How to lose weight through cycling
Updated: Jan 12, 2020
When we first moved here we were so busy renovating the house that I had no time to ride. Between that and habitually scoffing biscuits while doing DIY, I ended up at 82kg, the heaviest I’ve ever been. Now that’s not especially heavy for 185cm – and there’s zero judgement here on anyone else’s weight – but when race fit I’m 71kg and I wanted to get back there to better enjoy riding in the mountains. It didn’t take long and wasn’t especially hard, so I thought I’d share here how I lost 10kg in three months. That's the before/after above.
Losing weight is much simpler than the vast industry around it would like you to believe. It comes down to basic maths – calories consumed versus calories expended. If you use more than you eat, then you create a caloric deficit. The bigger the deficit, the more weight you lose. A sensible goal is a deficit of 500kcal per day. If you sustain this you will lose around 0.5kg per week, a steady rate that shouldn’t leave you too tired to train or so hungry that you might crack and binge.
It’s a good idea to use an app such as MyFitnessPal in order to learn exactly what you’re eating, both in terms of total calories and macro-nutrient balance (carbs, protein, fat). It will help you to avoid the common mistake of underestimating your intake.
Here is what has worked for me:
• Cut out the biscuits. This is the only real change I made to my diet. I was eating a load of junk calories most days, so cutting it out made a significant difference.
• Breakfast: porridge – high GI slow-release carbs, staves off mid-morning hunger, fuels your training effectively. Sweeten with honey. Add protein powder after hard days on the bike.
• On bike: only eat as necessary. You don’t need a flapjack every 20 minutes on a two-hour ride. A caramel latte and wedge of cake mid-ride? That’s your whole calorie burn cancelled out. Have a black americano and skip the cake. Take water or electrolyte drink, not a calorific hypertonic, for rides up to two hours. Carry a small cereal bar but only eat it if needed. Add the hypertonic drink and flapjack etc for longer rides.
• Post ride: have a low-cal protein shake (Sci-MX V-Gain is my favourite: dairy-free, 164kcal, 34g protein, 3g carbs, 0g sugar) to replenish your muscles. It will fill you up enough to help you avoid binging on biscuits or toast etc, which is otherwise easily done and can ruin your caloric deficit for the day.
• Evening: have a normal, healthy dinner. If you’re doing training rides of 1-2 hours then you don’t need to eat more, either to recover or to fuel the next day. Be aware of your macro-nutrients, ensuring you have plenty of protein, some carbs and lots of vegetables, plus dark, leafy greens on the side. Aim to limit fat, including in sauces and cooking methods.
• Rest days: remember to control portions, be aware of your total calorie intake and keep drinking plenty of water.
My final tip – be honest with yourself. If you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself. Have a little of what you like, and aim to keep your overall diet enjoyable, but try to cut out the obviously bad things. Stick with it and I promise it will work.