When you want to cut weight, the easiest thing to do is to reduce your portions. But as a cyclist, losing weight ends up making you feel somewhat weak during intense training sessions. Is there a way to drop the pounds without losing cycling power?
Here’s how to lose weight without losing cycling power:
- Consume the right cycling fuel.
- Shed weight gradually.
- Identify how much weight is safe to lose.
- Steer away from empty calories.
- Don’t forget fiber.
- Increase your protein intake.
- Perform 2-3 high-intensity sessions per week.
- Cut down on the alcohol.
- Prioritize sleep.
Consuming less food could cause a sharp decline in your energy levels since it makes your body produce less glycogen, which reduces energy, and your power diminishes. But since cycling performance depends on high power and low weight, you need to figure out how to attain both healthily and sustainably. Read on to find out how to do that.
1. Consume the Right Cycling Fuel
Your body requires ample fuel to deliver outstanding performance during long rides or when performing highly-intensive training sessions. These workouts also aid in weight loss, so you’ll want to give them your all.
To have enough energy to fuel your workout, you’ll need to consume a high-calorie snack (150 – 200 calories) like an apple or banana with peanut butter or Greek yogurt and some dates for sustained energy.
In addition, to a pre-workout snack, keep in mind the following points:
- You need to fuel your rides. If you plan to go riding for more than 1.30 hrs, you’ll want to carry something to eat. Ideally, you need to take in 150 – 180 calories every hour after riding for this duration. Likewise, after a long or strenuous ride, always ensure to hydrate and consume something appropriate for your recovery, like a protein shake.
- Eat enough protein for your body size. Protein is a vital component in tissue repair, so you need ample quantities of quality protein for training adaptations as well as recovery. After a long or hard riding session, it’s advisable to consume up to 20-25 grams (0.71-0.88 oz) of protein to help speed up muscle recovery. Good sources include eggs, chicken, fish, steak, lentils, and turkey. You can also opt for a protein shake or yogurt.
- Avoid inflammatory foods. These foods could hamper your energy levels and recovery. Therefore, stay away from foods like yeast, dairy, gluten, and refined sugars. Wherever possible, replace bread with single-ingredient carbs like yams and rice.
- Consume the right quantities of food. To ensure you don’t eat more than you should, plan to finish your rides around your mealtime so that you eat as usual, or you can opt to split your meal in half. This way, one-half becomes your pre-ride fuel while the remainder serves as your post-ride fuel.
- Drink enough liquids. Hydration is vital both during and after your workouts. Constant sips of water during your ride will rehydrate your system and prevent you from getting dehydrated. Continue drinking water for a few hours after a workout to rehydrate completely.
Here are additional tips to guide you on the proper nutrition when losing weight while cycling:
- Focus more on carb intake when performing high-intensity workouts.
- Ensure you consume healthy fats like nuts or avocados to keep hunger at bay.
- When riding for less than 30 minutes, it’s not necessary to carry food. Water is all you need.
- Organize weekly meal plans to help you eat regular meals.
- Add a spoonful of honey to a cup of camomile tea or yogurt before bedtime to maintain your glycogen stores.
- Introduce small but consistent changes in food types, timings, and portions sizes to ensure follow-through.
- Eating three meals per day will make you less likely to overindulge on snacks after missing the main meal.
2. Shed Weight Gradually
If you’re a serious rider whose goal is to improve performance, attaining optimal cycling weight by losing extra pounds is the fastest way to achieve this. Power to weight ratio is an important consideration, especially when riding uphill, and as you lose weight, it saves you that much more power output.
That said, you don’t want to shed weight too rapidly because this could result in loss of power and muscle tissue. You also risk over-training. Eventually, achieving weight loss unsustainably and feeding inadequate amounts of food to support training will impact your cycling ability negatively.
Again, if you cut back on your calories drastically, you might start feeling unusually sore during your rides or notice a drop in performance. That’s why it’s advisable to pace the weight loss, so you don’t disrupt your workouts more than necessary.
Yet another reason not to go for sudden or rapid weight loss is that it’s hardly sustainable. Most riders who take this route often find themselves regaining the lost weight — plus more.
However, when the weight loss is gradual, it’s much easier to lose it and keep it off for the long term. The best thing to do is to aim to lose a maximum of 1-2 pounds (0.45-0.91 kg) every week.
3. Identify How Much Weight Is Safe To Lose
It’s important to log your weight over a couple of years to determine how much you weighed during some of your best performances, which can give you an ideal weight to shoot for. It also helps you pinpoint exactly how much weight you can comfortably lose.
One way of getting an exact measure of how much is safe to lose is using your BMI (Body Mass Index). However, muscle tissue is typically denser than fat tissue, so it can make you weigh more than your size or what your BMI would recommend.
Alternatively, if you’re a serious cyclist and want to achieve your ideal weight, use the skinfold test to measure your body fat percentage, which is a much better metric for determining a healthy target weight.
For professional women cyclists, the ideal race weight is 6-10% and 14-20% for men. Anything lower than this, and you lose not only power and performance but the ability to recover quickly.
Regular riders can aim for 8 – 10% body fat percentage for men and 24 – 28% for women.
Risks Associated With Losing Too Much Weight
If you cut back on your calories too much, your body will lack the fuel and nutrition it requires to deliver a good cycling performance. What’s more, it can sink into starvation mode, hoarding or storing any food it gets, which would be the exact opposite of what you desire.
Therefore, it’s essential for all cyclists, whether professional, competitive, or recreational, to consider food as a necessary fuel for supporting their training.
However, most people assume that having a lean body means they’re healthy. This isn’t necessarily so.
