Cycling is a great way to look healthier, fitter, lighter, and is ranked as one of the best calorie-burning exercises. It is efficient, enjoyable, and easy to incorporate into a busy day. This article looks at how to lose weight by cycling, the food to eat while cycling to lose weight, and other health benefits we get from cycling.
But is cycling good for weight loss?
The short answer to this question is yes, cycling can help weight loss. It is low-impact and burns tons of calories at moderate workout intensity.
In one study, it was established that inactive, overweight people can lose fat mass just as effectively by riding the bike to work than by exercising in their leisure time.
But in order to effectively lose weight by cycling; you need to have a proper strategy. What you eat, when you eat, when you cycle, and more matters so much. In our next section, we shall look at the tips on how to lose weight by cycling.
How to lose weight by cycling
Losing weight by cycling can easily be achieved when done the right way. Applying several techniques before and after cycling for weight loss will enable you to lose weight and keep it off. The different techniques include;
1. Setting a realistic goal
Weight loss is a gradual process and takes time and patience. No weight loss strategy can promise you results overnight. Therefore, set goals that are attainable. 1 to 2 pounds a week is normal and realist. Otherwise, you will be frustrated if you set your bar too high and you end up failing.
You can set your target using body mass index which is based on a person’s height to weight ratio or using body fat percentage.
2. Riding at a moderate pace
Any pace that gives you a heart-rate of 68 and 79% of your max heart rate is efficient to burn your body fat. Setting this pace is very simple. You can use a heart rate monitor and a bike computer.
In case you can’t access any of these, aim at a pace that makes you feel out of breath yet able to maintain a conversation. Aim at a complete hour of cycling every day.
3. Commute to work
Commuting by bike can give you impressive results. This is one way of making cycling part of your daily routine. Apart from helping weight loss, you also substitute the time you would have spent traveling for exercise.
4. Incorporate some high-intensity sessions a week
Swapping 2 or 3 of your regular rides with high-intensity training will help improve your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, improve insulin sensitivity, and make the body burn more calories efficiently.
5. Get plenty of sleep
Having plenty of sleep is very important for weight loss. Research indicates that people who get 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night tend to be stress-free and are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off.
Sleeping also allows the body to repair and build muscle after each day of cycling.
Having less sleep makes you liable to hunger and less likely to feel satiated when you eat.
You may also need to learn how to lose weight by sleeping.
6. Keep track of your progress
Keeping records is one way of being motivated. Having a fitness tracker or bike with a route tracker will enable you to see your fitness improving as you progress.
At the same time, weighing yourself first thing in the morning before cycling enables you to know your position, and every time things are not good, you are encouraged to work harder.
7. Incorporate cross-training and flexibility work to your routine
Although cycling is good for weight loss, it puts stress and strain on the muscles more so if you are a beginner.
Incorporating weight training, Pilates, swimming, Zumba, and boxing will give you a strong core and help to balance out the heavy muscle workout from pedaling.
Flexibility workouts help to stretch out muscles and tendons thereby preventing injury, aches, and pain.
8. Eat little and often
Eating small amounts of food every after 3 or 4 hours keeps your metabolic rate steady and will burn fat consistently. Plus you will also have enough energy to jump onto your bike at the end of the day.
After a ride, you can have a protein and vegetable-rich dish to rebuild the glycogen stores and repair the muscles.
9. Limit the intake of sugar and processed food
Sugar and processed foods have a low nutritional value and if not burnt, they are stored in the form of fat, which in the actual sense we are trying to avoid. You are therefore better off eating a well-balanced meal.
10. Eat lean protein plus fruit and vegetables
Eating nutritious and satisfying foods will enable the body to run efficiently, build muscle, and sustain cycling.
Pick on lean protein such as fish, chicken, and beans in combination with whole fruits and vegetables because they have more dietary fiber compared to smoothies and juices.
11. Ride before breakfast
Fasted training or going for a 30-minute ride before breakfast can kick start your weight loss. As there is no food in the system to provide energy, the body burns fat stores for energy hence weight loss.
12. Avoid over cycling and under eating
Neither over cycling nor under eating is healthy and none of them has long term results.
In order to burn fat, the body needs the energy to sustain the cycling otherwise the body goes into starvation mode and it will hold on to calories instead.
Over cycling more so for beginners puts you at risk of tiring yourself out completely, with zero energy to do anything, or having an injury and putting yourself out of action.
13. Have the right gear
Before you start cycling for weight loss, make sure you have the right equipment. This will make you more comfortable on the bike, stay longer on the bike, and increase the intensity of your workouts. The few basics to consider include; cycling shoes, gloves, helmet, the right bike, and cycling shot.
How much should I cycle a day to lose weight?
To be precise, 30 minutes of cycling a day is enough for you to achieve weight loss results more so if done at a high intensity. You can incorporate interval training to get the best during your time in the saddle.
With cycling for weight loss, you don’t need to go too hard in order to get results. Taking slow but longer rides once a week is very profitable. Long rides of about 6 hours burn more fat and give you endurance.
What food should I eat if am cycling to lose weight?
Cycling produces good weight loss results if done appropriately. However, if you make careless food choices, you can ruin all your efforts. All you need is to keep your cycling sessions ramped up with a healthy diet. The food to eat while cycling for weight loss includes;
Fruits and vegetables: Grapes, apples, barriers, melons, bananas, oranges, and avocadoes
Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, amaranth, teff, and barley
Low-fat or no-fat dairy foods
High-quality lean proteins: fish, poultry, nuts, and seeds
Cut back on sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy saturated and Trans fats
However, healthy food alone will not benefit you if you don’t cycle enough to burn more calories than you consume.
Either, add more calorie-burning activities or reduce the number of calories taken in. The National Institutes of Health indicates that women can safely lose weight on a diet of 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day while men can safely on a diet of 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day.
In case you decrease your calorie intake, fill up on nutrient-rich foods so that the body gets the fuel required to support the biking.
Running vs cycling which is better for weight loss?
Running and cycling are ranked as some of the best calorie-burning exercises. In fact, research shows that working at the same effort yields the same endurance boost in both activities.
The number of calories you burn running or cycling depends on the intensity and length you do either activities.
In general, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, running burns more calories (566 to 839) compare to cycling’s (498 to 738) in an hour because it uses more muscles.
However, cycling is enjoyable, gentler on the joints, and chances are high that you can stick with it and do it longer or faster than you can run.
Learn the types of running and various tips to help you get the most out of your running exercises from our article
Other benefits of cycling besides weight loss?
Just like any aerobic activity, cycling engages your heart, blood vessels, and lungs. It makes you breathe deeper, increase body temperature, break the sweat, and improves your overall fitness.
Therefore, other health benefits of cycling apart from weight loss include;
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Increased muscle strength and flexibility
- Improved joint mobility
- Decreased stress levels
- Improved posture and coordination
- Strengthened bones
- Decreased body fat levels
- Prevention or management of disease
- Reduced anxiety and depression
Cycling is ranked as one of the best calorie-burning exercises and is therefore a good way to lose weight. However, to lose weight by cycling; you need to have a proper strategy. Make sure you have the right gear, track your results, eat right and eat more often, and more as discussed in the sections above.
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