Cycling isn’t probably the best way to lose weight, but it has numerous weight loss benefits over many other forms of exercises.
In my case, taking regular rides has been a life-changing revelation because I’ve lost so much weight while keeping fit. It feels like cheating because it’s also so much fun; I can even sustain the cycling for long periods.
Plus, cycling is a low-impact exercise, I don’t have to worry much about hurting my joints.
However, one thing I’ve come to learn over the years is you can’t exercise a bad diet. So, in addition to cycling, I’m also getting more conscious about my diet.
So far though, my weight loss journey has been a great success, and after a couple of years now, I always kick myself for spending time in the gym.
I may not have a chiseled body, but I don’t care, my old jeans fit me again.
And in the guide below, I’ll share my inspiring journey of how I lose weight cycling.
Is Cycling Good for Weight Loss?
There’re a couple of reasons that attracted me to cycling for weight loss.
At the bare minimum, biking is fun. So, it was easy for me to subconsciously lose the extra pound without even noticing.
On a performance level, riding increased my activity level, burned more calories, improved heart health, and improved general fitness.
In short, it combined all the health benefits of different gym exercises into a single package.
Of course, as with any other lose-weight exercise, combining biking with a healthy diet is instrumental for my success.
You can’t out-train a poor diet, and I’ve had a good experience with this.
I never considered my diet in my first year and would eat just about anything. The junk-eating spree negated all my efforts to lose weight.
Of course, I did lose some weight when I rode more but didn’t lose the amount I wanted until I changed my diet.
The point is cycling will only be successful at cutting your weight if you combine it with a healthy diet.
Cycling for Weight Loss: 11 Handy Tips for Shedding Extra Weight
1) Have Realistic Weight Loss Goals
Most of us are used to getting instant results in our tech-savvy society. Instant gratification is the name of the game but not the best policy when you need to lose through cycling.
Your aim should have a central goal. It’ll simplify the process.
However, your weight loss goal should also be realistic so that it helps you achieve your goal effortlessly.
There’re a couple of ways to set a weight loss goal, but generally, I’d recommend keeping it 1 to 2 pounds a week.
While at it, also think of the process. For example, “cycle for one hour daily” is an example of a process goal, while “lose 8 pounds in a month” is an outcome goal.
It’s also important to reassess and adjust your goals with time and as needed. For example, if you hit your weight loss goal in the first month, you can step up your efforts and scale your goals a bit higher.
At the same time, give room for setbacks; they’re a natural part of the weight loss journey. If you failed to achieve your goal, identify the roadblocks and develop new strategies to stay on course.
Or, you could even re-evaluate your goals to see whether you set them too high.
2) Consistency is Key
Losing weight isn’t an instant process and takes time.
I’ve been cycling for several years now, and I’m yet to achieve a healthy weight. However, I’ve experienced positive changes in my body and shed a couple of pounds.
I attribute my weight changes to my consistency.
If I wasn’t committed to cycling, I don’t think I would have lost any weight or achieved my target weight.
The great thing with consistency is that it sets up your body for a new lifestyle for the long haul. Once your body is used to working out, you’ll always feel the need to get out and exercise.
Consistency has also helped me avoid the crash diet and fad diets.
These diet options make you go crazy over weight loss, burn you out, and put the weight back on.
I’ve been there, and the greatest flaw with these fad diets and workouts is wrecking your body composition. You gain more fat.
So, I’d advise you to stay dedicated to the course and ride no matter what. Start small, and with time, add more changes to your cycling, but more importantly, stick to the course.
3) Measure your Success
Recording data provides an easy way to measure your success and celebrate progress.
I’m not obsessed with numbers or how many calories I burned, but I always have the habit of measuring my weight every morning and observing my weight and body composition over a month.
I particularly love analyzing my weight bi-weekly because it’s easy for body weight to fluctuate over a day.
But as I mentioned earlier, I’m not so obsessed with metrics, and I hardly track my miles.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but here’s the thing, some metrics may discourage you, especially on your “off” days. You start to feel like a failure.
I measure my progress by how easily I do my routine things. For example, I set goals like “bike to the lake,” and I shift the goal a bit further each time I hit that goal.
So, each trip to the lake will get me further and allow me to rack up more miles. It also exposes me to new stuff, which keeps me motivated.
4) Ride at Moderate Speed Often
Losing weight isn’t a sprint but a marathon.
