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Cycling and Weight Loss;  How Far Must I Ride to Eat ANYTHING I Want?! A Guide

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post for five years….  Reading a post written by a friend of mine provided just the push I needed.  Enjoy, I hope.

Every person who overeats wants to know what it takes to get that magic Dwayne Johnson/Michael Phelps diet:  Eat a ton of s#!+, whenever I want!  Woohoo!  First of all, it’s just the Michael Phelps diet.  Look at The Rock’s diet.  It’s boring.  Chicken, broccoli and rice.  Repeat.  A LOT.  Phelps eats like heavy people want to, but only when he’s training to crush a$$ in the pool eight hours a day.

Well, I can tell you how that works for cycling.  Now, we’ve all heard the crap that you can’t outrun a bad diet, right?  Well you can’t, so stop daydreaming.  You can outride a decent diet though, depending on what your definition of “decent” is.  If you’re looking for that “Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese, Fries and a Diet Coke” for every lunch and dinner diet, you will die of heart disease so forget about it – that’s not “decent” by any stretch of the imagination.  Not even cycling can keep the lines clean if you’re going to eat like that – and that’s really the problem.  The Fast Food diet isn’t just bad, it’s bad.

Let’s just say you just want to enjoy eating like a heavy person, without the “being heavy” part, though.  How much do you have to ride to lose weight, or even maintain a decent weight once you’ve hit your goal?  I can help, but I have a feeling you’re not going to like this…

  1. 5 miles in 50 minutes or more per day, on any type of bike, 5-6 days a week:  These calories don’t count for weight loss or maintaining weight.  Don’t be discouraged though – the exercise will do wonders to transform your body and health.  Any weight loss will be due to improvements in diet though.  Seriously.  No, I don’t care that this exceeds the government minimum.  The government minimum is for sissies – and if you didn’t know that… ooh, sorry for breaking it to you the hard way.  [Ed.  I should add that we all have to start somewhere – everyone, including me, is slow and can only manage a few miles at a crack to begin with….  You have to start somewhere, and you’re not a sissy for starting.  The idea is progress though.  If you stay at five miles for more than a couple of months, well…. (it took me a week or two to start increasing mileage)]
  2. 10 miles in 50 minutes a day, on any type of bike, 5-6 days a week (50-60 miles a week).  Now we are getting somewhere!  Just not far enough to eat more than your average 2,000 calorie a day diet for a man, 1,600 calorie diet for a woman.  This will do exceptional things for your health though.  Keep it up!  If you’re trying to lose weight, you should drop 200-400 calories from your normal daily intake and the weight will fall off well.  If you’re skinny and want to gain, eat like santa for six months.  If you want to maintain, stick to the recommended 2000/1600 calorie a day diet.  Keep in mind, a footlong Subway sub is between 750 and 1,200 calories.  That’s no drink and no chips.  Beware.  2,000/1,600 calories isn’t much.
  3. 15 to 20 miles a day in 45 minutes to an hour-twenty a day, six days a week.  90-120 miles a week.  Hey, it’s time to celebrate!  You get one fast-food lunch or dinner and one Coke – per week to celebrate your hard work.  I know, not exactly sexy.  You’re doing great though!  Keep it up.
  4. Now we’re going to switch to just “miles per week” because if you’re riding this much, you’re putting some serious effort into it.  150-210 miles per week!  This will take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a week.  Using a decent diet, you’re going to be losing weight like you mean it.  If you’re looking for that extra food, guilt-free, well we’re not quite there yet.  Your portions can increase a little bit and you don’t have to worry about the occasional small ice cream cone.  Homemade burgers (not the Food Network 5,000 calorie burgers, we’re talking the stripped down burgers, are acceptable fare now and again).  Ice cream enters the fray once a week, but only the small or “baby” size.  Just enough to get you a taste.
  5. 200-250 miles per week!  See number 4.  You get to go from 1 burger a week to two (not at the same sitting).  You also get a second baby-sized ice cream, also not in the same sitting.
  6. 250+ miles a week.  Don’t be silly, you’re still not there yet.  You just figured out that you’re riding so much you don’t want to eat enough to gain weight.  You want to stay fast now, so you decide to eat sensibly because you feel like a Million Dollars compared to when you were heavy.

So there you have it.  I wish I could give you better news, but I can’t.  I ride a thousand miles a month and with a decent diet, maintain my weight.  If I were to eat like a heavy person, I’d weigh three hundred pounds.

