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Cycling makes you lose weight, to be understood as "riding a bike helps you lose fat mass", as well as in general helping you lose weight by practicing any aerobic activity. It is clear that physical activity to ensure maximum benefits cannot be separated from a healthy and balanced diet that can only be defined with a specialist doctor and / or nutritionist.
In the past posts we talked about how important it is to choose the best way to practice cycling and the choice of some accessories but we must remember that the most important part to consider and monitor when we do sport is first of all us and our body and like this adapts to any type of physical activity. Taking up the above statement we can say that it is correct to say that the bike does not make up for those who feed in the wrong way but it is equally true that it can help to have and maintain an ideal psychophysical state.
Getting on a bike with the aim of losing weight by forgetting or setting aside the principles of proper nutrition as well as wrong it can even be counterproductive; the sport of cycling has a peculiarity which is the position in the saddle held during the activity itself; it is not the most natural that can exist at a postural level to practice sports. I say this as an amateur practitioner but certainly walking / running and also swimming are more compatible and adaptable immediately for the human being and this is an advantage when you decide to practice a sport starting from a body with many kilograms in excess.
"It is always better to first put the body in place and in a biomechanical condition at least sufficient to be able to pedal". This condition for walking and running in general is a less relevant requirement. Physicists with excessive overweight should first have a check up at their doctor who will recommend the most suitable sport to practice to lose the first excess kg.
Why cycling makes you lose weight
Cycling (not all types but let's stick to the road one) is among the sport of a purely aerobic nature, essentially those in which energy is generated by transporting oxygen to the muscles through the cardiovascular system. The aerobic system or metabolism takes longer than the anaerobic one which is activated in strength and short duration training; in the anaerobic system, the body leverages the glycogen reserves in the muscles but there is no demand for oxygen in the energy generation process. However by bicycle (but also during running, swimming, rowing and so on) you can do both strength work and endurance work, but they will be in particular the latter to make you lose weight because you will work on the aerobic system (cardiovascular system). In this regard, even the most modern cycle computers can give you help in quality of measurement.
During the work on an aerobic basis, your engine uses and burns glucose to function, but during the oxidation process (i.e. thanks to the oxygen carried by the cardiovascular system) it also burns fat. It follows that to burn calories you cannot do it with anaerobic work because to burn a lot of calories and fat in general, prolonged efforts will be required which are incompatible which by definition produce lactic acid and a strong and sudden fatigue in the muscles. I refer you tofurther information to better identify your anaerobic threshold which depends on many factors such as gender, level and frequency of practice as well as on parameters such as age and weight.
Cycling and running: sports united against excess kilograms but at the same time so different
What I personally find in particular when I do indoor cycling (because I look better around me) is the difficulty for people to monitor themselves and understand their threshold anaerobic in terms of heartbeats to understand if they are in line with the type of work they want to do or rather with their primary goal (losing weight, increasing strength, etc.). The cycling I repeat for the umpteenth time it has a very accentuated peculiarity: the position and the type of effort mean that the system burns calories both through the cardiovascular system but only through the use of only one group of muscles, those present in the legs while in running and swimming the energies are burned at the muscular level by acting on many muscle groups (in particular arms and trunk).
From this it is also easy to understand why the work on the foot race takes place even with little time available (an hour) while to obtain the same energy and caloric expenditure as well as training values it is necessary to ride a bicycle at least greater than two. /three hours.
The amateur who approaches cycling for the first time often claims to do aerobic work or burn calories for the purpose of weight loss using the same timing as other sports. They are sports that act on different muscle groups and should be treated as such. You can do aerobic work in both sports but you have to be careful.
Returning to the initial advice, you will now understand better why when you are "very" overweight, reduced mobility and very awkward gestures often prevent you from reaching the right threshold percentage for cardiovascular aerobic work during the gesture: people in this physical condition will never reach equilibrium at the beginning: a too slow pedaling pace will never let them enter the fat-burning zone and for a given period (work at 65/75% of the heart threshold); also a slightly higher effort but concentrated only on a muscle group will make them go almost immediately in the lactacid / anaerobic threshold. On the other hand, the bike also has undoubted advantages if biomechanics favors us: if we are moderate overweight is a sport that does not weigh down the joints and the body weight rests in part on the mechanical vehicle and this can favor aerobic and cardiovascular work, helping weight loss and consequently weight loss over time.
When cycling makes you lose weight
To better understand when and how to do some work useful for weight loss while practicing cycling, it is useful to have a heart rate monitor (there are many types on the market) with which you can monitor your heartbeats.Knowing the anaerobic threshold will allow you to know the ideal number of heartbeats to maintain and not to exceed while practicing sport depending on the objectives. Each goal (for example strength or endurance) involves specific heart work in percentage terms of the threshold.
