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  1. #1
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Cycling for weight loss - Are we literally spinning our wheels?

    I know it is a provocative notion, but how many people have lost large amounts of weight and kept it off for a year or more just doing cycling? My own experience is, I get more out of riding as a social and a leisure activity when my weight is down, but as exercise activities go, haven't lost much weight with cycling alone.

    What has worked best for me in losing and maintaining weight loss is consistent food logging, 45 minutes to an hour at the gym 5 days a week, equal parts weights, moderate to high intensity cardio including spinning (50% to 75% higher intensity than I would typically do riding outdoors), and mat classes like yoga or pilates for core strength and flexibility. That is my off biking season regimen. During biking season this year, and in past years, I have biked 2 to 3 times per week, 2 to 4 hours per ride in stead of 45 minutes to an hour at the gym, then the gym 2 to 3 days per week on days I do not ride. I notice it is easier to lose and maintain weight doing just the gym, than doing a combination of the gym and biking.

    The question is, why? Am I eating more before, during and after long bike rides than I would just going to the gym? moving around less after long rides? Is it that at the gym, I work a greater variety of muscles? Is it that biking is not weight bearing, where as most of my gym activities are?

  2. #2
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    I'm an outdoor folk, being confined indoors while growing up meant I was grounded. Same in my adult life. I have a gym membership ($10/mo type) but I HARDLY ever use it and if I do its less then 1hr. Haven't been in there yet all yr lol!!

    I ride my bikes cuz I love them, I love speed, the people, the pain and seeing things in the outdoors.

    If the weight comes off that is a bonus.

    If you feel you are just spinning wheels, can you honestly ask yourself if your actually putting in the SAME effort that you do at the gym vs what you put into the bike. IMO...Time doesn't mean effort on the bike. And can you ride your bike eating less fuel?

  3. #3
    Klaatu..Verata..Necktie? genejockey's Avatar
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    Riding by itself won't lose the weight, if you do what I bet most of us do. We increase our intake to match our increased output. You know how it goes - get back from a long ride, and tell yourself that you've just spent a gazillion calories, so you've earned this huge lunch, and the ice cream. You rode 16 miles before breakfast, so you can drink this Coke with impunity. You're an athlete, you can eat two plates of pasta!

    Then you step on the scale and it is just the same as it's been for the last month. Discouraging. The only time that I lost serious weight from cycling while not restricting my intake was when I was riding >160 miles a week, and I don't have anything like that much time to ride anymore. That, and I stopped riding completely for a couple years, but didn't stop eating, and crept up to 240#.

    I started logging calories last month, with a 2300 Cal/day limit, and I was amazed how quickly those 2300 Cal. are spent!! What that meant was that I was routinely eating A LOT MORE than that. It's no wonder I got up to 240#!! I'm amazed I didn't weigh MORE. As I've increased my mileage but tried hard not to increase my eating, I've down to 226, and getting lower each week. Food logging works for me, because I have a really good memory, and I REMEMBER that I absentmindedly ate two graham crackers on Wednesday night while watching TV. If I don't log that, I know I've cheated.

    So, you can ride more and consume the same amount, or ride more and consume less, and you'll lose weigh. Ride more and eat more, and you'll stay the same weight, but be fitter.
    "Don’t take life so serious—it ain’t nohow permanent."

  4. #4
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Also wondering if my body adjusts to cycling more readily than other activities. Efficiency is great for physical endurance, perhaps not so much for weight loss.

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    I've found something similar. With diet and more "structured" and consistent exercise like going to the gym 5 times a week, it's not too hard to lose weight. On the other hand, I'm riding ~10 miles a day commuting on my bike about 4 days a week plus a 20-40 mile ride most weekends. With the commuting, I can lose weight if I REALLY watch my diet, but I'm so hungry that the weight doesn't just come off. The muscle goes up a bit and the fat must come down, but the weight stays about the same.

    If I had to hypothesize, it's 2 things: the first and more minor one is that I might be getting a more "complete" workout at the gym. I would do more upper body exercises and weight training and perhaps that built more muscle and kept the fat off. The second and more likely thing to me is that it's mental. Biking is fun and I generally enjoy my commute, so I'm not in the right mental zone to punish myself. If I was trying to lose weight by going to the gym, I probably wouldn't have the three beers that I do when I get home from riding my bike.

    If I lose more weight easily that would be great, but I've sort of decided that I don't care about the number anymore as long as I keep up with biking and feeling good.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    I think, for new cyclists and the super obese, the weight comes off more easily with cycling alone, or with cycling/watching what you eat.

