Cycling, if done right, is an excellent way to lose weight and tone up your muscles. That’s because it’s usually easy-to-do and fun. However, it needs doing right: you can’t just hop on your bike and roll down hills having a jolly.

man cycling a race in a trek bike

How to lose weight by cycling:

The key to weight loss is simple: you need to burn more calories than you take on. Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming and cycling are the best ways to burn calories quickly as your body is working harder and needs more fuel to keep going.

A simple rule of thumb is if your heart rate is beating faster, you’re burning calories.
And what gets the heart pumping better than running, cycling and swimming? Not much.

So, if you choose to cycle to work rather than take the car or public transport; go on regular cycles during the week where you’re pedalling hard for a decent amount of time; or hit the bikes at the gym, you will be burning calories.

However, for weight loss to take effect, you need to feed your body the right fuel and make sure that you don’t have more calories in your diet than you burn. For example, if you go on a 2-hour ride where you work up a good sweat, and then have takeaway pizza and a couple of beers in the evening… you can’t expect to lose weight.
So, what you want to achieve is that the balance (above) is heavier on the right.

But be warned, some people think that if they just eat less and exercise more they’ll lose weight quickly. Whilst this is true, there are a range of negative effects of this strategy:

Reduction of muscle strength - if you stop feeding/drastically reduce your body's good sources of protein, your muscles will become weaker which in turn reduces your performance.

Longer recovery time - without the proper sources of food and hydration, you will feel sore for longer, which may increase the chances to procrastinate and put off the next training session or cycle.

General lack of energy - your body needs carbs to run, if you reduce all carbs because you think they are the source of your unwanted bodyweight, you’ll also be depriving your body of it’s primary fuel source and therefore feel very low on energy.

Counter binge-eating due to hunger. Reducing all your food, eating foods which are considered ‘healthy’ in smaller portions will leave you feeling hungry. And then slip-ups happen such as snacking more, and treating yourself for being so good for such a long time. This is really bad for your metabolism and will likely increase your weight.

The right diet:

Balanced and full of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats). There is absolutely no reason why you need to starve yourself to lose weight. If you get your food plan adapted to you, and exercise regularly, you will start seeing the difference on the scales. You’ll also be surprised by the range of delicious recipes there are on offer: healthy food isn’t necessarily boring food.

You’ll also need to cut-out or seriously reduce naughty-but-nice treats such as pre-cooked microwavable meals and frozen foods.

The right cycling for weight loss:

Ride often - try commuting to work by bike if you can. The more often you cycle the quicker you’ll see results. It's simple.

Have objectives - set weekly weight loss objectives. If your diet is right and you’re doing 1hour rides daily, you could lose as much as 1kg a week.

High-intensity sessions - it’s a good idea to incorporate 2 or 3 harder workouts/rides during the week. What this means is that you’re cycling longer distances, or you’re doing more demanding rides such as uphills. Get your heart rate up for longer twice a week and this will burn loads of calories and boost your body into better shape, toning muscles and improving breathing.

Is cycling good for belly fat?

As we don’t really use our abs to cycle, people often ask if belly fat will be reduced by cycling. The simple answer is that although it isn’t as effective as running or swimming, it definitely, definitely, definitely helps get rid of belly fat. The trick is to get your diet right and cycle regularly.

So the bottom line is that cycling is an excellent way to lose weight. Cycle regularly with the odd high-intensity workout, fill up on macronutrients and cut out unhealthy fats and you’ll be losing weight in no time. And it’s a really fun way to do it!