Cycling and health: 8 tips to help you lose weight

Many people take up cycling to lose or control their weight. Getting off the couch and exercising is a big step. These 8 tips will guide you towards weight loss and new, permanent healthy habits.

Before we begin, there is one thing you should bear in mind: Don’t try to lose fat in a specific part of your body. That is not how it works, fat is lost gradually and throughout the whole body. Let's get to it:

Plan and set goals

Plan both your cycling workouts and meals. Do it with your schedule in mind so that you can set "SMART" goals. This way they will be easier to achieve.  

Meal planning allows you to organize your grocery shopping and do it on one day for the whole week, saving you time and money. By doing so, you will know exactly what to buy and avoid impulse shopping, which often leads to unhealthy food and beverage choices; and if you don't buy those products, you simply won't eat them. 

Your goals should be SMART, which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. There is no point in saying: "I need to eat healthier", "I need to drink less alcohol" or "I must go cycling more". SMART goals would be: "This week I will drink non-alcoholic beer", "this week only fruit for dessert" and "6 hours of cycling per week".

Use technology

Technology allows us to plan, set goals, assess progress and achievements, whether it is to track your cycling workouts or your eating and drinking habits.

A simple bike computer with a heart rate monitor will help you understand what you're doing on the bike. An app that monitors what you eat will also provide information and support for healthy eating patterns. By evaluating and comparing data you can draw conclusions and make changes to your planning and goals.

Keep in mind that weight loss is never linear, especially if you are at normal weight. You will have your ups and downs, your good and bad days. We are only human and life circumstances don't always allow us to be as healthy as we would like to be. That makes implementing changes that we can maintain long-term all the more important. By using technology to track your progress, you will be able to see where you were before and where you are now. This way, when you have a bad day you can look back, see what you've already accomplished and stay motivated.  

Stay Active

We assume that you are a cyclist and therefore you are already exercising. Congrats, the more time you spend away from the couch and sedentary lifestyle the better. Office work is not a physical activity, actually many people could ask their employers for a dangerous working conditions bonus because they spend countless hours sitting in a chair in front of a screen. A sedentary lifestyle kills and as the British politician Edward Stanley said:

Try to devote some of your time to cycling or other physical activity by yourself or with others. It can be an hour less of Netflix or video games, playing a soccer game instead of watching it on TV, commuting by walking or biking.

Cut out or reduce alcohol intake and unhealthy food

Ideally, we would eliminate alcohol completely or drink only on special occasions, as the association between alcohol consumption and obesity has been proven all over the world, from England to Canada and the USA. However, we know that it is challenging, especially if we drink on a regular basis. And so is cutting out unhealthy ultra-processed foods. Our body and our palate are used to these doses of alcohol and hyper-palatable foods, so it is not easy to give it all up and go from 100 to 0 right away. Even more so given that we are surrounded by constant advertising, as well as social and cultural pressure to consume alcohol and those foods that we like so much. 

Try setting weekly goals in order to reduce the amounts gradually so as not to fall into a prohibition period that later leads to uncontrolled consumption. The ultimate goal is to cut out the alcohol and unhealthy food completely or leave them for special occasions. If you drink 2 beers a day, set a goal of reducing it to 1 and then switch to alcohol-free beer or water.

Drink water instead of other beverages

Drinking water does not make you lose weight on its own. In other words, drinking 8 glasses of water a day will not make you lose weight miraculously. But if water intake replaces sugary drinks and alcohol then yes, you can lose weight as long as it comes along with other habit changes. There again, we can observe that it is more important to eliminate the bad habits (sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcohol, junk food) than to do the right things (66% of adults consume more free sugars in drinks than recommended by the WHO).

It is better to drink water instead of energy drinks while cycling. If you want to use some kind of powder, use one with electrolytes to replace the salts and minerals, but without adding any extra calories. 

Homemade workout snacks

Weight loss depends largely on what you eat. You have to create a calorie deficit, but you also need energy to pedal. Balance is key. Hence the importance of planning and making use of technology. In this article we explain how much and what you should eat based on workout duration and intensity to control your calorie intake and not to overeat for fear of running out of energy.

We recommend switching from store-bought energy gels and bars with a very high calorie density to their lower-calorie homemade versions or to highly satiating foods such as bananas or dates.

Try to get a good night’s sleep

What do you feel like doing after a night out? How does your brain and body respond when you don't sleep well? Getting a good night's sleep is key to losing weight because it helps us regain strength and energy to get back on the saddle. Besides, if we rest well we won't feel the need for calorie-rich meals or energy drinks to face the long day of work and exercise.   

This piece of advice is yet another one directly linked to an overall change of habits because sometimes the solution is not as simple as "eat less, move more". Sleeping habits should not be overlooked if we want to lose weight and they should be included in the “healthy lifestyle trio” along with nutrition and physical activity. Let’s not get overwhelmed by one sleepless night, but we do need to see a specialist in the case of ongoing sleep problems.

Enjoy cycling

The best way to get hooked on cycling and lose weight is to have fun. You can do it alone or in a group, with your friends or family. 

Cycling solo is an excellent way to avoid stress and the perfect excuse to get away from toxic and unhealthy relationships. Remember that you are trying to change your habits in order to improve your health and lose weight, which sometimes is not understood or even rejected by your social circle.

Riding in a group encourages your change of habits as you are surrounded by cyclists who are probably already living a healthy life or trying to make the same changes as you. Actually, many of them may have already been in your shoes.

These 8 tips take effort, perseverance and consistency, just like riding a bike and cycling. But the undeniable positive effects make it worth a try, because besides weight loss and other physical changes, the most important thing is to create healthy lifestyle habits.

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