Why can I cycle 200-250 miles a week and still not lose weight?

Question

Hey guys, throwing myself out there…one of our fellow cyclists asked a question that I have discussed a few times in the past with friends and family. It’s a little long but really, it’s the short version with as little bias as I can manage. Feedback is encouraged!!

Question: Why can I cycle 200-250 miles a week and still not lose weight?

Short answer: Your training is similar to an endurance athlete, which is fine, but it has a counter-intuitive side to it as well, if your goal is to lose fat. When you train for long distances, you’re trying to get your body to work as efficiently as possible for as long as possible. For the first 4-6 weeks, you will see a lot of results from that routine, but after that, your body isn’t going to respond to that stress in the same aggressive manner it did in the beginning. Physically, your body has adapted to that stimulus. Don’t let that discourage you! What you do from here is switch it up. Throw in short, explosive , anaerobic work to build strength and muscle mass (just take a look at a sprinter of any sport). If you’re interested in simply losing weight, both paths will get you there, but if you want a shortcut, it is always a good idea to mix the two tactics. Maybe a simple “Sprint-Distance-Rest” split could work for you.

Now let’s talk about food! The correct answer regarding nutrition is to always seek out the help of a registered nutritionist or dietitian. If you are like most every-day recreational commuters, there is little desire to go that far and beyond. The easiest answer here is to meet the basics of dietary requirements and live by a few simple rules: Eat often (4-6 meals a day), eat close to the source, keep a colorful plate, and for each meal, eat a fist of protein, a handful of carbs, and a handful of veggies/fruits.

When efficiency is the goal, it’s much more effective for your body to burn sugar (carbs) for energy, followed by protein (muscle), and finally fats. Don’t read that wrong, you CAN operate on minimal carbs (keto diet), but your body prefers to use glycogen versus ketones (carbs v. fats) because it’s more difficult to burn fats than carbs. Muscle is the only tissue in the body that burns fats. On top of that, muscle continues to use energy just sitting there doing nothing. During exercise that lasts longer than an hour, the goal should be to replace the glycogen stores being used the whole time. If not, your body will start breaking down muscle for fuel. Personally, the longest I have rode in one sitting is 4.5 hours. For rides like this, my basic eating schedule is below:

Night before: ~100g of starches with dinner

Morning of ride: As much overnight oatmeal as I can tolerate with fruits, nuts, almond milk, and maybe coffee.

Start – 45min into ride: sip on water

@ 45 min: start sipping a protein/carb/sodium drink for every 15 min thereafter

@1.5 hour: eat a PB&J or a protein bar with a high carb count; continue sipping drink

@3 hour: eat again

When finished: Eat a full meal based on your macronutrient requirement along with a good multivitamin pack. Please do not go and stuff your face with a giant donut because you “earned it”. I get it, you’re did a lot of work and want to reward yourself. Remember, you have been eating throughout the whole ride and your reward is going to be looking good naked when that time comes!

One more thing to think about is muscle balance. When you’re in the saddle for long periods, over a long course of time, it’s easy to develop imbalances if you don’t take care early. Imbalances down the road lead to injury and injury means gaining all that weight back! Research how to use a foam roller before riding (this is an entirely different topic, so I’ll cover it next time). Be sure to stretch directly after rolling those muscles out. Finally, don’t neglect resistance training at least twice a week. Break those days into upper body and lower body. Push/Pull is a good 2-day split as well. The point here is to build muscle evenly, maximize fat burning potential, add power to your rides, and of course feel better about the mirror!

With that said, you should be focused on preserving muscle, fueling your rides with carbs, and doing resistance training at least 2-3 times a week.


