Cycling For Weight Loss : Does it Work and How To Get The Best Results

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This week on The Wellness Nerd we’re turning things over to cycling guru Paul East from Bike Parts to talk about cycling for weight loss – and how to get the best pound loss per pedal.

Woman sitting on a bike by water

Long term readers of this blog might remember a while back I stuffed my leg up and, despite giving it two years to mend, it refuses – every time I build back up to running, I push it that little bit too hard and stuff it back up again – the only exercise I can really do is cycling.

So, when Paul said he’d like to talk about cycling and weight loss on here, I jumped at the chance to find out more. So, here we go….over to Paul

Can Cycling Work for Weight Loss?

“Whether you already have a bicycle at home or can only hit the stationary bicycle at the gym, cycling has been proven time and time again to help in weight loss, and this article will explain the science behind how.

Before we begin with the more complicated facts and fun bits though, you need to understand the basic formula of weight loss: You need to burn more calories than you consume.

There are a few factors that affect how many calories you burn, and the noticeable ones are:

  • Intensity of your workout
  • Workout duration
  • Body weight
  • Efficiency in doing the exercise

Once you’ve lost some pounds from your hard work (congratulations, by the way!), you’ll notice you won’t lose the same amount of weight as you did before when you keep on sticking to that same old routine with the same intensity. This is called a weight-loss plateau.

Intensity Matters

So how do you keep burning more calories while cycling? By increasing your workout intensity (choosing uphill routes or increasing the resistance on the stationary bike), increasing your workout duration, or both at the same time.

Uphill terrains are more challenging than flat terrains because you’re going against the forces of gravity. You’ll also notice your heart pumping much faster, which stimulates your metabolism and helps you burn more fat. Cycling against the wind direction and using heavier gears are also great ways to increase your cycling intensity.

Intensity is subjective. A guideline to see how hard you’re giving it would be by following the fat-burning heart rate.

At rest, the heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute for most people. Your heart rate increases during exercise, and your fat-burning heart rate is 70% of your maximum heart rate.

To find out your maximum heart rate, take your age and subtract it from 220. If you’re 20 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 200, and 70% of 200 would be 140 beats per minute.

Maths not your thing? Luckily, there are plenty of monitors on the market to check your heart rate. Typically, people opt for wrist monitors such as the Fitbit Charge 2.

How Much Cycling Need You Do To Lose Weight?

There’s no exact number or accurate suggestions, but the number of calories you burn will be determined by how much you weight, how fast you cycle and the resistance you face (remember intensity?)

To lose 1lb of body weight, you will need to burn 3,500 excess calories. According to the Cycling calculator, a 30-minute bike ride for a 155lb person at moderate speeds between 10-12mph will burn 250 calories.

You can expect the average person to burn 450 to 750 calories per hour on the bicycle.

This means that if that person were to lose a pound per week, she would need to cycle an hour per day. This is if you’re not making changes in your diet, and you’re consuming the calories needed to maintain your weight, not lose it.

This might seem like a lot of work because it is.

But, if you are serious about losing weight, you would know that you should also change your diet to create a calorie deficit. That might be from cutting calories, but by cutting down on carbs.

I highly suggest sticking between 50-150 grams of carbs per day. for weight loss If you’re not sure how many carbs are in certain foods, a carb counter book is going to be VERY helpful.

For as long as you’re in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than you need to maintain your current body weight), you don’t need to cycle as much as I’ve mentioned, because you would be burning more calories than you’re consuming daily.

If counting carbs isn’t your thing, you could also just starting to ensure that you’re sticking to the ideal portion size for your most commonly eaten foods which will make a big difference. Find out more about that in our perfect portion guide here.

The Power of Afterburn

A fact that most people – even the veterans – don’t realize is that your body continues to burn calories way after you’ve finished your routine.

This is called the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) – or afterburn.

Simply put, this is the process where your body works hard to replenish its energy sources, reoxygenating of blood and return to baseline breathing and heart rate.

The harder you workout, the higher the EPOC!

Depending on the intensity and how much oxygen you consume during your workout, EPOC can last between 3-24 hours.

If you can’t make the time to cycle recreationally, I would highly suggest cycling to work.

A study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK found that those who cycle to and from work had the lowest BMI and body fat percentage when compared to those who drive and take the bus. The results show that the average BMI for male cyclists were 1.71kg/m2 and women at an average of 1.65kg/m2 lower than those who drive. “

So there you have it – the quick guide to pedalling your way slimmer.

So, do you have any more cycling tips to share or stories about how you used cycling for weight loss? Let me know in the comments. The more the merrier.

What to Read Next

If you liked it, you might also like our post on how to use yoga for weight loss.

Also, depending what time of year you’re reading this you might also want to check our post on cycling in winter and ways to stay safer and warmer.

And if you’re planning on adding spinning to your cycling for weight loss regime, we’ve got tips on that too – including how to make it more comfortable and avoid spinners butt (and some of the tips work for outdoor cycling too).

Who is The Wellness Nerd?

My name is Helen Foster, and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail, and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.

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