Cycling is a great weight loss tool. Combining a healthy diet with structured training paves the way for increased performance. Whether you have a little or a lot to lose, these tips will help you lose weight and be a faster cyclist. 

My weight loss started because I wanted something. It was a simple thing, I wanted to hang with the fast group on my local drop ride. I wanted to be a faster cyclist. Weight was my biggest limiter. At the time, I was tipping the scales at 345lbs. Over 13 months, I lost 145lbs. Here are some of the things that helped me reach my goal of being a faster cyclist. 

For more information on weight loss and nutrition check out Ask A Cycling Coach Ep 239

Target an Event, Not a Number

My goal was to be fast enough to hang on the drop ride, and I used that goal as my decision matrix. Having a central goal will simplify your decision making when you are trying to lose weight. If it helps you achieve your goal, do it; if not, avoid it.

When you develop your goal tie it to an event. By connecting to an event, you have a measurable and timely goal. Often when shedding the pounds, the focus can become the number on the scale. Your body is unique. What is a healthy weight for someone else is not what is best for you. Instead, concentrate on living a healthy lifestyle that results in increased performance.

Aim for Consistency

Healthy weight loss takes time and change. Consistency is your greatest ally. A steady approach will help you to analyze what is working, what isn’t, and develop your new habits. My success in weight loss was the result of being consistent in my food choices and training. In other words, I wasn’t committing to losing weight; instead, I was dedicating myself to a new way of life for the long haul.

Once you are committed to a healthy lifestyle, start making changes. Start small. Little changes are easier to manage and will aid your consistency. As you progress, you can add more changes to your diet. Small changes lead to significant results when compounded over time.

Eating to Lose Weight

Create a Deficit.
Losing weight happens primarily in the kitchen. Coupled with riding, the right food choices deliver a one-two punch. To start, you will need to create a caloric deficit. 500 calories is a good place to start for me. The goal is to lose fat and spare as much muscle as possible. If there is too much of a caloric deficit, you will lose muscle. You can use an online calculator or an app to figure out how many calories you need in a day, then subtract whatever you feel is a sustainable, healthy amount for you.

Keep a Journal
A big help for me in limiting my calories was keeping a food journal. It can be cumbersome to record everything, but it assists in selecting the proper serving sizes, food choices, and in finding all the hidden calories in a diet. For example, I found out that my coffee creamer had 35 calories in two tablespoons. My food journal showed me that I was consuming almost 100 calories just in coffee creamer. Even if you don’t record everything forever, do it for two weeks. You will reap valuable data that you can use to make better food choices. 

Maximize What You Eat
Now that you know how many calories you should be consuming, you can choose how to get them. When you have limited calories, you want to get the most bang for your buck. You can cut a significant portion of calories by avoiding empty calories like alcohol, soft drinks, junk food, and processed sugars. You will be amazed by how much food you can eat when it is nutrient-dense and low-calorie. These whole foods help when battling hunger.

Eating nutrient-dense was a huge change for my taste buds. I was a typical meat and potatoes guy. Green foods rarely made it on my plate, but over time your taste will change. Remember to start small. For example, instead of just eating salads for a week, replace one meal with a salad. Then the next week, substitute an additional meal with one. 

When making your food choices, fruits and vegetables are great additions to your plate. Eat lots of vegetables as they a low in calories but high in nutrients. Include smaller amounts of healthy fats, like avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Finally, make sure you are getting enough protein. Turkey and chicken are great because they are low in saturated fats. 

Training to Lose Weight

When I started my weight loss journey, I was not a new cyclist, but I was new to interval training. TrainerRoad helped me take my fitness to an entirely new level and added over 100w to my FTP. Structured training is an efficient way to create a calorie deficit and raise your fitness. Raising your FTP will allow you to burn even more calories because you are producing more power. A higher FTP means that you will complete workouts with a higher average power. More power equals more calories. It’s a win-win.

If you are new to interval training, start with a low volume plan and work your way up over time. This will give you the flexibility to add low-intensity fasted rides, to drive fat-burning adaptations, or you can include strength training. Strength training will help you maintain muscle mass, improve muscle fiber recruitment, and improve overall health.

TrainerRoad’s low volume plans structure three workouts each week. These workouts are intense and require proper fueling. Eating enough to complete these workouts will help you to complete the work and avoid hunger afterward. Try to eat a healthy carb-centric meal 3-4 hours before to give your body the fuel it needs.

These weight loss tips can help whether you have little or a lot to lose. For more help on reaching your weight loss goals, check out How to Reach Optimal Body Composition.

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Jesse Fortson

Jesse Fortson lost over 140 pounds with TrainerRoad's help. He uses his experience as a teacher and race mechanic to get faster for crits, gravel, and marathon XCO races.