Sunday, 6 September 2015

Burning Fat whilst Riding a Road Bike

With the prospect of climbing Mount Teide later this year, it's time to get in shape and lose some weight.  The cheapest way of getting faster on your bike isn't to invest in a new bike, it's to invest in losing weight by changing your diet and your exercise regime to trigger the body into knocking those pounds off.

Dual Fuel

If you've not got to grips with heart rate zone training, in the simplest of terms, your body either uses fat or carbohydrate to fuel (or a combination of both) depending on your effort and ride intensity.  The lower the effort, the more likely fat, the higher the effort - carbohydrate.  

This is why gels and energy bars exist, to quicky replace carbohydrate when you are putting in big efforts in higher heart rate zones.  To lose weight effectively, riding slower, in a lower heart rate zone encourages the body to use fat as it's fuel source and speed up your ability to lose weight. You're effectively not looking for intensity, as this would need carbohdrate.

The cost of this is that you have to ride much slower than your capability.  It's all about longer rides, with higher cadence, in your fat burning zone.  

It takes some doing to get the sweetspot right.  You always seem to be changing gears and - if riding an undulating route - going fast, then slow. You go up inclines really slowly and descents really quickly (as you need to pedal down to maintain heart rate).It can take a few hundred miles for it to commit to muscle memory and for you to get in the flow.

It feels very unfamiliar, you are spinning away, yet going slower than your capability.  It messes around with your head, people of all capability whistle by you.  You know you can ride much faster but you have to slow yourself right down.  This is the sort of stuff that goes through your head...........

Irrational Brain
  • You're going too slow.
  • Everyone is riding past you.
  • You need to jump on their wheel.
  • You need to speed up.
  • You're Strava numbers will make you look super slow.
  • I bet that rider is saying to themselves 'All the gear, no idea".
Rational Brain
  • I'm not racing them.
  • I'm riding to lose weight.
  • Going slow(er) will make me fast(er). 
  • Think of the longer term outcomes.
The results of riding in this way can be considerable, particularly if you can devote six or seven hours at a weekend and some time in the week on a turbo trainer or static bike. 

After four weeks of creating around a 7K calorie defecit each week, primarily through exercise and re-configuring what I eat but staying within distance of my base metabolic rate (what your body needs as energy to function), I'm knocking around a kg a week off, nice and steady does it.

As usual, if you are dieting, crash diets is not where it's at.  It's about eating sensibly, training sensibly and creating the conditions for your body to shed those pounds.


  1. HI Phil,
    Really enjoy your blog! Was just wondering about "optimal heart rate" as I too want to burn the "right" fat. However, i came across an interesting article which made sense... would be good to hear your thoughts on this. Here's the link

    Obviously the site is advocating the high intensity training (and trying to sell something) But the logic (and maths) seems to be right.

    best regards

  2. Thanks for the article link Deon.

    My training is a mixture of low heart rate long rides at weekends and HIIT intervals during the week when I am more time poor. Combined with an improved diet, this is producing a result of around a kg per week consistent weight loss.

    As always, advise a coach or trainer to get a specific plan together for you. Most will recommend a combination of both, rather than just one in my experience. Key thing is that HIIT intervals are a key component of your training regime.