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  1. #1
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    The Truth about Cycling and Weight Loss

    Just among us Clydes.

    There are many threads that start off with, "I want to take up cycling to lose weight."

    But I wonder if this premise is flawed. How many of us are riding for years but still carrying extra weight. I know I am.

    So a couple of thoughts. These are not conclusions, but rather I will put these out there as questions and see what the group thinks:

    Is weight loss mostly about what, and how much you eat and drink? Can you actually gain weight from cycling?

    Can weight loss make you a better cyclist? Last summer after losing 40 lbs from the previous summer, I felt like I was flying on the bike. This season, after gaining a few lbs, not so much. I am reaching familiar milestones, but working harder for them. So going forward, maybe thinking about riding my way back into shape is putting the cart before the horse. Maybe I should be thinking that I should push myself away from the table through the winter so that when the weather gets nice, I can just ride and not have to worry about weight loss?

    On the other hand, is it possible that cycling can make you fitter, but not necessarily leaner. I am already feeling the difference this season, though the scale shows no weight loss, yet.

    Is it possible that cycling isn't even all that great of an activity for weight loss for people who are already overweight? Though cycling is a great activity that gives the rider a tremendous mental boost, it may not be the be all and end all for weight loss. Regular gym workouts with shorter, but much higher intensity may be better for weight loss, though not as much fun as going for a long ride on a mild spring day.

    Thoughts?
    Last edited by MRT2; 05-30-14 at 01:47 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member bbbean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    Is it possible that cycling isn't even all that great of an activity for weight loss for people who are already overweight?
    Calories in vs calories out. If you burn off 1000 calories a day cycling and replace them with 1200 calories, you're not going to lose weight. Burn off 1000 calories and replace them with 500, and you're losing weight.

    There is no single perfect exercise. The best one (in my experience) is the one you stick with over the long haul. For me, that was(is) cycling.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbbean View Post
    Calories in vs calories out. If you burn off 1000 calories a day cycling and replace them with 1200 calories, you're not going to lose weight. Burn off 1000 calories and replace them with 500, and you're losing weight.

    There is no single perfect exercise. The best one (in my experience) is the one you stick with over the long haul. For me, that was(is) cycling.
    But you have to eat during endurance rides. Unlike gym workouts of an hour or less, if you don't eat anything pre ride and ride for 5 or 6 hours without eating, you will eventually hit a wall.
    Last edited by MRT2; 05-30-14 at 01:57 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member spdracr39's Avatar
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    weight loss is 100% about calories in vs. calories burned.
    Yes losing weight will make you a better cyclist.
    If you are fitter you are also leaner even if the scale does not show it right away.
    Cycling is not the only way to become healthier but is the way many people choose. Anything that gets you exercising that you enjoy and will stick with is awesome. Cross training is even better.
    As pointed out earlier you can ride 1 million miles a week but if you sit down and clean out the buffet ( or the beer tap ) between rides you will not lose weight.
    Perhaps over winter get a stationary bike and ride watching go pro video replays of your favorite summer rides. That's how I roll

    Oh and as far as eating for refueling that doesn't mean graze until you can't move. Eat a quality snack of appropriate nutritional content and calories for the activity.
    Last edited by spdracr39; 05-30-14 at 01:53 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    My answer ... it depends.

    For a "superclyde" just starting out ... the increased activity from riding alone will burn calories that weren't being burned before. Add in cutting back on calories and you've got a recipe for weight loss, no question.

    For the average clyde (250-280?) I'd say the focus needs to be more on diet but you've got to put in the miles too. This likely manifests (at least it does in myself) as being fitter, and slightly less fatter.

    You can be a fit, fat cyclist. I've had a great year so far, and feel like I'm in excellent shape, my resting heart rate is good, I've leaned myself a little, I'm riding faster and climbing better but overall, I'm still fat. But my fat is different from your fat, and is different from a superclyde's fat.

