Cycling for Weight Loss: 5 Training Tips

Link Weight Loss to Cycling Goals

Before you start your weight loss journey, it's always important to consider your why. Is it to improve your health, body image or performance? The beauty of using cycling to support weight loss is that it helps address all three of these common causes. That's why you should use a bike race, not a number on a scale, as your goal.

Cycling performance is closely related to health and weight, and for good reason. If you're sick or injured, you can't train enough, and you can go faster if you're lighter. A key riding metric is your power-to-weight ratio. You can calculate this by dividing the watts you are able to continuously push the bike by your weight in kilograms. So, if you want to go uphill faster, you can do two things. Train your legs to generate more power and lose weight to get lighter. And you have to be smart about this too, because losing weight too quickly can often lead to muscle loss.

Choosing cycling activity as a goal will connect your weight loss to something measurable and timely. This brings up other types of motivation as well. Maybe you tell your friends you signed up for a bike race, or maybe you even have a buddy who will join you. Wanting to perform well, not letting your friends down, and keeping your promises will help you stay on track when it comes to training and eating.

amateur game
Could your cycling goal be to race amateurs? © Profimedia

Aim for consistency

Unfortunately, healthy weight loss takes time. This means you can't really rush things, or you'll lose a lot of muscle and gain fat, and then some more. Your best ally in healthy weight loss is persistence. If you view your new eating habits and exercise routine as something you have to do for years to come, it will help you reframe the whole situation. You realize there's no point in rushing and risking burnout.

In the long run, you'll see better results if you make smaller changes but apply them consistently. If that doesn't make sense to you, you don't have to cram your schedule with daily rides. Find things that you can still see yourself doing even after gaining weight.

Align your training program with regular meal times

On a more practical level, scheduling your cycling time can go a long way toward losing weight. Cycling can whet your appetite, and adding more snacks to your diet can become an issue when it comes to weight loss. One thing you can do to avoid this is to go for a drive before breakfast, lunch or dinner. That way, your post-ride snack can be included in your main meals, and you'll likely eat less overall and stay in a calorie deficit, leading to weight loss.

Increased strength

In general, the faster you ride, the more calories you burn because your legs have to work harder. An hour of cycling at a leisurely pace can burn 400 calories, but high-intensity cycling can easily burn twice that — and pros often burn over 1,000 calories an hour when racing. Adding some interval training to your schedule will help you stay in a calorie deficit. Check out our previous articles for some examples of these sessions.

measure your progress

Tracking your progress is an effective way to stay motivated. When it comes to your weight, it's a good idea to weigh yourself daily, but only look at trends for a week or a month. Your weight fluctuates, and you don't want to panic every time it doesn't change as expected. Sometimes it may seem like your weight loss has stalled, when in reality, you've just gained some muscle through training. Reviewing your riding performance at this point can calm your nerves and help you stay on track. Whether you're using a bike computer, fitness watch or smartphone app, you can easily see if you're uphill faster than last week.

In the next article, we'll take a closer look at common eating mistakes cyclists who want to lose weight make while training.

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