Stubborn, stubborn belly fat, belly fat, why, oh why, oh why? Like gimme a break here, why, Mr. Fat, are you still wrapped around my waist, hiding in plain view like an inflated spare tube inside my jersey? Still there despite all the riding, despite all the miles? Stubborn, refuses-to-budge belly fat despite the miles on the road bike, that’s my story. Ha! Hello to you, and welcome, Dear Reader! Don’t mind my peculiar lyricism, it’s borne out of fat frustration! I’m glad you’ve dropped in!
So yeah, confusing belly fat conundrum has been my story… But whatever way you’re fixed for fat, wherever on your body you’re most conscious of fat, and however much there is, I’d hope this mini-plan for weight-loss through fat-burning on your road bike should help. It’s working for me at the time of writing.
So just quickly to outline this article for the very simple road bike plan to burn belly fat and lose weight:
- Check honestly with yourself that your motivation is at an adequate level
- Eliminate your problem foods (2-3 weeks)
- Healthy-eating mindset in conjunction with #2
- Pre-plan fast (24 hours)
- 3x weekly 60-90min fasted and un-fueled rides in endurance zone only (2-4 weeks for meaningful initial weight loss and inch-measurement drops)
- Maintain the healthy eating mindset particularly post-ride
- Periodic Time-Restricted eating
So, yes, the truth is, I’m still holding on to a stubborn belly. It’s a bit of a gut. But as I write it’s now merely a downsized mini-gut. For sure it’s definitely not the voluminous, bloated maxi-gut that tried to force electrolyte drink back out my nose if I tried pushing hard when bent over riding the drops!
Fair enough, I’m not the tallest, but I wasn’t hugely overweight. The problem was that the excess weight never went anywhere no matter what I tried; no matter how I ate. But I think I’ve got the hang of what’s been going on so I’d like to share and maybe something might be of use herein for you too.
Plus, you know what, I look and feel better for it. But it’s not primarily about that. Not for me. Like really, why was I wasting my hard-earned notes on saving 100g on new tires when I was running an extra 9500g (about 20lbs) around my waist and at various deposits elsewhere? That doesn’t make sense.
But I know! You don’t have to tell me, it’s way more fun buying new stuff than ditching the excess that I’d diligently built up over the preceding thirty years. I’m guilty of that. But I guess more than anything, I’m at the age where I’m facing what’s ahead. And I want to do that in good style. I don’t want to face older age in crappy health, that kind of thing happened to my parents before they passed. Maybe you’re the same. I understand that you may have more inches, centimetres or weight to lose than I do, but that won’t matter. I think this quick plan should work regardless. I’m keen to hear if it does or what didn’t work for you in the comments 🙂
You’ll know these already. But I kind of feel inclined to mention. I do care about your wellbeing, Dear Reader. So, if you have pre-existing health conditions, I’m thinking specifically diabetes, sugar control conditions or hypo-tension for example, just be sure this mini-plan is okay to do first yeah? I totally trust that you’ll know best. I’m not your doctor. I ain’t yo mamma neither 🙂
The other factor is your level of motivation to just knuckle down and get this thing done. It’s kinda the same thing as I mentioned already in Can Road Cycling Help Eliminate Your Asthma? I’m sure again this is common sense. But if you’re being honest with yourself and actually you’re not really too upset about your weight, your BMI and your percentage body fat as they are, then I think this mini-plan won’t work, and I doubt any others will either. We all want quick fixes. But quick fixes and fat pills won’t work. Why?
Yeah, because Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was my belly (or ass). Nor yours.
How hardcore we’ve been in our endeavours ’til now…
Let me paint you a somewhat facetious picture from the other side of the mirror for reference…
Think of how diligently we worked at building our fat deposits. We didn’t give up when things got hard. We forced ourselves to eat even to the point of being uncomfortably full. We didn’t quit. We ate zero-nutritional-value foods despite knowing they were harmful to us, that’s how hardcore we’ve been in our endeavours ’til now at building fat. We didn’t quit even when we weren’t hungry one bit, we still overate for the sake of just knuckling down and getting it done! We stuck with the fat-gaining program even when what faced us back in the mirror was someone who evidently never rode a bike before, or probably for no distance judging by their extra inches. But that didn’t put us off of our goal. We weren’t going to give up just because of how we looked. Not because of how our bellies and asses hung out from our padded shorts and hi-tech jerseys. And look what we achieved! Look at the heights of fat gaining we scaled! Never once were we deterred from our fat-gaining endeavours. Never once did we look at the scales and think…
No way I’m giving up this fat-gaining plan just because I’m not gaining fat quick enough!
… we kept the faith knowing we just had to steer the course, and with time we’d gain that fat as we sought. And we came good. Our relentless focus on eating mind-lessly and our fat-increasing mindset might have taken a few knocks along the way but we remained steadfast. We got there. And man, we got there good.
