Exercising routinely and not seeing the weight-loss results you’re looking for can be frustrating. While cycling is generally a great option for losing weight because it’s low-impact and burns a ton of calories, you’ll need to do more than just get on your bike and ride.
From focusing your training and completing the right types of workouts to getting enough sleep, here are four ways cyclists can burn more fat and shed pounds from your waistline.
A key to losing weight is being consistent with your daily workouts. When you don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to your workout, upping the tempo has been proven to burn belly fat more efficiently on the bike and give your metabolism a boost in the 12 hours following your workout.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one way to make it happen, and the good news is these workouts can usually be completed in only 30–45 minutes. The indoor trainer, stationary bike or a local spin class are good options for HIIT workouts because of their convenience and safety when cycling at high speeds.
Even though going hard has its advantages, the reality is interval or HIIT training should only make up about 20% of your weekly workouts to avoid injury. The other 80% of your workouts should be of the long, slow variety that are easier to recover from and burn a ton of calories.
Aim to ride the majority of your workouts at about 70% of your maximum heart rate, or Zone 2, for about two hours. If you don’t have or use a heart rate monitor, this is close to a 6 out of 10 on the perceived level of exertion scale. As your fitness improves, up your workout time for one or two rides to more than 3 hours for maximum fat burn.
Whether it’s your morning commute or an easy ride before work, riding fasted can bump up your fat burn. This is because when you’re not fasted, your body burns carbohydrate and glycogen stores before you begin using fat for fuel.
On the other hand, when you’re fasted, your glycogen levels are low and your body uses fat to power your workout instead. The optimum range for intermittent fasting is 12–16 hours, so if you plan to work out in the morning at 8 a.m., you’ll need to avoid all food and beverages other than water from at least 8 p.m. the night before. Keep in mind fasted riding is best for shorter workouts lasting less than 2 hours to avoid bonking.
In addition to being beneficial for post-workout recovery and injury prevention, getting the recommended amount of sleep each night can actually reduce stress and promote weight loss. Getting less than the recommended amount makes you retain weight despite your workout efforts.
Instead of staying up and snacking while you watch late-night TV, ride hard during the day so you’re tired and head to bed early and get eight hours of sleep per night to reach your weight-loss goals. Being well rested also makes it easier to get up in the morning and get your workout in before you head to work, making the option of skipping your workout less likely.