When it comes to losing weight, there are many different techniques that can help you shed pounds and inches. But if you’re looking to get fitter, trimmer and lighter — not to mention healthier — then cycling is a great way to lose weight. It’s efficient, enjoyable, easy to slot into a busy day and, best of all, has emotional and mental benefits as well as physical ones.
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic or even an avid cyclist to benefit from cycling. Even if you’re just starting out and want to make some changes in your life, cycling can be a fun activity that will improve your overall wellbeing and fitness level.
In this article I’ll explain why cycling is such an effective weight loss method, how cyclists of all levels should approach their cycling workouts, and the best ways to ensure you eat healthy while on the bike.
There are many reasons why people choose to ride bikes instead of walking. If you’re one of them then congratulations! Cycling offers a huge variety of benefits over traditional forms of transport including:
– You burn more calories per hour than walking and running
– Cycling improves cardiovascular health
– You become stronger in your core muscles which makes you less prone to back problems
– Riding a bike reduces stress
– Cycling is good for your joints because it’s low impact
– It’s cheaper than driving or taking public transport
While these factors may sound like they’d appeal to many people, only a small number actually take up cycling as a hobby or regularly use bicycles to commute to work. The reason behind this is probably down to time constraints. If you’ve got children to look after, jobs to go to, pets to feed, relationships to care for and other commitments that limit your spare time then cycling might not be the best option for you. However, if you’re single, don’t have kids, have plenty of free time and love getting outdoors then cycling could be the perfect choice for you.
Cycle the right way for you
There are two types of cycling: road riding and mountain biking. Road cycling involves using a road bike (or hybrid) on flat, fast surfaces whereas mountain biking uses heavier off-road bikes, often called mountain bikes, for longer, tougher rides. Both offer unique experiences but you should decide what type of cycling appeals most to you before you start.
Road riding is considered a lower intensity workout while mountain biking requires a higher level of commitment and skill. If you’re inexperienced with either form of cycling then you should consider hiring a coach who can guide you through your first few sessions. This way you’ll avoid injury and progress at a steady rate.
On a related note, if you haven’t ridden a bike in a while then you should also think about whether you’re physically able to ride again before you start. You may need to build strength and stamina slowly so you don’t risk having a serious accident.
Eating healthily while on the bike
The biggest issue when it comes to cycling is staying hydrated. When you’re riding long distances you’ll lose fluid quickly which means you need to drink water frequently. To stay hydrated without feeling bloated you should aim to bring your total daily intake above 2 litres.
It’s important to keep snacks handy too. Try to pack something nutritious and satisfying between meals to prevent hunger pangs. A piece of fruit or handful of nuts will do, but you should also pack a bottle of sports drink to quench your thirst if necessary.
To maintain your energy levels during a ride you should consider carrying a selection of gels, bars or powder supplements which contain the correct blend of nutrients for your needs. Your local sporting goods shop or pharmacy should stock a large range of nutritional products which can help keep you going through long, hard rides.
Getting fit with interval exercise
Interval training is a popular way to boost your cardio fitness and speed up your metabolism. Intervals involve periods of high-intensity activity followed by shorter recovery periods where you rest or walk at a slower pace.
An example of an interval would be sprinting for 20 seconds, resting for 30 seconds, repeating four times before moving onto the next set of intervals. Alternatively, a full circuit of exercises can be done at faster speeds, such as skipping, jumping jacks and burpees, before changing to a slower pace.
A combination of high-intensity bursts and slow walking breaks will keep your heart rate high but won’t tax your body to its limits. As a result you’ll still enjoy a great workout without feeling tired during the following days.
Stay motivated by finding new ways to challenge yourself
Motivation is key to any successful diet plan or workout regime. Without drive you’re unlikely to stick to anything unless you feel compelled to do so.
One way to stay motivated is to find new ways to challenge yourself. If you already cycle then try to vary the length and terrain of your route every now and then. Find a friend with similar interests and join a club together or just sign up for a race to compete against others.
If you’re completely new to cycling then it’s best to start off on short, gentle rides until you build up your endurance. Once you’ve mastered the basics then you can choose to tackle longer routes or even go for a leisurely ride around town.
Find things that excite you and let those feelings motivate you to continue with your training.
Keep tabs on body fat percentage and calorie expenditure
Your ultimate goal is to lose weight and keep it off permanently. To achieve this goal you must monitor your efforts closely and adjust your diet and/or exercise accordingly.
Body composition analysis using skinfold calipers is an accurate way to measure your body fat percentage. This can be achieved by measuring several body compartments, usually the arms, chest, legs and waist. These measurements are then used to calculate your body density which is compared to a reference database to determine your body fat percentage.
A simple formula can be used to estimate your calorie intake based on your body composition analysis.
your calorie requirement is calculated as follows:
Calories required = 7 x weight in kg – 6.5 x height in cm + 576
Once you know your calorie requirement you can adjust your food intake accordingly to reduce your body fat percentage.
However, calorie counting alone isn’t enough to lose weight since it doesn’t account for your lifestyle or individual preferences. It’s therefore recommended that you combine calorie counting with a proper diet and exercise programme.
Once you’ve reached your ideal weight, your body composition analysis can be used to monitor your success and ensure you’re maintaining a healthy weight.
This information is written only to teach and inform. It is not meant to be health or medical advice. If you have any questions about a medical condition or your health goals, always see a physician or other trained health expert.