Hey Guys! Welcome to the fitness section of my blog.
Below is a list of our articles focused on the fitness aspects of cycling. In these articles I deep dive on some of my favorite supplements and talk about indoor workout equipment. I’ll also provide some on-bike workout plans as well as off-season workout strategies.
Finally, I’ll pop in now and then and analyze which strategies work best when trying to lose weight and become a faster rider. I especially love trying to reverse engineer what the latest scientific studies are uncovering and providing practical tips on how we can plug this into our workout. (Scroll to the bottom for more of these articles)
See Also: How To Break A Weight Loss Plateau
Why Cycling Is Good For You
Damn it. The scale has crept up another 10 pounds since you last made a resolution to lose weight.
You’ve tried everything:
Those stupid workout videos from the library with girls in 1990’s high-waisted leotards…
That water aerobics class with all of the crinkly old grandmas…
Sound familiar? I’m speaking from experience.
I have bad knees (old injury). So I need a workout that is low-impact. I’m also extremely busy, between work, family and the time I spend on this blog. So I need a workout that is short.
Cycling fits the bill for me in so many ways.
In this post, I’m going to describe 14 things you can do to maximize your fat loss from cycling. Now, even if you just do the first 2 or 3 things, it is going to make all of the difference.
But first, why is cycling beneficial? I’ll do a full blog post on it soon, but here are a few benefits to get you excited:
- Cardiovascular Health. It exercises your heart muscle. Cyclists have stronger hearts, and can even measure that benefit in a lowered resting heart rate. It can even create new blood vessels in a damaged heart.
- Leg Strength. Well, duh. This hit home for me when I had to push a single mom and her three kids out of a busy intersection. Their car had stalled, and I was the only one to stop. Superman? You bet.
- Decreased Insulin Levels. Insulin resistance is the bane of our sedentary society. Cycling increases your body’s ability to process sugar and can reduce the markers that lead to diabetes.
14 Tips For Faster Weight Loss
1. Calculate Your Ideal Caloric Needs — And Measure it!!
I get it. We want to hate on the Calories-in Calories-out model (CICO). And it does have issues. For example, some people have gut bacteria that causes them to extract more calories out of carbohydrates than the rest of the population. (Overweight? Blame it on the bugs!)
This model does provide a lot of guidance. The key here is SUSTAINABILITY. You can’t starve yourself thin. Even those athletes that are trying to starve themselves down to the ultra-skinny range of the pros cannot fast themselves into submission.
It takes a smart strategy (I’ll lay that out for you in Tips# 6-9, below)
For the average reader, you want to start with a basal metabolic calculator. This will tell you how many calories you need to eat to maintain your weight.
From that point, your goal is either maintain your diet at this level while adding 500 calories of exercise. On the days that you don’t workout, you will want to decrease your eating by 500 calories.
I understand that a 500 calorie reduction doesn’t seem like much, but this is an incredibly easy-to-achieve diet and is a painless way to peel off a pound per week. (Hey! That weight wasn’t gained all on in one week, either!)
And for those of you recoiling at the through of measuring your food, remember that the pro athletes are well-known for their obsession with calorie counting. You’ve got to come a “pro” at weight loss.
I’ll go so far as to say that if you refuse to count calories, you will be fat your entire life. The science doesn’t lie.
2. Be Consistent!!
I want to emphasize this. Those fad diets are attractive but unsustainable. We’re getting off this crazy merry go round that everyone else insists on staying on.
Change takes time. Repeat that after me.
Change takes time.
Do you get it?
So you need a small change that you can maintain over time.
For a lot of people, this is only three bike rides a week. For some, it is one long bike ride on the weekends.
If you can reign your diet into a 500 deficit, and stick to a low-level workout plan, you have the formula for sculpting an unrecognizable body.
3. Add An Upper Body Workout
Cycling is notorious for creating a waifish upper body. Many pro cyclists have refused to do upper body workouts.
Unlike the weightlifter who has “chicken legs,” cyclists tend to have the opposite problem: huge legs and no upper body.
Your core is key to preventing injury. So be sure to prioritize your abdominal workout.
And schedule a weight-lifting session once a week. If you are worried about upper body weight interfering with your pro cycling career, stick to bodyweight exercises. Even those who have done 100 pushups a day don’t see any significant muscle or weight gain (It won’t kill your cycling performance to get good at pushups).
Let’s face it. There is valid no excuse for those of us with two arms and healthy bodies being unable to do 20 pushups.
4. Take This Supplement To Boost Your Sleep
Tony Horton has said that if we quit calling it “sleep” and started calling it “recovery,” athletes would take it more seriously.
