Would you like to be fit, strong, lose weight and live longer?
Biking is the ideal exercise. It will:
- Increase your cardio fitness
- Burn some serious calories
- Build muscle strength and tone
- Reduce body fat
This is the Calories Burned HQ guide to cycling for weight loss – how to lose weight biking.
Here’s what’s covered:
- Affects of biking on your body
- What to eat to lose weight
- How to choose a bike
- Bike storage options
- Which Biking clothes you need
- Workout plan from sofa to 30 miles
Biking affects on your body
Muscles worked during Biking
The first muscles worked during cycling are those used for pedaling:
The second muscle groupings, are those used to provide stability and maintain your balance:
- Lower back
The third muscle sets used are for providing support and holding the handle bars:
- Upper back
Another key muscle worked while biking, is your heart. The harder you work, the more your body needs oxygen, the faster your heart has to pump blood round your body.
Benefits of regular cycling on your body
According to government backed research, cycling:
- Increases your fitness and helps you lose weight
- Reduces your risk of having:
- Heart disease
- Poor circulation
- High blood pressure
- Various types of cancer
- Helps you build and maintain healthy:
- Improves your mental health:
- Reducing stress levels
- Preventing you feeling depressed or anxious
- Increasing your self esteem
Establishing a consistent biking routine, will give you a happier, longer life.
Does Biking Help Lose Weight?
As you can see from our biking calories calculator, cycling will help you burn lots of calories.
This graph shows the average hourly calorie burn, by fitness levels and intensity, for someone weighing 150 lbs. If you are heavier than that you’d expect to burn even more.
As you can see the more you cycle the fitter you get and the more calories you can expect to burn. All the good stuff builds on itself.
Biking is an ideal form of exercise when you’re overweight:
- It’s low impact, making it easier on your joints than other types of exercise such as running
- The saddle supports 70% of your body weight, making it one of the easier exercises to start
- Losing weight is about burning more calories than you consume.
Does Biking Increase Your Fitness?
Being fit and not being overweight are not the same thing. A skinny person can be unfit and a fat person can be fit. It’s just you have to work much harder when you’re fat, as you’re carrying useless extra weight.
Biking is an aerobic exercise, otherwise known as cardio exercise. Cardio exercise is a workout performed at 60% to 80% of you max heart rate.
A regular biking workout of several hours per week will not only help you lose weight, but to make you much fitter too.
Your fitness is your ability to perform strenuous exercise and recover quickly.
The fitter you are, the quicker you recover. Improvements in your fitness come from improvements in your heart, muscles and circulatory system.
Your muscles need oxygen and nutrients to function. The way they get the oxygen and nutrients, is by your heart pumping blood through your blood vessels to them. The waste from your muscles is then carried away by your blood. When you can’t get the waste away quick enough you get cramp.
The harder you work the more oxygen and nutrients needed by your muscles. If fresh blood doesn’t get to the muscles quick enough they get too tired. The harder you work, the stronger your heart gets and the better able it is to pump the blood when required. Your blood vessels will also get better at carrying blood to and from your muscles.
Fitness feeds into itself.
The fitter you become, the greater your stamina, the more you can exercise, the fitter you can become.
A stronger heart can help:
- Reduce your risk of heart disease
- Reduce or prevent high blood pressure
- Cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce the risk of heart disease by 50%.
Improving your circulation can:
- Stop you getting twitchy legs at night
- Make your skin look better
- Reduce your risk of strokes
- Reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer
- How Biking Compares to Other Types of Workout
How does biking compare to running, walking, swimming or using an elliptical for weight loss?
Taking a 200 lb person at varying levels of ability; here’s a comparison of calorie burn biking, running, walking, swimming and using an elliptical.
As you get better at each type of exercise you can do it faster and harder, increasing your calories burned.
- Biking will burn more calories than walking, swimming or using the elliptical.
- For a beginner you’ll burn roughly similar number of calories biking as running.
- With intermediate or high ability, you can burn more calories running than biking. But this would only apply when you’re able to run fast enough for long enough.
- When comparing biking vs running, the key difference to keep in mind is impact and weight bearing.
When you’re overweight the impact of running can hurt your shins, knees hips and back.
Biking is ideal as it’s low impact and the saddle supports most of your body weight.
When asking which exercise is best, there is never one clear cut answer. The best form of exercise is the one, which you enjoy the most, which you can maintain.
Want to cycle in better weather?
7 Step Diet instructions for Weight Loss
Food is a fuel source. It provides us with the energy we need to move and live.
Humans have been evolving for the past 6 million years.
- We have existed in our modern form for the past 200,000 years.
- We first started farming around 11,000 years ago.
- Civilization as we know it has been around for the past 6,000 years.
