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Home arrow Fitness arrow Cycling arrow Cycling for Weight Loss: 6 Strategies to Try

Cycling for Weight Loss: 6 Strategies to Try

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: July 31, 2023
9 min read 552 Views 0 Comments
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Looking for a new form of exercise to maximize your weight loss efforts? Cycling could be the answer.

cycling for weight loss

When it comes to shedding stubborn pounds, cycling has emerged as an accessible and enjoyable option. 

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or simply a beginner looking to kickstart your journey to healthier living, incorporating cycling into your daily routine might be the route to get there.

In this article, we’ll explore six techniques for maximizing the weight loss potential of your daily ride and provide you with simple tips to help you get started.

How to Lose Weight Through Cycling

These 6 tips will help you bust through any plateaus and get you back on the road to hitting all of your weight loss goals.

#1 Opt for high-intensity interval training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a kind of exercise that involves doing short bursts of very high-intensity exercise followed by a period of rest. 

An example of this would be cycling as fast as you can for 30 seconds and then pedaling slowly for 2–4 minutes.

This style of exercise is well-known for its efficacy in boosting weight loss since it activates something called the “afterburn effect,” meaning that your body continues burning calories even after your workout is complete.

Another benefit of HIIT cycling in regard to weight loss is that HIIT training preserves lean muscle mass better than steady-state cardio. And since having more muscle improves insulin sensitivity, having more muscle makes it easier to shed pounds.

#2 Eat a balanced diet

When it comes to the ideal diet for cycling, it’s important to find the right balance of consuming highly nutritious food to fuel your body and support muscle recovery while simultaneously achieving a calorie deficit, which is regarded as the most important factor in weight loss.

Research indicates that the best diet for reducing calorie intake while still getting sufficient macronutrients is a low-energy-dense diet. This style of eating involves consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.

If you’re someone who struggles with meal planning and isn’t sure what to eat to maximize performance and muscle recovery, you might consider using a diet app that has meal plans specifically created for cyclists.

#3 Go the extra mile

If you’re serious about losing weight through cycling, you’ll want to find ways to incorporate cycling into your daily routine in order to maximize the amount of daily riding you do.

This could look like commuting to work on your bicycle instead of your car, using your bike to run errands, and inviting your friends to come and ride with you.

If you’d rather stick to biking as a form of exercise, then beginning endurance training will be your next step.

This involves long, low-intensity rides for a longer duration than you’re used to in order to improve your aerobic endurance and increase your muscle strength.

Start by gradually increasing the duration of your rides by no more than 10% every week, using an app or the notes section of your phone to keep track.

#4 Don’t skip the gym

Another way that you can go the extra mile to maximize both your cycling performance and the weight loss potential of cycling is to include cross-training into your workout schedule, and more specifically, strength training.

Since the majority of the cycling movement is carried out by the muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and hip flexors, these are the muscles you should focus on strengthening.

Exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and box jumps will help you strengthen these essential muscles. 

Don’t forget to include core exercises in your workouts, as they’re responsible for stabilizing the upper body as you pedal.

#5 Get plenty of sleep

Another way to optimize your potential weight loss through cycling is to get a solid 7–9 hours of sleep a night.

Sleep is essential for balancing hormone levels in the body. This includes cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, which has been shown to negatively impact weight loss, and leptin, a hormone responsible for suppressing hunger

Not only that, but sleep is an essential part of muscle recovery and repair, which is crucial for building muscle mass and allowing you to continue cycling each day.

#6 Stay consistent

Consistency will always trump intensity, especially if your goal is to lose weight, increase muscle mass, and create results that will last the test of time.

Instead of having the goal to lose weight quickly, focus on creating healthy habits by establishing a cycling routine. This could look like riding your bike to work or going for a ride every day as soon as you get home from work. 

Even doing as little as 30 minutes of cycling at a moderate intensity each day can help you burn anywhere from 288 to 360 calories, making weight management far easier and putting you well on your weight to shedding your unwanted pounds.

Not only that, but engaging in healthy habits regularly provides an unmistakable sense of accomplishment. Seeing your progress in the form of weight loss and improved mental health boosts motivation and makes you more likely to continue pursuing your goals.

That being said, the first month of beginning any new habit can be difficult. 

Using a cycling app can help you get over this hump, as it will set you up with a variety of cycling workouts and make tracking your progress significantly easier, which makes all the difference in sticking to a new workout plan.

Benefits of Cycling for Weight Loss 

Cycling has some unique benefits that make it a better option for weight loss than other popular styles of exercise. We will unpack a few of them in greater detail below.