Okay don’t hate me for the glibness (as ever!) Yes, that’s a prosaic way of making that point. But I’m hoping what you take from it is that maybe we don’t always realise the persistence, diligence and patience with which we overeat as though it were some inadvertent program of weight gain we were on. But the point is that we do indeed have those characteristics: persistence, perseverance, discipline, whatever else. And we’ve demonstrated them, albeit in gaining fat. What I’d like is that we take those traits inherent in us and apply them to the reverse process. And it is a reverse process. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It was done stone by stone. Losing my Colosseum-sized belly can’t be done by nuking it from the sky. It has to be likewise dismantled stone-by-stone. Wait… when did I start eating stones again? I’m so busy throwing food at my face, I must’ve missed that! 😛
You know you deserve to have a bit of faith in yourself, right?
Burning the fat isn’t quick. Or, actually it CAN be quick. But it’s probably not as quick as you’d imagine it should be given the calorific expenditure of the rides. It’s slow, but it will happen. I wonder, in the same way that we were able to turn a blind eye to our rate of fat-gain, can we be realistic about seeing results from weight loss? Can we have patience? You know you deserve to have a bit of faith in yourself, right? You have what it takes.
So that’s a far longer caveat than I’d intended #sorrynotsorry 😀 If you’re sufficiently motivated to drop the weight and burn the fat through your cycling, it will happen. It can’t not happen.
What’s the Mini-Plan to burn belly fat and lose weight?
Food Elimination Program
First off, I’d suggest trying one of the many varieties of food-elimination programs that seek to identify any food types we may be intolerant of. You probably can guess the main offenders, though for me, sugar itself was an issue, even naturally occurring sugars in some fruits. But I think since these programs only take a few weeks they are totally worth it in general and certainly prior to trying to lose weight through fat burning Why? Because most of our immune-system resides gut. Foods we’re intolerant to trigger the immune response and can cause the body to feel it is being attacked and in response to that can “stockpile” supplies of both fluid and fat. And that fat can be hard to shift despite our apparent efforts. Determining your trouble foods and removing them from your diet can have fantastic far-reaching physiological effects beyond just losing weight. Not compulsory. But recommended.
A fast, yes. There are different ways to do this depending upon the results sought. For this I’m suggesting a full 24 hour fast on water only. If you’ve never fasted like that, it might sound daunting. But I promise, it’s totally achievable.
But first, let me explain, why fast at all? Well, actually this isn’t for physiological or metabolic reasons, though the benefits of fasting are easy to find. Once again, this is for psychological conditioning. As above, you don’t have to do it. But maybe this might make sense. See, if you feel you’re about to embark upon a weight-loss/fat-burning plan that will DEPRIVE you of food, particularly food you enjoy, you’re already setting up for quitting. You get that, right?
The idea of this 24 hour fast is to put you at the opposite end of that deprivation spectrum. It will, if you want to see it this way, completely deprive you of ALL food for that short time. You will have zero to eat. So coming back from complete abstinence, ANY food is good. If you fast for 24 hours on water only, some perfectly healthy almonds and pumpkin seeds would almost feel like a decadence. Whereas, had you forced yourself down from a Double Whopper with Bacon and Cheese to almonds and pumpkin seeds it would feel laughable and completely lacking in empathy for your food-addicted predicament. Does that reasoning make sense? You may have a differing take or response to that which I’d like to hear in the comments if so. I appreciate we have varying relationships with food, this technique works for me the times I’ve tried it. Last time was 8 weeks ago when I began losing my belly 🙂
…promise yourself anything just to get eating again
Over the course of that 24 hour period, drink frequently particularly to offset any mild nausea which arises from the gut demanding sugars. There’s way more info on google than I could put here in one article. But more pertinent to this plan, put yourself in the mindset of lowering your intake, after you resume eating, of some food you feel isn’t helping with the fat loss. If you can put yourself in the mindset of eating healthier in general, so much the better. Much the same as the bargaining stage of grieving, when on this 24 hour fast, you’ll promise yourself anything just to get eating again. You can even promise yourself to eat less and/or eat healthier. If you’re able to make this promise to yourself while fasting and actually carry it through when the fast is done then you’re starting off perfectly. And you’ll know already what I mean by healthy eating, like who doesn’t? But essentially non-starchy varieties of vegetables, lean meats, poultry or fish, healthy fats such as coconut oil or avocado while avoiding all refined carbs and sugars. Of significant note too is that by just eating this way we’re increasing our intake of dietary fiber. And why this is relevant to us in particular is that it’s believed that increased fiber diets can improve insulin-resistance, which cites this study. Again, insulin resistance being a contributing factor for belly fat.
Incidentally, don’t be put off by the 24 hour, single-day fast. I once fasted for 38 days on water only. Nothing else. It was one of those experiments. I wanted to feel what actual physical hunger was. It was something of a trial for sure, but the point is, 24 hours is not only totally do-able, but afterwards you’ll feel a million dollars for having done it (possibly to the point of feeling sanctimonious about those poor folk dependent on food, lol). Just don’t undo your effort and binge afterwards! I mean that!!