P.S.  I’d get used to feeling hungry.  It kind of goes with being lean and mean.  Chin up, though!  It beats the $#!+ out of doctors and medication!

UPDATE:  I did want to mention one thing:  The trick is, with a lot of exercise my understanding of the word “amount” has changed over the last fifteen years.  I eat quite a bit to fuel my cycling habit, or more precisely stated, my understanding of how much I eat has changed.  When I was a skinny fella back in the day, I used to eat like a bird.  Today, throwing down a half a large pizza is relatively normal for a Wednesday…. but therein lies the rub – it’s only a half of a pizza.  How many people chow down an entire large, or even a medium?  Folks, normal people can’t ride enough to fix that.  The only thing that can fix that is cutting back the consumption.

A 1,000 Mile May… and Body Perceptions. 

1003 miles in 31 days.  Better than 30 miles a day, on average.  I needed every one of those 31 to hit that thousand mile mark though.

It wasn’t easy, of course.  We had a mountain bike day or two because it was too windy, but in the end, just Wednesday evening, I crossed over the mark.


With all of those miles, you’d think I’d be feeling like the handsome devil I often write about being.  After all, I burned seventeen pounds worth of calories last month.  The unfortunate trick (Michael Mann, please call your office) is that I think I ate an extra sixteen pounds of food.

My wife says I look fantastic but I feel a little chubby.  The scale and BMI (both old and new) say I’m healthy but I don’t see it when I look in the mirror.  So there’s a particular jersey I own, a pro-fit jersey that I make look good when I’m fit:

The jersey sat in my cycling kit drawer all spring long because I knew it would be too tight.  Well, I pulled it out and put it on for my Thousand Mile May ride… and it fit better than when the photo above was taken.

Shows you how much I know about what I’m supposed to look like in the mirror.

Isn’t that funny, really?  Scale says I’m good.  The internet says my BMI is good.  The doctor says I’m ridiculously healthy (weight wise, my ticker is a different story, maybe)…. but I look in the mirror and see fat.

All over covfefe.

Go figurfufu.

Ah well, if we didn’t have something to work on, wouldn’t life be bland?

Defining Fitness through Quality of Life – or Better, the Other way Around

I’ve heard and read a lot of stupid stuff over the years but my new doctor laid one on me that I hadn’t heard before – that the health risks outweigh the benefits of extreme athletics.  A friend of mine doubled down on that in a comment by sharing that she’d heard that not only do the risks outweigh the benefits, there are no benefits to exercising the way I choose to.

“Incredulous” is the best word that fits, for me.  Maybe “nuts” would be for anyone who actually believes as some doctors do. 

I am slim enough to be able to complain about five extra pounds, and actually mean it.  I am fit enough to keep up with my kids and teach them sports by doing, not by trying to explain from the sideline.  I have a zest for life that the vast majority of the world would be jealous of…. because I get to play for an hour a day and a few more on the weekends.

I ride with my wife, spending hours on the road together throughout the week.  The fun we have cycling together passes on through every moment we spend together.  We laugh together like we used to when we were just kids dating.  I no longer seek an escape from life through drugs or alcohol, I have a Twelve Step Program that I work diligently, and my bikes.  Either one alone leaves something to be desired.  Together, I feel like I’ve won the lotto.  Every day I wake up.

No benefit indeed.

Life is short, bikes are cool, and cycling is fun – and anyone who would put out the garbage that there is no benefit to cycling ten or twelve hours a week, when done wisely, is a quack.  Better, with a straight face, look at some poor, obese person who’s body is shutting down due to complications from diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and poor circulation then tell me there’s no benefit to riding a bike twelve hours a week.  How about someone who can’t leave their house because they’re too fat?  Someone who can’t even get out of bed?

The notion there is no benefit to a good bike ride is simply freaking nuts.  The idea that the risks outweigh the benefits is right behind it.

I wonder if the issue here isn’t about the definition of extreme, though.  While many could view what I do as extreme, mainly by duration of a weekend ride or perhaps by speed (with a fair bit of ignorance, I might add – I may be fast against the average Joe, but I am not fast against real speed), I find it hard to classify me as “extreme”.  Dedicated?  Absolutely, but extreme? Hardly.

