Whatever your weight loss goals, exercise needs to be part of the equation. Exercise will help you preserve muscle mass, which is healthier for your body and better for your appearance. Plus, maintaining muscle will make your weight loss easier to sustain for the long haul.
While a leisurely bike ride outside isn’t likely to help you lose significant weight, indoor cycling can. But to get the most out of an indoor cycling routine, you’ll want to heed some basic rules of nutrition and training.
- Eat Before (And After) You Ride
Contrary to what you may have heard about the benefits of exercising on an empty stomach, it’s smart to provide your body with the energy it needs to ride hard and get maximal benefits from the workout. Even if you take an early morning class, eat something small 30 minutes before your ride. This could be a small banana, a slice of toast with jam, or a handful of whole-grain cereal.
Do the same an hour or two before afternoon or evening cycling sessions by having a combination of protein and carbs (perhaps a small apple with a tablespoon of almond butter or a few tablespoons of trail mix).
Besides helping you fuel up for the workout, eating beforehand can help you burn extra calories, thanks to the thermic effect of food. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after the ride, too. Your body needs sufficient water intake to keep your metabolism humming and burning calories efficiently.
- Replenish Your Muscles Properly
Within an hour after your workout, consume a combination of carbohydrates and protein (such as 12 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk or a small handful of walnuts with a pear) to replenish your muscle glycogen stores and provide amino acids for muscle repair and building. This will keep your muscles and your metabolism operating smoothly and prepare your body for your next workout.
- Vary Pace and Difficulty
ith most forms of exercise, interval training can pump up your metabolism more than exercising at a steady-state—and the same is true of indoor cycling. Think of it as a way of tricking your body into burning calories faster.
By alternating bursts of harder pedaling (meaning, a faster cadence against heavier resistance) with a more comfortable pace, you’ll burn more calories during the workout than you would have at a steady, moderate pace. Varying pace and exertion will also trigger greater excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (the after-burn effect), causing you to continue to burn more calories for a few hours after cycling.
- Switch Up Your Workouts
Do the same type of ride day after day, and your body will adapt to the activity, and you won’t get as big a metabolic bang for your effort as you did initially. The solution is to regularly vary the types of rides you do (alternating between endurance, strength, interval, and race-oriented rides) and the intensity to coax your body into burning calories faster during and after the workout.