Weight Control


Why Control Your Weight

Many of those who take up a sport like running or cycling do it to help control their weight. There is good reason to get the aid of such an activity because it has been shown that those who lose weight by diet alone have little likely hood of keeping the weight off.

Obesity is becoming an increasing issue in America and one of the contributing factors for the increase in certain diseases. More than 50 percent of Americans are overweight and can expect a premature death because of it. One of the largest scientific studies on weight loss shows that calorie restriction (below 1700 calories per day) is the most important factor that helps people lose weight and that its effect is temporary and dependant on constant reenforcement (NEJM February 26, 2009).

Many people do not view themselves as overweight when in fact they are. Men report that their waist circumferences are an average of 3.1 inches slimmer than they actually are, according to a study from University of Leicester in England (BBC News, February 29, 2008).

Research has shown that excess weight, especially that stored around the belly,has major health risks. "Storing fat in your belly is a major risk factor for diabetes that causes blindness, deafness, heart attacks, strokes, amputations and kidney disease. Almost all men who have more than three inches of fat underneath the skin over their bellies are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. More than 80 percent of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight at the time of their diagnosis." (Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health e-Zine March 30, 2008).

Why Cycling Works to Control Weight

If you want to reduce your weight to normal permanently, you need an exercise program that involves other people so you will stick with it permanently. Many of those who use cycling for exercise do it with others. Joining a cycling club is a good way to improve your health.

Because of it's nature, most people can do significantly more exercise in terms of calorie consumption than an activity such as running. Both running and cycling have about the same calorie consumption on an hourly basis if the person is putting in a similar effort. For most runners, one hour is about as long as they usually run. However for cycling it is not uncommon, especially for ultra distance cyclists, to cycle for 6 or more hours for a training ride and burn over 6,000 calories. By comparison to burn 4,000 calories running, most would need to run 40 miles, longer than a marathon. See these calculators for calories burned for different sports.

At the same time recovery from a long ride is much quicker than recovery from a long run because of less pounding on the body. This is not to say that running is not also a great sport and one that I still do to a considerable degree, it is just that cycling has some real advantages to weight loss, if you have the time.

Of course we have all seen many cyclists who are overweight. If one eats all those calories they burn up while riding, then they should not expect to lose any weight.


Losing Weight Makes you a Better Cyclist

Any overweight cyclists who has lost significant weight will tell you how they were able to speed up, especially when climbing the hills.

Some think that weight has no bearing on your speed on the flats, but that is not true. Take a 200 lb., 5 ft 10 in cyclists. If that individual is riding on a flat course and applies 200 watts of power, they will go about 20 mph. If they dropped their weight to 160 lbs and applied the same power to the pedals their speed would increase to 21 mph. That may not be a hugh difference but it can be the difference between hanging on with the group and getting dropped. For the ultra distance cyclists it may make the difference between just running out of gas, or finishing that double century.

Now take the same situation climbing a 10% grade. The 200 lb. cyclists, again applying 200 watts, will climb the hill at 4.2 mph. If he can drop his weight to 160 lbs, he will increase his speed to 5.1 mph, more than a 20% increase in speed. That is the difference between the fast climbers in the group and the slow climbers.

This article makes no attempt to say what a person's ideal weight is from a health viewpoint. However strictly from a cycling standpoint the best male pro-cyclists who specialize in climbing weigh in pounds between 2.0 and 2.1 times their height in inches. This might be easier to achieve by shorter males, but take our 5 ft. 10 cyclist. That comes out to a weight of 140 to 147. Yikes, I can hear everyone saying. But at 140 lbs, he would climb that 10% grade at 5.8 mph, a full 38% faster than if he were 200 lbs. This all assumes the same power output so it does not account for the heavier cyclists may be able to output more power.

When you combine the health advantages of losing weight with the fact that you will be a better cyclists, it seems clear that proper weight control is very important for any ultra distance cyclists.

Weight Loss Plan

It is been well established that those who lose weight by diet alone, in almost all cases, will gain the weight back. There are new diets coming on the market all the time, but this type of yo-yo diet has proven to be of no value to what everyone wants, to get their weight under control on the long term.

Most mdedical experts (except those promoting some new diet they are trying tp profit from) agree that a person's weight over time is strickly a function of calories burned and calories consumed. You can get an idea of the calories contained in the food you eat here.

The calories burned are two components. The first is the calories you burn just doing your daily living and sleeping. They are based on your weight, your metabolism, and your activity level. Add to that the calories you burn by exerecise. It is this added component of exercise that makes the difference for most people. Here is a simple approach to looking at this balance.

Determine How Many Calories You Need

Note that 3,500 calories equals one pound of body weight. That means to lose one pound you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you consuem. Anyone who claims they are losing 10 lbs in a week are totally mislead since that would mean 35,000 calories, or 5,000 calories a day, which is far more than what most people burn in a day, even assume they eat nothing. Rapid weight lose is also not the goal you should have. Gradual weight lose is not only medically better, but it also will more likely be the result of a life style change and not just starving yourself to lose wieght and then eventually giving in after losing the weight.

You can use this formula to calculate the number of calories should consume daily to gradually lose weight. See Runner's World, April 2008, page 65.

  1. Multiply your goal weight by 10
  2. Add 20 percent of that number if you sit at a desk all day, 50 percent if you're moderately active, or 70 percent if you are moving all day.
  3. Add the number of calories burned during your workouts. See these calculators for calories burned for different sports.
  4. Reduce the total by 15 percent

Jim weighs 170 lbs and would like to get his weight to 150. He is moderately active. Jim is now able to cycle an average of 1 hour a day . Applying this formula to Jim we get:

  1. 150 times 10 equals 1,500 calories
  2. Add 50 percent since Jim is moderately active to get 2,250 calories.
  3. Add the additional 750 calories from exercise to get 3,000 calories.
  4. Reduce this by 15 percent with a final calorie count of 2,550 calories.

If Jim eats an average 2,550 calories a day, over the long term, he will drop his weight down to 150 lbs. It is the extra 750 calories a day from cycling that will make the difference for Jim to be able to achieve this goal. The closer you get to your goal weight the slower the weight loss is because less weight means you are burning up fewer calories, both in your daily life and in your exercise.




This page was last updated on February 26, 2009
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