I tend to leave these clickbait type articles for lower rent cycling websites but I’m making an exception in this case. That’s all because I met up with a man last Sunday when I was enjoying a sunny ride in Cornwall. We got talking and he mentioned that he initially got into cycling to lose weight. He had lost three stone or so but was still struggling to get a flat stomach.
That got me thinking about the reality of the MAMIL and how hard or easy it is to keep a flat stomach in cycling. Many cyclists suffer from a weak core and I count myself among them. Planks are hard and sit-ups don’t work so what is a man to do?
Unfortunately, all we can do is concentrate on fat burning and hope that some of it comes off our middle. There are a few ways to accelerate fat burning though.
Zone 2 riding
Zone 2 riding is all about endurance. It should be part of every cyclist’s routine in the off season or throughout the year if you’re not a racer. Zone 2 is where we hit our aerobic threshold. Where the body becomes better at metabolising fat as fuel and where capillaries are forced to grow deeper into muscles to deliver enough oxygen. All things that will benefit a cyclist.
For losing belly fat on the bike, we are obviously most interested in metabolising fat. While this won’t isolate belly fat, it will burn whatever fat you have lying around, some of which is bound to be from the middle.
The challenge of zone 2 riding is maintaining it. It’s a long, steady pace that makes it feel like you’re not working yourself hard enough. But you are. So willpower is needed to maintain the pace for as long as your ride dictates. It will pay dividends in the long run.
Fasted riding is helpful in that it forces the body to metabolise fat for fuel. By riding on an empty stomach, you’re essentially riding with an empty tank. Your body then has to use glycogen stores and then body fat in order to get you round the course. Integrating occasional fasted rides into your routine can help burn fat fast.
I tend to do it on the turbo as the hills round here demand more energy than I can deliver when fasted. Your mileage will vary, just be aware of your mental state and watch out for the bonk.
Love them, hate them, love them, hate them. Interval training is a hard but very rewarding discipline that is often best done on the turbo. Unless you have a nice quiet flat road where you live, it is difficult to do intervals properly out in the wild.
Interval training helps build aerobic endurance and there is now a lot of science behind it. Short intervals of 30 seconds or so are ideal. For beginners, a set of five 30 second intervals at almost full tilt with a minute between them to a maximum of ten bursts per ride once a week will do. More experienced riders can do the same with shorter rests between.
I talk about bodyweight training in ‘The ten minute bodyweight training routine for cyclists’ but it is worth reiterating here. Exercises like the plank and push ups strengthen the core which is essential for cyclists. There is also a minor fat burning benefit here too which is worth the effort
By making the muscles stronger, they are better able to maintain cadence and effort which helps with general riding.
Eating well has an obvious benefit in providing you with the nutrients you need to get fit, lose weight and stay healthy. Striking the balance between running a calories deficit to lose weight and taking on enough to fuel a ride is tough. So I don’t. I would suggest eating healthily wherever possible and burning off as much as you can through exercise.
Trial and error will soon show you where to adjust either intake or output to suit your physiology, fitness level and lifestyle. It’s not a quick win but it is vastly more sustainable than a fad diet or drastic weight loss plan.
Unfortunately, it isn’t yet possible to target specific areas of fat, regardless of what marketing tells you. The only truly effective way of losing belly fat through cycling is to lose fat generally. The side effect of this is that you will be much fitter and in better general shape, so it isn’t all bad news!