There anaerobic threshold corresponds to the heart rate at which the cyclist's muscles begin to accumulate lactic acid. In well-trained people, the aerobic threshold is also above 93% of the maximum heart rate but tends to be considered anaerobic threshold work with beats at 85% of the maximum rate for less trained subjects. There are many ways to calculate it, the simplest that however does not take into account the type of organism of the specific individual (if he is a man and woman of a certain age and training condition - in fact we speak of theoretical SA and real SA) is:
Threshold frequency calculation = (220 - age) * 0.935. Where is it (220 - age) represents the maximum heart rate
For me that I'm 39, there anaerobic threshold is 170.
The practice of cycling therefore it allows in principle to be able being able to lose weight if gods are made work below the anaerobic threshold (93%). In particular long jobs with beats between 65 and 75% are ideal. When a person works with beats equivalent to or greater than 80% of the threshold, the training changes from aerobic to anaerobic with evident effects on breathing and conversation that begin to take place with some fatigue.
Always referring to myself: if mine threshold is 170 beats, the aerobic system will work best when the heart rate is between 110/111 and 127/128 beats per minute (BPM)
Basic principles of a good diet to accompany cycling *
Cycling burns calories but it is not enough to lose weight; if the energy requirement deriving from sports is less than what we derive from daily nutrition (as well as during and after the outings) the balance is unlikely to give us the desired results in terms of weight reduction. Pedaling at a slow pace (and below 65% of the threshold) implies a low energy consumption; in jargon we say that "it's the bike that takes you and not the other way around ". Eating food and drinks with excessive energy values during outings of just over an hour also leads to a positive balance between ingested and consumed calories. An old rule of the amateur cyclist when he wants to lose weight is that al "The end of the reintegration meal after sport is that we have to get up from the table with still hunger". The receptors in the recovery phase of physical exertion can in fact push towards overeating.
So what are the principles to follow? An intelligent combination of natural foods, rich in fiber, mineral salts, vitamins and low in saturated fats, acidifying foods and simple sugars with a high glycemic index. It is very difficult and It is scientifically incorrect to establish generic caloric intake that is valid for all individuals. Each individual has a different basal metabolic rate depending on sex, age, body weight and lean mass. The energy is also used to provide adequate thermoregulation. It follows that the intake and quality of calories differs according to the temperature in which the body works. Nutrition also serves for the growth and cell turnover of muscle tissues. An adult and a teenager will be very different from each other.
A good rule of thumb is eat the meal about 2 and a half hours before going out; slow-absorbing complex carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, rice, and preferably whole because the absorption is even more balanced (they contain low glycemic index polysaccharide sugars that do not generate insulin peaks) are preferred. The pre-hydration phase is very important but without overdoing the quantities: adjust based on how much commitment will be required by your exit. In case of a morning exit after breakfast and without too many hours you can replace the raw foods with semi-liquid foods such as fruit smoothies, honey and biscuits for infants; in short, easily digestible foods. Balance in long-term nutrition: limit the consumption of meat, white sugar, white rice, white flour and other refined foods to which instead prefer whole grains and rice, vegetables, legumes, fresh and organic seasonal products.
What we eat is the gasoline that moves our engine and plant and organic or macrobiotic foods as well as providing energy contribute to not dirtying the engine with additional toxins generated by the sport itself; we often forget that the body is like a car that must be taken care of not only when we use it or when it is needed but above all on a daily basis with the maintenance and driving style that we give it.
Those just described are simple tips to apply to everyday life but as I highlighted in the incipit of this post, I always recommend for those who are approaching a weight loss goal to do a personalized analysis together with a specialist of the sector as a nutritionist but also with a good athletic trainer. Together they will provide you, based on your goals, with wise guidelines in terms of training tables but also of eating patterns during the preparation and practice of cycling or any other sporting activity.
For those who are more curious and want to know a lot about these issues related to well-being and sport on two wheels, there are numbers on the market training books and physical preparation for cycling available online and beyond. A personal culture aimed at one's body is never wasted and a reading will teach us and make us more aware of the functioning of the splendid machine that is the human body.
Finally, below I provide you with a series of links from which you can buy supplements and bars for sports training and cycle in particular of some of the most important brands on the market:
- Named Sport
Other related articles I wrote on IdeeGreen that might interest you are:
- Child bike seat: legislation and advice
- Tips for winter cycling clothing
- Folding bike: buying guide for the best folding bike
- Bike and Cycling Glasses: guide and models
- Bike and Cycling Helmet: guide and models
- Tires, tubeless and tubular: guide and bike tire sizes
- How to clean and lubricate the bike and chain
Curated by Tullio Grilli
* Ideas taken from "The great book of the bicycle" by Paolo Bettini - Red Edizioni