So, if you’re anything like me, you started biking and thought that weight would just start falling off your body.
I mean you are EXERCISING for crying out loud! Moving your body regularly, possibly more than you have ever moved in your life.
You feel great, you are getting out there and riding, you are slaying those Peloton/indoor workouts, you’re feeling strong…but the freaking scale straight up refuses to budge.
What. The. Heck?!
Or, even worse, that jerk of a scale is actually going UP. What on earth is going on?!
Why the hell aren’t you losing any weight on the bike?
Or, perhaps you ARE losing weight, but you feel like absolute crap when you get on the bike. You don’t have enough energy, and all of your workouts feel so hard.
You are HUNGRY but you are afraid that if you eat you will gain back all of the weight that you lost.
If any of this sounds familiar, read on for some awesome tips on how to balance weight loss and fueling for your bike rides.
Tip #1: Decide What’s More Important to YOU – Weight Loss or Bike Performance
I know, I can hear you right now…you’re saying “Stacy! But I want BOTH!”
And, I know, I totally get that. So do I!
At the end of the day you can and certainly should have both.
In the beginning, though, I find that it’s helpful to prioritize one over the other so that you know which of the two to focus on FIRST.
The reality is that if you are most focused on performance on the bike you can and will absolutely lose weight, but you will likely see gains on the bike before you see the scale go down.
Likewise, if you are prioritizing weight loss, your performance on the bike might suffer a bit at first until you really learn how to lose weight AND keep your performance strong on the bike.
When I lost my weight a few years ago, I was the strongest on the bike I had ever been, but I weighed more than I had ever had before (except for when I was actively carrying another human!).
As I began to prioritize weight loss I found that I was just more interested in planning my meals, etc. and I just didn’t have the bandwidth to ride quite as much until I figured the weight loss piece out.
The reality is that logically both weight loss and increased performance on the bike DO go hand in hand, but our BRAINS have a hard time multitasking and doing everything all at once.
If you prioritize one or the other you are more likely to see gains in the area that is the most important to you.
Tip #2: Fuel According to Length and Intensity
I cannot tell you how many times I have ridden with friends and they were struggling because they hadn’t fueled properly for the ride.
I ask them what they ate before an evening ride, and they might say that they have had nothing since lunch, and lunch was a salad.
If you are doing a 2+ hour ride, chances are a salad 4 hours ago is not going to be all that helpful to you.
You need carbs. Carbs are fuel for cyclists. And carbs are best consumed about an hour before a ride, and also every hour or so on the bike during an intense ride.
Intense rides need fuel before and during, as well as protein recovery after.
However, if you are just hopping on the bike for a quick and easy spin, you probably don’t need much extra by way of fuel.
If you are interested in learning more about how to fuel for your bike rides, check out this article: What Women Should Eat Before Cycling Workouts
Also, it’s just as important to keep in mind that a bike ride is not a free pass to eat all of the things.
A lot of times we think we EARNED that post-ride beer and burger. We feel entitled to it.
And, there is truly nothing wrong with a post-ride beer and burger if you planned for it in advance and you aren’t just blindly shoveling it in because you feel like you deserve it.
Enjoy that burger! Eat it, but stop eating when you have had enough of it.
Tip #3: Pay Attention to Hunger Cues and How Your Body Feels
This brings me to my last tip for you which is to pay attention to hunger cues and how your body feels.
Generally you should only eat when you are hungry, but sometimes for long rides we have to eat when we are not.
If you are going on a really long ride you might need to fuel before and during when you aren’t particularly hungry so that you can keep up the pace and energy through the whole ride.
You may also not be particularly hungry for that post-ride protein shake, but you know your body needs that to recover.
Balancing weight loss and fueling for rides can feel a little tricky for women who bike, so it is really imperative that we pay attention to what is going on in our body and how it feels.
For example, if I am doing a big ride on a Wednesday evening, I know that I need to eat a bit more, and eat a bit more carbs throughout the day on Wednesday. A big carb/protein snack about an hour before the ride is necessary, and I need some carbs on the bike about halfway through.
I will have a post-ride protein shake, but probably nothing else that night. I usually don’t eat dinner because I am just not hungry for it.
The next day, however? I will be FAMISHED. I know that I need to plan a little extra food than what I eat on non-ride days because I am hungry from all the riding I did the day before.
If I don’t, I will start eating everything in sight and I won’t make the best choices.
It’s important to practice listening to your body, listening to your hunger cues, and give your body what it needs. Nothing more or less.
The only time that it really makes sense to eat when you aren’t hungry is when you know you will absolutely need that fuel or recovery for a ride.
A Final Note
Trial and error is really the name of the game when you are trying to balance weight loss and fueling for your rides.
If weight loss is your priority, you want to really focus on not overeating and getting the fuel for your rides just right. In other words you want to eat just enough to be able to comfortably complete your bike rides, but not eat so much that you are over-fueling and eating more than you need.
This can potentially cause you to gain weight, which is what you do not want!
At the same time, pay attention to what is going on in your body.
This seems counter-intuitive, but If you are in the habit of doing a lot of really intense rides, and you are not losing weight, it can actually be because you are not eating enough.
At the end of the day every woman and every body is different. We are going to react to food as fuel in different ways.
Pay attention to yours. Keep a log and a journal of how food is feeling in your body, and how strong you feel on rides. Experiment with different types of fuel and with different foods until you find ones that feel good, fuel your rides, and bring you closer to your weight loss and biking goals.
I am just getting into biking and your site us so helpful. Thank you
I have noticed as I am reading you say a really long ride. What is a really long ride? Is it time, miles or terrain? I ask because I am thinking through how I fuel for my ride because I usually don’t eat until I am done.
Stacy Ann Smith
Hi there! Honestly, every woman and every body is different, but a general rule of thumb is that you really need to fuel beforehand for any ride that is an hour or longer. If you are riding less than that you probably don’t need much food beyond what you normally eat to fuel the ride UNLESS you are really feeling like you are struggling, lightheaded, etc. Regardless of the duration of the ride, though, you want to make sure that you are well hydrated before, during and after. Hope this helps! Thanks so much for checking out the site, and let me know if you have any other questions.