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Weight is often at the forefront of a cyclist’s mind. Some get into cycling to lose weight and others need to maintain a certain power to weight ratio to stay competitive in the sport. And then there are those of us who enjoyed one too many coffee and croissant stops in the off-season and need to get things dialed in. Whatever your reason, here are a few tried and true ways for how to lose weight cycling, plus a couple of lesser-known weight loss hacks to speed up the process.
Ride before breakfast
Pro riders know all the tricks for how to lose weight cycling and this tip is one they use often. One of the best times to burn fat is in the morning, when your body is already in a fasted state from sleeping. As your body repairs itself at night, it slowly burns through its glucose reserves, making it easier to tap into stored fat. When you begin to take it fuel, especially carbohydrates, this shifts the balance and the body returns to preferring glucose. Unless it’s a short or easy recovery day, do this workout in addition to your training ride, as you don’t want to deplete your fuel when you’re trying to build fitness.
Try it: Without eating anything (black coffee is fine), get up and either do 20-30 minutes of intervals or a steady state ride. Not only will this wake you up, but it will also accelerate fat burning.
Hack it: Aim to fast for 12 hours before this ride to increase the fat-burning benefits. Since you’re already sleeping for 8 hours, this shouldn’t feel too taxing.
Go all out with interval training
There’s a reason why sprinting is so much fun: It torches fat. One study in the Journal of Applied Physiology observed that a cyclists’ fat burning ability increased by 36% by repeating alternate day interval training for two weeks. It turns out that going all out in the big ring for 30 second sprint efforts shoots human growth hormone through the roof (yes, the same stuff people dope with for big gains). Increased HGH burns fat and promotes lean tissue.
Try it: Inside or out, add in some all out sprints and difficult efforts to your training. For fast fitness and fat burning, avoid being a one-speed rider.
Hack it: Add a power meter to your program so you can begin to monitor performance gains. Research shows that people are more likely to stick to their weight-loss goals if they focus on a performance goal instead.
Fuel up the smart way
If you want to learn how to lose weight cycling, it’s also important to focus on what’s on the end of your fork. The metabolism is often viewed like a calculator. Eat 3,500, gain a pound. Ditch those same calories and lose one pound instead. It turns out that the metabolism is more like a thermostat, simply adjusting to how much or how little food you provide the body with. Everything you eat is a chemical signal, dictating how you will store the calories in that food. It makes sense when you think about eating 100 calories of chicken, versus 100 calories of cookies. One promotes fat gain, the other loss.
As Jonathan Bailor, author of the Calorie Myth explains, the goal is to eat smarter. Increase the quality of the foods you eat and that promote weight loss (good fats, proteins, fiber, nuts and seeds and lots of veggies and low-glycemic fruit) and you won’t have to count calories to slim down because you’ll naturally create an energy deficit.
Try it: Instead of gorging on pasta the night before a ride, try eating a sweet potato instead (yes, homemade sweet potato fries count).
Hack it: Try shifting some of the excess carbs you’re consuming through refined (anything that comes in a box) foods and eating more healthy fats instead. The body can utilize fat for fuel, just as it does carbs. We generally just don’t give it a chance to adapt.
More muscle means you’ll have a bigger engine and you’ll have to burn more fuel during the day to support it. It may be tempting to look at your Garmin after a ride and see the huge number of calories scorched, whereas the caloric burn for a session of strength training is much lower. But this is deceiving. Strength training comes with a high EPOC or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, meaning it elevates the metabolism for up to 38 hours after the workout, whereas a cycling session is only as good as the duration of the workout.
Try it: Add in 2-3 strength training workouts a week. You don’t have to go crazy, just add a push, pull, hinge, squat and some type of core exercise. Not only will this benefit your waistline, but it will also help you become more injury proof and stronger on the bike.
Hack it: For maximum muscle and cycling gains, separate strength training from cycling workouts. It’s okay to do them on the same day, just don’t do them in the same session. This ensures you’re training either strength or endurance and will leave you with enough energy to adequately train both.
Bonus weight loss hacks:
- Need to run a quick errand? Do it by bike.
- Hills pay the bills. You’ll burn a lot more calories and build muscle when you ride under resistance.
- Hit the trails. Mountain biking engages your core and upper body more than road cycling. Not only will this help you get in a good workout, but you’ll become stronger and leaner too.
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