    Can you gain weight while cycling? Absolutely. As the saying goes, you can't outride a bad diet.

    Will weight loss make you a better cyclist? I believe so ... one, it's easier carrying 270 up the hill rather than 300; two, as your body mass decreases I believe you feel more comfortable on a bike, which means you're more confident.

    I think cycling is a great way for someone to lose weight, IF they commit to it and commit to eating better overall. It's easier on the joints and as you say, it's great mentally.

    But personally I think you have to be ready to adapt your approach as your body changes. As you lose weight, you need to reset your calorie intake to a notch lower. And that's where the difficulty lies. For me personally, riding a lot makes me incredibly hungry, and it also gives me a bit of a mindset of, "I can eat that (something that isn't a good choice) because I've earned it due to riding." If I can manage that better, and be more disciplined, I believe I'd be doing better in terms of weight loss.

    All that said, I'm down almost 20 pounds this year and it's only the beginning of June. I have high expectations going into the summer. I think I can drop another 20 pounds before the end of July, but I have to be more disciplined.

  6. #6
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    Great question!

    My 4 year journey from 252 to 195 taught me that fitness is earned on the bike and weight control at the dinner table. Or my favorite saying "you can't out ride a bad diet".

    Weight loss has had a huge impact on my cycling ability. I'm 5'8" and going from 210 to 195 made a big jump in my average speed. It's not just the hill climbing and accelerations. It's very much about the ability to get low and still breath.

    You can defiantly become fat and fit cycling all you have to do is ride fast, ride lots of miles and believe the calorie burn of many of the popular calorie/fitness trackers.

    It seems the studies point to a 3% success rate of losing 30 lbs or more and keeping it off more than 3 years. From hanging out on the forum and knowing my efforts it seems many of us do much better than that. I credit cycling with my *limited success.

    *I've gone from morbidly obese to teetering on the edge of just being "overweight". I feel like that's a common outcome here. There are a few folks who have gone all the way and I think that takes much more than cycling. I think that kind of success involves a change in thinking. Much more than endlessly balancing kcal, exercise, and a number on a scale. Sure hope I can become one of them!

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    There's weight loss and there's weight loss.

    Despite the Federal BMI guidelines, it's very possible to be fit and heavy. The proponents of BMI refer to folks in this category as the "fit fat" and many cyclists fall into this category, or when not can still be fitter than the BMI number would indicate.

    It's true that many who take up bicycling don't lose much weight. That's because muscle is denser than fat, and if you start out unfit, you'll be building muscle at a rate approximating the rate at which you lose fat. Some even report getting heavier. OTOH you can see the change by looking at other indicators such as the waistline which will be going down over time.

    It's also hard to lose weight by cycling because long periods of exercise (over 1 hour) require fuel, and if you try long rides while dieting you'll suffer needlessly.

    So forget the scale and look at your waistline, or make note of indicators like riding speed and endurance, and resting heart rate. If you also swim, consider your density as shown by how high you float, or how fast you sink. Cyclists, runners and skaters tend to be relatively dense especially in the legs and fit ones are often sinkers. Very fit cyclists even sink in seawater.

    So if you're starting out heavy and unfit, do not let the scale discourage you, measure the actual improvement by others and once you're able to ride 20 miles at a decent clip the pounds will start to slowly fall off on their own. But you may always tip the scale more than your friends.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Ursa Minor's Avatar
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    I agree with bbeasley. Just recently I've been focused on losing weight
    and have lost 40 pounds since Jan. My cycling has taken off as a result but the weight loss for me had to come first.

