Losing Weight: The Dice Are Loaded

Because I’m going through it once again this spring, and because it’s not happening as fast as I’d like – again – I wanted to talk about weight loss tonight. Here are some observations I’ve made since I started losing weight way back at 77 kg (note: I realize my weight loss has not been very dramatic, especially when compared to some of the people out there in the internet, but I think the principles remain the same. So there.).

Some people lose weight faster than others.fat-vs-skinny

I don’t know if you chalk this kind of thing up to ‘metabolism’, but it’s certainly true in my experience. Unfortunately for the person who has a hard time losing weight, the inverse is usually not the case – I should know, I’m a natural-born porker.

Losing weight takes time and persistence

patience-is-a-virtueIt goes without saying, I guess, but I would suppose that many people fail at weight loss because they simply don’t see the results they had hoped to soon enough. I find that I need to be consistently on the bike (and taking it easy on the butter and chips) for 4 to 8 weeks before I see some real dimensional change. That’s a long time to wait if you aren’t sure of the results.

Fat burning is a paradoxical business

canstock15090824Coach Rob told me long ago about the ‘burning log’ of fat, which needs kindling, obviously, to get it going. That ‘kindling’ is glycogen, which is supplied by food and stores you have someplace in your body. But here’s the rub. That log starts burning very quickly for athletes, but is slow to catch fire for people who are fat/out of shape. The paradox of this, if true (and it is, I’m sure – keep reading), is that an overweight/out of shape rider will need to be on the bike far longer each session before they start burning fat. It doesn’t seem fair.

Your fat-burning machine is Fabian Cancellara, not Andre Griepel.

cancellara1And finally the good news. If you do make it through those 2 months or so of diligent training, you will be rewarded with impressive results…and quick. I find that happens in April or May for me. The machine may not be lightening fast off the blocks, but once it warms up, it’s hard to stop.

It’s not (all) about the bike

This one is possibly the hardest for some people to come to grips with, mainly because they like beer, pizza, chips…and butter. They really like butter. Anyway, you need to change your diet to lose that weight. Period.  Okay, you’ll probably lose weight by exercising a lot, but you’ll plateau and you probably won’t like where you get stuck. Then again, if it means butter and beer, that plateau could be a good compromise.

That’s all I can think of right now, but I’m sure I’m missing about a thousand things. I do find it fascinating, though, how awesomely simple and ridiculously difficult this subject can prove to be. Now I have to get back to coaxing my machine to find its inner Griepel – I’ve got races coming up.

16 thoughts on “Losing Weight: The Dice Are Loaded

  1. Some people’s bodies are extraordinarily inefficient, burning calories like crazy for no good reason. My body is one of the most efficient ones on the planet. Each calorie is carefully considered and placed in just the right place to ensure 100% efficiency, only being burnt when ABSOLUTELY necessary.

    All kidding aside, I think you’re on point. I’ve certainly explored the limits of what vigorous exercise can accomplish without modifying your diet. Your experience matches my own. The only other thing I would offer is that, over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to lose the weight. It seems to get more determined to stick around as you get older.

    • Oh right. I must have been channeling one of your old posts in part of that, Steve. I now remember you talking about this very same thing.

      I haven’t really found that it’s harder as I get older, but I think you have a couple of years on me, so I’ll get back to you on that 😉

  2. Gerry, Why do you let yourself go out of shape in the first place if you know what is coming! I do not like dieting so I keep the weight off 365 days a year. I try to sit around 55-56kg. Everything in moderation I say but you need to be strong willed!!. OK I do not touch alcohol or cakes etc. If you do not eat them you do not miss them!

    • I’m making it a goal next autumn to not get too carried away with the off-season fun, Bryan. I think Haute Route sent me off the deep end this year.

      And if you don’t drink, you’re a stronger man than I, for sure!

  3. Butter? Buttttt….you live in the land of extraordinary olive oil. Guess I should come find a good one for you … It matches up better with red and pizza, anyway:-)

  4. I also find it takes a good 6-8 weeks of consistent riding before noticing real change in fitness and weight, I think this is basically part of building our base. It’s also reliant on doing regular long rides – ie. 3-6hrs on a weekly basis. During the university semesters I find it harder to get these in so my rides are mostly short 1hr intense efforts into town. I might get 200km a week still but I suspect these burn more glycogen than fats.
    Weight is something I’m also interested in, but rather than diet or have weight targets, the long term approach is about finding the healthy balance. I’ve actually started intermittent fasting on 2 days a week and this works well for me, doing it with my wife helps too. I don’t fast on or immediately after big rides, but I can still do a good short session of hill repeats on a fasting day. You’d expect to binge on the days between but if anything we actually find that we’re more conscious of what we’re eating, and we have a very good diet.
    I find the hard part is adapting to my energy needs as they change across the year. For weeks after my big summer of riding I still have a really, really strong appetite but I’m not doing the rides to justify it and that’s when I seem to put back on those extra few kgs. But I get this is something that is pretty normal even for the pros. They don’t spend the whole year at race weight, just as they’re not in race fitness all year round.

    • I used to fast, too, and found I had all sorts of energy that I shouldn’t really have had. It might be an idea for the off-season, actually. I’ll think about it, thanks. I actually enjoy the journey of gaining then losing, just, as you said, like the pros probably do. This year it got a little bit out of hand and I went over what I should have (gained 7 kg), but I definitely am not the ‘always fit’ type, I think. I need to feel fresh once the season begins, and that means taking some time off (and gaining weight, I guess) the bike in the winter.

      I guess you’re heading into fall now, huh? Weather still holding for you?

      • Weather is great right now, tending on the cooler side which I prefer to the blast furnace that we’ve had this summer! We’ll still some heat through March. This weekend it’s meant to be 30 degrees in the Victorian Alps for the 240km 3 Peaks. Meanwhile you’ll be enjoying a bit of thawing!

  5. Cyclists are more concerned about their weight then International Supermodels. And for good reason, we climb hills!!!

    Diet is the key to both a healthy, or high performing weight. I know I’m at a good weight when my family and friends tell me I’m way too thin. That said, too much emphasis is placed on the exercise component of weight loss. Training, or exercise is needed for performance and good health, but less for weight management. For example, most cyclists can “eat through any workout”, especially when you consider you have to ride hard for 1 hour to burn off the calories contained in one Big Mac, it’s easy to see that what you eat is far more important in the weight loss equation. I’ve written a couple blog posts on this topic if you’re interested:


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