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Enough fuel but stomach empty?

Old 07-11-21, 06:22 PM
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Enough fuel but stomach empty?

So I noticed that when I don't start riding shortly after my breakfast at home, but instead eat and then drive to a mountain pass, I invariably have an upset stomach upon reaching the top. Fuel is good, I don't feel bad, don't lose power beyond maybe a few watts (but well at that intensity and altitude for longer passes it isn't the sugar intake causing that) and yet when I get to the top I noticed my tummy is upset. Feels like burping helps, which is a sign of air, i.e. empty, I believe. I take my energy from drink mix and dates (and yes, I stuff a 200g, which is 132g of sugar, bag into my pocket and eat a couple every 15 minutes) so carb content is high enough, but obviously there isn't a lot of volume in the tummy. Dates when chewed properly are nothing, the liquid is liquid, that's it. When I cycle from home relatively shortly after breakfast, even riding two hours and then doing a 1 hour climb, I do not get an upset stomach.

Is this a thing? I mean it is just 1.5-2 hours that pass in the car, not using much energy there, so it must also be a filling issue, can't be that in that time all the breakfast energy is used up. I am already thinking taking breakfast with me and just eating a normal amount right in the morning. But also, maybe looking for other options to take with me during the ride, stuff a crustless sandwich (I love bread) into my back pocket or something. Can this be a thing? Anyone ever came across it?
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Old 07-11-21, 09:09 PM
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Nope. Never heard of anything exactly like that. Most folks find that riding immediately after a large breakfast is a bummer, though a small breakfast is fine and immediately is key. But you feel good at the start and during, right? Usually 1.5-2 hours is the minimum wait after a large breakfast, 2.5-3 is better for one's blood sugar to settle down. It peaks after breakfast then drops, right? So if you start when it's peaking, you're fine, but if you start in that low BS valley, not so fine. In any case, doesn't really sound like that's the problem. My guess is that you aren't drinking enough on that climb and your stomach osmolality is too high. You don't say what your drink mix is, how strong it is, and if it contains electrolytes. Are those Medjool dates? If so, they're 18g of carbs each, or 144g or 576 calories per hour. If that's the case, there's the problem. To start with, it's hard to digest on a climb. 60g of carbs/hour is a pretty normal average, but most folks probably can't manage that on a climb. And only fructose isn't a good way to go. I think optimum is about 2 sucrose/1 fructose. They digest on different pathways.

My advice is to cut way back on the dates, add a sucrose source. Figure how many calories per hour you're going to ingest and stick with that program, weighing your food if necessary. I do. Take extra of course. Drink plenty of plain water, and either take electrolytes or put them in a water bottle. I use Hammer Endurolytes, probably not easy to get in Switzerland. I'm a profuse sweater, though my sweat isn't salty as I use a relatively low-salt diet. I take 2 of these capsules/hour on hot rides:
Endurolytes Capsules
Supplement Facts Serving Size 2 capsules
Amount Per Serving
Sodium (as Sodium Chloride) 80mg
120mg Calcium
100mg Magnesium
50mg Potassium
50mg 1Manganese

So something like that. Electrolytes help the stomach empty by making its contents close to isotonic.
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Old 07-12-21, 12:22 AM
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Thanks for the reply. I drink about 750ml per hour right from the start. I know some people who drink quite a bit less, I doubt it is that. The dates weigh 8g on average, most between 7-9g, so two should be ca. 12g of sugar. Additionally, the first passes I did this year, I ate less. Drink is 750ml in a bottle, 44g of energy powder in there, that contains sucrose and fructose, as well as electrolytes.
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Old 07-12-21, 07:12 AM
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Fructose at high effort does that to me (gas aka GI distress).

Table sugar and dates would do that to me ( fructose in both).
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Old 07-12-21, 09:03 AM
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I've read that exercise, cardio in particular tend to give persons indigestion. Maybe you need a Pepcid or Prilosec first thing in the morning.

But still, it seems your carb consumption might be too high. At least for me. I consume about a 24 fl oz. bottle with 150 Calories in it every 50 minutes of riding. That's about 180 Calories per hour. If I am planning on going all out on a max effort for several hours then I might put 200 to 250 Calories in each bottle.