The real issue here is laziness.  Labeling a fit cyclist or runner as “extreme” is lazy.  It’s measuring a fit person against a horrendously unfit populous to come up with an average that unfairly slants against a fit person.  Any doctor who would stoop to such a label for a fit person in their late 40’s who is so healthy they don’t take one prescriptive medication to correct a lack of fitness, is off (even if I would view the label as congratulatory anyway).

Life is about quality, and while I would definitely like some longevity, I wouldn’t trade my the happiness for an extra ten years on the back of 85, 90 or 100.

Now, if you would excuse me, I have a hundred miles to ride.  Chuckle.

Extreme Athletics: How Much Fitness is too Much? (And other Fun Questions)

This post is about my experience, strength and hope.  My results may differ from yours.

I rode my bicycle more than 8,500 miles last year.  The year before was 7,500.  The year before was 6,000.  The two years before that topped 5,500.  Add my miles up over the last six years and I’m well into my second time around the world (38,000 miles and change).  I ride an average of better than six days a week, but I never considered what I do “extreme”.  Intense, maybe, but not extreme.  Extreme was for those crazy people who are running marathons through the desert, or who take a couple of weeks to cycle across the US…  Not me.

The last time I sat in a doctor’s office (something like 3 or four years ago), after having a full blood workup, my doctor said, “Whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it”.  Cholesterol, blood sugar, my “inflammation” numbers… by every measure I was extremely healthy.  In that case, extreme was good.

Going back three doctors and a decade there has been concern over my EKG readings though.  The first cause for concern was the “spike”.  My “spike” is big.  Really big.  The spike led to an ultrasound of my heart and an “all clear”.  I even called my doctor back to make sure I’d heard right in his office, that I was clear to continue exercising as I had been.  The worry was that my heart was enlarged.  While it is a little bigger than normal, it was discovered that it’s not really that big, it’s just strong.

Over the ensuing years I cut days off the bike to a point where I’ll now go for a month or two without taking a day off.  I simply substitute easy days for taking a day off (three easy days a week).  That’s not “extreme”, right?

Well, maybe not.  It’s the duration.

According to my new doctor, who I know personally and have for years, and whom I trust to look out for me, there’s a new understanding that’s come about over the last three to five years about what happens after that spike in the EKG that I mentioned earlier.  I can’t remember all of the jargon, but there’s a drop after the spike (which is normal) but there’s a small rise after that drop followed by another small drop that shouldn’t be there.  It was once thought that the small rise was benign.  Sadly for me, “once” is a very big word in that last sentence.

Unfortunately, because Government-down Obamacare sucks, I can’t be referred to a cardiologist to have my ticker checked out because I’m too healthy.  While my EKG shows signs for concern, I’m not exhibiting any negative symptoms or problems related to that little rise….  On the other hand and thankfully, Democrats didn’t go full stupid for a Canadian-style socialized scheme so I can still pay for the consult and new ultrasound with a cardiologist out of my pocket.  In the next few weeks I’ll be going to see a cardiologist about how to make my ticker keep up with the rest of me.  Where this gets really fun, if there is something wrong with my pump, we’ll catch it early enough that the available treatment options will work excellently because I’m so damned healthy.

Anyway, back to the main topic:  How much fitness is “extreme”?  I don’t freaking know.  I always figured I was a little above average and maybe slightly nutty, but extreme?  We’re not even that fast, above average, yes, but I know a whole class of guys who ride a lot faster than my friends and I do… Then my buddy Mike pointed out over the phone yesterday, “Yeah, but it’s not about the speed.  We’re out there doing a hundred miles in five hours.”  And that’s precisely when I saw me as I am.  If the average person puts in 30-45 minutes a day, five days a week… measured against that…  Their week is my Saturday.  Or Sunday.  In those terms, I may not be hardcore, like someone who races, but “extreme” is fair.

Finally, and to wrap this up with a neat little bow, I still have a lot to learn about what is going on with me, whether it’s just genetics that is messing with me or whether I even have a problem to begin with.  There is one thing that keeps ringing in my melon, what my doctor said about how much I choose to exercise or ride my bikes…  Once you go from a normal amount of exercise to the extreme, the risks not only outweigh the benefits, there are no additional benefits.

That one hurts, and it fits me perfectly.

So, what’s next for me?  Well, it’ll be that appointment with a cardiologist and I’ll wait for his recommendations – and I’ll follow them.  If that means slowing down or limiting the length of time I’m on the bike, I’ll do whatever I have to for longevity.  I like riding fast.  I like being in the upper crust of endurance cyclists.  I like long rides with my wife and friends.  I also believe in one important axiom a friend of mine passed on to me:  “It’s real easy to talk tough about death, until the bus shows up for you.”


