14 Tips That’ll Help You Lose Weight By Cycling

Your bike is actually one of the best weight-loss tools around. Here’s how you can use it drop a few kilos.


Jason Sumner |

If you’re looking to lose a few kilograms, cycling is a great way to start. Hopping on your bike and going for a long, easy ride or doing something shorter and faster both have immense health benefits.

But what you eat matters, too, although you don’t necessarily have to forego your favourite foods in order to lose weight. Here are 14 tips that will help you get the ball (er, wheels) rolling.

Don’t Rely Solely on Diets

Yes, you lose weight when you cut calories, but all of those kilos lost aren’t fat. A significant percentage of weight loss – up to 30 percent – comes from muscle tissue. Cyclists on a diet often end up thinner, but become slower and weaker on the bike. As pioneering diet expert Covert Bailey once wrote, “When someone says that they lost 10 kilograms, the key question is: 10 kilograms of what?”

Some dieters can end up having a higher percentage of body fat even as they lose weight. And don’t forget that muscle burns calories. The more muscle volume you have, the more calories your body consumes. If you lose muscle, you will gain fat faster when you return to your pre-diet eating habits.

Ride, Ride, and Ride Some More

The average road cyclist burns about 40 calories per kilometre. At a relatively sedate 24 kilometres per hour, this means a weekly time commitment of 10 hours on the bike can burn a whopping 6,000 calories.

Boost Carbs, Trim Fat

Your problem may not be how much you eat but the nutritional balance among carbohydrates, fats, and protein. For high-level endurance performance, aim for 60 to 70 percent carbohydrate with less than 30 percent fat. This will also help with weight loss. It usually isn’t necessary to make radical adjustments to achieve these percentages – small changes work best. For instance, don’t eat a whole bowl of chilli con carne with meat. Instead, fill half the bowl with brown rice, then ladle a small amount of chilli on top. You can also try substituting fat-free yoghurt for sour cream and fruit for sweets.

Keep Your Upper Body Fit

Because cycling is primarily a leg sport, riders can lose muscle volume in their upper body. This is important because if you lose muscle, you don’t burn as many calories. The solution? Year-round resistance training. But this doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the weight room. As little as 20 minutes twice a week during the cycling season and 30 minutes two or three times a week during the winter will maintain and even increase your upper-body muscle mass.

Go Long and Easy

Take a slow, long ride once a week, especially in the early season. Long rides (up to six hours) burn a lot of fat and give you a good endurance base for later in the season.

But Short Rides Can Still Do It

Remember, even 40 minutes of cycling can help you lose weight if you go hard.

Recharge Properly

Recovery matters. After a ride, you need to refuel with plenty of carbohydrates. Don’t think that you’ll lose weight faster if you don’t eat – you’ll just get weak and not feel well. Also, be sure to take recovery rides that are slow and easy.

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Embrace the Peak

Your weight will vary, since it’s influenced by factors like hydration and glycogen storage. So if you notice the number on the scale go up or down – sometimes as often as once per day – know that this is totally normal.

Fill Up on Water

To ride enough in summer heat to lose weight, you must stay hydrated. Be sure that you start summertime rides with at least two full bottles – and know where you can stop for refills along the way.

Eat in Moderation

While it’s important to eat your vegetables, everything is fine in moderation. If you have a sweet tooth, eat some chocolate or dessert once in a while. If you always deprive yourself, you might binge. You also need to be honest with yourself about what you are eating, says Frank Overton, owner and founder of FasCat Coaching. “There is so much crap that people have in their diet that is just out of habit,” he says. “Try to reduce or cut out soda, sugar, and junk food. Have a few less beers each week, or drink wine since it typically has fewer calories.”

RELATED: Lose Weight, Ride Faster: 6-Week Training Plan

Don’t Stuff Yourself

Stop eating before you are full – you don’t need to feel stuffed after every meal. ”It’s okay to feel a little hungry,” Overton says. “That doesn’t mean starve yourself or skip meals. But if you can cut 500 calories a day, you will lose about a 500g a week.”

Conduct a Dietary Audit

Overton also suggests trying to keep track of everything you put in your mouth for one week. “There are lots of good apps that can help with this,” he says. “So you log everything for a week, then analyse it and try to figure out what you could cut out. You’ll be surprised at what you find.”

RELATED: How Much To Eat According To How Much You Ride

Get a Formal Plan Together

If you don’t want to go it alone, get help from a certified nutritionist who can help you come up with a meal plan that will help you lose weight without going to extreme measures. There are also many online groups and forums that you can join for virtual support.

Increase Your Pep and Just Get Out There

Have faith that as you drop weight, you will gain more pep. Exercise raises your energy level. Once you get used to the idea of riding, it becomes easier to get out there. It’s a reward in itself and makes you feel rejuvenated – whether your weight changes or not.

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