One of the biggest misconceptions when we set out to lose weight riding a bike is that we need to ride all the time.
We think that we need to ride our bikes every day. That we need to put a ton of minutes/miles/hours on the bike.
We get all sorts of caught up in what kind of workouts burn the most calories. Should we do HIIT workouts on the bike? Or should we do super long rides? Should we strength train? Should we do intervals? Should we focus on over/unders?
Do we even know what the heck an over/under is?!
Even if we are not particularly mathematically inclined (spoiler, I am not!) we start to look for that mathematical solution to weight loss.
The reality is that there is no simple mathematical equation that reliably equates weight loss with time on bike.
I mean, maybe there would be if we were ROBOTS, but the reality is that we are thinking, breathing humans with EMOTIONS.
At the end of the day if you want to lose weight riding, you need to have a plan for your rides and your food. Not a complicated one, Just a plan.
Generally speaking, we are overweight because we overeat. And, we overeat because we are eating when we aren’t hungry/aren’t fueling for our rides.
Interested in learning more? Read on for how to actually lose weight biking!
Tip #1: Make a Simple Meal Plan Daily
One of the most important things if you want to actually lose weight biking is to make a very simple meal plan every day.
And I mean SIMPLE.
Just write down, in advance, in the morning, what you are going to eat that day.
My plan usually looks something like this
S: Snack Mix/Fizz/Tea/Fresh Veggies/Hummus
D: Protein Shake/2 Cookies
You probably don’t know what some of these things are. And that’s ok! The important thing is that I do, and that this makes sense to ME.
Make a plan that makes sense to YOU. Do NOT overthink this, especially in the beginning! Just write down what you are planning to have for the day.
It doesn’t need to be in a fancy app. You don’t need to count calories. Just jot it down in a notebook or a note app on your phone.
If something comes up that’s not on your plan that you want? You don’t eat it. Haha, I know, easier said then done…BUT
Instead, you say to yourself, “I really want that, but it wasn’t in my plan, if I still want it tomorrow morning I can plan to have it tomorrow.”
The idea here is to build up confidence in yourself! Just get used to planning your meals in advance and actually eating what you put on your plan.
If you want a treat? Plan for the treat. If you are unsure if you are going to want chocolate or ice cream for dessert? Put chocolate or ice cream as options for dessert.
As you do this more and more you can start upleveling your plan and start asking “what can I do to make today a little bit better than yesterday?” or “How can I fuel better for my rides?”
In the beginning though, keep it super simple. Keep it super easy. The only requirement is you do it EVERY DAY before the day begins so that you make the decisions from the thinking part of your brain.
You don’t want to be making decisions from the emotional, reactive part of your brain that just wants to dive headfirst in the pantry at the end of a hard day.
Tip #2: Make a Reasonable Ride Plan Weekly
Here’s the deal. How much you ride has pretty much nothing to do with weight loss. It just doesn’t.
When I was my heaviest weight when not carrying a human I was probably in the best riding shape of my life. It was nothing to me back then to do 6, 45 min plus rides a week. And I was about 200 pounds.
Fast forward to today after I have lost my weight and kept it off for years, and I ride a LOT less.
I wasn’t overweight because I wasn’t riding enough. I was overweight because I was overeating.
I thought that as long as I rode a lot that I could eat whatever I wanted. I thought that eating my way through the holidays was fine because I was athletic.
And yes, I could absolutely do those things, but I was going to gain weight in the process because I was eating way more than my body needed.
So, you might be wondering, why am I even bothering to tell you to get on the bike? Why am I bothering to tell you to plan your rides?
Because it feels GOOD to move your body. It feels amazing to focus on what it can DO.
We don’t ride to earn our food. And, we don’t ride to burn off our food. Every week we put together a reasonable plan of what days we are going to ride and for how long so that we can carve out that time to feel GOOD about our body and OURSELF.
Riding is an EXCELLENT motivator for weight loss. We want to be strong and lose weight so that it’s more fun and easier to get up hills! So that when we are on our Peloton and the instructor tells us to get out of the saddle we actually WANT to!
If you see riding as just a means to burn calories, you aren’t going to feel like riding. And that is SAD. You will stop riding. And then stop being motivated to lose weight.
The cycle starts all over again, and we are done with that cycle of gaining and losing weight.
Remember, we are making sustainable changes that we can live with forever so we can lose weight for the last time.
Tip #3: Prioritize and Stick to the Plan
Planning our rides and meals is one thing, but we have to actually follow through with the plan.
