There are many theories on the topic of weight loss, but for many cyclists it can be hard to know which are true and which are big fat lies. If you’ve already honed your diet and want to take your weight loss efforts to the next level, then here’s how to sharpen your training to encourage maximum weight loss on the bike.
Weight loss isn’t only about intake versus expenditure. What’s more important is where we derive our energy from. As humans, we have the capacity to create energy through various means, and the two most common are through metabolising carbohydrates or fat.
Modern human lifestyles and diets mean that our bodies default to deriving the majority of our energy from carbohydrates. When we continually consume carbohydrate, our bodies default to making use of it. When the supply is steady and plentiful, then our bodies never fully tap into the more difficult-to-metabolise fat stores. This effect compounds further when we understand that excessive carbohydrate consumption usually gets deposited as abdominal fat and can actually end up making us gain weight.
This means that if we want to lose weight through cycling, then we have to shift our metabolism and prime our bodies to burn fat by honing the intensity of our workouts.
We’ve discussed dietary strategies for weight loss before, so if you’ve already honed your diet, removed the excess sugars, and are consuming the quality fats and proteins, then here’s how to take a weightloss strategy to the next level by tailoring your training regime.
FASTED RIDING BURNS FAT FASTER
Early morning rides before breakfast may sound like an impossibility for many, but they are one of the most effective ways to promote weight loss on a bike. The reason they are so effective is because glycogen levels in the body are in a depleted state after a long night’s sleep. These lower levels of glycogen force the body to use stored fat as an alternative source for fuel.
Fat burns best at moderate intensity. When we go anaerobic, our bodies are forced to burn glycogen, and this effectively halts fat metabolism. Fasted rides should be of low to moderate intensity, with Power Zone 2 being the ideal area to target.
This intensity is high enough to get the heart going and the calories burning, but is still low enough in intensity to ensure that your body can comfortably burn fat without being forced to rely on glycogen.
ADD SOME SPICE AND TRAIN TWICE
For those who want further fitness and performance gains in addition to weight loss, then doing two different workouts in a day can be an effective strategy. Those who have the time often perform a fasted workout before breakfast and then opt for a higher intensity workout come the evening.
The advantages of such a strategy are multifold. The higher-intensity workout ensures that any carbs in the evening meal are directed to replenishing depleted glycogen supplies in the muscles rather than adding to abdominal fat reserves.
Another advantage is that our bodies continue to burn fat after a workout as we recover. The more intense the workout, the greater the fat-burning. This means that with the two-a-day approach, you’ll get the fat-burning benefits twice over.
ZONE IN AND GO LONG
The good news for fat burners is that the longer you ride at a given intensity, the more reliant your body becomes on fat at these intensities. Studies show that with two hours of riding, the body derives approximately 70% of its total energy from fat; while when we ride for three hours or more, the body ramps that rate up to 80%.
The body is incredibly adaptable, and when we train with intention consistently, we can elicit some of the most profound changes in our metabolism that also extend to many other aspects of life.
IS INTENSITY A NECESSITY?
Long and slow grinds in zone 2 aren’t everyone’s idea of fun, especially those with limited time for training. But the good news is that you can still promote weight loss by increasing the intensity of your workouts.
The results from a study carried out in Laval University in Canada showed clear benefits to incorporating even minimal intensity into a training regime.
The study consisted of two groups of indoor cyclists. Both completed consistent moderate-intensity workouts, but one of the groups also completed regular 10-15 second high-intensity intervals. Researchers found that the cyclists who also carried out the high-intensity workouts lost nine times the body fat of those who only trained at a lower intensity. The researchers determined this was because going full-tilt for short periods results in a longer-lasting fat burn.
This means that adding intensity can be an effective weightloss strategy, but when we spend too much of our time there, we shift our bodies out of fat-burning mode.
WEIGHT LOSS AS A STEPPING STONE TO GREATER THINGS
When we train consistently at the right intensity, we also obtain additional benefits, one of which is glycogen sparing. This is where you’re body spares glycogen by forming the ability to burn fat with greater ease at higher and higher intensities. This helps you avoid bonking, and helps preserve those glycogen supplies for the real high-end efforts where they’re needed most.
You don’t have to go full-on keto to lose weight. Nor do you have to undertake dangerous diets, starve yourself, or push yourself to the point of failure on each and every ride. Rather, it’s a combination of fine-tuning your diet, targetting long zone 2 riding, and adding in a small sprinkling of intensity work to up the fat-burning process.