Losing Weight on Bicycles; Watching the Weight Drop. Finally!

In the last two weeks I dropped 3 pounds.  Per week.  Six pounds, gone, in two weeks.

I’ve been riding big miles for five weeks now.  Meaning I went three weeks before the needle moved… down.  I actually gained a pound in the first three weeks.  Then all of a sudden, BAM!   

It would have been very easy to give up hope and opt for drastic measures but I felt that if I just hung in there, good things would happen, and they did.

Dropping six pounds off of my current 16.8 pound bike would cost…. um, carry the one….  About $15,000.  The cost of a brand new, top of the line, H1 Trek Emonda – one of the lightest production bikes available at a shade over 10 pounds (minus pedals and cages of course).

I’ve been managing my weight for six years on two wheels and I thought I’d present some of my experience in the form of little nuggets.

  • Losing weight in the first two or three years is easier.  Once my body got used to the mileage I put on it, it became more efficient at the exercise.
  • Age sucks…  The older I get, the more carefully I have to manage my diet.
  • The bike makes it more fun.  I’d ride a leisure bike if I had to but I wouldn’t like it as much as what I ride today.
  • I ride the bicycle equivalent of a McLaren and it is good.

The bike matters, bro. Even when it’s photographed backwards.

  • Cycling hard enough to really burn the weight is more enjoyable on a bike I respect and love to ride.
  • The faster I am willing to go, the easier the weight slides off.  
  • It took three years to get my cycling legs.  Three years and more than 15,000 miles of busting my butt on the road before I really felt like I could be comfortable putting in big miles on both weekend days (50+ a day).
  • Unfortunately, when I got my cycling legs, losing weight became a little more challenging.
  • My bottom line has always been, ride hard, ride happy.  Riding slow burns half the calories.  
  • I don’t count easy effort calories against my diet.  I ride so much I have to use active recovery rides to keep from burning out.  I don’t count them.

And on the 61st Day it Rained… And I Thanked God!

According to the forecast for Sunday it should have been a rain day, spent chilling out on the couch.  We got 48 chilly miles in without a drop hitting us.  Ten minutes after loading the bikes and pulling out of the parking field and we were driving through a soaking rain.

Missed it by that much.

Monday’s forecast was for rain again, all day.  60 days on the bike, more than 1,600 miles without a day off and I was finally going to have a fair excuse to polish the couch with my butt for once.

But the sun came out shortly after lunch and it warmed up to become a wonderful day.  Well, I can’t take a sunny day off, so I figured I’d be hitting it after I got home.

I’d brought the Venge into the office to give it it’s bi-weekly bath and drivetrain cleaning after I ate…

I finished my day and headed for home, resigned to the reality I would be riding at 5, as is normal on a Monday evening.  The radar was wide open and the hourly forecast showed only a 15% chance of rain.

I wanted my streak to be over.

I was just about to change into my Lycra duds when the sky grew dark and ominous.  Then, much to my utter delight, it started to rain.  My streak was over at 60 days on the nose, averaging just a few hundredths of a mile under 27 miles a day.

I was free!

I have a problem with the streaks.  I’m not worried about overtraining or of injuring myself.  I have an excellent “plan” (if you can call it that) and I stick to it.  After 60 days, I am in no pain and my legs feel mighty.  I feel excellent and I’m happy.  I am healthy.  I still look forward to riding every day….  but the streak takes on a life of its own.  “I can’t wait to get home and ride” gives way to “I have to keep the streak going”.  There’s just something off about it, though not enough to delve too deeply into the gray matter to describe aptly.  It’s like I’m riding for entirely the wrong reason.

So last evening when the rain started falling, a little piece of me rejoiced, because this evening I get to go back to just wanting to ride my bike again!

So, what did I do with my day off from cycling?  I cooked dinner for the family, cleaned up the Venge at lunchtime then cleaned the Trek when I got home (and I cleaned out the bottom bracket and crankset while I was at it).  You have to take advantage of a good rest day when you can!:

The Root of almost Every Social Ill is Fear.  What’s the Root of Fear?

The Root of almost Every Social Ill is Fear.

The Root of Fear is Dishonesty.

Period.  End of story.  Put a bow on it.  Just a thought.