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  • Writer's pictureJamie

How to lose weight through cycling

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

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. Maybe biscuits are not your weakness, but look for and cut out any junk in your diet.

• Breakfast: porridge – high GI slow-release carbs, staves off mid-morning hunger, fuels your training effectively. Sweeten with a teaspoon of honey. Add protein powder after hard days on the bike. Adjust your breakfast according to what your day will involve: go light on a rest day, have a normal portion (ie 50-70g of dry oats) for a regular training day, and only go big (100-150g of dry oats) if you are fuelling for a long ride of 3+hrs.

• On bike: only eat as necessary. Yes, you need to 'fuel your training' on the long rides of 3+hrs, but don't fall into the trap of over-fuelling it. You don’t need a flapjack every 20 minutes on a two-hour ride. In fact, you don't need anything. Take water or zero-calorie electrolyte drink, not a calorific hypertonic, for rides up to two hours. Carry a small cereal bar but only eat it if needed. The exception is if you're doing high-intensity intervals, in which case take one bottle of energy drink because you will be burning through glycogen stores (energy reserves) much faster. Give these sessions a boost with pre-ride caffeine, not sugar. Add the hypertonic drink and flapjack etc for longer rides.

Also beware the café stop. A caramel latte and wedge of cake mid-ride on a 2hr spin? That’s your whole calorie burn cancelled out. Have a black americano and skip the cake.

• 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. Drink lots of water. If you're riding a lot and do, say, 3hrs on Saturday and have a 4hr ride planned for Sunday, then it's important to add some carbs immediately after a ride, so add a banana, some oats and a tablespoon of honey to the protein shake and blend into a smoothie. It will replenish your glycogen stores, feel very satisfying and keep you full (and off the biscuits) until dinner.

• 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. Eat lots of salad and boiled vegetables to fill up on foods with low caloric density.

• Rest days: remember to control portions, be aware of your total calorie intake and keep drinking plenty of water. If you did a hard ride the day before, you may be hungry but you won't be burning many calories so it would be easy to eat a surplus. Again, salad, vegetables and water.

• Remember that weight loss is not linear. Weigh yourself every day to keep track, but don't expect that number to reduce every time. Trust the process. Equally, don't creep into aiming for bigger reductions per week because that's how you will end up too tired. If you do hit a plateau for two weeks or more, change something and return to tracking all your calories for a few days to check you're not underestimating them.

My final tip – be honest with yourself. If you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself. Have a little of what you like if that will help you stay the course, 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.

cycle race win, solo win, VCPL, Velo Club Pierrefitte-Luz, Ridley Noah SL
Celebrating a solo race win in August, and also how it feels to get back in shape

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