And he might be right.
A Stanford study in 2009 followed the women’s tennis team around while they got 10 hours of sleep per night. Those athletes who achieved the extra sleep had better stamina and hit their shots more accurately.
Furthermore, a lack of sleep has been closely tied to increased hunger and weight gain
Sleep is hard to justify. It bites into life.
Here is how I justify it: Sleep makes me superhuman. A full 8 hours of sleep, and suddenly I have the concentration and the ability to push through hard workouts and a stressful workday that my peers only wished they could have.
Sleep is my superpower.
Now, I naturally need 7.5 hours of sleep. I don’t even need an alarm clock as my body wakes up at exactly the 7.5-hour mark.
However, in a bid to increase my superpower, I’ve started taking a melatonin supplement every night.
So now I sleep about 8.5 hours every day. My eating stays on track, my gym time is more consistent, I’m a happier human, and I get more work done.
Try it for a week with melatonin (I take half of the recommended dose) and then come back and leave a comment on how productive your week was.
We’re going to start a movement for more sleep!
5. Be Obsessive About Hydration
As a society, we tend to be dehydrated. It is estimated that 75% of Americans are running around dehydrated.
Cycling can further exacerbate this and increase your tendency to be dehydrated. I’ve had cycling friends fall victim to bladder stones that his doc thought was related to his tendency to be dehydrated
The weight gain comes when your body craves food in an attempt to get you to drink. Yes, we drive our bodies to desperate measures.
Eight glasses a day of WATER. Minimum.
(If you follow the first five things on this list, you will find yourself with increased focus, the body of a greek god, and an insane ability to handle stress. Yes, you might just appear to be superhuman to your colleagues.)
6. Increase Healthy Fats
We’re seeing more and more research pointing to the benefits of Omega3 fatty acids on the ability to remove fat from the liver.
Removing fat from the liver is key to unlocking that abdominal fat and getting rid of that spare tire. So boost the omega-3’s to begin the process.
However, it also appears that new fat helps the old fat to process. Running new fats through the body — especially when you are on a calorie-restricted diet — can help the liver burn your body’s fat for energy.
7. Increase Protein
Most of us run on too much sugar. Chris Froome — Tour de France winner — is a classic demonstration of how cutting carbs and upping the protein is essential to losing weight without losing energy.
He first tried just starving himself on an extremely restrictive diet. But, once he figured out to increase the protein, his dieting became easier and the weight came off. It’s even been proven that protein intake directly correlates with weight loss in humans.
Now, I am not a proponent of Ketosis or the Atkins diet. Those things are not sustainable in my experience. However, cutting the carbs in half (skipping my morning cereal and nighttime ice cream!) and replacing them with protein sources works very well for me, especially when I started getting serious about Step #9.
8. Refuel on Healthy Carbs [Cutting Sugar]
Cycling needs carbohydrates.
I try to limit my carbohydrate to the time periods during, or directly after my workouts. The goal is to have enough carbohydrates that I do not “bonk.”
I also like to use as many whole grains as possible in my diet. That is challenging during a hard workout, and I still use gels for those. But outside of all-out sprints or hill-repeats, I prefer a slice of bread to a gel pack.
The target intake is 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of working out. I normally set a 25-minute timer to remind me to eat a small Fig Newton or take a bite of my granola bar.
Without sufficient carbs, the muscles can’t move, and your workout ends. That is all there is to it.
Too many carbs, however, and your body can’t process them, cause stomach pain — and weight gain.
But once I get away from my bike, I like to put a kibosh on my carb intake. After all, we Americans tend to eat more sugar than we realize.
The worst part is all of the empty calories it sneaks into your diet.
I get cranky without any carbs. My solution is to have a slice of whole wheat organic toast in the morning. The rest of my carbs throughout the day come from whole grain brown rice of vegetables like potatoes and corn.
On days when I workout, I “cheat.” I might eat a cup of yogurt or ice cream directly before my workout (I measure this and take it into account on my daily intake log).
But combining my cheating with a glucose-intense activity helps me stay motivated to workout and keeps that sugar from going right to thighs as fat storage.
9. Boost Veggie Intake
Few of us get enough veggies. The much-maligned food pyramid recommends 5-7 servings of vegetables every day.
The thought now is that fruits and veggies should take up 50% of our daily diet. In fact, the vegan diet has been measured to be the most effective weight loss diet.
I’ve started eating a head of lettuce every day and 1-2 bowls of salted, microwaved frozen veggies (they are easy to prepare even at work). At night, I chew on carrot sticks or broccoli.
