Maximizing Bike Rides To Lose Weight

Before embarking on a weight loss mission you should understand some of the fundamentals about nutrition. Such knowledge will help you make the right decisions and keep you from spinning your wheels.

What Is a Calorie?

At its simplest, a calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of water. Or to state it another way, it is the energy required to keep you going. Everything your body does requires calories, from walking to growing your hair. And baring any health problems, to lose weight (stored as fat) you need to expend more calories (energy) than you consume from food and drinks.

Calories are Tiny Creatures

Our bodies are full of calories and they are stored in the form of protein, glycogen, and fat. Protein is what muscles are made of but protein it is also a form of energy. If your body needs to, it can break down muscle to obtain energy. Glycogen is stored in your blood stream, in your muscles, and in your liver. Stored glycogen is typically depleted after about an hour's worth of high endurance activity. Fat is stored in fat cells. That spare tire around your waist is essentially calories in the form of fat. Most of us have enough calories, in the form of fat, to live for about a month without needing to eat anything.

Let's wrap up the discussion about calories with a few tips:

  • How many calories do you need in one day? Everyone is different. Don't assume that you can eat as much as a Tour de France cyclist; as much as someone that taller than you; or someone half your age. In general, you need fewer calories if you are shorter, older, less active, thinner, less muscular, or female.
  • Use a calorie expenditure calculator to better estimate the number of calories you need.
  • Not all food is considered equal. Make sure you're getting calories from all three sources; proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Be aware of empty calories: foods with no nutritional value except calories, such as processed sugars and saturated fats. At the very least, calories should be accompanied by fibre, vitamins, or minerals.
  • Be aware of dieting myths: Nothing will ruin your plan than poor or incorrect information.
  • Your body is always burning calories, even while sleeping. Of course, the more you move the more you will “burn”.
  • As a rough guide, you need to burn 3500 calories in order to use up one pound of fat (7.7 kg).
  • An average bike ride at an average intensity level, will burn about 700 calories per hour.

Making the Most of Your Bike Riding Workouts

Create a Bike Riding Plan
Nothing will work if you don't have a plan that you stick to. Create small, manageable goals, and reward yourself (not with food) as you attain those small goals. For example, go buy something cool for your bike.

Be Human
Be realistic, go slow, be consistent, and be prepared for setbacks. Achieving any kind of goal is not always easy, otherwise we would all be super achievers. But keeping things in perspective will increase your chance of success.

Not Too Much, Not Too Quickly
Don't try to create a caloric deficit of more than 500 calories per day. That means, don't try and lose more than 1 kg per week at the most. Trying to lose too much at once will lead to a drop in resting metabolic rate; a loss of muscle tissue, dehydration; an increase in cravings for junk food; and will probably lead to only short term fat loss if any at all.

Plan For the Future
What will you do once you achieve your goal? How will you maintain your fat loss? If you don't have a plan in place you will most likely revert back to your old habits and therefore your previous weight.

Drink plenty before, during, and after. This is not only vital for performance, but also for recovery. In addition, sometimes our bodies get confused between thirst and hunger and we end up eating when in fact we're just thirsty. Be aware of dehydration signs and symptoms.

Count, But Don't Obsess
I'm not a firm believer in counting every single calorie. However, you do need to have a good idea of how many calories you consume. So, do some research and try to budget each meal to about 500 calories.

Sports Drinks
Keep the sports drinks to a minimum. For really long rides enjoy them a bit. But remember that they have a lot of calories. Instead, focus on electrolyte tablets where you can control how much sugar you add, if any.

Small Bites
Having small snacks on long rides is actually beneficial. If you deprive your body of the energy it needs, especially while exercising, you will start to crave junk food. Once cravings start, most of us will eventually cave and end up eating more than we should. The best way to avoid this is to eat small, healthy snacks, such as fruits.

After a hard ride eat something nutritious. Avoid processed sugars and oily foods as they are just empty calories and may actually increase your cravings for more junk food.

Don't Starve
In addition to creating cravings, starving will reduce your resting metabolic rate. This isn't a good thing for anyone, let alone someone trying to lose excess fat stores. Once metabolic rate drops it is extremely hard to raise it again.

Do More
Ride faster. Ride longer. Ride harder. All these things will increase calorie expenditure. Of course, start slowly if you're new to riding.

Learn to Love Hills
This is where you can ramp up the intensity and burn more calories. One of my favourite things to do, when I don't have time for a long ride, is hill sets. I go up and down a hill several times as hard as I can. By the time I'm done I feel like I rode for 3 hours when in fact it was only a 1 hour ride.

Ride Regularly
Going for shorter rides 4-6 times per week is much better than longer rides only once or twice per week. It's also much easier to time budget shorter rides than longer ones. On the other hand, if you can absolutely do only 1 ride per week, make it super hard and super long.

Leave the car at home and ride to work. Ride to the library. Ride to the park. You'd be amazed at how many calories you can burn with small changes in your lifestyle.

Don't Miss Rides
Whether it's because you have a broken wheel or it's raining outside have a backup plan. Join a spin class or set up a turbo trainer at home. I know they aren't as exciting, but it's better than nothing. Even if you only last 20 minutes on your trainer, it's 20 minutes less sitting on the couch.

Have Fun
Add variety and make things fun. You'll be more likely to keep things up if you can avoid boredom. If you're a roadie, try mountain biking once in a while. Check out different routes. Take cycling vacations.

Partner Up
Find someone to ride with and arrange for committed rides in advance. Knowing someone will be waiting for you will decrease the chance of finding an excuse not to ride. Plus, riding with someone else will push you to go longer and faster.

Sign Up for Events
Find riding events in your area and sign up for them. Charity rides are one option. You might also be able to find club rides or rides organized by your community as a social event. Nothing in your community? Start your own casual riding club.

Not a triathlete? Have no fear, most organized triathlons now have relay options so 3 people can split up the 3 events so you can each do the one you enjoy. Besides riding on the day of the event, this will act as a motivator to help you train harder for weeks before the event.

Chart Your Progress
Join something like Strava and keep track of what you do and how you improve. Monitoring your improvement is a great motivator.

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