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  9. #9
    Trained Killer SquatchBiker's Avatar
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    Its 90% how you eat, 10% exercise for weight loss.
    You are the 98%, you are totally without any access to the machinery of power and worse, much worse, you plug yourselves into the machinery of media and become a slave.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Ray Dockrey's Avatar
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    I have lost over 90 pounds since Jan. 2013. A lot of that was done without riding. I have really pushed the mileage this year and the weight loss has been steady but not any faster then before. Obviously the more I lose the slower it will come off. But on the flipside of that I have lost a ton of inches. I am probably leaner now then I have ever been and in the best shape of my life. But cycling is more then just weight loss. My diabetes really came under control when I pushed the miles. I am off all my diabetes meds and off my depression meds which is huge for me.

    Now can I tell a difference when on the bike. Yes I can especially climbing. even on the flats I work much more efficiently. It makes riding so much more fun.

  11. #11
    Senior Member IBOHUNT's Avatar
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    I don't think the premise is flawed.

    While I'll agree that to a point it's calories in vs calories out it's not only about how much you eat and drink it's about *what* you eat and drink.

    I could eat 1500 calories of cake and Coke a day and still be under my BMR but I'm sure my body would not be real happy about it.

    Weight loss can absolutely make you abetter cyclist especially when it comes to bridge overpass repeats. I think as little as 3 lbs makes a difference when climbing.

    Not only should we push away from the table a bit faster (I'll never KOM that segment!) but different workouts such as the gym (box jumps and no, not(!) these)box_jumps.jpg


    , ice skating, *gasp* running or walking/hiking in the winter will help keep off the weight and potentially build a little muscle.

    I've found that as a clyde/former clyde I'll *ALWAYS* have to worry about my weight.
    If I go by BMI (BS Measurement Index) I'm still overweight I need to lose 12 lbs yet to be "borderline healthy"

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    IMO, the most important principle in weight loss, is a proper diet. Therefore, the most significant exercise is the dinner-table-push-away! I also think that eating less junk food, and eating more healthy food, are key to losing weight.

    IMHO, cycling merely helps us to maintain the weight that we've already lost, for the most part.

    However, I must say, that whenever I've either gone on tour, or even completed a century, I did lose a noticeable amount of weight. Commuting doesn't seem to take the weight off in any direct sense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    But you have to eat during endurance rides. Unlike gym workouts of an hour or less, if you don't eat anything pre ride and ride for 5 or 6 hours without eating, you will eventually hit a wall.
    Sure, you have to eat during those long rides. But you don't need to eat that much during the ride, your body can only absorb so much in a given amount of time to help you. So it still should be a deficit for the ride minus the food you ate during. It's the overcompensating after the ride that can thwart your weight loss. So eat during the ride to not bonk. But then don't eat a super big dinner post-ride because you rode, just eat your normal amount, perhaps a little more.

    I am finding that not bonking on the super long rides is a matter of controlling pace. If I go out too hard, even if I eat like a mad man, I still bonk a bit after 6 hours of ride time. Going slower, you run more off of your fat stores, don't bonk, don't need to eat a ton during the ride.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    Sure it is possible to lose weight with diet alone, just as it is possible to lose weight just by adding exercise. However when you combine the two results are much more certain for most. My first 50 came off by just adding exercise and a few lifestyle (diet) changes that I would not have made had it not been for cycling. As I cycled more I found that i was really liking it and started eating r rather not eating based partly on how it would impact my performance on the bike. That was 3 years ago. Over each winter since then I have limited my gain to 10 pounds, once I hit that gain I cut back on the good stuff: beer, ice cream, pizza, etc. I was still riding through out he winter but not nearly as much due to most miles being trainer miles and weekend rides when the weather was cooperative.

    This spring I made a change to my norm and started logging my calories through MyFitnessPal. Finally the weight started coming off and I am down 23 pounds since February. My mileage on the bike is also up a bunch. My speed is increased, greatly. To answer your question yes weight loss will make you a better cyclist if you are also training to be a better cyclist. The two go hand in hand IMHO. Weightloss alone will make you a better climber without training to be a better climber because climbing is all about power per pound IMHO. My uphill Strava segment PR's have increased by leaps and bounds this year due to the weight loss.

