around Richmond I began thinking about how my mind and body travel through a fairly consistent set of phases on a fasted morning ride. Perhaps you have experienced something similar? Let’s compare notes…

Phase 1: Waking Up

The phone alarm goes off at 5am, quiet so as not to wake the wife. Do I really need to get up now? It’s dark outside, the bed is warm. I delay a few minutes… then roll out of bed.

Phase 2: Kitting Up

It’s cold. I put my socks on first because the tile bathroom floor feels like ice. Brush my teeth so I don’t have to ride with morning breath. Visit the toilet, where an important decision needs to be made: to poo, or not to poo? If I stick to #1 I’ll be out of there quick and on the bike. I don’t really feel a need for #2. Let’s make this quick.

Throw on the kit (today it’s my comfy Zwift Pursuit bibs, which I love). Regret not drying my shoes after yesterday’s rainy ride, fill a water bottle. Grab my phone and exit the bedroom.

Phase 3: Get Riding

Walk upstairs, hoping nobody left anything in the dark hallway for me to trip over. Turn on the trainer power strip, wake up the computer, start Zwift (why does it take so long to start up? was it sleeping too?) then we have a decision to make: where do I ride? Some days I’ve already decided on a particular workout or event, but many days I just free ride in the mornings. Today my friend Zane is on course, so I click to ride with him.

Phase 4: Regret the Route Choice

Freakin’ Richmond flat. Why did Zane pick Richmond flat? Now we get to ride a crowded 3-mile flat loop for 90 minutes.

Phase 5: The Jacket Comes Off

A few miles in and my body starts to warm up. I take off my jacket and toss it in the corner.

Phase 6: The Fan Turns On

5 miles later and I can feel a bit of sweat coming on. Time to turn on the fan. Luckily I’ve got a handy network-connected power strip for my fans, so I can turn them on via my phone or by yelling at Alexa. Best $15 ever spent.

Phase 7: Only 10 Miles?

That first 10 miles always seem to take forever. But I also know the next 10 will not.

Phase 8: Nausea/Hunger

45 minutes in and my stomach gets that feeling… you know what I’m talking about. That kind of upset stomach feeling, but it’s actually a hunger pang? I’ve been doing this long enough that I know it’s just hunger (I haven’t eaten in over 12 hours, after all) and it will go away soon enough. Keep pedaling.

Phase 9: 20 Miles Down

As I get close to the hour mark I start doing the math in my head to calculate our average speed. Yeah, I know Zwift speeds are a little generous, but it’s still a decent gauge of overall effort on a flat course. We’ve ticked off 20 miles and we’re only 54 minutes in, so we’re doing fine at this fasted zone 2 pace.

Phase 10: Should Have Pooped

It happens. Every. Time. It’s like my bowels don’t wake up until I’ve been riding for an hour. But this isn’t a Tom Dumoulin-level emergency, so I’m not stopping now!

Phase 11: Let’s Make It 30

Zane ditches me at the 1-hour mark because he has a real job. But I generally ride until around 7am, so I decide to keep going, riding for a least 90 minutes. That’s about the limit of what I can do on a fasted ride before I need some nutrition.

Phase 12: Impromptu Sprint

One nice thing I realize about the Richmond flat course it is takes you over a sprint section every 8-9 minutes… not unlike London’s Classique. I glance at the leaderboard and decide to hit the sprint in a bid to steal the green jersey. I don’t have a useful powerup (a feather on Richmond flat?!) but I follow my own suggestions and get third place. Only half a second off the green jersey, and I know I could have gone harder. Next time around.

Phase 13: Call Me Cavendish

I take the green jersey on my second and final sprint. Just barely. But it still feels good. So I take a snapshot.

Phase 14: Another Few Miles Won’t Hurt

I’m over 32 miles after 90 minutes. Might as well make it 35.

Phase 15: Done. And Happy I Did It.

That post-ride feeling is the best, isn’t it? The endorphins are flowing, I know I’ve started my day off responsibly, and oatmeal is waiting downstairs. Time to hit the showers.

Are you and early bird?

How do your experiences line up with mine? Share below!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Ryan Patrick
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Ryan Patrick (@ryan_s_pat)
1 year ago

Good, I’m not the only one who bundles up to ride inside. 55 degrees is great Zwifting weather in the house ….. about 5-10 minutes into the ride. Before that, it’s kind of cold.

Darren Ellis
Darren Ellis
1 year ago

Hi Eric
I work night-shifts so I ride on a completely empty stomach
It works for me

Stephane
Stephane
1 year ago

I’ve been told to keep fasted rides under 45min and 50% FTP.
What is your view on that ?
Thank you.

Chris
Chris
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephane

If you’re accustomed to pounding gels and sports drinks doing anything above aerobic pace (HR < (180-age)) it will be tough. Getting the body to prefer fat over glucose takes some time, and takes discipline to stay at this aerobic pace. Once you get there, however, it can be quite empowering.

Tim Schneider
Tim Schneider (@tasmobile)
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris

Yes and once fat adapted you can ride for hours. I do almost all of my rides fasted (as well as runs) and do whatever intensity the training schedule or group ride requires. If I am riding for more than three or four hours I may eat something fatty, but I think that is more a habit from previously feeling that I need to refuel every hour during long rides — when I relied on constantly use carbohydrates — than a necessity. Becoming free of continuously needing to eat a gel during rides/runs and feeling the need to fuel prior… Read more »

Chris
Chris
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Schneider

Nailed it. 👍🏼

Robert C
Robert C
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephane

If that’s a rule, I’ve been breaking it for decades. I do trainer workouts up to 90 mins (including VO2Max intervals) and all my running up to 120 mins before having breakfast.