While the pressure to maintain a lean body is intense and, at times, relentless, there are risks with which you might have to contend. This is particularly so with cyclists who push hard to get to 6% and below body fat.
Constant under fuelling and consuming a restrictive diet while training in a bid to cut weight can lead to:
- An impaired immune system
- Susceptibility to sickness
- Reduced hormone levels
- High risk of eating disorders
- High risk of osteoporosis
Fortunately, not every cyclist is interested in chasing the perfect power-to-weight balance. Most desire to eliminate a few extra kilos (or pounds) of fat to get the lean weight that can allow them to cycle and climb hills with relative ease.
But what if you have already lost some significant amount of weight and are currently at a reasonable lean weight? Should you continue losing more to boost performance? As mentioned above, this would be detrimental to your health.
The best thing to do now is to build your power output.
Weight Loss Mistakes To Avoid When Cycling
Below is a list of common mistakes you might want to avoid in your weight loss journey.
- Not consuming enough food.
- Not getting adequate sleep.
- Trying to lose too much, too soon.
- Repeating the same type of cycling workout.
- Eating extra snacks or foods throughout the day. The total calories could end up hindering your progress.
- Consuming the same amount of food every day regardless of your training schedule.
- Introducing significant and rapid changes in food types, timings, and portion sizes.
4. Steer Away From Empty Calories
Replenishing your glycogen stores with maximum nutrition is essential if you want to maintain and power your workouts.
Therefore, you’ll want to consume carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, fruits, and lots of veggies. However, this shouldn’t be a reason for you to indulge in unhealthy foods and snacks like french fries and decadent pastries.
Limit your intake of foods and drinks that are high in sugar and fat.
While they have a high calorific value, these foods contain empty calories. This means they may provide energy, but their nutritional value is minimal. Besides, excess sugar gets stored in your body as fat, something you would want to avoid.
Instead of snacking on a chocolate bar after a workout, try eating a piece of fruit. Swap a soda with a healthy recovery drink as well. The drink will help replenish depleted proteins and carbs.
To build strength, endurance, and the ability to recover fast, your body needs more than carbohydrates. It requires high-quality proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and a wide range of micronutrients. In short, have a well-balanced diet.
A good caloric balance is crucial in reducing inflammation and tissue repair.
Remember, it’s possible to maintain your calorie intake and still lose weight. All you need to do is make better and healthier food and drink choices.
5. Don’t Forget Fiber
Fiber gives you a feeling of satiety even after eating less food.
This makes it excellent for healthy weight loss since it helps you maintain a healthy weight and attain a lean body. Additionally, a high intake of soluble fiber helps stabilize blood glucose, resulting in fewer sugar spikes.
It also provides a consistent supply of energy.
To meet the recommended intake, you need around 20-35 grams (0.71-1.23 oz) of fiber each day. Fiber-rich carbohydrates sources include root vegetables like sweet potatoes, oats, whole grains, beans, and legumes. Fruits and vegetables make great sources too.
For best results, ensure to have the right timing for fiber intake. Since it takes longer to leave the stomach, ingesting too much of it right before a workout can cause stomach distress either during or after your workout.
For proper digestion, consume your fiber to get it ingested at least two hours before your training session.
6. Increase Your Protein Intake
Protein protects you from muscle loss. As you go through weight loss, your body goes into a catabolic state, losing both fat and muscle, hence the need to restore impaired muscle fibers. As such, you want to ensure your body is burning fat and not losing muscle by having protein in every meal.
A protein-rich diet also helps maintain lean muscle mass while you lose weight—giving you the much-needed strength to push those pedals. Opt for lean protein like fish, chicken, and pulses.
7. Perform 2–3 High-Intensity Sessions per Week
One way to turn your body into an efficient calorie-burning machine is to include high-intensity workout sessions every week. Such interval training sessions help enhance your cardiovascular fitness.
You can perform one session after a regular ride, add them to a moderate session, or swap 2-3 regular rides.
f done after a regular workout, interval training can be highly effective for weight loss, because your body burns a lot of fat besides working hard to restore itself after an intense workout. What this means is that the more muscles you have, the more fuel you require and the more calories you end up burning.
To help build even more muscles and burn even more calories, consider adding cross-training to your schedule. Cross-training evens out the leg-heavy workout from pedaling, enhances flexibility by stretching out muscles and tendons, and helps prevent aches and injuries.
You can also swim, lift weights, perform Pilates, or do yoga.
A word of warning, though, don’t go excessively hard on the bike. This puts you at risk of getting too tired or getting an injury and could cause you to take some time away from cycling.
8. Cut Down on the Alcohol
It’s great to celebrate a great workout with friends over beers, but not if cutting weight is your goal. Alcohol consumption promotes unnecessary weight gain. When you get drunk, you might lose a sense of how much you have had and could end up consuming more than planned.
Moreover, drinking is often accompanied by eating foods with high calorific content, and the whole combination leads to weight gain.
9. Prioritize Sleep
Get plenty of rest if you want to be successful at keeping the weight off.
A good amount to aim for is 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Inadequate sleep causes your body to undergo continuous stress, which increases cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes fat storage, making it harder to drop unwanted pounds.
Getting quality sleep also gives your body an opportunity to restore itself, helping you to wake up refreshed and ready for another workout.
As a seasoned rider looking to enhance the power to weight ratio or an occasional rider keen to take performance up a notch, losing weight is critical. A healthy weight target forms only one part of ideal health and fitness.
You need to embark on a process to change your lifestyle so you don’t only get to lose weight but also keep it off.
Follow this guide to maintain good health and retain riding power as you work towards your ideal weight. You’ll find rides easier and more thrilling. Attaining new personal records won’t be such a challenge at all.