Of course there will be things that happen. Life gets in the way. That’s FINE!
But, when that does happen, ask yourself why, and get right back to planning.
The idea here is to actually make yourself and your plan a priority. To say no when someone asks you to do something else when you had already planned to ride.
To stick with your meal plan and promise yourself that if you still want that cookie, that ice cream, that whatever that wasn’t on your plan that you can always have it tomorrow.
You need to build up confidence in yourself and your ability to stick to the plan.
Therefore, make your plans simple. Easy. Doable. Especially in the beginning. Don’t plan to ride 6 days a week if you normally only ride once a week!
Plan to ride once a week the first week. And if you get another ride in? That’s awesome! If not? That’s fine too. And if that was very doable and you know you want to keep that second ride? Plan two rides for next week.
I even will sometimes plan backup days/times if something happens that I truly can’t say no to so that I still get that ride in.
On the same token, if you normally have McDonalds for dinner every night don’t try to plan a salad for dinner every night.
Also, I probably should note I am hard pass on planning a salad as a meal unless it has adequate protein and carbs to actually make it a meal, but that’s a discussion for another time 🙂
If you normally have McDonalds, plan the McDonalds. Do it intentionally. Maybe instead of a 10 piece chicken mcnugget you get a 6 piece. Or maybe you just plan the 10 piece and build up that confidence and maybe plan the 6 piece once you are confident you can stick to your plan.
The whole idea here is to be intentional about what you eat, and when you ride. You make the plan. You stick to the plan. Over time you improve the plan. Make sense?
Tip #4: Eat When You are Hungry/Fueling for Rides ONLY
If I am being honest this is one that I still have to work really hard on.
The idea is that we should eat when we are hungry and stop when we are satisfied unless you are fueling for a ride.
We are overweight because we overeat, and we overeat mainly because we eat when we are not hungry, or we don’t stop when we have had enough.
Over time, so many of us have gotten so used to eating our feelings that we think we are hungry when we are actually upset, stressed, or sad.
When you find yourself reaching for a box of cookies or a glass of wine, ask yourself if you are really hungry, or if you are feeling something totally different.
It could even just be that you are bored. Or that you aren’t actually hungry or needing that wine, you just want it. Notice this. Ask yourself if there is something else that you really need, like a glass of water, or to call a friend.
Sometimes we DO have to eat when we aren’t hungry…it could be because we are a shift worker and we have to eat lunch at a certain time. Or, it could be because we have a long ride planned and we need to get an easily digestible carb snack in our body an hour before the ride.
There is nothing wrong with this kind of eating…just make sure that you are only eating what your body needs.
It might take some trial and error to figure this out, and that’s OK!
The idea is to be mindful of what you are eating, when you are eating it, and how your body feels.
Tip #5: Find Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable
I don’t know about you, but there have been so many times I have planned to do something, and haven’t actually followed through with it.
One of the big reasons for this is that I fail to hold myself accountable, or get other people to help me hold myself accountable.
I have learned that I need a LOT of accountability to keep myself moving forward and doing what I need to do.
I need to write things down. I need to say them out loud to myself and others.
Even simply telling my husband “I am planning to go for a ride today” is HUGE because he will notice (haha and comment) if I don’t!
Additionally, I have a close friend who is an accountability partner. I have recently started emailing her a wellness check in. How often? Every. Single. Day.
It doesn’t even matter if she responds, or reads it (she does, she’s a sweetheart!). What matters, truly, is that I put into the universe what I have done and what I am planning to do so that I am more likely to actually do it.
So tell someone what you’re planning to do today. Reflect on how yesterday went. You can hold yourself accountable in a journal, or you can tell a friend. It truly doesn’t matter what you do as long as it works for you.
A Final Note
Whenever I ask women in the Sascy Cycling community what is holding them back from achieving their goals, they will often say it’s time. It’s obligations.
But, when they are being super honest with me and with themselves? They will say “it’s me.”
“I keep getting in my own way.”
“I know what to DO, I just need to do it!”
What happens is that we want someone else to tell us what to do. We want someone else to come up with a plan for our meals and for our rides.
Really, though, we need to learn how to make these plans for ourselves. The best plan for you is the one that YOU make that fits into YOUR life. I am here to guide you, to help you, and to root for you every step of the way.
I can HELP you make your plan, but I can’t make it for you. If I do, you might follow it for a while, but ultimately it will get to be too much because it’s MY plan, not yours.
You can absolutely do this. I’ve got you, and I believe in you.