Many years ago, I was a police officer. Small for my size at 5’7″, I could not do anything about the height. I went for the bulk. Eating and lifting became my new mantra. At my peak my weight was at 205 pounds with teens body fat. Strong yes, but I could not walk to the mailbox without passing out. Needless to say, my cardio was not there. When I transitioned from policeman to teacher, I was older and had to do something.
It was nearing December, so I asked my wife for a bicycle. I wanted to take advantage of a nearby bike path and get back in cardiovascular shape. I did not need the bulk anymore. This was when my journey began. It was not an instant hit. I did not know what to do with a bicycle, except how to ride one. I have written before about the HUGE learning curve I had (am having) with hydration, nutrition and training. Read and study. Research and test. See what works and what is just plain silly.
Here are some of the ridiculous things I have read and heard about cycling and weight loss:
- Ride hard/eat what you like
I am sure most of you knew that this would be at the top. I despise this statement. Okay, if a rider wants to just spin a couple of miles everyday and cram down Oreo cookies, have at it. Even the top Tour pros cannot just eat what they want. They burn thousands upon thousands of calories, but they replace those calories carefully. Carbs are a rider’s friend, but the rider cannot close down an Olive Garden restaurant and expect to help his power to weight ratio. Vegetables hold some of the best carb to calories ratio, but they are not on many daily diets.
- Forgoing the post-ride meal to speed up weight loss
Remember that the triangle of training, eating and recovery chain together. Skipping meals will only damage the recovery process that helps heal the stress a rider places on his body. Cycling without having recovered fully can lead to injury and sickness. Another important thing to remember is that if the body is deprived of what it needs it will eat itself. Skipping meals often leads to muscle loss and not fat loss, not to mention the slowing of metabolism.
- Ride in the “fat burning zone” all the time to speed up my weight loss
One gram of fat is worth 9 calories. Staying in that particular zone burns roughly 140 to 180 calories in 30 minutes, with an estimate of 50 60% of those calories coming from fat translates 8-12 grams of fat in 30 minutes. Double that for an hour. Think of what the average person eats in calories per day . . . even maintaining a good diet. A ride who does the low zone ride constantly might lose a smidge of weight, but it will not be that kind of weight loss. Low zone rides are GREAT for recovery and a must for a proper training plan, but do NOT think that cruising an hour or two hours each day/five days a week will get the desired effect.
The triangle mentioned earlier must be a constant for someone who wants to better his health and his performance. Eat, sleep and diet are all equal. When one falls short or has less discipline, everything collapses. There are NO shortcuts. Sacrifice is paramount with anything in life . . . a person CANNOT have his cake and eat too. That is one of the things that I actually enjoy about cycling: the asceticism. When I refuse myself to the greater good of something else, I feel disciplined which in turn gives me confidence. Learn to enjoy the sacrifice. Maintaining a good bodyweight and high-level of performance is a lifestyle, not a week on week off commitment.