    As we ride more, and lose more, our bodies change, but we don't always adjust our efforts accordingly.

    I know about a year ago, maybe a little more than that, I was in the zone, and got down to 259 I believe, but I stalled there. I tried everything short of joining a gym (couldn't afford it at the time) but I couldn't budge it. Plus, I was ravenously hungry the more I rode.

    Like ShartRate (Love the name BTW) says, I'm commuting 24 miles a day when I ride, and on those days I feel like I can't eat enough, but I'm trying hard to limit myself so I do see results.

    All that said, based on things I've seen and read here from people who have lost it and kept it off, or kept losing, it's a combination of riding/cardio PLUS weights that pushes them beyond the plateau. I'm hoping to test this theory this winter. I've got the gym membership now.

  7. #7
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    I doubt anyone can keep the weight down, or even lose significant weight by just cycling. You must pay attention to what and how you eat in order to lose the weight, and keep it off.
    Your diet will either make you or break you when it comes to losing weight/fat.
    I've been going to a dietetician for a few months now. Changing my diet has been the hardest part.
    I started at 152 kg @ 42% BF back in january. I've been on a ~2800 cal/day diet since then; I haven't been exercising much until I got my bike, that was mid august; except for a 45 min to a 1 hour walk every now and then, although I did try to take a walk every other day. As of today, I'm at 144 kg @ 34.5 BF. Haven't lost that much weight, but I do have lost quite a bit of fat. In fact, I've lost over 10 kgs of fat. Not too bad I guess.
    My point is that you will see much better results if you watch your diet and do some kind of physical activity on a regular basis.
    I could post a list of what I eat everyday as a guideline, but I think my post is already too long lol.
    However, I can do it if anyone wants me to do it...just let me know

  8. #8
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    I think diet and the type of workout you do makes all the difference. To use an example from the gym just look at powerlifters verses bodybuilders. Both spend many hours in the gym, but their diets and workouts are very different and due to that their body composition is different. The same can be said for cycling, or any type of exercise for that matter. Are you riding at a nice steady pace or doing intervals? Are you just putting in miles or are you really working out on the bike? How do you feel after a ride as compared to after a workout at the gym? That will tell you if you are doing both with the same intensity. With all that said I think every cyclist can benefit from doing some cross-training every week.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    The question is, why? Am I eating more before, during and after long bike rides than I would just going to the gym? moving around less after long rides? Is it that at the gym, I work a greater variety of muscles? Is it that biking is not weight bearing, where as most of my gym activities are?
    Are you working as hard on the bike as you do in the gym? Many cyclists seem to focus more on distance than intensity of the ride. Covering 40 miles in 4 hours is a vastly different workout than covering 40 miles in two hours. If you're not sweaty and breathless when you get off the bike, chances are you could be pushing harder...

  10. #10
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Are you working as hard on the bike as you do in the gym? Many cyclists seem to focus more on distance than intensity of the ride. Covering 40 miles in 4 hours is a vastly different workout than covering 40 miles in two hours. If you're not sweaty and breathless when you get off the bike, chances are you could be pushing harder...
    That's a somewhat difficult quesiton for many of us to face.

    And it's taken me some time to realize that I don't always push as hard as I can/should.

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    I guess what we're learning from all this is that it really is about what and how much we eat when it comes to "weight loss." Riding in and of itself is not a magic bullet, but as some have mentioned, it builds muscles, causes fat to be burned, and brings great enjoyment to some of us.

    That's what my issue is: I eat too much. I want to start logging again, but every time I get off to a good start, something always causes a distraction, then it's back to eating out/poorly... It's a lot of work to eat well.
    "I had this baby hand made in Tuscany, from titanium blessed by the pope. It weighs less than a fart, and costs more than a divorce..."

  12. #12
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    gotta do the combo & do BOTH distance and higher level intensity. Your body will get used to it after a while.

  13. #13
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Are you working as hard on the bike as you do in the gym? Many cyclists seem to focus more on distance than intensity of the ride. Covering 40 miles in 4 hours is a vastly different workout than covering 40 miles in two hours. If you're not sweaty and breathless when you get off the bike, chances are you could be pushing harder...
    Probably not. As I said, I don't usually go more than an hour at the gym. On a longer ride, I might ride for 3 or 4 hours.

