Ask a Random Triathlete: High-Fat Diets and Bike Lanes

Take the bike lane. (Rhys Asplundh/Flickr)

You all need lots of help. One perusal of the forum suggests just how much help you need. Fortunately, you have my advice to draw upon. And today I bring you more.

I know. You’re thinking: But it’s not Tuesday, why are you dispensing advice today? Don’t you usually tell people what to do on Tuesdays? No. I tell people what to do every day. I am a random triathlete. My advice is always desired.

Bike lane vs. bike path. Are they different and when is it acceptable to choose a car lane over a bike path?

Did you just suggest that you don’t know the difference between a bike lane and a bike path?

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One is a separated path and one is a lane in the road. Do you need me to also explain roads? That’s the place where cyclists get hit by cars.

Which is better depends on a couple things: Are you a small child? Do you plan to ride an actual bike or just one of those beach cruiser things? How much do you have a tendency to make drivers hate you?

There seems to be a belief among city officials who plan these things that bike paths are better and safer and necessary to encourage people to ride bikes. But these officials also seem to believe that the only people regularly riding bikes are children and possibly families with children. That means bike paths are typically disconnected from any kind of larger sense of cycling, as in rides longer than 10 miles. This results in things like: dangerous or poorly planned entrances and exits, sections where you’re encouraged to walk your bike, the necessity for strange shortcuts in order to connect to your longer ride, pedestrians and off-leash dogs running in front of your bike, and speed limits. (The bike path by my house has a 10mph speed limit. I have run faster than that on the path. At this point, let’s just admit it’s not really a bike path; it’s a path for children with bikes.)

The one thing bike paths do have going for them: no cars.

Roads have cars. But, fortunately, bike lanes protect us from those cars through the power of paint. That paint is supposed to tell cars not to hit cyclists when they’re within the lane. It has mixed results.

It is always acceptable to choose the bike lane. That’s what it’s there for. In the absence of a designated bike lane, it is also always acceptable to ride in the regular lane. That’s also what it’s there for. To be used. Just keep in mind: you might not want to have that argument with a driver while you’re on your bike. 

High Carb or High Fat diet? If high fat then still supplement on long runs/rides/races with carbs??

Neither?

Someone is probably going to get pissed at me about this summary, but: In general, there was this long-held belief that athletes needed lots of carbs. Then that changed — because, I dunno, science — and in recent years there’s been a push for a high-fat diet as a way to teach your body to burn fat, which could be beneficial what with all the untapped energy stored in your fat. Also, because there may be some long-term health risks to eating a lot of carbs. (I suppose the same long-terms risks, essentially, that there are to eating a lot generally.)

The problem is there’s not been a ton of science or research to confirm the high-fat-burning argument or to refute it. One study directly comparing the two suggested that the high-fat diet results in a higher rate of fat-burning, but that didn’t 100% make up for the increased intake of fat. And, importantly, that study didn’t look at performance or take place over a long enough period for the metabolic fat-burning changes hailed by advocates to really come into play.

From a performance standpoint, the only time your body burns fat at any sizable rate is essentially over a period longer than a marathon. So. If you want to do super long events and you want teach your body to burn fat more effectively over those super long events, then most people would argue you have to limit your carb intake during training in order to force your body to learn to use its fat stores. But limiting your carbs can then have an impact on your top-end speed/effort. Trade-offs. Life. Instead, you also could just do some of your workouts in a carb-depleted state for some of the benefits? No, there’s not really a ton of research to support that approach either, but I find it kind of works.

Or, why not just eat a reasonable amount of both?  Crazy. Not sure if the science is there yet.

About the Author

Kelly O'Mara
Kelly is a reporter and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She quit triathlon for a few years, because triathletes can be annoying, but now she's back into it and only hanging out with the non-annoying triathletes. She blogs about stuff at Sunny Running.

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