Cycling for weight loss is one of the most common reasons people get into bike commuting. As you pick up cycling as a new habit or think of getting into bike commuting you may wonder if cycling is good for weight loss on the stomach, and whether it reduces belly fat. This is a legitimate question because core muscles are not directly involved with cycling.
Riding the bike is excellent for weight loss, including weight loss on the stomach since it increases your activity level, and your body’s caloric demand and it taps into your fat reserve. This is not targeted weight loss, but some of the fat will be burned from your stomach. If it’s accompanied by a proper diet, you can lose a lot of belly weight.
Let’s see how your body loses weight and how you can maximize weight loss to burn as much body fat as possible and what you can do to appear as slim as possible.
You will learn the following 4 things in this post:
- Cycling (to work) will speed up your weight loss
- Some advanced strategies you can use to make this process even faster
- How fast can you expect to lose weight
- The only two pieces of advice you will need to keep your momentum
If you’re new to cycling to work, I invite you to read this complete guide to become a bike commuter after you finish reading this post.
Cycling is a good cardio exercise. Your muscles need energy to function. When you pedal you move your muscles and to get the necessary nutrients your heart rate is elevated so the increased blood flow can deliver these nutrients. The harder you pedal the the more energy you will need and the higher your heart rate will be. You can burn up to 1000 calories per hour cycling, although you need to pedal quite hard to achieve that. 600-700 calories per hour is quite feasible.
The energy is stored in the form of fat in your body. When you run out of energy stored in your blood in the form of blood sugar your body will start to use the energy in the form of fat. Unfortunately you don’t get to decide which parts of your body that fat is taken from.
This is how you can accelerate weight loss on stomach (and everywhere else)
The key to losing weight on the stomach is the same as the key to any weight loss: burn more calories than you consume (also known as CICO, which stands for Calories In Calories Out).
Because of CICO it is possible to lose weight without doing any exercise at all since you can always reduce the amount of calories you consume by watching your diet. In fact, nutrition is so important that without having it under control weight loss cannot happen.
Any additional effort (such as cycling and running) can be ruined with bad eating habits. However, with proper nutrition cycling is an effective tool in speeding up the process of fat burning. Here are a three concrete tips to burn as much fat as possible.
Ride before breakfast
Pedaling on an empty stomach, also known as fasted cardio, is a very effective way of forcing your body to use the energy stored in the form of fat. Cycling to work can be such a powerful tool in accelerating the fat burning process.
Bike commuters who ride for 30 minutes in the morning 5 times a day for a whole year can EASILY burn over 60,000 calories just on their way to work over the course of a year. That is the amount of energy stored in 17lbs (7.7kg) of fat. Some of that fat is fat from your stomach!! Delay your breakfast until your first coffee break.
Pedal hard or do HIIT
What do you think burns more energy? Riding at a moderate pace for 30 minutes or riding at your maximum speed for 30 minutes? You guessed it right. If you increase your effort you can further increase the amount of energy burned because your caloric demand is higher.
If you can’t go at your maximum speed all the way, you can do intervals, also know as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). This means that you ride at a maximum effort for short bursts of 30-60 seconds, followed by a 1-3 minute recovery period during which you pedal at a low intensity.
I incorporated this into my bike commute on the way home, and I can feel the fat burning benefits of HIIT even after I arrive at home.
Do some complementary training
Doing some weight training targeting your upper body is very helpful to accelerate your weight loss. While this will not make you lose fat on the stomach, it will increase your upper body muscle mass and will make you look more proportional (cycling only targets your legs), and it can make your belly look flatter too.
Complimentary training doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours in the gym. In fact, you don’t even need to hit the gym at all. Body weight exercises work perfectly. Pull-ups, push-ups and dips work your arms and shoulders and can be done almost anywhere. Do them twice a week and just after 3 months you will be surprised and impressed to see the benefits.
Eat (and drink) strategically
This not directly speaking exercise, but very closely linked to it, because as you increase your level of physical activity your hunger level will increase too. You can easily ruin your gains if you don’t watch what you eat. It doesn’t mean that you need to count every single calorie, but you need to understand how much energy is contained in various types of foods.
Cutting liquid calorie intake is the easiest way of strategic eating and the most effective way of tackling fat loss. For example, a 20oz (560ml) bottle of Coke a day for a year contains the energy of 25lbs (11.5kg) of fat.
Sweets and snacks get easily get into the way of your weight loss too. You don’t need to forget about goodies altogether, but you need to have a strategic approach to them.
Portion control is your friend here. Don’t open big bags of chips or boxes of desserts. By the time you notice you’re full or don’t want to eat anymore it’s usually too late. Go small instead.
Reading the nutritional fact labels of the foods will help you understand how much energy is contained in them as a reference. The information contained there will empower you to make good decisions.
How fast can you expect to lose 20lbs (9kg) of weight cycling
You can burn the energy contained in 20lbs (9kg) of body fat with 1 hour of moderate cycling every weekday for 6 months. While this number can vary depending on a number of factors, it is very attainable.
Coupled with proper nutrition, your 20lbs weight loss can be accelerated: it can be as short as 10 weeks, but it requires a lot of discipline. If, on the other hand, you don’t watch what you eat, you can ruin all your efforts, and can end up putting on weight instead of losing.
The best piece of advice to lose belly (or any) weight cycling
The fitness industry is full of ads, and con-artists and various financial interests. It is hard to distinguish between genuine helpful information and scams. At the end of the day weight loss depends on you and your lifestyle.
As long as you rely on will-power to lose weight or to replicate a certain way of living, you’re bound to lose momentum and give up. This is true with everything in life, but here I’m referring to weight loss through bike commuting and nutrition.
The best piece of advice and the secret to something sustainable on the long run is to have a systematic approach and to build habits. This means don’t improvise the preparation for your commute and your meals.
Here are three concrete things you can start doing today to start losing weight by bike commuting:
- Prepare your clothes and gear the night before (backpack or pannier, computer, waterbottle, etc) You don’t have to start looking for your things in the morning, so you will be less likely to skip it.
- Decide when, what and how much you will eat before you get hungry. This helps with portion control.
- Keep your bike ready at all times, so any time you need to go somewhere it’s ready to go without additional preparation.
If you remove will-power from the equation by making these choices and building simple systems ahead of time, you transform your lifestyle and weigh-loss doesn’t become a goal, but a natural consequence of your newly acquired habits.
But I will sweat…
If you’re worried about starting because you’re concerned about sweating and body odor because of your larger frame, you may be interested in reading what you can do to reduce sweating and how to overcome body odor.
You didn’t gain your stomach fat overnight, so don’t expect to lose it overnight either. Play the long term game instead. Come to terms with the fact that you won’t be able to target your belly fat directly, and celebrate every small gain. Let your body decide where it reaches for energy. The most important thing is to commit to the process and not the outcome, and fall in love with it.
Enjoy the ride!