Eat healthily, drop whatever you may be intolerant to, do the fast, come back with a healthy food mindset, enjoy those almonds, seeds, apples, carrots, avockadoos 😛
Fasted rides in endurance zone, lower cadence only
Okay so this is where your riding joins in to give us some fat-burning synergy. And what do I mean by fasted rides? For the duration of this plan, I mean not only on an empty stomach, but also no energy drinks or energy gels, bars, cakes or whatever else you normally might consider loading up your jersey pockets with.
What’s the rationale for this? Well, if you’re sufficiently fueled, the body will simply take the necessary energy it needs on a ride from the glucose in the carbs you’ve consumed. Which, of course, is the whole point of having porridge oats for breakfast before a ride in the first place. But the problem is that your body will never need to utilise its dual-fuel option and seek out fat to use. We have to direct the body to do this . The only way our bodies use fat for fuel is if the primary source of fuel ie. glucose from carbohydrate is unavailable AND there is sufficient demand.
Of course, riding fasted AND without the sugars of energy drinks or gel packs means the instantaneous, on-call energy that we need when training hard is no longer available. Hence, for the duration of the mini-plan (or at least for the rides that constitute part of the mini-plan since I would hate to sound prescriptive over how you ride) should be in your endurance zone. If you’re starting out and you currently don’t have a heart-rate monitor or power meter, the fat-burning or endurance zones of intensity roughly equate to each other. This represents rides at a light intensity, see the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale (RPE)
I’ve done my own huffing and puffing run through what RPE looks like on a bike in this vid on CyclingQuestions YouTube channel.
Check out my other vids while you’re there too!
I’m suggesting a low cadence here too. Why? For the purposes of these rides it’s just to recruit your type IIa and IIb fast-twitch muscles. These burn more energy and therefore keeping the cadence low (<= 70rpm) while focusing on muscle tension should help make the rides most efficient in generating the fat-burning results we’re after. Again, this is just a suggestion. Some of us just don’t feel as if we have the energy to ride certain ways while fasting. So it’s your call entirely. Just stick at it and you’ll get there. Consistency is key more than anything. Even if you fall off the wagon, we all do. Just get back on!
How do I find time?
Usually training plans will have recovery rides or endurance-zone rides built in. These are ideal sessions to do the mini-plan fasted rides. I’ve found that two to three of these fasted endurance-zone rides have had a fairly quick and noticeable effect. I’d be riding for around 90 minutes each session. I’ve been doing them first thing in the morning because I find that’s the easiest time to ride fasted. But obviously that won’t suit everyone. At the minimum, I’d suggest at least trying a few fasted rides in conjunction with the other steps above. Following this (and the most important step below!) I fail to see how you won’t begin to notice a loss in fat over two weeks. As with many endeavours, consistency is key.
Maintain the healthy eating post-ride
For me, this was possibly the most important step in this plan. I noticed how easy it was to quickly undo my progress by eating the post-ride meal that my body was demanding I eat! But this is where we can all come undone. Please, if you can avoid eating anything other than what we’ve said constitutes healthy eating then so much the better. I do these rides first thing in the morning. I’ve been getting up earlier to make time. I’m fully fasted in the morning. I do the ride, I don’t have breakfast when I return. I drink water, have some almonds, maybe an egg or two, some soya or coconut milk. I have a large healthy lunch, salads, fish, chicken, no starchy carbs. And I continue my healthy eating as normal with the exception of a square or two of 75% chocolate (a little indulgence with the benefit of antioxidants).
Periodic Time-Restricted eating
So what do I mean by this? Well rather than complete 24 hour fasting, what we can try is compressing our eating into a smaller time window. At its simplest, all this involves is restricting eating at certain times and eating normally (until full, but no more!!) during the time window. From my own trials, I’ve found that keeping the eating to an 11 hour window was most effective. So if I have breakfast at 07:00 then I need to be finished dinner by 18:00. Okay so it’s not a Cinderella transforming carriage deal, but the most important aspect is having a sufficient period of fasting from 18:00 around to 07:00 the following morning. Obviously you can have water, tea, coffee (but preferably without milks, sugars or sweeteners).
There are different ways to complete this intermittent fasting. Some do what’s known as Every Other Day Fasting (EODF) which has a similar metabolic-enhancing effect. But the core tenet is in a period of fasting. At other times, eat normally, but as above, please be mindful of your needy ego’s attempts to get you to overeat as some form of compensation for the fast! It happens to me and it’s not the easiest to countermand, but you can do it. I know you can! 🙂
So that’s how I’ve been doing it. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s working for me. I’m hoping something here might be of use to you in your own programme of weight loss. But either way, I’d appreciate hearing how you’re getting on in your own weight loss endeavours in the comments.
Meantime, take care, ride safe, feel good and catch ya soon, David.