- We’ve been eating processed, quick to prepare food for the past 50 years.
In the history of humanity, it has never been as easy to consume as much energy from food. Neither has it been as easy to live by expending as little energy as we do today.
It’s no coincidence that adult obesity has gone from 13% in the 1960s to over 30% today.
The human body has evolved to become excellent at storing energy.
- You eat food
- This gets turned into energy to fuel your body
- Your body stores any extra energy you didn’t use as fat in case it needs it later when less food is available
- More food is always available – Your fat (energy store) never get’s used and you just get fatter
The reason you are overweight is because you have taken in more energy from food than you have burned in activity.
So how do you change this around? How do you stop getting fatter and start losing weight?
You need to burn more calories from activity, than you consume from food.
Make the following changes to start loosing weight fast.
1) Eat real food
Do not take dietary supplements. You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from eating a balanced diet of real food.
What are real foods, I hear you say?
Real food is something you could have grown, farmed or fished yourself.
Ok, so what kinda stuff isn’t real food?
Processed things are not real food. If it requires a factory to make it. It’s not real food.
- Generally any meal you cook in a microwave
- Processed meats
- Breakfast cereals
- Savory snacks like potato chips
- Soft drinks
Tea or coffee is fine, but keep it basic. Not the StarBucks Super Mocha Choca Locca.
You can still treat yourself the odd time to a glass of red wine, some chocolate a doughnut or some potato chips. But see it for what it is, a treat. It’s not real food. It’s not the core part of what you eat. It’s a one off treat.
Aim to go two weeks eating only real food. Then allow yourself a cheat meal. This is one meal where you can eat whatever you want.
From there on in allow yourself one cheat meal per week.
2) Learn to cook for yourself
It can be difficult to eat real food. Our society has moved away from real food cooked from scratch. The order of today is fast and convenient.
The way to eat real food is to cook it yourself. I find most people don’t know how to cook food themselves. I was in the same boat. I didn’t know how to boil an egg, or anything else.
If you don’t have a clue where to start in preparing your own food, I recommend you get yourself a copy of this book:
It’s written by a fellow Brit Jamie Oliver. He based it on the British initiative from the Second World War. The government set up a national network of food advisers and cooking teachers to educate people about food and nutrition so they would be able to feed themselves properly with the rations available.
Also checkout some free recipes and how to guides on his site.
3) Eat whenever you are hungry
Do not skip breakfast. It is as they say the most important meal of the day. Eating a good healthy breakfast sets you up for the rest of the day.
Make sure you eat at least your three meals a day, then outside that eat whenever you’re hungry……..
…..But, make sure it’s real food.
4) Log what you eat
If you want to change how you look, then you have to change what you eat.
If you want to change what you eat, then you have to understand what you currently eat. Many times we’re not aware of exactly how much rubbish we are eating.
Logging everything you eat makes you stop and think about what you’re eating.
Keep a log of everything you eat or drink.
Use something like like the myfitnespal phone app to record everything.
To start don’t worry about a calorie goal or understanding the macros. Just focus on eating real food and logging everything.
The simple act of recording everything you eat will make you eat less.
5) Go to bed early and get up early
Do you often sit up till 11pm, or midnight watching TV, then get up at 6:30am or 7:00am?
That’s a long time since after your dinner, maybe 5 – 7 hours. Staying up this late will make you start to feel hungry again. The likelihood of snacking becomes all to real.
Try this for 2 weeks.
Get up 1 hour 30 minutes earlier than normal. So if you usually wake at 6:30am, set your alarm for 5:00am. As soon as the alarm goes off, force yourself to jump out of bed.
So you’re up a full 1 hour 30 minutes earlier than normal. Get on with something. Splash some water on your face and do something to occupy yourself.
- Go for a bike ride
- Get on with some work
- Tidy the house
You’ll realize how useful this extra time in your life actually is.
Have a cup of coffee if you want, but don’t eat breakfast until your normal time. You most likely won’t want to eat anything first thing anyway.
Now the whole point of getting up early, was not just about overcoming the resistance to get out of bed. Neither was it just about getting more time for a bike ride.
Getting up early will make you want to go to bed earlier.
Going to bed earlier will mean:
- You’re not sitting around late at night snacking
- You get more productive time early in the morning
- You teach your brain to overcome the resistance to change
6) Weigh yourself every morning
Get some simple cheap scales like these.
When you get up in the morning. Urinate, then weigh yourself.
Repeat this at the same time every morning.
You won’t see massive weight loss on a day to day basis. But weighing yourself everyday will do a couple of things:
- It keeps you focused and on target
- It helps you to learn how what you do day to day affects your weight
Record your weight in your myfitnespal app on your phone.