Your stomach can only absorb so much. So if you are over supplying it with carbs, proteins and fats, then it's going to let you know by making you feel lousy and perform lousy.
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Old 07-12-21, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
Thanks for the reply. I drink about 750ml per hour right from the start. I know some people who drink quite a bit less, I doubt it is that. The dates weigh 8g on average, most between 7-9g, so two should be ca. 12g of sugar. Additionally, the first passes I did this year, I ate less. Drink is 750ml in a bottle, 44g of energy powder in there, that contains sucrose and fructose, as well as electrolytes.
44g powder + 36g fructose = 320 calories, maybe double what you should be doing. Your drink is 6%, perfect. Maybe no dates? If you're only doing one pass, a 400 calorie high-carb breakfast and a bottle or two of drink should be fine. At 70 kilos, when I do more than one pass, I try for 250 calories/hour, though I usually can't manage that much, climbing robbing the stomach of blood as it does. I have maltodextrin and a little whey protein in one bottle, plain water in the other, or in a Camelbak on long rides. I've seen quite a few riders with stomach issues on long hard rides, had them myself, hence my current practice.
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Old 07-12-21, 03:52 PM
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Some studies indicate insulin sensitivity and related blood sugar issues may be more of a problem than we'd realized with physically active folks. A few things that work for me:
  • Skip any snacks, energy/protein bars with sugar alcohols -- maltitol is most common, also mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol and isomalt. While the glycemic index is lower than table sugar -- a good thing -- it tends to make some folks gassy. Not a good thing. For whatever reason I do better with plain table sugar in snacks, like Clif bars.
  • Some people report digestion issues with maltodextrin, a common fuel in energy gels and other sports snacks. Doesn't cause me any problems, but check the labels on the snacks and drinks you consume and see whether omitting those for a week or so makes any difference.
  • Try a readymade electrolyte mix that has at least some sugar for hydration during a workout. It aids digestion and osmolarity. I prefer DripDrop, but any recipe mixed to the World Health Organization's standard for Oral Rehydration Solution will do. Sugar free electrolyte solutions cause me to feel bloated, burpy and uncomfortable. The ORS types promote rapid rehydration and work much better.
  • Timing can be crucial for consumption of carbs and sugars before a workout. If we wait too long our insulin is triggered and we don't get the full benefit of sugars and carbs as fuel. I usually eat something like a Clif bar, or oatmeal, and a banana just before a ride or run.
  • If I eat candy, a donut, or drink a sugary soda, etc., I need to get back on the bike pronto to take advantage of it as fuel. If I wait too long my body tends to overproduce insulin and provoke hypoglycemia. And I usually avoid stuff like pancakes with sugar "syrup" -- something about that combo spikes my blood sugar and then I'll feel bonky in about an hour, even if I'm doing no physical activity. The worst bonk I've ever had was years ago just before a long run that included a steep hill climb run. Instead of eating my usual balanced breakfast I got the brilliant idea to load up on donuts and coffee. It might have worked if we'd started immediately. But it was about 2-3 hours later before we started and I bonked hard midway up the hill run -- literally, legs suddenly turned to jello and I flopped on the ground shaking. I'd have been better off eating eggs, etc., and carrying a few donuts with me to eat on the run.
  • If you eat a meal with meat protein, animal fat, etc., you may feel sluggish and have some indigestion if you ride or work out within an hour. I usually need to wait at least 2-3 hours before my legs feel right again after a big meal with meat. Sometimes I'll have an egg -- maybe a boiled egg or small omelet.
  • On rest days I try to avoid sugars and carbs. Sometimes I'll eat nothing but meat and/or eggs on rest days. No sugar, carbs, fruits, even vegetables with any sugars. No problems with digestion.
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Old 07-13-21, 02:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
44g powder + 36g fructose = 320 calories, maybe double what you should be doing. Your drink is 6%, perfect. Maybe no dates? If you're only doing one pass, a 400 calorie high-carb breakfast and a bottle or two of drink should be fine. At 70 kilos, when I do more than one pass, I try for 250 calories/hour, though I usually can't manage that much, climbing robbing the stomach of blood as it does. I have maltodextrin and a little whey protein in one bottle, plain water in the other, or in a Camelbak on long rides. I've seen quite a few riders with stomach issues on long hard rides, had them myself, hence my current practice.
Ok I think I will try to cut back on the powder and dates, and just add something real, either a sandwich (I like that idea), or a quality bar that isn't just sugar, but some protein and slower releasing carbs as well.
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Old 07-13-21, 04:00 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
Ok I think I will try to cut back on the powder and dates, and just add something real, either a sandwich (I like that idea), or a quality bar that isn't just sugar, but some protein and slower releasing carbs as well.
What if you did the 1 hour climb without eating?

Climbing a mountain pass is a very strenuous effort and diverting some blood flow for digestion goes against that effort, no?

I usually try to eat before or after a big climb, never on one.
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Old 07-13-21, 08:17 AM
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I wouldn't eat much of anything within two to three hours of the ride. It's just a couple hours of riding. Save the thanksgiving feast for afterward.

I'll put all my carb's in my bottles, even for three and four hours of riding. It just simplifies everything for me on the bike. No fussing with wrappers. Not being bummed about the half of my power bar that broke off and fell to the road. And my stomach gets a more regular and steady amount of stuff to process and absorb.
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Old 07-13-21, 09:29 AM
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Oh, and if you think you might be having indigestion, then take a Pepcid or Prilosec when you wake up that morning. Sometimes I get a feeling of pressure mid to upper chest. Not enough to really gripe about but enough to know it's there. Usually that's late afternoon or evening for me.

So if you are the typical male.... or female, sitting in an easy chair in the evening wondering if they are having the beginnings of a heart attack but not quite sure, then that probably is indigestion. Though if you are in your 50's and haven't gotten close to a cardiologist then you need to. Same for a GI doctor if you are 50 plus.