    However, after 4 hours of riding (though not 2 hours), I am usually very tired. In fact, far more tired than I would be after an hour at the gym. And hungry.
    Last edited by MRT2; 09-06-13 at 04:19 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Rich Gibson's Avatar
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    I held 220# for over twenty years. Two years ago I made a concerted effort to reduce my caloric intake. I got stuck around 194# and bought a bike two months ago. I'm around 184# now. I try to keep burning 1200 calories or more a day cycling (including elliptic, which I own), and don't compensate with eating more. A point though; spinning at high cadence/resistance puts you in the performance zone, not the fat burning zone. I'm not very knowledgable about nutrition but I found, by wearing a HRM that for two 20 mile workouts carrying a higher speed, and concomitant higher heart rate I burned fewer calories than with the slower fat burning zone pace (1401 calories vs 1197). This was surprising, especially when the higher intensity 20 mile ride involved 20% more climbing. Go figure.
    ..life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. ― Andy Rooney ...enjoy what's left!

  15. #15
    Klaatu..Verata..Necktie? genejockey's Avatar
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    I'm not sure that it's physically possible to burn fewer calories doing the same exercise at higher intensity. HRMs notwithstanding, you cannot go faster without exerting more energy.
    "Don’t take life so serious—it ain’t nohow permanent."

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gibson View Post
    A point though; spinning at high cadence/resistance puts you in the performance zone, not the fat burning zone. I'm not very knowledgable about nutrition but I found, by wearing a HRM that for two 20 mile workouts carrying a higher speed, and concomitant higher heart rate I burned fewer calories than with the slower fat burning zone pace (1401 calories vs 1197). This was surprising, especially when the higher intensity 20 mile ride involved 20% more climbing. Go figure.
    All you've proven is that your HRM isn't very accurate. No surprise there: most devices that claim to report calories burned aren't very accurate.

    Exercising in "the fat burning zone" is a waste of time, IMHO. If you want to lose weight, go as hard as you can for as long as you can... Your body won't be as efficient at burning fat, but in the end you'll burn a lot more of it.

  17. #17
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    You can not out ride a bad diet. Your diet is the biggest determining factor in weight loss. The calories burned numbers generated form most HRM are not close to being accurate. A big reason for getting a lower number of calories burned for a workout that is the same as another, but done faster, is that you spent less time on the workout. If you look at the calories burned per hour those numbers are most likely similar.

    Bob W

  18. #18
    Senior Member JackoDandy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drorgo View Post
    You can not out ride a bad diet. Your diet is the biggest determining factor in weight loss. The calories burned numbers generated form most HRM are not close to being accurate. A big reason for getting a lower number of calories burned for a workout that is the same as another, but done faster, is that you spent less time on the workout. If you look at the calories burned per hour those numbers are most likely similar.

    Bob W
    +1. Ive been off the bike for a month now due to a sore back. As Im not riding I have carefully watched my diet. I'm down 10lbs in a month. That's after a year of fluctuating at pretty much the same weight (within 2lb or so) for a year WITH riding 2-3 times per week.


  19. #19
    Senior Member RoadTire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    ...after 4 hours of riding (though not 2 hours), I am usually very tired...And hungry.
    I'm thinking "tired" may not be the same as "worked the heck out of my muscles and lungs..." I am not hungry after a strenuous workout until several hours later and that is a very controllable hunger. However, after putzing around in the woods all day I'm exhausted and starving. Eat like a pig.

    A lot of weight control has to do with how fast you burn calories all the time and that comes with speeding up your metabolism. Go fast go often. (ok that didn't sound quite right. *sigh*) Even walking to and from your car and at work, walk fast, take the stairs a little faster. Water, fruit, and leave the processed foods alone. (I love processed foods)
    Last edited by RoadTire; 09-06-13 at 06:39 PM.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member mrodgers's Avatar
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    I have to agree with all the diet stuff. I also have to say that it isn't that I was eating a lot that got me to my weight. It was simply eating junk food after I ate.

    My wife once the kids were done with school last year stopped buying the junk food. She always would buy snack cakes, chips, and cookies to pack in their lunches. Well, if it's in the house, we ate it. It pretty much was never there for the kids' lunches because we ate it.