Although you’re weighing and recording day by day, only judge your progress week by week.
Compare your weight Monday morning to the following Monday morning.
7) Reduce the starchy high carbs
You should have already started to lose weight by just cleaning up your diet and moving to real food.
You’ve stopped your late night snacking by getting up earlier.
You’ve weened yourself off sugar and can now taste when something is too sweet.
Reducing your carb intake is the final piece. Give this stage 2 weeks and you’ll see a big drop in your weight as your body starts to burn fat for energy.
So what are carbs?
They are one of the three macronutrients.
- Carbohydrates (carbs)
There are two types of carb rich foods. Simple and complex. The difference between them is at the level of the chemical structure. It affects the speed with which they release sugars into your body.
Simple carbs release sugar fast.
They’ll give you a quick sugar spike, where you’ll feel like you’ve got lots of energy.
Then your sugar level will drop and you’ll start to feel tired.
Simple carb foods are things with added sugar like the processed foods you’ve already cut out. But also many fruits and milk.
Complex carbs take a long time to release the sugar over the cause of the day.
You won’t get the quick spike and crash.
Complex carb foods are the starches, fibres and sugars in vegetables and grains.
If you want to lose weight fast aim to eat less than 100g of carbs per day and the ones you do eat should be complex carbs.
If you’re already using myfitnesspal to track your food. This will also tell you your carb intake.
So, what the hell should I eat?
You should replace the carbs with high levels of protein and fat.
Don’t worry eating fat doesn’t’ make you fat. It actually makes you feel full.
Eat plenty of:
- Fats and oils: olive oil, fish oil, butter, coconut oil
- Meat: chicken, beef, pork, lamb etc
- Fish: cod, salmon, haddock etc
- Vegetables / salad: broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cabbage, peppers
- Low sugar fruit: strawberries, watermelon, raspberries, blue berries
- Dairy (high fat not milk): butter,
Eat small amounts of:
- Brown rice
- Beans: green beans, black beans
- Root vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots
Eat as a treat (no more than once per week):
- Dark chocolate: 70%
- Dry wine with no added sugar
- Water: still or sparkling
- Coffee: (black or with small amounts of milk)
Choosing a Bike
So you’ve decided you want into this biking thing. Great for burning calories and keeping you fit, but you haven’t got a bike or rider one since you were kid.
How to Choose the Size of Your Bike
Children’s bikes are often measured in wheel size, most adult bikes have a wheel size of 26″.
Frame size is the distance from where the saddle connects to where the pedals connect.
If your bike is the correct size you should be able to:
- Sit on the saddle with your tiptoes just touching the group either side
- Reach the handle bars with ease
If it’s not a comfortable reach to the handlebars, choose a smaller size frame and raise the saddle.
This table gives you a rough estimate of frame size from inside leg measurement. Measure your inside leg from crotch to the floor, ensuring your feet are flat on the ground.
There are 3 main types of bikes and the type that best for you will depend on what type of biking you want to do.
Road bikes are for:
- Going long distances
- Going fast
- Low handlebars, often with curved handles
- Thin tires
- Small saddle
Road bikes are lightweight, fast and agile. The dropped handlebars make you lean forward, putting you in an aerodynamic position
A road bike is ideal if you want to do racing and will be only cycling on well paved roads.
They are not suitable for any off road biking or any less than perfect roads.
Mountain bikes are:
- Strong and sturdy
- Built for off road riding on rough ground
- Higher, straight handle bars
- Fat tires with lots of big grip
- Suspension systems for shock absorbance
- Lots of gears for steep hill climbing
A mountain bike will be heavy, making it slower than a road bike. But the bike takes the impact of rough terrain rather that you.
They are ideal if you will be doing lots of off road, rough, rocky ground type riding.
They are not suitable if you’re looking for riding fast on well paved roads.
Hybrid bikes are:
- A combination of the best features of a road bike and a mountain bike
- Heavier than a road bike, but lighter than a mountain bike
- Higher straight handlebars, like a mountain bike
- Thicker, sturdier tires than road bikes
- Lots of gears like mountain bikes
Hybrid bikes are ideal for:
- Less than perfect city roads
- Not too rough, bike trails
They are not suitable for rough conditions off road.
If you are completely new to cycling and are looking for something all round to just get your out on the road.
Go for a hybrid bike.
Bikes for Big Guys & Girls
If you’re currently close to, or over 300lbs then take a look at bikes for big guys. There are some specific things to look out for in terms of weight support, saddles and tires.
Bike Storage Options
If you’ve just got yourself a new bike to lose weight, the last thing you want is to be tripping over it in your hallway.
Don’t worry there are plenty of options to store it indoors or in your garage where you can get easy access to it?