  • Adaptable: Cycling has the added benefit of being both an indoor and outdoor sport, meaning that you can use it to spend time outside during the summer, but you don’t have to sacrifice your cycling habit during the colder months.
  • Great calorie burner: Cycling is one of the best forms of exercise for burning calories, allowing you to burn between 298 and 594 in a 30-minute period depending on the level of intensity you cycle at.
  • Accessible for everyone: Cycling is a low-impact exercise, meaning it doesn’t involve a jarring impact that can be hard on the joints. Because of this, it’s a very accessible form of exercise that can be done by individuals recovering from injury and those that are overweight or elderly.
  • Burns fat: Moderate-intensity cycling puts you perfectly into a fat-burning zone, meaning that your body switches from using carbohydrates to fuel your muscles and instead makes use of stored fat.
  • Versatile: With several different cycling styles, as well as the option to cycle in groups or with your friends, it’s easy to keep cycling feeling fun and motivation high.
  • Practical: Cycling is a form of exercise that can easily be worked into your daily routine, such as commuting to work or biking to a friend’s house instead of taking your car.
  • Reduces stress: Cycling can be very stress-relieving, especially if you decide to cycle outdoors. This is great because lowering cortisol levels can make losing weight significantly easier.

Tips to Get Started

Ready to get started cycling but not sure exactly how to? Not a problem. Below, we’ll provide you with some simple tips to help get you going.

  • Choose the right bike: Cycling on non-hilly pavement requires a commuter bike with just a few gears and a big comfy seat. Individuals wanting to bike outdoors through gravel trails will need a 10-speed bike with thicker and more textured tires to help them grip the terrain. 
  • Invest in biking gear: Before taking your bike out, make sure to equip it with a water bottle cage and bell. It’s also a good idea to invest in a safety-rated helmet, bike lock, and front and rear lights that you can use when biking in the dark.
  • Fuel your body: An easy way to improve your cycling performance and generally enjoy your rides more is to eat a light and high-carb meal before heading out; oatmeal, fruit with yogurt, and avocado toast are all great options. It’s also not a bad idea to pack a snack for the road, such as a banana or protein bar.
  • Plan your route: Taking on too much too early is a mistake that many people make when starting a new exercise regime and an easy way to kill motivation. To avoid this, aim to make your first bike ride anywhere from 30–60 minutes, and pre-plan a route that is scenic to make your trip more enjoyable.
  • Set realistic goals: Another mistake that many people make is setting goals that are too ambitious and getting discouraged when they don’t achieve them. If your goal is to lose weight, set goals that you know you can achieve, such as losing a pound a week, and celebrate every small win along the way.
  • Have fun with it: Finding ways to make weight loss feel fun makes all the difference in creating lasting lifestyle changes. To keep things interesting, try switching up where you cycle, join a cycling club, or invite your friends along for a ride.

A Word From Our Coach

Losing weight is a great goal for any new exercise regime, but it shouldn’t be the only goal.

Instead of only focusing on burning fat and consuming fewer calories, it’s important to look at your health with a more holistic approach.

Creating habits that help you sustain a healthy diet and improve your mental health is as important as changing your body composition.

Going for a 30-minute ride every day is a great way to start your weight loss journey and is accessible to people of all fitness levels.

Start slowly by biking in less populated areas of your city and pre-planning your route to ensure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Additionally, you should track your progress and make sustainable increases in the distance and intensity of your rides, and before long, you’ll be burning more calories than ever.

FAQs

Is cycling good for weight loss?

Yes, cycling is a great exercise option for people wanting to lose weight. Not only does it burn calories and build muscle, but it’s also low-impact and easy to fit into a busy schedule, making it accessible to almost everyone.

Can you lose belly fat by cycling?

Moderate-intensity bike riding can be used to trim down unwanted weight around the midsection, though you can’t expect to see results overnight. All healthy weight loss requires consistent effort and sustained lifestyle changes to see lasting results.

How much should I cycle a day to lose weight?

Beginner cyclists aiming to lose weight through cycling should aim to ride between 30 and 60 minutes at a moderate pace per day while also moderating their food intake.

Conclusion

Cycling is a very viable exercise for losing weight as it helps you lose fat, and when added to your daily commute, it will help you burn more calories than driving. 

If you are taking up cycling for weight loss, its benefits can be compounded by doing HIIT cycling workouts and cross-training with weights, which can help you target body fat and even impact your body composition.

How many calories you should eat per day will be determined by your body weight and the amount of cycling you do, though the majority of your calories should come from low-energy-dense foods like lean meats, fruits, and veggies.

Even cycling for at little as 20–30 minutes each day can help you build sustainable habits that put you on track to burn fat and reach your weight loss goals.

Written by Isabel Mayfield
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
The article was fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
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Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: July 31, 2023
9 min read 552 Views 0 Comments
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