Keep A Steady Pace
Does cycling burn fat? Yes. When riding, your stomach muscles don’t work as much as your quads or glutes, but cycling’s aerobic nature causes you to burn fat.
Ride at a moderately intensive pace, three times a week for about two hours.
This kind of lower-intensity training burns a greater percentage of fat than high intensities, but bear in mind overall calorie burning would be less than higher-intensity sessions for the same duration, so don’t go overboard with the post-ride snacks.
Try interval training
To really push the calorie burn, try some interval training. At the end of your long ride, or if you only have a short amount of time to train, do six sets of all-out efforts, each lasting two minutes, with 30 seconds of rest in between. As you improve you can keep going for longer.
Be sure to stay aware of traffic if you’re doing this on the road.
The benefits are that you’ll burn loads of calories in a short amount of time doing intervals, and your metabolism will be up for the next 12 hours, meaning you burn extra calories over the course of the day. You’ll soon be seeing the weight loss.
Off the bike exercise
Your natural instinct may be to concentrate on stomach crunches and sit-ups to remove belly fat. In reality, although these will help to build muscle and improve core strength, they won’t remove fat. Aerobic exercise is still the most efficient way to do that.
However, there are many benefits to cross-training, whatever type you choose to do. It can improve your on-bike performance meaning you’re more likely to be able to ride further and for longer. And this in turn will mean you’ll be able to burn more calories.
Planks are also excellent for toning the core muscles and increasing strength.
Circuits and classes such as Zumba and Body Combat are aerobic, so will give you a high intensity session where you’ll burn some serious calories, and can be fun too, as well as give you a full body workout.
Yoga and pilates may not be high intensity, but they are highly recommended for cyclists because they help stretch out muscles that can become tight after the repetitive motion of pedalling, and being positioned on a bike for hours at a time. This helps avoid injury, which again means fewer impediments to staying on your bike.
Weight and strength training can also help.
Body weight exercises such as squats and planks can help improve your core strength, your shoulder strength and your leg strength.
There’s also evidence to suggest that weight training helps improve muscle efficiency on longer rides. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport showed that female duathletes who added weight training to their regime saw an increase in muscle efficiency over those who did not do weight training after two hours of cycling.
Losing fat is simple: you need to burn more calories than you consume. The bigger the calorie deficit, the greater the fat loss.
Be careful to fuel your exercise with slow burning carbohydrates (whole grain pastas and breads) and lean proteins (turkey) and avoid eating much of anything high in saturated fat, such as cheese, butter and sugary sweets.
You should also be wary of food labelled ‘low fat’. Some so-called low fat foods have very high levels of sugar, which contains a lot of calories which the body converts into fat during digestion, so check the labels carefully. You may be better off going for a moderate, occasional portion of the real deal rather than the ‘low-fat’ option.
Don’t be tempted to drastically reduce your calorie intake: you still need to make sure you’re getting enough food to function healthily. If you’re not fuelling yourself adequately in your training you won’t be able to get the most from your key sessions and your body could start dropping muscle mass rather than fat.
Your body may also go into starvation mode, slowing the metabolism to conserve calories, which is exactly what you don’t want.
The general advice is to aim for a weight loss of between 0.5lb to 2lbs, or 0.2 to 1kg a week. The best way is to make healthy food choices and up your levels of physical activity.
Stress and its associated low mood can affect weight; some people stop eating properly and lose weight, others turn to comfort eating and gain weight. Neither is ideal or healthy. Stress can also affect sleep levels. So controlling or managing your stress levels can have a beneficial effect on weight control.
Happily, regular aerobic exercise such as cycling has been shown to be a great way of combatting stress, decreasing anxiety, helping to reduce tension and boost your mood.
What’s more, getting outside into nature has also been shown to decrease stress levels according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and handily cycling is a predominantly outdoor form of exercise.