Your Ultimate Cycling Nutrition Guide For Weight Loss
August 15, 2021
No matter what exercise you’re doing, you need to ensure that you’re eating correctly to power up your workouts.
It’s the same with cycling, but you’ll have to consider some important diet tips and tricks to give you a boost whenever you climb onto your bike.
Should you eat during a cycling session?
While you might not need the energy boost during a short cycling session, if you’re cycling for longer distances you’ll have to reach for snacks to ensure you can complete your session.
But what about if you’re using your stationary bike to lose weight? There are some important dietary considerations to bear in mind.
Is Cycling A Good Way To Lose Weight?
Before you embark on a cycling weight-loss journey, you’ll want to know how many calories you can expect to torch when you ride.
While weight loss depends on various factors, such as your current weight, generally you can lose between 450 and 750 calories per hour by cycling. On a spin bike, for example, you can easily torch between 400 and 600 calories per hour.
By choosing to cycle for weight loss, you have the potential to shed pounds and improve your health. But, you also have to pay attention to your diet.
Instead of just focusing on reducing your intake of calories on a daily basis, which is always recommended for any weight loss program, you should also focus on the nutrition you need for cycling.
Tips For Losing Weight On Your Bike
Ready to start shedding the pounds by cycling? Here’s your guide to cycling nutrition.
Eat smaller meals. Every three to four hours, you should eat small amounts of food. This helps you to maintain a stable metabolism and energy level so that you’ll be able to make the most of your bike ride without feeling sluggish. Eating smaller amounts of food throughout the day is also better for your body and blood sugar than if you eat large meals less frequently as that can cause you to overeat.
Avoid sugar and processed food. These are the types of food you might reach for when you want to get a boost of energy, but they don’t offer you much in terms of nutrition. In addition, it’s worth noting that sugar you don’t burn will get stored as fat in your body, therefore sabotaging your weight-loss efforts. Switch these foods for lean protein, like chicken and fish, and fresh fruit and vegetables. If you need carbs, opt for whole-grain foods.
Don’t eat before you ride. One of the best times of the day when you should ride a bicycle is before breakfast when you haven’t eaten anything. This boosts your weight-loss potential because your body will use its fat stores as fuel. If you go for a bike session that’s longer than an hour, you will need to top up on some food so that you boost your energy. That said, if you don’t feel good when missing a meal before a bike ride, then you should ensure that what you eat before cycling is healthy. You want a snack that offers protein and carbs, such as porridge and unsweetened yogurt or nuts and a bagel.
Eat enough calories. Generally, men should consume 1,900 calories and women should eat 1,400 calories per day in order to lose weight. If you reduce your calories too much, your body will go into starvation mode and hold onto the calories that you give it. This will have the negative effect of making your body hold onto more weight, preventing you from losing weight.
Eat enough protein. You might be losing weight, but it could be that you’re shedding muscle instead of fat. This is not what you want, so you have to ensure that you maintain your muscle mass. After all, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will be able to burn. Add more protein to your diet.
Boost your resistance training. Cycling is predominantly a lower-body workout, so you need to ensure you add resistance training to your weekly workouts. This is because you want to maintain the calorie-burning potential of your muscles. Aim for 20 minutes of resistance training twice a week.
Eat after your cycling session. You need to eat the right foods after your cycling session so that your body can recover. While you might think that eating immediately after riding your bike will prevent you from losing weight, you need to refuel otherwise you could feel weak. Your recovery snack should consist of protein and carbohydrates.
Monitor what you’re eating. It’s easy to think you’re being healthy and avoiding fat-boosting foods without realizing that there are some unhealthy snacks that you could remove from your diet. Whether you log the foods you eat daily by writing them down in a food journal or by using an app to help you, you might be surprised at what you find.
Best Foods For Cyclists To Eat
In the previous section of cycling nutrition tips, we touched on some foods you should eat and others to avoid.
With that in mind, here are some of the best foods that you should reach for if you’re cycling for weight loss and to ensure you get enough nutrients.
Unprocessed oats are a valuable source of soluble fiber and whole grains. They are packed with energy to fuel your cycling sessions and offer good amounts of magnesium, iron, potassium, folate, and zinc.
Spinach contains tons of nutrients, such as iron, calcium, potassium, and Vitamins B6, B9, C, E, and K. Adding more veggies to your meal plans in general is a great way to prevent yourself from eating processed foods, but the great thing about spinach is that it’s very versatile. Add it to your smoothie, salad, or omelet.
