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Training & Nutrition

5 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight Despite Cycling More

Facing a frustrating battle? Here are some common causes of static scales...

There’s a myriad of reasons why people cycle: transportation, freedom, improved mental health, sport and competition, and quite simply enjoyment to name a few.

As well as serving all of these purposes, cycling also torches calories, and being a low impact activity it’s a great option for people looking to lose a little bit of weight.

As a form of cardiovascular exercise, riding a bike improves heart health, as well as helping you to build muscle which in turn improves your metabolism, meaning your body blazes through more calories even when sitting still.

However, if you’re cycling to lose weight, but finding the scales just aren’t budging, it can be pretty frustrating.

Aside from broken scales (seriously, check this!), there are many possible causes for a lack of progress – we’ve taken a look at what could be holding you back on the journey to a healthy weight…

Not enough sleep

Since it’s not generally acceptable to take a nap at your desk, the next best source of extra energy is from extra food

When your body is tired, you can find yourself searching for more energy, any way you can get it. Since it’s not generally acceptable to take a nap at your desk, the next best source is from extra food.

Studies have shown that lack of sleep can cause an increase in snacking, and consumption of excess calories – often from carbohydrates which produce a quick spike in insulin levels before instigating a sudden drop, when more carbs will be required!

8 Foods That Will Definitely Help You Sleep

The amount of sleep people need varies dramatically – your optimum could be anywhere between 7 and 10 hours. If you feel like you’re not getting enough shut eye, try and find a day when you can sleep as long as you like, don’t set an alarm, lock the cat (dog/child) out of the bedroom, and see just how long you naturally sleep for. That will give you an idea how many hours you need.

Refueling more than you’re burning

It’s not a nice realisation for anyone to come too – but it’s better to figure it out now than in six months time after more frustration.

All potential complications ruled out, the formula for losing weight is actually quite simple: calories in, vs calories out. Weight loss comes as a result of a calorie deficiency, when you’re burning more than you’re eating.

The calories you burn riding will depend upon intensity and your own weight, but an average is around 500 an hour. So, if you come back and eat 600 calories more than you would have otherwise as a result of the ride (on a regular basis) you may actually gain weight.

Keep a record of what exercise you do, and what you eat, for a couple of days or weeks, to make sure you’re not consuming more than you thought. However, be careful with your deficit. A few hundred calories in the minus numbers is more than enough, more than 500 in the minus’ and you’ll feel low and won’t recover well.

Exercising too much (or eating too little)

Ah – the flip side of the coin! It is possible to exercise too much, and eat too little, in the search for a drop in weight.

Effectively, your thoughtful body is preparing itself for a long lasting famine

Putting your body under too much stress results in high levels or Cortisol. This hormone is usually released when you’re scared or angry, but levels can also rise when you lift heavy weights, or train hard. Constantly high levels of Cortisol make your body think that it is in danger, causing symptoms such as water retention, and a heightened ability to store carbohydrates and glycogen. Effectively, your thoughtful body is preparing itself for a long lasting famine.

If you think this might be the problem, back off for a few days (or even weeks), concentrate on eating plenty of good, healthy food. You need to hit ‘reset’ on your metabolism, and then gradually build up to a healthy exercise routine that doesn’t cause too much extra stress.

Read more about Cortisol and it’s effects here.

You’re gaining muscle

If this is you, well done! Muscle is denser than fat – so if you lose 1kg of fat, and gain 1kg of muscle, you will weigh the same – but may find your jeans are a little lose!

This explanation is quite plausible with regard to cycling, the resistance offered by hills, headwinds or perhaps the evil little knob on your spin bike encourages the use of key muscles such as the glutes, hamstrings and quads whilst also working the muscles in your stomach and lower back.

Will Cycling Make Your Thighs Bigger?

The simplest way to find out if this is you is to assess how your clothes fit. However, if you want numbers to back up your weight loss story, try taking measurements of your waist. For a more techy approach, you can use scales which give you a body fat percentage and watch as the numbers drop!

You’re not changing up your routine enough

Image: Blitz Conditioning

Athletes of all levels can get stuck in a ‘plateau’ – this is when you find you’re getting closer and closer to your goals, and then improvement fizzles out and eventually the line of success flattens.

The best way out of a plateau – of any kind – is to shake up your routine. If you always do long slow rides to stay in the ‘fat burning’ zone, chuck in some super fast high intensity sessions to get your body working on another level. If you’ve been on the high intensity wagon since the start, why not build in some low intensity fasted rides to give your body a little push?

The same goes for your chosen sport. Yes, you love cycling and should keep that up. However, you might benefit from a little cross training to wake up some of your underused muscles –perhaps some kettlebell training, or swimming for an all over body workout.

These are jut a few common problems people come across when trying to lose weight. If you’re battling with your weight and nothing seems to work, it is a good idea to visit your GP – just to rule out any underlying problems. 

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