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Old 05-12-12, 11:07 PM   #1
steve-in-kville 
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Weight Loss - finding the right balance?

I am preparing myself for a 3 day unsupported ride later this summer. I have most of my gear. I commute to work, about 6.5 miles round trip. I usually do some longer rides on the weekends.

My problem is I need to loose some pounds (on me, not the bike!). I am trying to make a lifestyle change in the way I eat. I am always hungery. I can understand needing the extra calories because of the riding but I don't seem to be shedding any pounds. I was warned not to starve myself because it will do more harm than good. Am I taking the wrong approach to this? I can easy shed 20 pounds, maybe more.

Had anyone dealt with this before they did their first tour?
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Old 05-12-12, 11:12 PM   #2
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Try searching the Training and Nutrition forum. This question comes up about 100 times/year there.
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Old 05-12-12, 11:22 PM   #3
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6.5 miles round trip isn't enough to need to consume extra calories at all. Anything less that 2 hours is too short to consume extra calories.

If you don't want to reduce the amount you're currently eating, ride more, and be more active in general.
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Old 05-13-12, 01:13 AM   #4
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Howdy Steve,

I wouldn't worry too much about your diet during the tour, you wouldn't want to bonk while on your trip. If anything treat yourself to some good food - you're on vacation and you should enjoy yourself.

As far as during training, I'd suggest try eating more often. Spread your meals out over 5 or 6 small meals. Eat about 1/2 as much as you'd normally eat, but twice as often. The research goes both ways on this idea, but I'd say if you're feeling hungry a small something should help keep you from overeating later. Focus on eating more vegetables and fruit. Avoid foods high in fat and sugar and heavily processed foods. Avoid eating anything after dinner.

As an example, 2 hrs after a breakfast of oatmeal or 2 eggs have an apple. 2 hrs after a lunch with a high quality protein, have some raw veggies. You'll need more calories before high mileage days, but not so much before low mileage days.

If you start feeling hungry after dinner, the danger is to overeat. It's better not to cut back too much and end up overcompensating after dinner when you've finally decided you really need something. (I've done that many times.)

Good luck - it's not easy. I've gone from 220 to 200 mostly from eating more vegetables and somewhat from spreading out my meals. Drinking enough water helps too. The 20 less lbs does make a difference on the climbs. That was one of my biggest motivators after gaining the weight. I didn't like my buddies having to wait for me at the top of every climb. I can't seem to get below 200 - I guess I'm not dedicated enough .
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Old 05-13-12, 01:51 AM   #5
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I read somewhere that if you tour less than 50 miles a day, you tend to put on weight, and if you do longer miles, you tend to loose weight. Obviously a rule of thumb at best, but I think there is some validity to the idea that some trips actually increase appetites more than they burn calories. I also think 3 days is not enough to really make much difference.

I lost weight on one trip because I just craved good food, I seemed to need to really feed my body so i ate real food, and lost weight while feeling great.

My two best tips for weight loss that is reasonably sustainable while not touring are: 1) try to keep your salt intake to 200 mg a day. You won't be able to but to try and hit that level you have to plan salt consumption, read labels, etc... You will look and feel better, if you cut your salt, and it seems to lead to weight loss. Also any food with high salt is probably something you should not eat even if the salt was reasonable. A big mac has 1000 mg in it, and even if it had zero it would still be crap. 2) don't eat any foods that are unhealthy. This works on two levels. Unhealthy foods, and just start making your own list, chips, butter, baked good, non-whole grains, red meat, etc... Are all going to make you fat anyway. The second aspect is that the best way to control calories is not to manage them, but to simple drop whole categories of bad food. You will soon loose interest in them, and won't crave them. But if I eat one fast food item, I crave it every time I drive by a place that sells something similar, for at least a week.
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Old 05-13-12, 03:31 AM   #6
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I was warned not to starve myself because it will do more harm than good.
What harm would that be? We're not talking anorexia here, we're talking about not eating extra food just because one rides a few miles on a bike. FWIW, I never bring food or caloric drinks on rides of under 2 hours. On longer rides, I'll stop every 2 hours or so and eat a 500 calorie "snack" in addition to having my normal meals at normal times.
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Old 05-13-12, 04:29 AM   #7
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6.5 miles round trip isn't enough to need to consume extra calories at all.
From experience...
Short commutes aren't long enough to burn significant calories but its enough to make you want to chug a soda

OP, Hunger is your friend.
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Old 05-13-12, 05:50 AM   #8
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I average about 2,700 calories a day. More and I gain, less and I loose. The number of calories that I consume on average is of course specific to me. Others might find that their weight is stable at 2,300 or maybe 3,200 per day.

One pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories. Thus, if I wanted to lose one pound per week, I would have to cut my caloric consumption to about 2,200 calories per day. (It is more complicated than this, but this is a good rule of thumb to start with.) So, even a slight change of only one pound per week means I would need a caloric intake reduction of about 20 percent, which is not easy.

Sorry I could not tell you to buy a pill and you will miraculously lose weight, the simple fact is that it boils down to what you eat and how fast you burn calories. I would consider a 3 mile one way commute to not be enough to bother counting the calories that are burned from that effort as it is probably less than a candy bar, I ride my bike that far to go to the health club and back.

A ways back, my doctor told me not to try to lose more than one pound per week or I would lose more than just fat, the loss would also cause muscle loss. I was not obese, so his advice was for someone that was trying to shed a few tens of pounds, not a ton. Looking back, mentally I would have had trouble trying to cut my caloric intake by more than 500 calories a day (on average) because I would not just be hungry, I would be starving for food.

Yes, I am hungry all the time, but I have no solution for that other than the scale and mental discipline.
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Old 05-13-12, 06:08 AM   #9
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Hunger is your friend.
+1. You'll need to learn to live with hunger, on some level, to lose weight. Being overweight means you've consumed more calories than you've burned. You'll have to consume less calories than you burn to lose weight. Unfortunately this usually results in hunger.
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Old 05-13-12, 06:15 AM   #10
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Hunger is your friend.
Actually this might be changed to: Hunger is your frenemy.
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Old 05-13-12, 08:17 AM   #11
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I for one can't help you in the "I'm always hungry" department. What I can suggest, similar to other posters, is:

Unfortunately, you will need to adjust your eating habits. Exercise alone, it seems, isn't really all that conducive to weight loss: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/ma...pagewanted=all

Regardless of your weight loss goals, you need to consume calories (mostly carbs) during longer rides.

One very easy lifestyle adjustment is to avoid drinking sodas (empty calories) and fruit juices (it's all sugar -- fruit without the fiber).

"Losing weight" and "more healthy" are not the same thing. Even if you continue to be overweight, moderate exercise -- especially endurance sports -- have a great deal of health benefits. Cycling regularly will provide lots of benefits, even if it doesn't knock off the pounds. FYI Gretchen Reynolds is the current big advocate of this idea.
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Old 05-13-12, 08:53 AM   #12
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My situation was similar to your several years ago except I needed to lose much more than 20 pounds. I cannot lose weight on a short commute alone. I have to add the 20-40 mile fitness rides at a brisk pace to get my metabolism into a weight-loss zone. As a full-time commuter, I am doing well just to contain my weight during the winter when the weather will frequently prevent the fitness rides. I don't think there is any formula that will work for everyone because all our bodies and psyches are different. Here are the keys for me...

1. I weigh myself everyday at the same time. I've heard that you should not do this because your weight can fluctuate day by day. However, with the realization that my weight can fluctuate 3-5 pounds in a day, I can still spot trends within the noise. And the daily routine helps to ensure that I don't get out of the habit.

2. I have to limit carbs especially. I can eat a lot more protein and fat than carbs and still lose weight. And, on top of that, carbs have a bit of an addictive effect on me. This is one of the areas that may be very personal.

3. I have to carefully manage the ramp-down at the end of the season. When I'm riding 125-150 miles per week, I have to eat quite a few calories just to maintain my weight. Once the weather turns bad and I'm left with the 40 miles per week commute, I must scale back on the calories or risk putting on winter weight.

Good luck!
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Old 05-13-12, 08:57 AM   #13
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Oh yeah...

4. You must learn the difference between your head telling you you're hungry and your stomach (body) saying the same thing. You're head will complain if you simply get out of your routine. Your stomach is much more reliable in that regard.
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Old 05-13-12, 09:43 AM   #14
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Oh yeah...

