Tired of carrying around extra weight, and tired of failing to lose it? Cycling could be the magic ingredient that will finally get those pounds to leave. Most people can succeed in cycling to lose weight. Cycling is a low-impact exercise, so you can start cycling even if you are extremely overweight. I am always amazed that the Biggest Loser does not promote cycling – it would be ideal for most of their contestants. It is even possible to buy bikes that are especially modified to carry heavier people.
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Our Experience of Cycling to Lose Weight
Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist and I are strong advocates of cycling to lose weight. We have lost a combined total of almost 60 pounds. And we got much fitter and healthier in the process. A combination of cycling and a healthy eating plan (based on the great recipes Maggie and I have developed ) has finally done the trick for us.
Cycling is an ideal way to lose weight because it is fun, so you keep doing it – it’s way easier to do something fun than to show up at a boring gym day after day.
Also, if you commute by bike, you will burn extra calories every single day, TWICE a day (once you get to work on a bike, you often have no choice but to use the bike to get back home again!)
How Cycling to Lose Weight Works
Cycling to lose weight works because cycling dramatically increases the number of calories you burn every day. It does this in two ways:
- While you are cycling, you burn hundreds of calories
- Even once you stop cycling, you continue to burn more calories throughout the day.
Burning Calories While Cycling
Riding a bike uses all of the largest muscles in your body: your quads, your hamstrings, your hip muscles, and your glutes. Using large muscles burns a lot of calories. And because cycling is fun, you can keep doing it for long periods of time. Most people can manage to bike for 20 minutes. However, most people cannot run for 20 minutes. (And especially not if you are carrying a lot of extra weight.) That’s why cycling to lose weight is a smart, practical, achievable way to lose a large amount of weight. There are many people who have lost over a hundred pounds by cycling to lose weight.
Also, an average calorie burn per hour on a bike is around 500 to 600 calories. So if you can ride a bike for an hour a day, you can burn up around 4,000 calories per week. This is enough to burn off a pound of fat, even without changing your diet (although it’s a good idea to adopt a healthier eating plan too).
So cycling is an excellent way to burn a lot of calories without hurting your joints.
Burning Calories After Cycling
After you get off the bike, the increased calorie burn continues! Your body will use calories to repair and replenish your muscles after you finish cycling. In addition, the cycling exercise will push up your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories you burn while you’re just sitting on the couch, or even sleeping! After cycling, your BMR will stay up for hours. If you do 45 minutes or more of cycling, you are likely to keep your BMR raised all day long.
Over time, cycling to lose weight will turn your body into a lean fat-burning machine. This is because it will build lean muscle tissue, which in turn raises your BMR permanently!
Which Training Zone is Best for You?
There are two basic ways to exercise on a bike:
- You can do long, steady rides at moderate intensity in the fat-burning zone; or
- You can do high intensity interval training in the high intensity zone. Interval training mixes it up, with bursts of very high intensity for short periods alternating with recovery cycling for longer periods. For example, you might ride at a moderate intensity for 5 minutes, then ride as fast as you possibly can for 1 minute – and then repeat this cycle several times.
There is much debate about which of these ways of exercising is better for fat-burning. The consensus seems to be that interval training is more effective for fat burning, and gets you fit faster.
The Journal of Applied Physiology reported that two weeks of alternate-day interval training boosted cyclists’ fat-burning ability by a whopping 36%.
However, you need to consider your own needs and abilities. If you are starting from very unfit, interval training could be dangerous for you, by putting a sudden and intense strain on your joints, muscles, and heart. It could also be too unpleasant, and cause you to quit before you see any progress.
To succeed with cycling to lose weight, there HAS to some fun and enjoyment.
How Much Time do You Have for Cycling?
Consider how much time you have for cycling. If you can manage 30 minutes to an hour every day, and you are new to cycling, or not very fit, then almost certainly your best choice would be long, steady rides at moderate intensity in the fat-burning zone. You could start to add in interval training once you start getting fitter. On the other hand, if you are already quite fit and you can only bike for 30 minutes a couple of times a week, you could achieve more in that 30 minutes with high intensity interval training.
Really, the ideal is to mix it up, if you are physically able to do that.
That way you get the benefits of both approaches. Plus, crucially, you will be much less likely to get bored and quit. If you are going to achieve your fitness and weight loss goals in 2015, you need to stick with cycling all year – not just during January! And 30 minutes a week won’t actually do it – you should be aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.
Make sure your cycling program is FUN for you, so you don’t become one of the many people who start a fitness program and quit after 2 weeks!
What is the Fat-Burning Zone?
The fat-burning zone is the level of intensity in which you are actually burning fat. This is when you are exercising at between 60 and 70 percent of your own personal maximum heart rate. Of course, many people don’t own a heart rate monitor. Fortunately, it can be greatly simplified: when exercising in this zone you should be comfortable, but you should not be dawdling. You should be exerting yourself, but still be able to talk.
If you want to be more precise, you could buy this inexpensive Polar heart rate monitor, which calculates your zone and tells you when you are in it. I reviewed this heart rate monitor here. The BIG PLUS with this watch is that it tells you how many calories you burn on each ride. I find this very motivating.
Of course, you are also burning calories when you are exercising at higher intensities. In fact, you are burning more calories then. But the catch is that most people cannot sustain high-intensity exercise for very long. And it’s usually not fun, either.
In this post, you can find out how to calculate how many calories you burn while you’re cycling. It’s really encouraging to see that cycling burns a LOT of calories! And here are some tips on how to succeed at losing weight with cycling.
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