There are many reasons for wanting to lose weight. If you're carrying a little excess baggage then dropping the pounds could improve your health and help you to avoid conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
Losing weight can also improve your confidence, and your performance on the bike - but it's important that you always put your wellbeing first. Only aim to lose weight if doing so will improve your health and fitness
If you've decided that losing weight will be beneficial for you - then cycling is a great way to go about it...
The Benefits of Choosing to Lose Weight Cycling
Running is often considered the number one exercise for torching calories. The problem is it's also 'high impact' - every step sends impact through your feet, ankles, calves, knees - and so on. As a result, it's easy to get injured, and that risk is increased the heavier you are.
Cycling, by contrast, is low impact. As well as being a cardiovascular exercise that burns calories, it also strengthens your muscles - particularly your hamstrings, glutes and quads without too much risk of injury. The stronger your muscles are (by the way - your thighs WILL NOT become massive if you cycle - that sort of physique is gained by time in the gym and a lot of protein) the more calories your body burns just existing.
Cycling can be very sociable, too. Riding far and wide with friends at the weekend allows you to see new sights, whilst commuting to work mid-week saves you time and money. Or you can sweat it out in the gym for the ultimate high intensity workout in double quick time. There are lots of options - so where do you start?
Getting Started Losing Weight Through Cycling
So you've decided you want to lose weight cycling, but how do you go about getting started? First of all you've got a few decisions to make:
Who do you want to cycle with?
Do you want to cycle alone, with a buddy or as part of a club? All of these methods can work, you just need to choose which is right for you.
If you're looking for a group ride, there are lots of options out there. Breeze Rides have been set up by British Cycling - they're women's only group rides and are very accessible for beginners. If you're a bit more experienced, you might find the more formal cycling club organisation is more suited to you.
When will you fit cycling in to your busy schedule?
The easiest way to incorporate a daily cycle session into your routine is to start commuting to and from work by bicycle. If this isn't practical you'll need to decide whether you are going to get up early and cycle before work, or if you'd prefer to ride in the evenings.
You could look into a lunch time spin class - and these are great for keeping your motivation high as sessions will vary every week.
Are you ready to cycle outdoors or would you prefer to start inside?
Cycling outside is wonderful - you get to enjoy fresh air and a dose of vitamin D. However, riding indoors is a fantastic way of getting high intensity exercise in, quickly. Riding on a turbo trainer or going to a spinning class will mean there's no coasting or freewheeling - you'll be constantly pedalling so half an hour of indoor riding is often considered equal to an hour on the road.
For workout ideas, check out these three thirty minute training sessions.
Will you do long and slow rides or short and hard rides?
If you're just starting out on the journey towards fitness and weight loss, you might want to base your rides or 'sessions' purely around time spent on the bike. Ride at your own pace and enjoy the feeling of getting active - every little will help and you don't need to worry too much about intensity.
As you get fitter, you might want to add some variety. Easy rides, where you can talk and hold a conversation, are often called 'fat burning rides'. These are good for improving your ability to just keep turning the pedals, and burning through fat.
At the other end of the scale is 'High Intensity Interval Training' or HITT. This involves pedalling really hard for short intervals with easy breaks in between. These rides burn through carbohydrate stores and you'll need to up your carbohydrate intake on the day you complete one. Though they don't specifically burn fat, some experts still believe these sessions are best for weight loss because the high intensity means you burn more calories during the day and you'll also build more muscle through a session like this.
Experts will argue all day over which form of exercise is 'best' for losing weight. Our answer is simple: all things in moderation. Ideally, aim to fit in a couple of interval sessions in the week and a longer ride when you have time on the weekend. This will train your body in both fat burning and high intensity, strength building directions. And it'll keep you motivated thanks to the varying styles of training.
What gear do I need?
Before you set out on your mission to lose weight cycling, it's important that you have the right bike and cycling gear for you.
The number one item (unless you're going to do all your riding indoors) is a bike. We've got a guide to buying your first bike here. It's important that you're honest with yourself about what sort of terrain you'll be riding on so that you buy the right style. Once you know what you want, you can head to a shop or by online.
Buying your first bike in a reputable store is a good idea as you may need help choosing the right size. Investing in a bike fit as an add on can avoid injury later down the line and honestly is a good idea for most riders. If you buy online, be sure to check out our second hand purchasing guide.
You'll also need to invest in some comfortable, well-fitting and breathable cycling clothing. It's not essential to wear padded shorts and lycra, but it is more comfortable - it's up to you what you ride in. You'll find lots of reviews on road cycling kit, commuting kit and mountain biking kit on our site to help you choose.
Finally - you will need to carry a spare inner tube, pump, and tyre levers and it's best to learn how to fix a puncture in the comfort of your home before you head out. It's easy once you know how, we promise!
Decisions Made: What Next to Lose Weight Cycling?
So, you know where you're going to ride, who with and at what sort of intensity. Next you need to set about making it happen!
Set yourself a goal (and stick to it)
It's always easier to do something if you have a deadline looming over you so the best way to ensure that you stick to your training programme is to give yourself a goal. Although it may be tempting to make your goal weight-loss specific, it's much healthier (and more fun) to choose a distance and fitness related target instead.
The most common advice you will hear is to pick a cycling event that is currently out of your ability and sign up for it. As long as you've picked one far enough in the future -though not too far away- that you are not trying for the impossible, you'll be able to complete it because once you've signed up and paid the fee you don't have much choice but to knuckle down and train.
Be sure to tell your family and friends that you've signed up for the race or event too so that they can help keep you motivated and the date won't be able to slip by unnoticed if you decide you don't fancy it anymore!
Diet and nutrition
Sometimes we overcomplicate weight loss. It's really a simple equation:
More calories out than in = weight loss
You need to burn more calories than you eat - so of course what you eat is pretty important. Fad diets are not the answer. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and take care to keep hydrated and control your portion size. Avoid unnecessary snacks, and you'll be on your way!
It's also a great idea to introduce more protein in your diet to keep hunger at bay and kick start your metabolism into action. Try to eat a hearty and nutritious breakfast within forty minutes of waking up and eat a protein-filled lunch or dinner within thirty minutes of completing a cycle ride.
Finally: losing weight is not an overnight event. Be patient.
If you've decided you want to lose weight, it's understandable that you want to be at your goal weight ASAP. However, losing weight quickly often means putting it on quickly.
To lose weight sustainably, you need to overhaul your eating and your attitude to activity. That doesn't happen overnight - so don't be disheartened if progress is slow.
It's worth remembering that muscle really does weigh more than fat: it is possible to lose inches and not weight. It might be worth tracking your progress with a tape measure as well as the scales.
As long as you're moving in the right direction, you're making progress - so keep at it!
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