Effects of caloric restriction and overnight fasting on cycling endurance performance

J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Mar;23(2):560-70. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818f058b.


In addition to aerobic endurance and anaerobic capacity, high power-to-weight ratio (PWR) is important for cycling performance. Cyclists often try to lose weight before race season to improve body composition and optimize PWR. Research has demonstrated body fat-reducing benefits of exercise after fasting overnight. We hypothesized that fasted-state exercise in calorie-restricted trained cyclists would not result in performance decrements and that their PWR would improve significantly. We also hypothesized that substrate use during fasted-state submaximal endurance cycling would shift to greater reliance on fat. Ten trained, competitive cyclists completed a protocol consisting of baseline testing, 3 weeks of caloric restriction (CR), and post-CR testing. The testing sessions measured pre- and post-CR values for resting metabolic rate (RMR), body composition, VO2, PWR and power-to-lean weight ratio (PLWR), and power output, as well as 2-hour submaximal cycling performance, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and respiratory exchange ratio (RER). There were no significant differences between baseline and post-CR for submaximal trial RER, power output, VO2, RMR, VO2max, or workload at VO2max. However, RPE was significantly lower, and PWR was significantly higher post-CR, whereas RER did not change. The cyclists' PWR and body composition improved significantly, and their overall weight, fat weight, and body fat percentage decreased. Lean mass was maintained. The cyclists' RPE decreased significantly during 2 hours of submaximal cycling post-CR, and there was no decrement in submaximal or maximal cycling performance after 3 weeks of CR combined with overnight fasting. Caloric restriction (up to 40% for 3 weeks) and exercising after fasting overnight can improve a cyclist's PWR without compromising endurance cycling performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance
  • Basal Metabolism
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Body Composition*
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Fasting*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance*