Cycling for Weight Loss? Top 10 Tips To Do it Right.

How-Tos & Tips

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What better way to lose weight than taking up a childhood activity, and making it your fitness activity! If you like to exercise outdoors, and are not that fond of the confines of a gym, select cycling as an option for weight loss. It is also kind on the knees, and easier to begin than running.

Just be careful that your weight loss goals are based on a healthy sense of fitness. The idea is to be fit, and not be obsessed with weight loss.

How much weight can one lose and how fast?

The amount of weight you lose depends directly on the amount of calories you burn. And that depends on the intensity of your workout, the duration you cycle for, your current weight. 

For example, if you weigh around 58kgs and cycle at a leisurely pace, you would burn 170 to 250 calories an hour. If you cycle at a moderate pace you’d burn 400 to 470 in an hour. At high intensity you’d burn about 700 calories in an hour. But if you weigh 92kgs, and cycle at an easy pace, you’d burn about 270-370 calories an hour.

To lose weight one does not only have to burn calories but also reduce caloric intake. But there are right ways of doing this, and extremely harmful ways as well. Read on for the right ways to lose weight by cycling.

1) SET A GOAL

Be real about your weight loss expectations, set milestones and see yourself meet them one by one.  And set a target BMI you’d like to reach. Also set a body fat target. For men who cycle regularly, 8 to 10% body fat is a great range to achieve, for women 24-28 is considered good. Tying expectations and reality is a good first step in your journey. Give your body a challenge, ambitious but one that it can meet. 

2) LOSE FAT NOT MUSCLE

You may lose weight when you cut calories. But the weight lost may not be all fat. In fact you may also have lost muscle. Cyclists that eat less may become thinner, but if they don’t fuel properly they risk becoming slow and weak on the cycle. They may still have a high percentage of fat in their bodies, as they would have essentially lost muscle.

Also, remember that muscle burns calories. The more muscle you have the more calories you’ll burn even if just lying on the couch. So what to do? Make sure you are eating enough protein, and strength training to retain muscle while losing weight.

3) BALANCE YOUR MEALS, REFUEL, RECOVER

It is not useful to just cut down your portions. You must see the nutritional balance of what you are eating; how much carbohydrates, fats and protein you are eating.

Endurance cyclists need extra carbs to get energy for cycling, fat to feel satiated and protein to repair their bodies post workout. Make small changes to achieve this. Instead of eating an all carbs meal, add protein to it, add a salad for fibre. Go for natural sources of sugar like fruits instead of processed sweets. Have fewer beers every week.

The idea is to eat well to fuel your cycling in terms of nutrition, but cut down on all the unnecessary food that may keep one from one’s weight loss goals. With cycling, you cannot starve or eat extremely less and expect healthy results.

4) GO FOR STEADY, LONG RIDES

Cycling is an aerobic activity, excellent for burning fat. Cycle at a moderate pace, three times a week for about two hours each time. Or go for long rides of 6 hours.

5) KEEP YOUR UPPER BODY FIT

Cyclists use their legs primarily and run the risk of getting noodle arms i.e arms with little muscle mass in them. For this it is necessary to do upper body workouts. Try to work with weights, or do resistance training apart from your cycling. Functional workouts are good too. Overall body strength, upper and lower will help you perform better on the bike, especially if you have to handle the bike on gnarly trails.

5) DO HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL WORKOUTS POST RIDE

Want to increase the calorie burn? End your ride with an High Intensity Interval Training. Perform 6 sets of any HITT exercise, each set lasting about two minutes, and give yourself a 30 second rest in between. This will just push your calorie burn a little further. It will also increase your metabolism for the next 12 hours, helping you burn calories through the course of the day.

7) DON’T LET THE WEIGHT AND WEIGHING SCALE HOLD YOU BACK

Get out and ride! As you lose weight the cycling gets easier. You do not have to do a long, intense, gruelling ride each time. Just cycle regularly. Every time you begin to cycle it will take up your heart-rate, and condition your body to get going. Also, expect your body weight to fluctuate based on how much water your body is storing, how much you sweat. If you want to consult the scale, watch it for major changes over a couple of weeks, instead of being data-driven over the course of a single day as your weight will vary.

Also remember, every other cyclist is rooting for you and is happy to see that you are joining the clan. Cyclists are, across the world, a very supportive community. Yes, it can get a little cult-ish.

8) STAY HYDRATED

Carry a bottle or a hydration bag during your ride and stay hydrated. This will allow you to sustain yourself during workouts, ride longer and meet your weight loss goals. In the Indian summer it is particularly important as the cyclist sweats a lot, losing not just water but necessary body salts. You can mix an energy and electrolyte mix in one of the two bottles you may carry, to replenish your body salts and energy while riding. 

9) TRAIN INDOORS

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If you cannot head out in the morning, or it simply does not fit into your schedule, get an indoor trainer and cycle indoors. We prefer these over the usual stationary bikes as they mimic the position of a real bike, and many trainers mimic on-road conditions allowing you to get a “real feel”.

Read our article on how to buy an indoor trainer.

The trainers now also connect with apps like Zwift and Fulgaz allowing you to do virtual rides with your friends online, and ride famous routes virtually like those of Tour De France with uphills simulated by the trainer. And if you feel like riding outdoors, on the weekend perhaps, you can simply take your bike off the trainer and head out! 

10) STRESS LESS, SLEEP MORE

Stress reduces weight loss, and can even result in weight gain. Cycling is a great way to reduce stress. Increase its benefits by getting a good night’s sleeps and allowing your body to repair itself. This is one the best recovery methods. Doctors also recommend that you keep in tune with your circadian rhythm and sleep not just any 8 hours, but 8 hours at night. Lose weight with peaceful and full sleep!

BONUS TIP: JOIN A CYCLING GROUP

While some people love to cycle solo, most like to ride in groups. One socialises, cracks jokes or just gets immersed in peloton riding, with focus on the sport and weight loss becomes a convenient by-product of the activity. Find the best cycling groups in India to join and start this exercise, nay, lifestyle now!


Finally, if you do not lose much weight on the whole, don’t worry. Internal changes would have happened like your muscles getting stronger, core getting more solid, and your body conditioned for exercise. Sometimes gains come fast, sometimes slow, but with every ride you gain (results, not weight)!

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