Below are all the different types of bike storage options available for mounting to walls, ceiling or the floor.
Bike clothing serves multiple purposes. It’s light weight & practical, it’s comfortable and it’s geared around helping to keep you safe on your bike.
The purpose of a bike helmet is to:
- Protect your head from injury
- Make you more visible to drivers – If it has lighting
People are often confused by the conflicting public advice on the usage of helmets. Some states and countries mandate helmets for cyclists, while others don’t.
When governments discuss if they should mandate helmet wear this is the argument against:
- “Biking improves public health by making people fitter and reducing obesity”
- “Some people don’t like wearing helmet, if we make people wear helmets less people ride bikes”
- “If less people ride bikes, the average public health will be lower”
Yet on an individual basis, helmets are definitely a must.
If your head makes contact with the ground or a car, you don’t care about average public health. You care about protecting your head.
Here’s 5 of the best bike helmets with lights:
See bike helmets with lights for more details.
Biking Shorts & Leggings
The purpose of biking shorts or leggings is to:
- Draw sweat away from your skin
- Prevent chaffing from seams
- Provide padding
- Reduce air resistance and drag
Cycling shorts prevent chaffing. The seams are in places so they won’t rub. They are flexible and tight fitting, while being breathable to draw sweat away from you.
Biking shorts or leggings come with cushioning called a chamois.
This may look funny at first, but it’s designed to give your backside padding when sitting on the saddle.
Do not wear underwear with biking shorts. Putting underwear between your body and your cycling shorts defeats the purpose of them.
If you don’t want to wear tight lycra shorts, or want to play it a bit more casual, there are also baggy looking shorts. These are in fact the same tight shorts, with all the benefits, with a baggy more casual looking outside.
When the temperature starts to drop in winter get some biking tights.
Biking tights, like the shorts have seams that won’t rub. They draw sweat away from you and also contain the chamois padding and come in either ¾ or full length.
Here’s a guide for waist sizes when buying shorts or tights:
The purpose of cycling gloves is provide you:
- Padding to cushion your hands
- Protection if you fall
- Extra grip on the handlebars and brakes
- Warmth in the winter
Gloves comes in various types of material and thickness. The right gloves for you will depend on which of the above features you want to focus on the most.
They range in size from S through to XXL, here’s how the glove sizes match up with hand width:
|Manufacturer size||Hand width|
Cycling glasses are useful no mater the time of year. Not only do they protect your eyes from the glare of sun, but also stop bugs flying into them.
Glasses come in either:
These are some of the most popular cycling glasses*.
The purpose of biking socks is to:
- Draw sweat away from your skin
- Provide padding under your soles
- Provide insulation from wet and cold
- Prevent blisters
The purpose of bike shoes are to:
- Clip onto pedals via cleats, so you feet don’t slip off
- Give you a stiff sole, which helps optimize transfer of power to the the pedal
Depending on the shoes, the cleats may stand proud or recessed or be removable.
Proud standing cleats are typical of racing shoes. Recessed or removable cleats are often for mountain biking.
As there are different types of cleats, make sure to get some shoes, compatible with your bike pedals.
These are some of the most popular Bike Shoes*.
The purpose of a biking jersey is to:
- Draw sweat away from your skin
- Avoid chafing
- Reduce air resistance and drag
- Increase your visability
- Provide pockets
A biking jersey will help draw sweat away from your body and have seams in positions that won’t rub your skin. Both of these factors will help avoid chafing and soreness.
Jerseys are also tight to reduce the air resistance and drag, helping you maximize speed.
Many jerseys have bright designs and reflective strips increasing your visibility to drivers.
A jersey will often have one or more small pockets in the back for store while out riding.
The purpose of a biking jacket is to:
- Provide a waterproof layer
- Provide insulation from the cold, while being breathable
- Increase your visibility
- Provide pockets
A jacket will provide you with an extra layer of protection from the elements. It will be water proof and insulated to protect your from the rain and cold. While still allowing air to circulate and not make you overheat.
Many jackets have bright designs and reflective strips, increasing your visibility to drivers.
Lots of jackets have side or rear pockets for storage wile out riding.
Biking Workout for Beginners
You’ve decided you want to start riding for weight loss, you’ve got the gear, how do you start out?
This 8 week workout will guide you from no biking fitness through to the point where you can ride for 3 hours, which is typically going to be around 30 miles.
Every week involves 3 rides. You can do them on whichever day works for you, but always include a day’s rest in between each ride.
Use all gears necessary to keep your pedals going round at 80 – 90 rpm – This is your cadence.
If you haven’t got a speed / cadence monitor*, just count the rotations of one foot in a minute to estimate your cadence. When you need to increase the intensity, keep the same cadence just choose a higher gear to make it harder.