    Calories in < calories out = weight loss even when cycling and eating while cycling as long as you are burning more than you are eating. While on the bike 200 calories an hour in will most of the time be less than you are expending and yet is enough to keep from bonking, hydration is also critical IMHO. I do make the assumption that folks that are cycling to lose weight are at some point, usually after earning their base miles focused on increasing their athletic performance by trying to go faster and harder a couple or more rides a week and are riding more than just 30 minutes a day. If 30 minutes is all you have walking, jogging or swimming or weightlifting is probably a better exercise. Where cycling excells if folks have the time is it is fun and low impact.

    For the obese and overweight sedentary people just getting exercise is a big step in the right direction. I'm so glad I made that step when I was 289 pounds. Moderate amounts of exercise alone can help one to lose weight but there does become a point where it takes more. That point I think is where the added exercise brings on hunger or increased appetite. Everyone is different and what has worked for me may not work for you.


    Mark

  15. #15
    Senior Member daviddavieboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Black wallnut View Post
    Sure it is possible to lose weight with diet alone, just as it is possible to lose weight just by adding exercise. However when you combine the two results are much more certain for most.
    +1
    My experience exactly. Being a truck driver my diet is quite bad but cycling has kept my weight in check. This year I bought a road bike and started taking riding a but more seriously as I did in my younger days and the weight just started to come off. My weight stabilized between 226-230 so I cranked up the intensity for the last week. and ate better- less than 60 miles on the bike and 7 pounds off and in the top 2 on some of the strava segments in my area this year!! For me better food harder cycling= continued weight loss.

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    My Dr. said that varying exercise is important, too. I mentioned that it takes longer and longer for me to start getting 'feel good' endorphins on the bike, and she said I should start doing other things or make a ton of effort to do interval work and much longer rides-my commute was routine, and static routines aren't as beneficial.

    I've added some lifting and swimming the past few weeks, and I'm starting to feel better again.

  17. #17
    Senior Member GravelMN's Avatar
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    You cannot out train bad nutrition.

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    I have not lost weight cycling for 2 reasons: i think i overdo rhe sports drinks, gels and bars especially on short rides, and I reward myself with food after long rides ("I just rode SIXTY miles-I can eat anything I want!)
    Both bad mental habits I need to change. On the positive side, its 2 or 3 hours of being active and not sitting on the couch.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    .... Is weight loss mostly about what, and how much you eat and drink? Can you actually gain weight from cycling?
    People have been starving to death since people became people.... and without the benefit of exercise. Loosing weight is the result of eating less than the body burns. The human body burns considerable calories replacing dead cells and regulating body temperature. Exercise burns a few extra calories.... and keeps most people further away from the kitchen.

    When I first took up cycling I'd stop for a Frappuccino, an ice cream cone, or even a little "brunch". I can assure you... you can bicycle AND gain weight.

    If you can't figure out just what tiny little portions of food the body needs to stay healthy.... and MOST people really can't... try one of the diet plans where they ship the food to your door. Keep cycling... the exercise will keep you busy and burn a few extra calories to boot.

    Stand up to the fear of hunger! Most weight problems begin with hunger avoidance... not over-eating. As the fear of hunger develops and grows... so does the over-eating.

  20. #20
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GravelMN View Post
    You cannot out train bad nutrition.

    Exactly!!!

    What ever happened to riding bikes cuz they are fun, exciting, get to explore around, getting sun burnt/tanned and can be competitive.......

  21. #21
    Senior Member daviddavieboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penny4 View Post
    I have not lost weight cycling for 2 reasons: i think i overdo rhe sports drinks, gels and bars especially on short rides, and I reward myself with food after long rides
    These are things I never gotten into. I only drink water while riding(lots of it) and not usually eat while riding(usually only 2-3 hours riding at most). Sports drinks are not nessicary for the typical rider and mile is a better option.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daviddavieboy View Post
    +1
    My experience exactly. Being a truck driver my diet is quite bad but cycling has kept my weight in check. This year I bought a road bike and started taking riding a but more seriously as I did in my younger days and the weight just started to come off. My weight stabilized between 226-230 so I cranked up the intensity for the last week. and ate better- less than 60 miles on the bike and 7 pounds off and in the top 2 on some of the strava segments in my area this year!! For me better food harder cycling= continued weight loss.
    I read this a lot, but why is this so?