4. You must learn the difference between your head telling you you're hungry and your stomach (body) saying the same thing. You're head will complain if you simply get out of your routine. Your stomach is much more reliable in that regard.
That's true. People often think they're hungry when really they're just tired, bored, or thirsty. If your stomach is telling you you're hungry, try drinking a glass of water first. If you're still hungry 15 minutes later, eat something.
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Old 05-13-12, 09:51 AM   #15
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Losing weight, for me at least, is strictly a calories in vs. calories out game: burn more calories than you eat and you lose weight. For me what works is:

1) Keeping a food diary of every calorie that goes into my mouth. If I don't know how many calories something has, I don't eat it

2) Exercising 5-6 days a week for 45-60 minutes. For me, this typically means riding during my lunch hour. It kills two birds with one stone: not only am I burning calories on the bike, but I'm also not consuming a 1000+ calorie restaurant lunch

3) Recording calories burned due to exercise. I have a PowerTap power meter that provides a relatively accurate estimate of calories burned while riding. Most of the HR monitors, websites, and apps that I've seen over-estimate calories burned while biking by 1.5-2X compared to what my power meter reports

4) Eating more on days when I exercise. If my daily calorie budget is, say, 1500 calories and I burn 500 calories riding I'll eat an extra 350-400 calories (1500 - 500 + 400 = ~1400 calories "net")

5) Riding longer on weekends; typically 2-4 hours. These longer rides seem to be the ones that really accelerate weight loss for me

Keeping a food diary and trying to count calories has the side-effect of helping me make better food choices: fruits and veggies typically have fewer calories as compared to processed and packaged foods, which means you can eat a lot more of them and still stay within your calorie budget. I try to hit the 40/30/30 ratio of carbs/fat/protein, but I don't obsess about it.

Once on tour, I tend to ride at a brisk pace so I can pretty much eat whatever I want and still maintain or lose weight.
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Old 05-13-12, 02:11 PM   #16
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I agree with sstorkel completely. I have lost 30+ lbs over the past year or so, basically following the steps he outlined. What worked for me was downloading the free LoseIt! app for my iPhone. You don't need a smart phone to use it, but it makes it easier to track everything you eat as well as exercise. LoseIt! also has a website, where you can track calories and also take advantage of various graphics, charts, etc. There are other comparable apps that I am sure work just as well.

With LoseIt!, you just enter in your basic data (eg, weight, age, height) and how much weight you want to lose over what time period. In my case, I started out with a goal of losing 1 lb/week over 5 months. It gave me a daily calorie budget to follow and I was allowed to eat that many calories a day, allowing for calories earned from exercise. Eg, my starting budget was about 2,000 calories/day but if I exercised (cycled) for two hours a day, I could actually eat more like 3,000-3,500 calories a day. The program automatically adjusts your budget as you lose weight because your body needs fewer calories as you lose weight.

Long story short, I lost weight at almost exactly the rate predicted by LoseIt! It worked so well that I reset my target weight several times to lower levels. Originally my plan was reduce to 180 lbs, which I reset to 175, then 170 and finally 165. My weight is now about 166, so I'm almost there.

I did not have a huge issue with hunger but I had to change the way I ate. I started eating much more high-fiber food, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Started controlling portion sizes, measuring food, cutting out second helpings. Find out real quickly that my real problems were salty foods and eating out at restaurants. Salt really makes you gain weight through water retention, and restaurants load food with salt.
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Old 05-13-12, 05:14 PM   #17
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... ...

1. I weigh myself everyday at the same time. I've heard that you should not do this because your weight can fluctuate day by day. However, with the realization that my weight can fluctuate 3-5 pounds in a day, I can still spot trends within the noise. And the daily routine helps to ensure that I don't get out of the habit.

... ...
I weigh myself every day too, but I look at the 7 day rolling average on a spreadsheet graph, I do not obsess over the daily fluctuations. But I do not carry a scale when traveling, I just hope that when I get home from a trip that I am where I was before I left.
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Old 05-13-12, 07:13 PM   #18
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But I do not carry a scale when traveling, I just hope that when I get home from a trip that I am where I was before I left.
Me too. I frequently travel internationally. There's much less chance that I will eat between meals when I'm away, so I will just try to eat reasonable meals. That usually works out well to maintain my weight.
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Old 05-13-12, 08:25 PM   #19
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+1 to sstorkel and others above who advocate a calorie-counting approach. If what you're doing isn't causing you to lose weight, then you need to get a little more scientific about it. Make a best estimate of your daily calorie needs for maintaining weight based on formulas/calculators online, plan to consume say 500 fewer per day, then track what you actually ate to make sure you stay under that number. As someone noted above, a deficit of 500 calories a day translates to 1 pound per week.