Avos are delicious and filled with potassium and healthy fats that are good for your heart. As a bonus, avocados also contain fiber that keeps your hunger in check, so they’re great for weight loss.
Earlier, we talked about how you need to boost your protein intake, and eating salmon is one of the best ways to do this. Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines, or tuna, all give you omega-3 fatty acids that keep your heart healthy but also help your muscles to recover and repair themselves after your cycling sessions.
These are a great protein alternative if you’re vegetarian, while also being filled with lots of fiber to ensure that your blood sugar remains stable. This will ensure that you keep hunger at bay and have enough energy for your cycling session after work.
This is the ideal post-cycling snack to help you recover and refuel. It contains carbs and protein, so it’s also convenient to reach for when you climb off your bike.
Should You Drink Coffee?
Caffeine is a common supplement used before exercise because of how it can boost your performance.
However, consuming too much will affect the central nervous system and lead to gastrointestinal distress. Interestingly, the best coffee to drink before you jump on your bike is a double espresso.
This gives your body an energy boost without the addition of milk which can irritate your stomach. Just remember to consume coffee an hour before your cycling session as it takes an hour for caffeine to take effect.
Should You Try Fasted Cycling?
Fasted cycling is when you train after a long time of not eating.
This is said to be beneficial for weight loss because your body will use its stored fat as fuel to give you enough energy you need during your workout. How fasted cycling works is that you don’t eat for about eight or more hours before you cycle.
This is why heading out for a bike ride first thing in the morning before you consume any food is considered to be a good idea because chances are you haven’t eaten throughout the night. You must have water, though, to stay hydrated.
That said, while fasted cycling can work, it’s not for everyone. If you’ve never tried it before, you should start slowly. You might want to ensure you have food with you for your cycling session so that you refuel and prevent your energy from crashing.
Other Cycling Tips To Help You Lose Weight
Once you’ve got your cycling nutrition down, you need to ensure that you work out properly on your bike to maximize your weight loss. Here are some tips to follow.
Aim for the right heart rate zone. To burn fat on your bike, you need to cycle at about 60 to 80 percent of your heart rate. To find out your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Then you can use that to help you work out 60 or 80 percent of your heart rate. Working out at this rate should leave you out of breath but enable you to maintain a conversation with someone. This level of training is known as base training and it’s vital for weight loss.
Find other ways to sneak in a cycle session. Don’t limit your cycling to your weekly spin class. Ride your bike to work, for example. If you just ride your bike to work this can result in the loss of about seven kilos over the course of a year, and to achieve that you just have to ride your bike for 30 minutes to and from work.
Make sure you engage in HIIT. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is useful to help you burn more calories at a faster rate. You can easily add these workouts to your current cycling routine, such as by having an HIIT session instead of two or three of your regular ones or just adding a HIIT session at the end of one of your moderate cycling sessions. You can learn more about HIIT workouts by reading, “HIIT Workouts For Women: What You Need To Know.”
Make it last long enough. When cycling for weight loss, you need to ensure you do it for long enough in order to reap the calorie burn. But, if you’re new to cycling, you should aim to do 20 or 30 minutes on the bike and then work your way up to achieving longer sessions. You should try to do three cycling workouts every week. To keep things interesting and ease your way into greater endurance, a pro tip is to make one cycling session a short ride of 30 minutes, one 45 minutes long, and one that’s between 60 to 120 minutes. This will ensure that you get enough time on the bike.
Is Diet More Important Than Exercise Than Weight Loss?
It’s been said that diet is more important than exercise for shedding the pounds, and this is for good reason.
It’s easier to control your intake of calories by making diet changes than it is to burn off all the calories you’re consuming by exercising. So, follow the 80/20 rule.
This rule essentially means that your weight loss requires 80 percent of a healthy diet and 20 percent of exercise in order for you to lose weight.
So, to put that in perspective, if you want to cut 500 calories per day to lose weight, you should eat 400 fewer calories (that’s 80 percent) and burn 100 calories (20 percent) by exercising.
What food should you eat during a long bike ride?
If you want to refuel during a bike ride that’s longer than an hour, you should reach for high-GI carbs that are easily absorbed by the body. You should also consume carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drinks so that you get enough fuel and hydration.
Is peanut butter good for cyclists?
Peanut butter is regularly touted as a good snack for cyclists because of it being high in protein. It also helps you lose weight by suppressing blood sugar and controlling your appetite.
If you want to lose weight by sticking to a cycling training program, you’ll need to pay attention to your diet so that you can make the most of the exercise.
This article looks at cycling nutrition tips to follow as well as the foods to choose and avoid.
Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.