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We all know that when we set off on our weight loss journey, exercise will get us there quicker. However, choosing the right type of activity for us isn’t always the easiest. We have to consider safety, practicality, enjoyment, and effectiveness.
Luckily, embarking out onto the road on a bicycle is all of the above. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be on tarmac. Tearing up the mountain bike trails, or speeding around an indoor track is just as much fun. There really is a type of cycling to suit every unique individual.
But, how effective is cycling when it comes to weight loss? And will it help set the wheels in motion towards your goals? Let’s find out…
When we talk about weight loss, we usually don’t distinguish between muscle, water, and fat. All most of us see when we step on the scales is a number that we’d like to nudge slightly lower. And why would we see things any different?
This is, of course, how we have checked our health for years. We watch our overall mass go up and down, then determine what needs to be done.
Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss
But maybe it’s time to consider the difference between weight loss and fat loss. Because, at the end of the day, we’d be healthier by losing excess fat. Much more so than hard-earned muscle or simply water.
Let’s not forget that body fat is considered non-lean mass. That means it is a type of tissue that isn’t powerful muscle – yet it all adds to your overall weight.
So, in effect, ditching unnecessary fat will always see the pounds fall from you. Plus, you will look a lot leaner and toned in the process.
The most effective, safest, and healthiest way to lose fat weight is through a calorie deficit. Therefore, the calories that enter our bodies should be effectively fewer than those that exit it.
Simply put, we must eat less than we burn.
When done without too much aggression, this method of fat weight loss is the safest, easiest and most tolerable for people. Nobody likes to go too hungry for long, do they? And crash diets will only work for the short term.
In fact, many crash dieters pile even more pounds back on than they started with. But before we embark on the deficit, we’ve got to understand calories first.
Calories are often misunderstood, and for the sake of clarity, let us explain them. One single calorie is a unit of energy. In fact, it’s how much energy it takes to heat 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.
The food we eat is measured in kilocalories (kcals), which is the amount of energy required to heat a single litre of water. Carbohydrates come in at 4kcal per 1 g, whilst fats can be a whopping 9kcal per 1 g. Cool, right?
The beautiful thing about an activity like cycling is it is a brilliant calorie burner. Therefore, it makes entering a daily deficit much easier for those who do it.
By pedalling the canal pathway to work every morning you can significantly increase your energy expenditure in comparison driving.
Plus, you’ll also be ramping up your fitness, overall health, and beating the pesky traffic too.
- Read: Why Cycle?
How We Lose Fat Weight
Now, once we raise our daily calorie burn enough to overtake the kcals of energy we eat, the magic starts to happen. By entering into this state we kick-start the process of weight loss.
Our body knows it must react and reaches out to grab energy from somewhere inside us. So, it looks towards our fat stores as a means of fuelling our everyday activities.
That’s because fat is stored as fuel for this exact reason. Through millions of years of evolution, we have adapted to turn excess calories into adipose tissue (fat), instead of wasting them. It was our fat stores that kept us alive during leaner times in throughout history.
And today, many cultures living in colder regions eat a considerably high-fat diet to handle the climate. The human body is amazing, isn’t it?
Fortunately for us, our fleshy vehicle doesn’t know we are in the 21st century. And when we set our pedals in motion and overtake our daily dose of calories, it still thinks we’re in prehistory. Consequently, after a while, stubborn belly fat begins to disappear.
We start to look stronger, fitter, and leaner, all due to a remarkably evolved energy system.
The Three C’s – Cycling, Consistency & Clean Eating
The trick to using cycling for weight loss is consistency. Oh, and definitely a touch of clean eating introduced into your lifestyle.
Losing weight, especially fat, is a long game. It’s a marathon of diet and exercise and not a sprint of quick fixes. To be honest, there is no quick fix. Not one that is safe and sustainable anyway.
That’s why jumping on your bicycle is the perfect way to lose weight. No two days are ever the same when you’re out there on the bike. You can take any route, any time, and the scenery is always changing.
There is a total freedom to cycling you just don’t find sitting inside a stuffy gym, or even amongst team sports like football or hockey.
It is just you, your trusty steed, and a whole lot of fun to be had. Not only that but as you start to lose weight and increase your fitness, riding just gets better. All of a sudden you’ll be feeling the buzz of conquering climbs you never thought you would. Whilst at the same time scorching fat stores in the most fun way possible.
Ready to Ride? Check Out These Tips for Cycling Weight Loss
Has all of this talk got you ready to ride? Awesome! Let’s take a look at the best way cycling can help you lose weight.
First up, we have aerobic cycling. Fitness experts and trainers refer to this style of exercise as a steady state. You can already guess what sort of intensity to expect with this stuff.
The idea is to work at around 60% maximum effort for between 30-60 minutes. A good way to check this is to rate your RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) out of 10. Give your current effort a number between 1-10, and just always try to stay below 6.
If you’re a beginner on the bike, SS riding would be perfect for you to find your rhythm and style. There’s no need to go too hard to enjoy the benefits and you can totally go at your own pace.
But, with that being said, more advanced cyclists can still get a lot from steady-state riding. In fact, rolling along in a relaxed way is awesome for rest days. Rather than sit on the couch, you can speed up your weight loss by still burning calories without tiring yourself out. The pros amongst us will know this method as active recovery.
- Read: Cycling and Metabolism
The HIIT Factor
Next, we have HIIT cycling. This stuff is certainly not for the faint of heart but is spectacular at breaking into seemingly unshakeable body fat.
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is tough but so worthwhile. This is because training at high intensities is proven to burn a crazy amount of calories. Even if it is guaranteed to leave you hot and sweaty in the saddle.
If you didn’t think the awesome kcal burn was enough, have you ever heard of the EPOC effect?
Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption is an incredible by-product of high-intensity training. Essentially, even when we stop high-intensity exercise, our bodies still need the energy to reach homeostasis. Imagine the tyres of your bike cooling down after hitting a new personal high-speed record. Your body simply has to keep using fuel to get itself back to a regular cooled state.
For an amazing EPOC inducing HIIT ride try this sprint session out for size. Set a stopwatch on your phone and clip-in – you will be pedalling at an RPE of 4-5 for 50 seconds, and then spending 10 seconds at an RPE of 9-10. Do this 10 times in total if possible for a highly effective workout you can easily fit into your fat.
Because sprinting all out requires you to work harder, you will need to breathe in more oxygen to recover. Therefore, the body will have to amp up its work to process this greater amount of oxygen. And just like stepping on the gas pedal of a race car really hard, you will burn more fuel.
So, Is Cycling Good For Weight Loss?
Okay, now we’ve looked at the facts. Yet, we haven’t really answered the question, “Is cycling good for weight loss?” and “Will it help you lose stubborn belly fat?”.
The evidence suggests a resounding yes!
Cycling is undeniably effective in helping speed up your weight loss goals. It is incredible for burning through energy, it’s fun, and in every way promotes a healthy lifestyle.
When you are cycling, it doesn’t even feel like exercise. There aren’t sets and reps to count, or other gym goers hogging the equipment. Riding is much more than that.
There’s just you, your faithful bike, maybe a friend or two, and an open road full of exploration. Happy cycling friends, good luck with your goals.
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