We all ride for different reasons. Some just love it! Others might cycle for weight loss. Whatever your reason is for hopping on the bike, you are undoubtedly improving your fitness and overall wellbeing. Whether you enjoy long, easy rides or short and intense; both have excellent health benefits both physical and mental. Below are our top 11 tips about cycling for weight loss.
Staying in a calorie deficit is a major factor when it comes to losing weight. You essentially need to burn more calories than you put in, or eat fewer calories than you need to maintain your body weight.
Cycling is great for weight loss, as you can burn as much as 400-750 calories per hour depending on your current weight, age, and riding intensity.
If you are new to cycling it’s likely that the change in exercise routine will cause you to burn more calories in the beginning. If you stick with the same routine, it’s possible you will plateau. If this happens just ensure to increase your speed, distance, or route difficulty.
11 Tips For Cycling Weight Loss
Set yourself realistic weight loss goals
Many people who start out on a new weight loss journey massively overestimate the amount of weight they can lose in a short period of time. This often leads to them becoming underwhelmed every time they step on the scales. The result? They give up.
Setting realistic targets and achieving those targets on a weekly or monthly basis is a great way to stay motivated and on track.
As a general rule of thumb, a realistic goal will be to lose 1-2lbs (0.5-1kg) a week. This can be achieved through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a calorie deficit.
It’s also worth noting that not all goals are created equally. If you are somebody who struggles to meet weight loss targets on a weekly basis, scrap them. Instead of setting an outcome goal, opt for a process goal.
A good example of a process goal might be to get out on your bike and ride for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week. Process goals will help you build better habits which are key for weight loss and creating a lasting change in your lifestyle.
Cycle on your commute to work
If you don’t already cycle to work, then try it (if you live within a reasonable distance). A 15 minute each way commute, Mon-Fri would see you hitting your recommended exercise for the week (as per the government guidelines).
If you already ride to work, then chances are your body is used to it. Try a more rigorous route, or set off 10 minutes earlier and make the journey slightly longer.
Ride at an ideal pace for fat-burning
If you want to start burning fat on your bike rides, you need to get that heart rate up without overdoing it.
Ride at a pace that is approximately 70-80% of your max heart rate. You can easily measure this by using a heart rate monitor and a bike computer.
If you don’t have any tech, then aim for a riding pace that leaves you out of breath, but you can still hold a conversation.
Interval training is commonly referred to as HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). It’s a combination of short high-intensity periods, followed by longer low-intensity rest periods.
Some scientific studies have shown that HIIT can burn as much as 450 calories in a 30-minute session (It would take around an hour of moderate cycling to burn that for the average person).
If you are unsure of how to conduct an interval training session, a popular method is to start with 2x 8-minute intervals at high intensity. Treat every 8 minutes as its own time trial. Aim to get the most power out of your bike for those 8 minutes. Remember, to pace your efforts so you can complete each interval. You should be close to maximum heart rate for the majority of the 8 minutes.
Between the 8 minute intervals, carry out 10 minutes of easy riding. This will give you chance to catch your breath and rest.
Track your progress
Tracking your cycling weight loss progress will help you stay motivated. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see changes straight away. At least you are out on your bike and getting fitter, and more efficient every day. Some weeks you’ll plateau and others you’ll see lots of progress. The overall trend is what matters.
If you like to track your weight or body fat % then make sure you do it at least once per week, at the same time of day. First thing in the morning is a popular time.
Alternatively, you can track your performance on the bike. If you use an app like Strava, you will notice your fitness and route times getting better.
Fuelling your body is especially important whilst you are training and trying to lose weight. But, you have to ensure you eat the right foods that give you energy, build muscle and allow you to recover.
There are many foods that have lower calorie density, whilst maintaining high nutritional value. Some examples are lean proteins such as fish, beans, pulses, and chicken. Wholegrain carbohydrates or carbs on the lower end of the glycaemic index such as sweet potato, oats and some fruits and vegetables.
Forget about spot-reducing fat
Many people ask can cycling reduce belly fat? Or, can cycling make your thighs slimmer? The truth is that spot-reducing fat has been proven to be a myth time and time again. To lose fat in one particular area of your body, you are going to have to reduce your overall body fat percentage.
Thankfully once you’ve fallen in love with getting out on your bike, it will no longer seem like a workout chore, but a great way to get outside and stay fit.
A study from Northumbria University found that those who had exercised in a fasted state burned almost 20% more fat compared to those who had consumed breakfast before their workout. So, before you eat your breakfast consider heading out for a morning ride. But, we wouldn’t recommend going on a long-distance ride, 30-60 minutes should be more than enough on an empty stomach. Any longer than that, and you might need a snack to keep you going.
It’s common to believe that the more you ride, the faster and longer you’ll go. But, can you keep this up continuously long-term? The answer is no. Overtraining is a real issue, and as soon as you feel your motivation lacking, you’re getting ill, and hopping on your bike feels like a chore – you might be overtraining.
We need to train hard to get fitter and improve our cycling performance. But, when your training output far exceeds your ability to rest and recover, you’ll be doing more damage than good.
Ensure that you give yourself enough time to probably recuperate between rides, eat the right foods, and get enough rest. Losing weight should be a long-term goal that helps you form good habits. Staying motivated and healthy during this journey is the best way to see lasting success.
Get a training/accountability partner
Having a training partner who is on a similar journey to you, whether that’s to get better at cycling or to lose weight can be a great way to get that extra boost of motivation especially on days when you just don’t want to get out on the bike.
If your training partner is experienced they can also offer helpful training advice to help you get the most out of your bike rides – It could be something as simple as proper cycling technique.
If you don’t know anyone that likes to ride, then try joining a local cycling club or enquire at your local bike shop for cycling groups.
Weight loss has a stigma of being boring and hard work. Well, that doesn’t have to be the case. Especially, if you opt for cycling as your preferred method of burning calories.
Cycling is fun, whether you prefer speeding down country lanes, ripping down mountain trails, or commuting to your workplace, it’s easy to forget you are even exercising whilst soaking in everything around you. No two rides are the same.
Conclusion – Is cycling good for weight loss?
Absolutely! Especially, if you are already a keen rider. What better way to combine something you love as your main training exercise to hit your weight loss goals. And, even if you are a complete beginner, it’s a great way to get outdoors and burn some calories at the same time – you’re also likely to see rapid progress over someone who’s been cycling for a long time.
And, the best piece of advice we can give is to just get out there! It gets easier as you progress and before you know it you’ll be a cycling expert with a body to match.