I am a fairly serious cyclist. I commute to work every day which is about 25 miles. I do two 1.5 hour interval sessions a week and I go out for approximately 120km rides on the weekend averaging 30km/h. I am healthy during the week and on most weekend and I don’t drink a lot.
I currently weigh 98kg and for some reason cannot drop anymore weight. I am quite muscular but still think I should be able to lose atleast 5kg of fat. I am starting to run more but I was wondering what is the best cycling to do to lose weight. What heart rate zones should I be in?
Scott Saifer says
Your volume of riding is adequate to support weight loss. You are right to focus on choosing an appropriate intensity. Many people erroneously assume that the more calories they can “burn” on the bike, the more weight they’ll lose. The error comes from the fact that when we exercise hard (near LT) we metabolize almost exclusively carbohydrate and very little fat, while at lower intensity, the fuel mix includes a lot more fat.
Any carbohydrate you metabolize has to be replaced before you can ride strongly again, so hard rides do very little for weight loss. Fat metabolized during exercise does not need to be replaced, so riding at an intensity that actually uses fat is the way to go if you are using exercise for weight loss.
That means you want to ride relatively lower intensity to lose weight. Luckily for riders who want to be fast, the “fat burning zone” and the aerobic base development zone overlap a lot, so doing your base riding, combined with sensible diet, is a good way to lean out.
There’s another common misconception related to exercise intensity and weight loss that comes from the sloppy way some research has been reported in the media: After an exercise session the body continues to metabolize more fat, even after you are no longer exercising, than it would if you had not exercised.
The research that showed this found that the exercise had to be “intense” to get the effect, but remember that when we are talking about sedentary research subjects, “intense exercise” might not be exactly what a trained cyclist would think of as intense. To provide this benefit, the exercise has to be intense enough to boost body temperature and mobilize fatty acids from fat tissue. Again, the aerobic base zone is quite adequate.
There are two dietary adjustments that seem to help a lot of riders lose weight: One is to cut out high-glycemic index foods other than while exercising, and only starting to use them 20 minutes or more into exercise sessions. High glycemic foods include your sugars, sweets, white bread and all athletic energy foods and drinks.
The other is increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. When you see a barrel shaped, soft all over man or woman walking down the street, you can be pretty sure you’re looking at someone who doesn’t like vegetables.