Sure, that doesn’t sound appetizing, but it keeps me full, I enjoy it, and I feel more focused and productive on days when my vegetable intake is high.
Plus, the more veggies that I eat, the more the excess fat seems to come off on it’s own.
10. Do Timed Workouts
I only ride for about 3-5 hours per week. I’m just so dang busy. That is three, 1-hour rides with a longer, two-hour group ride on the weekends.
It works for me.
It also gives me the added motivation of making sure that I get the most out of every workout.
Now, I have a heart rate monitor that does a solid job of estimating my caloric burn.
But, even without a heart rate monitor, you can reap the benefits of incorporating several 60-second sprints into your workout.
The goal is to push as hard as you can for 60 seconds. Then, recover for 2-3 minutes, and repeat.
I’ll warm up for 10 minutes, do five repeats of this intense workout, and then finish my ride in a steady state.
This strategy is often called HIIT and does a lot to boost insulin sensitivity, increase growth hormone and speed weight loss.
11. Do Hill Repeats
Similar to HIIT above is performing hill repeats.
The goal is to be able to conquer the tallest hills in your area without having to get out of the pedals.
For starters, choose a hill that you can climb — even if it means that you have to stand out of the pedals to climb it.
And climb it 3-4 times in one ride. Do that once a week for a month.
The next month, climb it 5-6 times during your ride.
And then find a taller hill.
Most riders get dropped on the hills. Master the hills, and you Master the sport.
12. Start Commuting
It is hard to find time to workout. Commuting is a sneaky way to take the time you normally waste in the car and convert it into pedal time.
Most people worry about going into work all sweaty and stinky. My guide to commuting handles that for you.
I commute frequently, and some weeks it is the only way I get a ride in.
13. Make It A Family Sport
I love workouts that I can do with the entire family. If you can, get a bike for the wife, a trailer for the kids, and make it a family event.
Some of the happiest, fit people I know are the ones who make it a family endeavor. For them, staying fit is a way to also make memories and to go on adventures with the ones they love most.
Plus, adherence (the ability to stick with a workout) goes way up when the entire family gets on board.
14. Join A Club
I’m an extrovert so riding with people makes this sport more fun.
If you have a hard time making friends or want to push yourself to the next level, you need to ride with a local club. Find their “no drop” ride (it means that you won’t get left behind) and start hitting them up once a month.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly your skills develop once you start riding regularly with others.
Cycling Fitness FAQ
How Much Do You Need To Cycle To Lose Weight?
A pound of fat is estimated to be 3,500 calories. If a 160-pound person rides 10 miles in 50 minutes, they will burn 500 calories. Repeating this daily leads to one pound of weight loss per week, provided you keep your calorie intake in check (see tip #1)
I mostly talk about cycling regarding road distance on a road bike. However, it applies well to mountain biking, also. The key thing is that these are estimates. If you ride faster (tip #10) or do more hill workouts (tip #11), your weight loss will increase.
Are Stationary Bikes Good For Fat Loss?
Stationary bikes are the preferred workout device in scientific weight loss studies. The trick is to understand your basal metabolic rate and track your caloric intake.
The weight loss from a stationary bike is on par with any other cycle. However, boredom can lead to poor adherence. Make sure you have a good book or TV show to watch!
Can Cycling Help Lose Belly Fat?
Belly fat can be the most stubborn of all fats to lose. High-intensity cycling workouts, when combined with a low-calorie diet can be an effective way to lose the muffin top.
If your weight loss plateaus, experiment with reducing your caloric intake by 100 additional calories every 3 days until you reach a level where your weight loss picks up. Also, incorporating more Omega 3’s (like fish oil!) to cleanse the liver (Tip #7) eating more protein (Tip #8) and vegetables (Tip #9) will synergize with your cycling to speed the tummy toning.
Belly fat acts as an endocrine organ that disrupts normal hormone production in an attempt to protect itself. It requires consistent, determined effort and a flood of healthy hormones to rewrite your body’s “programming,” as it were.
Cycling and moderate caloric restriction is a proven combination that provides a healthy flood of hormones to build muscle, boost your metabolism and reverse years of insulin resistance, ultimately forcing your body to remove the belly fat.
How Many Calories Does Cycling Burn?
An intensive bike workout can burn up to 900 calories in one hour (puke fest!). Even a moderate workout can easily lead to a 500-600 calorie burn during the workout.
And that is just the caloric burn. There are also untold cardiovascular and brain benefits from regular workouts on your bike.
These articles are where I dive into that research and help you get the most our of every workout.