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Cycling: Why Can’t I Lose Weight… The Cold, Hard Truth.

June 2014

Cycling is, without a doubt, a calorie shredding sport. Done correctly you can tear through just shy of two pounds in a quarter of a day.  Two POUNDS in six or seven hours.  Now, it takes some time to build up to the distance required to do that so let’s stick a little closer to something attainable…  Two pounds a week.  So, how long would this take?  An hour a day during the week and a couple on Saturday, leaving Sunday (or any other you choose) for rest.

It gets better though…  To burn through two pounds a week you’ll be creating more of the one thing that will keep burning more calories while you’re off the bike:  Muscle.  Properly fed and watered, you turn your body into a furnace.  This isn’t a hypothesis, it’s not a theory…  I live it every day and I can drop significant weight at will.

So if you are now significantly pissed off and wondering why it works for me but not you, read on.  But be warned.  There is no easier, softer way for sale here.  There’s no BS tip or trick that I’m going to give.  Nope, we’re going hardcore reality.  If this is too much, I’ll give you a second to close this page.  I have nothing for you…

Okay, you’re still here.

If you’re having trouble dropping weight, running or cycling, it’s one (or both) of two things:  You’re either still eating too much or you’re not moving fast enough.  Or both.

Let’s start with food.  Food, when you’re exercising, is fuel for your body.  Period.  Anything that doesn’t fuel you well (sugar, treats and pop) should be avoided…  It isn’t rocket science and it’s not what you’re eating (as long as we’re not talking about junk food, snacks and pop – those are forbidden from this day forward, until you hit the weight you want).  I eat fast food like it’s going out of style and used to smoke.  After a full blood workup, lung test and physical, you know what my doctor said?  “Whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it”.  Done responsibly, fast food is legal.  The test is whether you know what responsibly is and if you can stick to that.  If not, best skip Mickey D’s until you drop below your healthy weight.  You don’t have to kick bread, or anything else (except treats, sugar and pop) either.  The trick here is that if you’re not dropping weight and you are exercising rigorously, you’re simply eating too much.  Cut your portions in half.  For two weeks you will be very hungry.  Deal with it, your body will get used to it and those hunger pangs will go away.  Also, when you eat has a lot of impact as well.  Always within 45 minutes of a workout (I’ve heard it’s 30 minutes for ladies though I don’t know how true that is).

The second factor here is speed or effort.  When you’re big, effort doesn’t necessarily translate into speed, but it will if you stick with it.  I’ve seen studies that show a person would have to walk for 50 hours to equal one hour’s worth of a rigorous workout.  Now, if you’re heavy to begin with and/or you’ve got ticker issues that you’re worried about, you have to check everything through your doctor first, and then work up to some serious effort.  This, at first, will not be fun.  It gets better as you do.  Take your time working up to it, just know if you want to take it easy and go slow, you have to work about fifty times longer before you’ll see decent results.

Now for the kicker:  Both.  I know a guy who will suck down two or three Gu’s during a 5 km run thinking he’s fueling his workout.  He believes he needs that sustenance to run.  He is entirely mistaken for such a short effort (40 minutes in his case).  In fact, worse, he’s consuming almost as many calories in those two Gu’s than he’ll burn on that run.  Looked at the proper way, first you don’t need food during exercise for anything less than 1-1/2 hours of continuous hard effort.  Zero, zip, nada.  The refueling comes after.  Second, you will get hungry as your body starts burning reserve calories.  It’s saying “Hey, pump some carbs in here because I like to burn those… otherwise, I’m gonna hurt you”.  This is normal.  In fact, as you deplete your carb stores, your body will be forced to burn mainly fat for energy (this is why those long weekend rides are so important).  Now, there are those who do not believe the body works like this and that’s okay.  I respectfully disagree.  In any event, you want your body to be shy on fuel so it’ll resort to the fat that it stored for just this purpose.  Don’t wreck the burn by giving the body something easier to chew through to fuel the workout.

Also, while we’re talking about running and cycling – if you really want to burn through the calories, you’ll want to do it on a bicycle.  While there is plenty of precedent out there for your body needing impact, at least some, you won’t need the same recovery time and you’ll be able to work harder on a bike.  Running is great, there’s no doubt about that, but you’ll hurt less getting your miles in on two wheels.

In any event, weight loss is simple…as long as you’re not sabotaging your hard work at every turn.


  1. FatSlowTri says:

    Well stated. If you read the book “Good Calorie Bad Calorie”, or “Why We Get Fat” (same book by same author just less scientific) you can see many studies showing that the old “Calorie In Calorie Out” paradigm doesn’t work. I am proof of that. I burn in excess of 7000 calories a week more than I take in, yet do not lose weight. My issues are related to thyroid cancer (I no longer have the gland) and auto immune disorder (psoriatic arthritis in my case which causes inflammation issues). I gain weuight after long bike rides, lose after runs and swimming, but always gravitate back to the set point of around 250 (much lower than my initial 303 though). There are also many studies that show, for heavier people, long periods in Zone 2 with SHORT periods in Zone 3, during training works best for weight loss.

    Loved that you called out the 5k runners sucking down Gu’s.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Thanks man. There’s no doubt there are rare cases out there, like yours. For the majority of us though, it is simple. I’m glad you’re doing fairly well.

    • Adam says:

      Sorry dude. Calories in calories out is the only way… No matter how trendy it is to claim it “doesn’t work”. Humans are just notoriously retarded at underestimating how many they take in and grossly underestimate how many they “burn”. Barring some rare disease perhaps. It’s the cold hard truth even I have trouble with sometimes. That peanut butter scoop you just took and thought it was 100 calories could be 300+.

      • Adam says:

        Correction, overestimate their burn.

      • FatSlowTri says:

        There is no “only way”. If you knew me and my issue you’d understand why CICO doesn’t work for me. It’s the “only way” line of thinking causing many people problems. And I don’t eat peanut butter “dude”.

      • bgddyjim says:

        LOL… I had a feeling that would get your ire up. CICO works great for me but being a recovering drunk, I also know that how I choose to recover isn’t for some… It works for anyone who can embrace it but not everyone can, so they have to go a different route. You opened my eyes on that count…

      • FatSlowTri says:

        Actually I understand some cling to that CICO thing and understand not everyone can (or want to)understand that it doesn’t always work. What got my ire up with being called “dude” and “retarded”. 😉

      • FatSlowTri says:

        And anyone that says ANYTHING is “the only way” deserves to be corrected. There never is one only way for anything.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Fair enough.

  2. Chatter says:

    Good post and well put. One thing that should also be pointed out is to take and use numerous metrics instead of weight alone. In the last four months with a solid meal plan I lost 2 inches in my waist, but I remained the same weight. Of course i gained two inches in my legs and half an inch on my arms. Just saying, but I do agree.

  3. Kelan says:

    Great post! Lots of great insight here. It is interesting how people will make great decision for losing weight in some areas but then sabotage in others.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Being a recovering drunk, sadly it makes a lot of sense, the sabotage. Living right, once one gets it down, is where it’s at… Getting to that point is a huge struggle though. Thanks for the kind word.

  4. Shaking my head at people taking Gu for a 5k. I’m still a fairly new runner and even I know that’s silly. I don’t even do much for fuel for anything under 2 hours.

  5. sxeveganbiking says:

    Spot on! Couldn’t have put it better. I find I only lose weight when running if I’m putting some distance in, I just maintain weight on shorter distances. Cycling… that’s where the weight drops off. As well as weight I track my water and body fat percentages. I’m not sure how accurate my scales are, but the trends of those values, as well as weight, are helpful.

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