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Answers ( No )

  1. Losing weight is mathematical………..if you burn 3000 calories don't take in 3001 calories

  2. Thanks for your post, really good information. I can use,

  3. abs made in the kitchen 🙂

  4. I do lose but not as much or as fast as I would like. Keep going!

  5. Well I'm a sport sciences student and as far as I can tell protein is only used to rebuild damaged muscle tissue not as a fuel (you have no idea how much damage is done just by sitting there doing nothing) and the body priority is to burn sugar based fuel in the form of ATP because is much easier than converting fat to ATP. Then is fat because is easier to convert fat to ATP. Then it would be protein. Next up is do not forget the minerals,. The calcium ions used in to open the rotate the myosin for the actin to bind to (sliding muscle filament theory) wound not 100% be recovered to the SR (sarcoplasmic reticulum). So having a balanced diet at approximately 2700cal would be ideal to loose weight as the output is more than input.

    No point having a special diet if you want to loose weight only. Competitive is another matter

    As to weight loss plato is a slow process but once you reach one, is time to change the type of stress for example, if you train long distance rides try switching to explosive training, then switch to fast endurance then hill climbs, putting different types of stress on your body is important.

    Unbalance muscle mass in an inherent part of cycling, if you are afraid of it try a different sport like swimming and running. Running especially helps weight loss and core body muscle strength as well as arm and the muscle around the erector spline.

    As to most efficient zones for fat lost is about 75% calculated using the karnovan method, and Borg's scale perceived out put if effort is about 10.

    Side note:speed walking just under running pace is more efficient at fat burn than running

  6. Every person is unique. What works for you may not work for others. The approachh has to be tailored for the person. I do this for a living. The amount of miles riding if not provided the appropriate amount of calories and nutrition can cause the opposite effect. That many miles becomes inflammatory after a certain point. What heart rate zone, power zones, health condition all play a roll in fat burn, loss, muscle loss or build and energy production.

  7. That was some of the best advice I have seen posted in a long time

  8. As a RDLDN, I thank you!

  9. Helpful info

  10. Was an eye opener indeed practical advice shared by pro cyclist

  11. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Because you eat too much

  13. AMAZING … thank you for such complete answer. Very ample and clear explanations…. THANK YOU

  14. Bike work eat sleep repeat

  15. Thank you for sharing, very informative

  16. That was very well put. Full agree.

  17. Is it bad to under eat? I hear this will wreck the metabolism?

  18. So what was the result? Did the person lose weight and keep it off? (Unlike many of The Biggest Loser participants.)

  19. You nailed it!!!

  20. men need to lift weights as well to lose weight..

  21. I've been in the fat loss business for like ever. That was the best advice I have seen in ages. #realworldexperiencewith100sofclients

  22. I lost 13kg after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

    I turned it around by following a good clean diet and as far as my training went, I purchased a Garmin Edge 520 and a HRM. I would go out and train until I reached 1000 calories a session. As I got better with cycling I knocked this out faster and faster.

    Your body can get used to all the training it wants but if you're smashing high calories you'll be set.

    Set a caloric goal. If you are keeping tabs on your food (even loosely) and you know what you are burning it will be easy from there

  23. Thnx mate. Short succinct and to the point

  24. Great post. Cheers.

  25. Diet/metabolism factors!

  26. Sometime shorter trainings at higher intensity are more effective. I do HIIT trainings three times a week plus longer rides during the w-e and it works fine with me. I commute every day with my bike too.

  27. Riding a bike, is exactly that. Training changes your body. Probably means that intervals are involved, learning to ride at threshold for 15,30,60 minutes. Climbing also changes you because you have to pedal or fall over.

  28. Shotest answer: Diet.

  29. Well riding a real bike on real roads is doing intervals. Most of the research is done using trainers. Is like if Kinsey had just watched porno. If you are really going 250 miles per week, the problem is you are eating too much!!!!

  30. Thank you for posting this information.

  31. I never lost a pound cycling 10 to 40 m a day 4 years . then i read wheat belly. Now i am leaner and thinner …almost no damn body fat. Took under a year.
    Age 53 best shape of my life

  32. Try not eatin ANY STARCHES ,NO BREAD NO BABANAS ,NO TOTOES, NOTHIN BUT GRNS AN MEAT ALL YOU WANT , NO CHEATING ,JUST DO IT

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