Try to estimate how many calories you are consuming through cycling and other exercise through formulas/calculators online, but be conservative (you want to underestimate rather than overestimate), and remember to subtract your base metabolism rate from what you burned (i.e. you don't get to take credit for what your body would have been using anyway during that time).

I found that my 9-mile round-trip commute was burning maybe 325 calories per day. When I learned that a typical donut has around 400 calories, I realized that giving myself permission to eat a donut after cycling was only going to cause me to gain weight. I think a lot of people fall into that trap. Exercise is great, but we need to be realistic about it. Now, cycling makes me want to eat less, because I don't want to negate what took me time and effort to achieve.

Some of these calorie estimates (what you ate and what you burn) will be scientific guesses, ballpark guesses, or even wild-ass guesses. Once you do it for a while, you'll figure out what you can eat and how much you need to exercise to lose weight. Maybe you'll lose a bit faster than you think you will, or maybe you'll have to aim for, say, a 700-calorie deficit.

I've lost about 17 - 18 pounds in a little over a year. I'm close to my target weight, so I'll be shifting to maintaining....
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Old 05-13-12, 09:21 PM   #20
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I commute to work, about 6.5 miles round trip. I usually do some longer rides on the weekends.

My problem is I need to loose some pounds (on me, not the bike!). I am trying to make a lifestyle change in the way I eat.
Considering this is a bike forum, naturally most in here are going to tell you to ride your bike more. That's good advice but I think you probably need a more complete cardio workout routine if your goal is to lose weight. Consider adding inclined walking and some upper body workout routines. You'll be surprised how much cardio you get from a upper body workout. This can be as simple as taking 5 pound weights and raising them up and down alternating arms. Doing plain squats without weights will also give you an incredible workout. You can do them during commercials while watching TV.

Now the hunger issue... are you on medications? A lot of those meds cause hunger, so if you are on meds, talk to your doctor and tell him your hungry, maybe he/she can give you realistic suggestions on suppressing your hunger.

But even if you don't shed a pound, you'll be fine for a 3 day unsupported ride, and as many in here will suggest, perhaps do an overnight ride unsupported to shake out your equipment.
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Old 05-13-12, 10:29 PM   #21
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Hunger is the feeling fat makes as it leaves your body.

See a nutritionist and get a meal plan and stick to it.
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Old 05-13-12, 10:36 PM   #22
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Another vote for the food/exercise diary. Knowledge is power. When you know what you're burning and what you're consuming you can make informed decisions to achieve the desired outcome. This works for money too, but that's another subject.

I like the Myplate app at livestrong.com. You can track what you eat and what you do there, set weight loss goals, and it will give you a daily caloric intake level to shoot for, compensate for lifestyle and daily exercise, etc. And there are very few foods that it doesn't have calorie and nutrition information on, as far as I've seen. http://www.livestrong.com/myplate . It's free, unless you opt for an upgraded membership.
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Old 05-14-12, 12:28 AM   #23
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+1. You'll need to learn to live with hunger, on some level, to lose weight. Being overweight means you've consumed more calories than you've burned. You'll have to consume less calories than you burn to lose weight. Unfortunately this usually results in hunger.
this is the ugly truth .
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Old 05-14-12, 05:02 AM   #24
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As others have said, it doesn't sound like you are riding enough to call for increased caloric intake. To lose weight ride more and eat less.

I personally don't normally recommend trying to lose weight while on tour. That said your proposed tour of 3 days is short enough that it probably doesn't matter much unless you really starve yourself or get dehydrated. Still, on tour I'd say eat what you want and enjoy.
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Old 05-14-12, 08:22 AM   #25
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Considering this is a bike forum, naturally most in here are going to tell you to ride your bike more. That's good advice but I think you probably need a more complete cardio workout routine if your goal is to lose weight.
Why? I lost 50lbs on the ride more/eat less plan that I outlined above. As far as my body can tell, cardio is cardio...
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