Sunday, 3 April 2011

Guest Post from Denise Hampson - Losing Weight on the Bike Pt II

Here's the second part to the blog that Denise Hampson has written for us around the subject of weight loss.  You can access the first part here.

In my opinion too many cyclists are overly obsessed with energy drinks, recovery drinks, protein shakes and gels. These highly engineered products can help you turn up on race day in the best shape and give you a final burst of energy to the finish line. But they don't give much of an advantage for being a mouse-potato (see what i did there...) riding computers 40 hours a week.

These products contain masses of energy and it's ok to replace the energy you burn on two wheels, but if you always replace what you use you will never lose weight. My advice would be to go easy on the energy products.

Remember too that these shakes, mixes and gels are branded products. Top riders are encouraged to promote them and sponsored by them. When I was on the GB team we had all of our drinks in Lucozade bottles. Did I have Lucozade *in* my bottle....? And you might hesitate if you knew the unofficial name the Aussie road girls had for gels...!

The big question to ask yourself is what are your goals? If you want to enjoy club rides more, lose weight and tone up then your approach will be a lot different to the one you'd take if you were competing seriously. Running out of energy mid-ride is more of a problem if you have a performance goal and a race coming up than if you are going to have a week to recover at your desk.

If you are in the latter group and get it wrong, what's the worst that can happen? You make a call to get a lift home or grovel back on empty with a great new story to entertain club-mates at next week's cafe stop.

For many the pleasure gained from cycling is the social side and this can involve lots of food (and beer!) Somehow tea and cakes taste better the more miles you have to do to get them. The best pint of tea I have ever had was at Pete's Eats in Llanberis and it made the 70mile round trip to get there seem worthwhile. Comments like "I can eat what I want because I'll burn it off on the road" are commonly heard. But if you put back all the energy you burn, you're efforts to lose weight will be in vain.

Train in the mornings if you can. If you want to lose weight you should take advantage of any easy option to burn extra calories. When you train you ramp up your body's metabolism/rate of burning energy. Of course you'd expect that, but what many people don't know is that post exercise your metabolism remains elevated for several hours which means you'll be burning extra energy just sitting still. The earlier in the day you do this, the better the 'afterburn'!

In a nutshell:

  • Don't overdo the energy drinks and gels while you are out but do still take on lots of fluids/water.
  • You get better returns on weight loss efforts by focussing on your diet. But the activity element is still important, and is usually the missing ingredient with yo-yo dieters.
  • Be clear on your goals. If they are performance related, lose weight more slowly. Otherwise you can probably afford to experiment a bit more.
  • Watch your portions at all times, especially days you don't ride. Don't find yourself overconsuming energy-rich foods "because I'm a cyclist".
  • Do other types of training. It'll bring about bigger benefits and work out those areas you don't get to when cycling.
  • Work out early if you can. A quick spin on the rollers or turbo trainer before breakfast or a cycle to work are ideal.
  • Finally, don't deny yourself the things you really want. Life is too short!

Denise co-authored the Deeprotox Sportspersons Eating Plan with Medical Nutritionist James Jones. Although not intended specifically for it, people of all ages and abilities who have used this approach have found it beneficial to losing some weight. To find out more or to purchase a copy, visit

Photo courtesy of CycleSportPhoto'


  1. I agree with all the above! I made similar points in a post here :

    A great and very interesting and valuable book I read on this subject was Sports Nutrition by Anita Bean.

    If I recall correctly she makes the point that if you do significant exercise and follow a diet that meets your nutritional needs, you only have 200 calories available for treats. A gel seems to be around the 100 calorie mark. It's important not to forget that they are not calorie free!

  2. Mouse potato... oh I'll be sure to use that one, come Monday! I just started road biking, errr about a week ago, and I'm already enjoying it very much. I'm training for a ride from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, BC (and blogging about it, so I don't chicken out!) and I'd appreciate any advice you have for what kinds of performance supplements might be most effective on a long trip like that... thanks :)