The best way to lose weight cycling isn’t about the speed bursts but rather the extended pace that gives you a heart rate of 68 to 79% of your maximum.
It’s easy to measure your rate using the strap-on heart rate monitor, a smart trainer, or the best bike computers.
If you don’t have a monitor, ride fast enough to leave you out of breath but still have some left for a conversation.
These exercises are also known as base training workouts. They make you tired but not completely drained. They also help to lose more weight while retaining muscle mass.
5) Commute to Work
Generally, regular cycling without considering the metrics and performance will make you fitter.
Therefore, switching your commute from public transport to biking will make you fitter and let you lose weight and burn calories.
Today, when I need to go to the store, grab some coffee, or even head to work, I simply put on my bike pack and head out with my bike.
I’ve found riding a bike a great way of sneaking cardio without labeling it “working out.” After all, the mental game is just as important as the physical game.
And the moment you start to ride more, you’ll ride further, surprisingly at the same perceived effort level. So, it’s easy to bike ride harder and burn fat without even noticing it.
Plus, if you’re headed for work, you’ll benefit from improved concentration, memory, and creativity, so it’s easy to get more productive.
6) Consider Adding High-Intensity Workouts
Pedaling leisurely for a short ride will burn a few extra pounds but not so much. But if you push yourself to the limits and step up your intensity, you’ll make more progress towards your weight loss goal.
The general rule is that the faster you pedal, you burn more calories.
Usually, high-intensity workouts need above 70%+ of your heart workout.
If you don’t have a heart monitor, just ride fast and hard enough that you can’t have a normal conversation.
A cycling HIIT looks like this:
1) Cycle as fast as you can to get the resistance in 30 to 60 seconds
2) Then, do 2 minutes of easy pace with low resistance
3) Repeat the process for the next 30 minutes
However, the high-intensity workouts are demanding and draining, so you can’t make them your primary workouts.
Instead, I’d recommend you swap two or three sessions of your regular workouts with the HIIT.
Let the HIIT be a complimentary workout to your regular cycling sessions.
Now, of all the cycling workouts that provide a nice HIIT, I’d suggest cyclocross racing or mountain biking.
A cyclocross, in particular, is a great workout as it allows you to ride flat-out for a couple of hours on muddy sections. This cycling is competitive and allows your legs and lungs to burn out.
If your terrain or environment doesn’t allow or you don’t fancy outdoor interval training, you could also consider cross-training. It’s a great way to beat boredom and spice up your interval training.
For example, if you could do some indoor cycling, spin classes, or even head out to the gym.
While cross-training/ endurance training isn’t as much fun as riding a mountain bike, it allows you to smash a high-intensity session to lose weight and burn fat.
7) Go further
One thing with cycling is you can go fairly low effort for longer periods, which is nice for fat burning.
So, when you think you can’t go any further, just add a few more miles.
I decided to increase my distance every time I rode my bike, even if it was a tenth of the mile.
Today’s session will always be longer than yesterday’s, which has helped with my endurance cycling/strength training.
When trying to build endurance and aerobic capacity, you start slowly and add a few more minutes or distance to your session.
For example, if you’re using an indoor bike, you could start with 15 minutes in one session and gradually add a few minutes to each session.
If you’re riding the outdoors, consider adding a few more miles to your previous record, and at the end of the day, you’ll rack up more miles and burn more fat.
Simply put, create a cycling training plan that will allow you to go a bit further every day.
8) Get Enough Sleep
We can’t underestimate the importance of sleep while trying to lose weight cycling.
In fact, it’s the unsung here of weight loss.
Cyclists who sleep for six to eight hours are more successful at losing weight.
On the other hand, cyclists with poor sleeping habits and irregular sleep patterns are likely to feel hungry and less likely to get satiated even after eating.
The other benefit of a good night’s sleep is that it allows your body to repair and build on the torn muscles, so you’re ready for the next session.
I know the importance of sleep doesn’t get the deserved attention, but if you aim for quality sleep, you’ll lose those extra pounds of weight.
9) Consider your Diet
You should be conscious of what you’re eating when trying to lose weight cycling.
After all, you can exercise your way with a poor diet.
When I first started cycling for weight loss, I began losing weight without much change in diet. However, as my body grew more efficient, I reached a plateau and couldn’t lose weight, not even a few pounds, no matter how hard I tried.
But after changing my diet and caloric intake, I started gaining visible results, and my weight decreased again.