    In the beginning of summer we stopped eating the stuff. We didn't "go on a diet", just stopped buying and eating the junk food. She started riding her old exercise bike, I did nothing. We both started losing weight. It wasn't until a month later that I got curious about what I did eat as far as calories. I started logging just to see out of curiosity. It was after downloading MyFitnessPal that led me to wonder what BMR was, figured that out, got the app to tell me how many calories I should eat to lose 2 lb. per week. That is 1800 calories, BTW for me. What the logging did was show me that I didn't over eat with meals. I was logging about 1700 calories a day without changing anything with how much I ate regular meals. Thus, it was strictly all the junk food, the buying something from the snack machine at work every day, the I think subconscious thought of "if I don't eat 2 of these Little Debbie Fudge Rounds, the kids will eat them all." The opening a bag of chips and eating right from the bag rather than getting a bowl (wow was I surprised when I started looking at what calories are in a "serving" of Doritos I would sit and eat while watching a movie or hockey game!)

    I lost about 15 pounds in about a month and a half, or roughly 2 lb per week, with just no longer eating the junk food. It wasn't until after that first month and a half that I started riding my bike. Now that I've been riding the bike for at least an hour per day this past month along with still eating the same meal quantities but no junk food, I've lost 10 more pounds, or roughly 2 lb per week.

    I always thought as everyone else, exercising will help you lose weight. I've now changed my thoughts and believe the statement, change diet to lose weight and exercise for fitness, fitness as in strong cardiovascular system, low cholesterol, and such. The more I read about this biking stuff the more my belief in that strengthens. And since I do know that my cholesterol and triglycerides are sky high and my blood pressure was borderline high, with the new belief in diet for weight and exercise for fitness, I'm really motivated to continue on the bike (that and, well, it is the dang funnest exercise I've done in my life and makes me feel like a kid again.)

    I will say I as well as my wife has always had the notion that just because you're skinny, doesn't mean you are fit and healthy. I think that can be proven pretty easily by getting some of you longer time Clydes riding along some of the skinny folk of the population that all the "fad" diet folks think of as fit and see who can manage better in any kind of activity. Most of you Clydes in this forum would probably make the "skinny so I'm health" folks look pretty pathetic.
    Ride no faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!

  21. #21
    Senior Member GTryder's Avatar
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    Weight loss occurs when more calories are burned than ingested. A combination of reduced caloric intake along with an increase in physical activity will produce results faster than either on its own. Sounds simple and it works quite well in the beginning for most people - likely because they can cut a good percentage of calories, along with burning fat (energy reserves). As the weight loss progresses, some things begin to happen (more so with the more weight one has to lose): Your fat reserves diminish and carrying less weight your body becomes more efficient - now it takes more work to loose a pound and with less fat to burn, your body needs more fuel to accomplish it.

    I have found that resistance training (weights, resistance bands or your body) and high intensity intervals along with biking (or walking- which I do for commuting during the winter) work the best for me. April 2012, I started at 233 and got down to 158 by mid October. Over the winter I put on about 20 lbs - 5 of which came off in the first 2 consistent weeks of biking in April. The next 8-10 took most of the summer to lose. I'm now hovering around 165, but my body has changed as muscle is being built up (as much as can happen at age 56).Strength (can do heavier weights/more reps) and stamina (can ride further in the same time with more hills) have increased.

    For some good reading check out these links:
    http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf...al_04_2012.pdf
    http://fitness.mercola.com/
    Last edited by GTryder; 09-06-13 at 07:13 PM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    A deficit of 1000 calories a day, day in a day out, will result in loss of two pounds a week. It isn't easy to exercise off that many calories every day, especially as your weight drops.

  23. #23
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Obviously nutrition is the key. 80% (or some high number) of your weight loss happens with the nutrition. Once I got that right (enough) I have had a great deal of success. Exercise (biking) accelerates this process, keeps my mind clear, etc. If I choose to I can safely lose faster than I am now. No starving, etc. I'm not that far from my target weight so I allow myself to go up to my maintenance caloric intake at times. And only rarely go over.

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    I find that the best way to lose weight is to do high-intensity training instead of cycling at constant speed. I got myself a bike trainer and a HRM so I can do my sets on a timer.

  25. #25
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genejockey View Post

    So, you can ride more and consume the same amount, or ride more and consume less, and you'll lose weigh. Ride more and eat more, and you'll stay the same weight, but be fitter.
    That's really it. I ballooned to 265# a few years ago during a series of stressful situations. This past year I lost 40 lbs and expect to get another 15 off before I am done. I didn't log meals, count calories or keep track of mileage. I just rode more and concentrated on high protein meals and the least processed foods I could find and still be practical. High carbs in your diet will prevent your body from burning fat for energy. I know that's oversimplifying things, but I like simple, simple is easy.

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