    By the way, you have also stated one of the keys to keeping the weight coming off -- cranking up the intensity. It doesn't necessarily mean High Intensity Interval Training, but certailyn a rider should be putting more effort into their riding as they lose weight... ie, let's say, going from 10mph on a set route to 12, then 14, then maybe 16mph... or doing more hillclimbing.
    Last edited by Rowan; 05-31-14 at 05:16 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
    People have been starving to death since people became people.... and without the benefit of exercise. Loosing weight is the result of eating less than the body burns. The human body burns considerable calories replacing dead cells and regulating body temperature. Exercise burns a few extra calories.... and keeps most people further away from the kitchen.

    When I first took up cycling I'd stop for a Frappuccino, an ice cream cone, or even a little "brunch". I can assure you... you can bicycle AND gain weight.

    If you can't figure out just what tiny little portions of food the body needs to stay healthy.... and MOST people really can't... try one of the diet plans where they ship the food to your door. Keep cycling... the exercise will keep you busy and burn a few extra calories to boot.

    Stand up to the fear of hunger! Most weight problems begin with hunger avoidance... not over-eating. As the fear of hunger develops and grows... so does the over-eating.
    Yeah, the gnawing feeling in the stomach is just that... a feeling. It's not as though there is some organism in there eating away at your insides. Resisting the feeling helps a lot in overcoming the thought that you are going to starve to death within minutes if you don't eat something. Usually a drink of water will help ward off the feeling.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  24. #24
    Senior Member daviddavieboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    I read this a lot, but why is this so?

    going from 10mph on a set route to 12, then 14, then maybe 16mph... or doing more hillclimbing.
    Driving a truck, you are limited to when and where you can drive and park, ie have to stop at rest areas or truck stops. That being said food choices are not the best especially in the deep south where EVERYTHING is deep fried, plus I love my food and am used to lots of it.

    In the last while you may say my choices of food might not be good but I eat less of it and usually have salad before my meal to fill up(salad and a burger is beter than burger and fries, no?) The other day I was able to keep up a 19MPH average for 11 miles and yesterday did 30 miles with 1200 ft climbing(up to 9%) and still have a 14 mph average speed in 2 hours. I am far from my goal but getting there.

  25. #25
    Senior Member adrien's Avatar
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    Okay, so me: now 210, from 260 or so. Cycling went from about 800 miles a year to about 3,500. But as many have pointed out, correlation does not equal causation.

    The weight loss for me came when I changed two things: I started to count calories and I cut way down on reward food after a ride. First 5 years of serious riding I lost, um, nothing. I got fitter, happier, healthier, yup. Same weight, though.

    Then I settled on this: 2,000 - 2,500 calories a day, max. Preferably 2,000. And I replace 1/2 of what I believe I really burned in exercise on top of that. PLus as Oscar Wilde said "everything in moderation, including moderation".

    That was 3 years ago. I shed 50 pounds in three months. Then I settled in at roughly my current weight, but my body keeps changing. I lost 1.5 inches of neck, 4 inches of waist. I'm now actually quick (not fast) on a bike. Finished a century last year, solo, in 5:28.

    The biggest issue is shutting down the hunger. It took me 6 months to not feel hungry with a lower volume of food.

    Last tip is something I read: number 1 correlation to keeping a healthy weight is weighing yourself, same time every day, on the same scale. Do that and you'll exercise a little more and eat a little less when you see it creeping up.
    "how do you know you can't swim until you have drowned?"

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