maximizing late-night workouts
August 22, 2008 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Maximizing the benefits of my late-night bike rides....? I like to go out for a vigorous (to me) bike ride late at night (around 1am). I can do about 30km in 55 minutes or so. However, I'm at a loss as to how to ensure that I'm reaping the most benefit from my effort.

I suppose this is a two part question, the first being about the workout itself and the second being about eating/drinking in relation to it.

In the past, I'd always heard to work out on an empty stomach and eat or drink something after (protein shake, whatever). However, I'm also told not to do this prior to going to bed. So, what's the solution in this case? (Note that my #1 goal is weight loss.)

Should I just drink lots of water when I return and then go to bed? Or should I eat a peanut/banana sandwich or... ? I also find coconut water extremely refreshing. It seems to hydrate me better than plain water but again, how is it for a pre-bedtime drink? Bad idea?

Second, for the workout itself: I generally just hop on the bike and go as fast as I can. My time/speeds are definitely improving (when I started I was in the low 20s for km/hr average speed, now I'm in the low 30s), but should I just ride whole hog as I've been doing or is it best to use a tiered system like something in Body for Life. That is, sprint for a couple minutes, medium pace for a couple minutes, sprint, coast, etc? Should I be using the last leg of my workout as a cool down?

Also, when I return, I'm usually high on adrenaline and not ready for sleep for about an hour (though when I am ready, I really crash, which is unusual for me). Should I do light weights in that time? Again, confused about the cool down part of the workout, which at the moment I'm not really doing at all.

I realize there are both questions about diet and workouts in past askme questions but the food/drink at night time part is the thing that's really the crux of the Q. I'm not really super hungry when I return (I usually eat about 8pm), but if a sandwich or couple eggs would actually beneficial, I'd do it. (Note that I'm veg.)

Lastly, I'm not really willing to change the time of my workouts. I like doing it at that hour because there is no traffic, the lights are green, and the temperature is good. It really helps clear my head of the day's crap as well.

posted by dobbs to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I always think about going on rides like yours late at night but just never end up doing it.

If you don't get any satisfactory answers here I highly recommend you post this question at in either the road cycling or training/nutrition forums.
posted by J-Garr at 10:23 AM on August 22, 2008

Some form of Interval Training is best for cardio health, metabolism boosts, and weight-loss. (Especially HIIT)
posted by blue_beetle at 10:28 AM on August 22, 2008

i second the interval training as posted by blue_beetle. it will really help you along your path to better metabolism and weight-loss.

i really think you should do a cool-down period. spend the last five minutes of your ride at about half your normal speed. then, when you get home, pace around the yard for a few minutes or until you feel as if your heart rate has dropped to near normal. you actually reap more from your workouts when you give your body a chance to adjust (sudden starts and stops should be avoided).

i would suggest you eat a healthy, protein rich snack about an hour and a half or two hours before you start your ride. when you get home, skip eating unless you're starving. eating before bed is a sure way to gain weight, even if you did just ride your ass off. when you get home, stretch, maybe lift some weights, drink a bunch of water, and pass out. when you wake, try to eat a healthy, protein and complex carb rich breakfast within the first hour of being awake. avoid processed foods and sugars and you should be good to go!

lastly, i can only hope you're wearing bright or reflective clothing and a helmet and using front and rear lights! be predictable and visible on the road!

sorry, but my years of teaching bike safety courses get the best of me sometimes.
posted by binocularfight at 11:00 AM on August 22, 2008

nthing intervals. But please make sure you have decent lights, and something passive/redundant like 3M reflective tape stuck to your seatstays, etc. Lots of folks are y'know, leaving bars and stuff late at night.
posted by fixedgear at 11:15 AM on August 22, 2008

I believe binocularfight has given a great answer, particularly in regard to the eating, if weight-loss is one of your goals.

If you are truly doing a one-hour vigorous ride 4 or more times a week, well there's not much that most of can tell you about fitness ;-). Way to go! The nighttime can be magical...
posted by Artful Codger at 11:57 AM on August 22, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers thus far, folks!

And yes, I have front and back blinking lights. i also wear a white helmet, white t-shirt and white socks with a reflective tape around my left ankle.

Anyone have any opinions on the coconut water? Is that bad before bed?
posted by dobbs at 12:09 PM on August 22, 2008

Response by poster: Also, I ride single speed or fixed gear depending on my mood... I assume most interval training on a bike consists of shifting gears. Since I can't do that, should I just try and count cadence or what? I don't have a bike computer.
posted by dobbs at 12:11 PM on August 22, 2008

interval training is mostly getting your heart rate to its max for a certain amount of time and then having a recovery period for that same amount of time. rinse and repeat.

so it doesnt really matter if you dont have gears, it just matters that your heart rate is up. i'd suggest a heart rate monitor for this.

i've read though, that hitt training is the most effective if you're only doing it for 20 -30 minutes. Beyond that, you're not longer burning fat but losing muscle. Don't quote me on this, i remember it from reading but i don't know where so i can't give you a source-- but it could be something you might be interested in looking into further.

For me, i can't last more than 25 minutes doing HITT. It seriously kicks my ass.
posted by modernsquid at 12:27 PM on August 22, 2008

RE: The coconut water

I worked on a pitch once for a brand of coconut water. One of the benefits is that it is an excellent after workout drink because its high in electrolytes, potassium and minerals. I dont see a reason why it would be bad to drink it before bed (its not that high in sugar or anything), but make sure you're calculating its caloric content into your diet.
posted by modernsquid at 12:38 PM on August 22, 2008

Yeah, measure your cadence over an on interval and an off interval. Then just count. It's not exact, but it's close enough that you'll get the benefits of HIIT. I do mainly bike intervals, but when I travel and don't have access to any equipment, I run them and just count.

Be sure to re-measure every once in a while so your workouts scale as you improve.

As to the rest: eat a couple hours before your workout, don't eat much before bed, sleep a lot, and drink tons of water. HIIT is really great, and if you supplement it with some weights (especially compound lifts) you'll be able to put together some very effective routines.
posted by amery at 12:53 PM on August 22, 2008

"eating before bed is a sure way to gain weight, even if you did just ride your ass off."

That's not true. There's nothing wrong with eating before you go to sleep. What matters is your average daily expenditure. The only meal timing that really does matter is eating before you workout to make sure you have enough energy, and eating protein after a weightlifting session. Beyond that, do whatever fits your schedule best.

"i've read though, that hitt training is the most effective if you're only doing it for 20 -30 minutes. Beyond that, you're not longer burning fat but losing muscle."

This is true, but the reason is really just that if you're doing more than 20 minutes or so of exercise then you're not working hard enough during your intervals. If you do HIIT properly then you should be completely wiped out after 20 minutes. You didn't push yourself hard enough if you still have gas left in the tank.
posted by Khalad at 2:29 PM on August 22, 2008

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