Cycling and its benefits
Cycling allows us to spring-clean our heads, blow off some steam, get in touch with nature, meet and connect with people, flood our organism with happy hormones and give our body, especially muscles, a good reboot and a pleasant shock to the system.
It is a massively effective way to torch calories and melt off belly fat while strengthening your muscles, heart, and lungs. Compared to other forms of cardio equipment, cycling puts minimal stress on your joints and offers an excellent aerobic workout (1). Experts assert that though stomach crunches and sit-ups can improve your core strength, they will not eliminate belly fat. You need a holistic approach to burn calories. This raises a critical question, does cycling burn belly fat?
Accumulating scientific evidence indicates that high-intensity intermittent workouts like cycling have the potential to reduce body fat in overweight individuals (6). But the way you map out your workouts can significantly impact your results. Also, exercise duration and intensity play a pivotal role in determining the primary source of energy that your muscles use.
How does cycling burn belly fat?
Belly fat is associated with a series of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood sugar, and more. Therefore, it is essential to read up on how cycling helps trim inches off your belly and when you should ride a bike if you want to fast-track your weight loss results.
Cycling to burn body fat
During cycling and other similar workouts, your leg muscles have heightened demand for energy. This forces your body to break down carbohydrates and fats to produce enough energy. An article by Progress in Molecular Biology and Traditional Science (5) suggests that your body uses carbohydrates as a source of energy during high-intensity intermittent exercises. However, energy production from carbohydrates is at least two times higher than the amount of energy produced from fats.
A report published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN) sheds more light on the importance of high-intensity intermittent exercises in burning fat. According to the report, breakdown of body fats for energy occurs when you exercise at intensities between 45% and 65% of your VO2max (9). This is the maximum level of oxygen your body can safely use during workouts.
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Determine your workout intensity level
Generally, VO2max is determined when someone is exercising in a lab. You must wear a mask to determine the amount of oxygen your body uses during the workout. This testing method isn’t accessible to many people.
Fortunately, you can use the Borg Scale technique to measure your workout intensity. This is a self-reported measurement of your own rating of perceived exertion. The Borg Scale runs from 6 up to 20, as illustrated by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (8). Level 6 activity, such as watching television, does not require exertion. On the other hand, level 20 activities such as sprinting must be performed at maximum effort.
Cycling within the recommended body fat burning zone correlates to a Borg Scale rating of 13 to14. These levels of activity require moderate effort and can increase your heart rate. During the activity, you can carry on a conversation with a friend without falling short of breath.
Working out at a moderate intensity enables you to exercise for longer periods. If you intend to torch your belly fat and drop some weight, consider earmarking more time to cycling in your workout routine. The study carried out by JISSN analyzed the impact of workout duration on body fat oxidation. Belly fat burn was more optimal after about 90 minutes of sustained submaximal workout.
Consider cycling in the morning
Are you a morning person? It is recommended to hit the road before breakfast. Several studies conducted in the past few decades have shown that workouts in a fasted state are more effective. This is because they can easily shift your body’s energy production from carbohydrates towards your body fat. Remember, the intensity of your exercise still matters.
A recent study done by Nutrición Hospitalaria (4) analyzed the impact of performing medium or low-intensity aerobic exercises. The researchers used a treadmill at 25% to 44% of VO2max. The participants were in a fasted state during this study. The results suggested a shift towards body fat oxidation for energy.
Besides, the study warned that consuming a snack that’s rich in carbohydrates during cycling or other workouts will reduce your body’s ability to burn fat. It will prompt your body to shift from burning fat to burning carbs for energy. Though taking snacks loaded with carbs is a common practice during endurance training, it should be avoided.
Cycling Vs. Running
Running and riding a bike are some of the most popular workouts globally. These activities are excellent for people who go out of their way to stay in shape, revamp their heath and unwind after a hectic day (10). So, which one works best for burning belly fat? Does running or cycling burn more belly fat compared to other workout options?
Running is considered a full-body workout that can improve your muscle tone and cardiovascular endurance. The rate at which you will burn calories will depend on how fast you run and your weight. The distance, terrain, and speed matter too. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds and run at 6 mph, you are likely to burn approximately 660 calories within 60 minutes. Some factors like running on an uneven area or sand, can boost your overall energy requirements or expenditure.
Just like running or jogging, the amount of calories you will burn while on a bicycle also hinges on a slew of factors. Some of these factors include distance, level of fitness, weight, and speed. If you weigh 150 pounds and choose to cycle at 12 mph, you will burn about 540 calories in one hour. If you are physically fit, your body will blaze less calories as your body is efficient at utilizing energy.
Both running and cycling can aid in burning body fat. However, they are not some magic bullet to melt away all your belly fat and reveal your washboard abs. You need to adopt a healthy lifestyle, maintain a balanced diet, and workout on a regular basis.
Does indoor cycling burn belly fat?
This is a common question among people who choose to purchase pieces of equipment for indoor workouts. If you must choose between indoor and outdoor workouts, consider your body’s fitness and overall health. Cycling will exert less stress on your knees and is more suitable for people who are just getting started.
Running is somewhat more challenging and demands a higher level of endurance. You have probably seen people who can lift several hundreds of pounds, but when it comes to running, they get short of breath within a minute or two of running.
More exercise recommendations
The United States Department of Health (7) says that healthy adults require about 150 minutes of low to moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous workouts. This can help maintain a healthy weight. If you want to blast away excess body fat, you will need to up your daily body energy expenditure.
According to the Mayo Clinic (3), a healthy person needs to burn approximately 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat successfully. Besides, minimizing your calorie intake by 500 calories a day can result in a weight loss of about a pound weekly. Before you start cutting down your calorie intake, first consult with a nutritionist or your doctor.
During your cycling sessions, add some speed. Harvard Health Publishing says that an individual weighing about 155 pounds can successfully burn 298 calories when cycling at 12 mph for half an hour. Note that people who weigh more are likely to burn more calories.
Cycling is a fun activity and can help burn belly fat. Indeed, it plays an instrumental role in shed those extra pounds efficiently, particularly when done right. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you haven’t been cycling and you want to start.
To make your workout plan even more effective, combine cycling with other exercises. Check out the video below and follow the 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Calories Burned Cycling or Riding a Bike (2015, NutriStrategy)
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2004, health.harvard.edu)
- Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics (2018, mayoclinic.org)
- Endurance training in fasting conditions: biological adaptations and body weight management (2015, scielo.isciii.es)
- Exercise and Regulation of Carbohydrate Metabolism (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition (2016, health.gov)
- The Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion (hsph.harvard.edu)
- Understanding the factors that effect maximal fat oxidation (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Which Gets Rid of More Belly Fat: Running or Cycling? (2019, livehealthy.chron.com)