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Does exercise help weight loss?

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World naked bike ride
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I’ve cycled much more this year than I did last, and I’m not noticeably slimmer. I may be fitter, of which more below, but the waistline is as it was, and – if anything – the appetite is greater.


I’m at least 20kg too heavy, but let’s accept that 10kg (or around 2 stones) is a more realistic weight loss target at my age. Losing 10kg would make my bike easier to ride, since the heaviest component is the engine (me). If I were to try to buy a bike that was 10kg lighter, I’d have to spend thousands of pounds. Fact! Even though my bike is only really mid-market, it’s actually pretty light. But the rider is a lump.

I’ve been monitoring my performance. The new bike brought an immediate improvement in my average riding speed – it was up two or three miles per hour immediately. But then I stalled, because there didn’t seem to be any way to get faster. I’d push myself on a ride, and then I’d be stiff and achy for a day or so. I’d ride further, with the same results. The problem is the hills. I can go down them pretty fast (faster because I’m so heavy) but then I more or less come to a full stop on the up bit. And that’s because I’m a lump. My inertia works against me.

I’ve contemplated going out for a proper all-day ride, but while the heart and lungs (and even the legs) may be willing, my hip joints and lower back are not. I’m pretty sure that the hip and back pain would be alleviated if I could lose those 10kg, but the more I ride, the hungrier I am. I could diet, but then I’d lack the energy to ride.

Earlier in the summer, I’d ride one day on one day off. I could put in three, four, rides per week, but I couldn’t go out two days in a row. Or I could do a short route (6 miles) followed by a longer (10 mile) route. But then I’d need to rest.

Then I realised where I’d been going wrong. I was trying to burn calories, and I was doing, but by draining my energy reserves, I was stopping myself from riding more often. I finally caught on to the idea of taking on some kind of energy in the form of carbohydrates, and even replacing my water with an energy drink.

I hate those isotonic drinks (garish colours, hideous taste), but since I started taking on a few extra calories before a ride and drinking more as I rode, my recovery has been quicker. I went out yesterday and I went out again today, both times on the Lillingstone Banana route that used to sap me of energy (hence the name: I used to have to stop for a banana halfway around). Instead of buying energy bars (which I have tried), I’ve taken to eating three fig rolls about half an hour before I go out. Three fig rolls is about right, and then the energy drink helps get sugar to the legs quickly.

I can feel the difference in myself. I’m not particularly faster (weight problem), but I do have more stamina. Corners that I used to turn feeling weak and wobbly, I now turn feeling strong and confident. Gumption-sapping long inclines I can now take quite easily. I’m no faster, but I don’t suffer as much. The only real suffering is when my left hip flares up or my back aches.

So I’ve hit a happy medium, where I take on carbs and calories and can go out more often and feel better about it. On the other hand, losing weight is a bust.


3 responses to “Does exercise help weight loss?”

  1. rashbre Avatar

    Similar situation here. Improved bicycling but input calorie reduction also needed. On a single ride, my electronic thing beeps every circa 700 cals to suggest the need for a top-up.

    Zero tabs (electrolyte) in water seem to reduce leg ache too.

    I think circa 70% of Max Heart Rate is supposed to optimise fat burning, but I still find it difficult to stay in that zone on the lanes around here.

    Still, I enjoy the cycling in any case!


  2. RFM Avatar

    Have ordered some Zero tabs – seems intriguing.

    I’m puzzled by the 70% of Max Heart Rate thing. How do you determine your max heart rate? By exercising till you die?


  3. rashbre Avatar

    Quick calc is MHR=220-age. If I go on longer rides I usually take a HRM – regard it like a personal rev counter. ANT+ is my preferred technology = wireless sensors for everything.


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