It'll go on for several days. When I recognize it, I take an omeprazole (Prilosec) that my GI doctor prescribed me when he told me I was having GERD. Which was new to me because I never thought I had heartburn since my teens. But Pepcid works just as well and though it's better when taken before hand like omeprazole, it also can be effective at the time you start having symptoms which omeprazole isn't good at.

Usually it's only two or three days in a row that I take one or the other then I'll be good for a month.
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Old 07-13-21, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
Ok I think I will try to cut back on the powder and dates, and just add something real, either a sandwich (I like that idea), or a quality bar that isn't just sugar, but some protein and slower releasing carbs as well.
The sandwich after the pass, right? Never during.
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Old 07-13-21, 10:28 AM
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Thanks for all the thoughts, several things I can try out over the next few times.

And yes, right as I get to the top, seems like during the ride it does not occur / I don't notice it. And no, indigestion is definitely not it.
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Old 07-14-21, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
Thanks for all the thoughts, several things I can try out over the next few times.

And yes, right as I get to the top, seems like during the ride it does not occur / I don't notice it. And no, indigestion is definitely not it.
Can you remind us what "it" is. Maybe describe it better or differently and more specifically.
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Old 07-16-21, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Can you remind us what "it" is. Maybe describe it better or differently and more specifically.
Belly ache. Feels like it is totally empty.
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Old 07-16-21, 10:34 AM
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Belly ache and feels empty? I've got no idea then.

Although confusingly described, it seems like you hydrate and get enough Calories while riding. And unless you are confusing a bloated feeling for a empty feeling, then forget the stuff I said for indigestion.

I seldom eat anything on short or long rides. I don't know that I've ever felt like my stomach was empty due to riding.
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Old 07-16-21, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Belly ache and feels empty? I've got no idea then.

Although confusingly described, it seems like you hydrate and get enough Calories while riding. And unless you are confusing a bloated feeling for a empty feeling, then forget the stuff I said for indigestion.

I seldom eat anything on short or long rides. I don't know that I've ever felt like my stomach was empty due to riding.
Not sure how else to describe it. Feels a bit like when it is close to dinner time and lunch was a long time ago. And as I said, eating makes it better. Which is what I don't totally get, I don't feel like I am bonking (enough fuel) but I do feel hungry (stomach empty), hence the title. Maybe I have enough sugar to make the muscles work, but overall not enough calories to make me feel satisfied.
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Old 07-16-21, 04:28 PM
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Well I'll take another stab at it and suppose maybe you are getting too much salt and other electrolytes while on the bike.

But mostly I just am bored since it's been pouring down rain. Thankfully everyone is home now and we can start today's TdF stage.
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Old 07-16-21, 10:40 PM
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If you aren't already doing so, try eating more meat. Especially for dinner the day before a big ride -- longer or harder than usual.

I've tried many diets but nothing else I've tried is a satisfactory substitute for meat. I get that same "empty" tank sensation when I tried a primarily vegan diet in 2018. Besides feeling empty all the time, I can't digest legumes even with the help of digestive enzymes. Gave it an honest try but my body and a vegan or even vegetarian diet don't get along well.

Even cutting back and substituting chicken or fish didn't work for me. I like pork too but usually eat beef at least three meals a week, often more. Especially the day before a big ride. I'm planning on putting in some miles this weekend, so tonight I'm eating steak, and for breakfast beef liver and eggs. At the very worst I'll pedal easy the first hour to ensure good digestion, but I have no digestive problems with meat. I even like fatty brisket (as long as it's hot), which grosses out some folks.
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Old 07-17-21, 03:47 AM
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That is an interesting idea, I do eat rather little meat for someone who is not vegetarian/vegan.
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Old 07-17-21, 05:05 PM
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I'm more in the camp of eat more vegetables. My wife and I have been ovo-lacto vegetarians for over 50 years. We do get hungry and then eat, which fixes that hunger problem. I always have my HRM active and watch my HR. Occasionally on long rides, I'll see my HR go lower then is should be for my RPE. That's always a sign that need to eat even if I don't feel hungry. Sometimes my HR will be high for the RPE, which means I'm getting dehydrated. More information is better than less.

I don't think it matters a heckuva lot what one eats the night before as long as dinner contains a moderate amount of carbs. The general rule is 1/2 the plate veggies, 1/4 carbs, 1/4 protein. The protein can be dairy, fish, or even (shudder) meat. Current rec is 6 oz. of meat per week. Fish and seafood doesn't count as meat in this rec.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-l...n/art-20048095
We eat a good bit of nuts, legumes, and dairy which includes whey protein.

The only times I've ever had stomach problems was from eating too much before or during a long hard climb. One can bonk from doing that because if stomach osmolality is too high, food can't move across the stomach wall and one runs out of glycogen. It's known as "sloshy stomach."
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Old 07-18-21, 12:17 PM
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My best cycling was when I was completely ovo pesco vegetarian. So I too can't say much for meat being the full issue. But never hurts to try something when you don't have any better ideas.

I wish I could go back to the almost 2 years I didn't eat meat other than fish, but spouse and other family like their meat. But I have gotten them down to 6 oz or less per day since I'm the one doing the cooking.
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