There’re a couple of things to keep in mind when selecting the right diet, and they include:
Eating Little and Often
Think of your body as an engine fuel tank. You want to keep it topped up with fuel to continue running steadily.
So, I’d recommend having small portions of meals throughout the day. I usually have at least three to four meals in a day.
Eating small portions regularly and over time is that your body maintains a stable metabolism, so you’re hardly tempted to indulge in junk food.
Plus, you’ll always have stable energy levels and thus enough oomph to allow you to rack miles and ride faster.
Keep off the Sugary and Processed Foods
The sugary and processed foods are the kings of energy but lack nutritional value. So, they’ll only fill you up without providing any essential health benefits.
The other flaw with these foods is that the extra sugar that isn’t immediately metabolized is stored in fat, which is exactly what you’re trying to keep off.
Of course, I’m not trying to demonize these foods. I always have a cake or snack during my cycling sessions.
I’m trying to put out that you should limit your intake and consider it a treat once you achieve a certain goal.
Again, I’d also recommend keeping off the sugary-packed sports snacks such as energy drinks and bars.
They’re okay for long-distance and competitive riders, but if you’re planning on losing some weight, I’d suggest you stay away from them.
Take Plenty of Lean Protein, Fruits, and Veggies
Having a proper diet is necessary for providing your body with the nutrients and energy your body needs to build & develop muscles and sustain exercise.
Generally, the best foods for cycling for weight loss have nutritional value in that they’ve the nutrients and elements to build your body.
These foods also have a lower calorie density, so they’re less likely to contribute to additional fat and weight.
Typical examples of such foods include lean proteins such as fish, beans, chicken, and peas.
In particular, lean protein is good food that helps lose fat, not muscle.
Fresh fruits and veggies are also great for providing your body with the required vitamins for increased performance.
Also, take some carbs to provide you with the energy to sustain your cycling performance. The ideal carbs should have a low glycaemic index, such as whole-grain carbs and rye bread.
Ride before Breakfast
Taking on your cycling sessions before your first meal is a great way to kickstart your fitness journey and weight loss.
Also known as fasted training, cycling on an empty stomach increases the V02 max. Without being too technical, your body is forced to use the reserved fat and calories for fuel because there’s no food in your system.
But that’s not the only benefit. Eating within an hour after a ride helps with the faster healing of muscles and replenishes stored sugar much faster. Your muscles have greater sensitivity to insulin after a workout, and insulin helps with muscle healing.
Of course, if you’re planning for a longer ride, you’ll need to eat something.
10) Don’t Overtrain or Under-Eat
When I started losing weight by cycling, I always fell into the temptation of beating myself up, both on my bike and on food intake, thinking it would help with my course.
I was wrong because it didn’t work in the long term.
Many cyclists also fall into this temptation, and I would advise that you take everything in moderation.
Start at a slow pace, and increase gradually. Otherwise, going too hard on the bike will drain all your energy or even leave you with an injury.
No having enough meals for the day may also mean your body will be deprived of the essential nutrients to support your cycling workout, so you won’t optimize your session.
11) Enjoy the moment!
Finally, if you need to get the best of your cycling workouts, you need to enjoy it.
I joined a bike club, which helped me get back in shape, especially when my motivation was down.
Riding with friends is more enjoyable than solo rides, and you will almost forget you’re actually exercising.
How to Bike Safely
Biking outdoors comes with various risks, so you need to stay safe.
Here’re some of the safety tips to follow when cycling:
- Wear a helmet: A helmet keeps your noggin safe in case of a crash or fall
- Ride single file: If riding in a group, maintain a single file. Let someone lead, and you follow. Ensure there’s some space in between.
- Use hand signals: if you need to change lanes, or make any maneuver, let drivers and other pedestrians know through your hands.
- Let go of electronics: It’s tempting to cycle with headphones, but they might impair your listening abilities.
How to Lose Weight Cycling Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can You Lose Belly Fat by Cycling?
A: The simple answer is a yes.
Cycling alone allows you to lose overall body weight, especially on the waistline. However, cycling training doesn’t provide targeted fat/ weight loss or spot reduction, so you’ll likely lose belly fat by dropping the overall body mass.
Generally, weight loss happens in the kitchen.
But, workouts also help, and if you compare cycling to other activities, you’ll see how great it is for burning calories and weight loss. IMO, it’s decent by all means.
Of course, you’re likely to lose fat through HIIT activities, but that’s not the point. Cycling is fun and part of an overall workout to keep fit.