Kevin
Kevin
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephane

The first couple of times I tried riding fasting I didn’t think I could do it. Now I routinely do an hour at a reasonably high level (80% of FTP overall with pushes up hills above FTP) with nothing but water before I ride in the morning and I’m fine. I haven’t gone much over an hour and by that point I’m definitely getting hungry so there’s clearly a drop off coming but it doesn’t feel imminent. Eric’s comment of 90 minutes sounds about right to me.

Simon Funnell
Simon Funnell (@simon)
1 year ago

Yep, this is exactly me, except I’m 30 minutes ahead of you. Up at 4.30, finish at 6.30. Otherwise, it’s almost identical!

1 More Mile Podcast
1 More Mile Podcast (@go1moremile)
1 year ago

You note that the feather isn’t useful in a sprint, but would zwift not recognize the lower weight, which could aid, briefly, in acceleration (Newton’s 1st and 2nd Laws). I’ve used the feather in sprints that have an every so slight rise (1-2%) early and I felt it helped…though it could be placebo. Might be worth exploring.

Chris
Chris
1 year ago

I never eat before noon or 1pm, so every ride is fasted for me. Even 76 miles around Lake Tahoe is done on a couple bottles of water. Training the body to prefer fat as fuel does take time, GCN did a piece on this recently if you haven’t seen: https://youtu.be/Jop-k1PAzEc. Note that I do this for overall health and not for training purposes.

Mike
Mike (@michaeltrowe)
1 year ago

What do sprinters have for breakfast?

nothing, they fast! 😆

zygfryd
zygfryd
1 year ago

super helpfull and motivating 😉

Robert C
Robert C
1 year ago

5:15 up, and then downstairs where all the kit is already lined up. Start the PC, start Zwift, start TrainerRoad. Use the latter to run the workout, the former to provide distraction. 60 to 90 mins workout. I’m sure I drive people crazy going up Alpe du Zwift doing intervals – are you going or cruising???

Breakfast sure tastes good after that. And by the time I’m sitting in the office at 8h30, I’ve been up for more than 3 hours, endorphins still running – bring on the problems.

Mathieu Hould
Mathieu Hould
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert C

Exactly the same as me. Really love Trainerroad’s workouts.

Eric Thomas
Eric Thomas
1 year ago

A few times a week I am on the bike at around 4 am to get 35-60 minutes in before work. It is cold in the basement, especially when putting that cold hrm on.

Nigel Tufnel
Nigel Tufnel
1 year ago

When my training plan calls for a ride in a fasted state, I only have one phase: WHEN IS BREAKFAST?????

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

Richmond Flat is the best because you’re drafting all of the time. Unless you don’t want to go fast…then it’s not so good.

Per Forssell
Per Forssell
1 year ago

Sooooo familiar morning ritual. And nothing, noting, beats that post morning workout endorfin/caffeine high 🙂

Barrett Canning
Barrett Canning
1 year ago

Sounds like my mornings but I need some coffee and wake up a bit. Alarm goes off at 4:30, roll out of bed at 4:45(ish). Coffee is already made, I fix it the night before and the coffee maker is on a timer. Sit on the couch, have about 1&1/2 cups of coffee and wake up. 5:15 do the poo thing, kit up and on the bike by 5:30.

Jo Schween
Jo Schween
1 year ago

I usually tell myself I’m not awake enough, or convince myself I need to eat before a ride.. So this is a good motivator! Thanks Eric, I will try harder. New routine from Monday!

Sharon B
Sharon B
1 year ago

Yes! My favourite time of the day… no one is up, finish feeling great and really appreciate breakfast.
90/120mins my limit too for Z2 or an hour at intensity .
Exact same routine – only difference being i NEED my coffee first … which also makes you go to the loo before starting.. win win

Oliver Radermacher
Oliver Radermacher
1 year ago

I should give it a try, seems to be good and interesting. Fasted runs of up to 2h no problem, rides hpefully also. But I need to drive to the office at 6am, that hinders me often if I am true

Jim
Jim
1 year ago

Love to ride early before breakfast but have to have my coffee and poop first.

Sean Amann
Sean Amann
1 year ago

This is great! Pretty much same here. I dropped about 5 pounds doing this my first few weeks when I started Zwift about 4 months ago. Before Zwift, I would agonize getting out of bed around 5 AM to hit the dumb trainer. Though I still hate getting up early, it’s much more tolerable. If I know I’ve got a tough training session ahead of me, I’ll down a banana before. I also keep a protein bar next to the bike just in case, but I seem pretty used to riding 60 plus minutes without eating. I actually prefer it.

Rasmus
Rasmus
1 year ago

Nope. No morning rides. But oh so many late night rides, where I go to bed early, set an alarm clock at 11pm and then go for a ride.

Greg
Greg (@gregpatyk)
1 year ago

Yep, early birds rule! Leftover Army training. #10: Do some crunchies or sit-ups before the ride. That’ll get things moving! I don’t like to ride fasted. Usually very small bowl of Cheerios. 60* in the training room

Alistair Crichton
Alistair Crichton
1 year ago

Hi Eric, I have been riding fasted since I read this, a question I have is “when and what do you” after the ride?

Thanks

Phil
Phil
7 months ago

Super Post. Thanks a lot .)
I like also to have a workout in the morning before breaktfast.

What do you say for workouts from a trainingplan like ftp builder or build me up?
From your point of view also doable in the morning?

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