Cycling as a weight loss plan? – just eat less

cycling as a weight loss plan

It really bugs me that so many gyms and others promote cycling as a weight loss plan, and indeed all forms of exercise as a weight-loss option. From my personal experience and from the research I’ve done it’s a complete myth. Cycling and other forms of exercise and great for so many reasons but have never helped me lose weight. The only way I lose weight is to eat less!!

cycling as a weight loss plan

In fact, a few years after I started cycling, I found that I weighed more than I did previously but I was more toned. I suspect that is because muscle weighs more than fat.

For me, exercise has so many benefits for my physical and mental health and my overall wellbeing, and it helps me maintain my weight and enjoy my favourite foods and drinks. Like many people, I’ve put on a few kilos during the COVID lockdowns and disruptions, so right now I’m restricting my food intake (notice I don’t call it a diet) so that I can return to my usual weight and then maintain it.

If you’re not convinced, I’ve done a little research which tells me why cycling and exercise alone will not help you lose weight.

Exercise accounts for a small portion of daily calorie burn

The experts tell me that exercise accounts for only a small portion of daily calorie burn. When you work out, the extra calories you burn only account for a small part of your total energy expenditure.

There are three main components to energy expenditure: 1) basal metabolic rate, or the energy used for basic functioning when the body is at rest; 2) the energy used to break down food; and 3) the energy used in physical activity.

We have very little control over our basal metabolic rate, but it’s actually our biggest energy hog. Obesity expert Alexxai Kravitz says that it’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 per cent of total energy expenditure. Digesting food accounts for about 10 per cent.

That leaves only 10 to 30 percent for physical activity, of which exercise is only a subset because you also need to include all movement, including walking around, fidgeting, and more.

On the flip side, food intake accounts for 100 per cent of the energy that goes into your body, while exercise only burns off less than 10 to 30 per cent of it. That’s a large discrepancy, and it’s why cycling and exercise alone does not lead to weight loss.

Don’t be disheartened

But don’t been disheartened after reading this, I’ve found that for me eating better and exercise go hand in hand which is likely why people, particularly those who are very overweight often lose weight if they exercise. I believe that eating less and exercising more go together because if I’m eating a more healthy diet I often feel like I should start another good habit and get on your bike.

For me, I’m still doing the same amount of exercise and eating less so I’m confident I will lose my COVID kilos in just a few months.

I know some people will cry me down and I’m sure there are exceptions to what I’m saying here. I will concede that cycling can help you lose a moderate amount of weight but not lots of weight. And there are plenty of gyms, coaches and personal trainers who advocate eating less as the major way to lose weight.

If you want to know what all those other fantastic benefits of exercise are then you should read some of my previous posts – Fit and Fabulous at Fifty, Doctors should prescribe cycling for mental wellbeing, Cycling improves your physical health – get out there.

Share your experiences of cycling as a weight loss plan via comments or the Women Who Cycle Facebook page.