Cycling Calories Burned

At some point you have probably read that to lose fat and increase the cycling calories that are burned you must train with an cycling intensity below 50% of your max heart rate in the so-called fat burning zone!? Several studies show that:

  • You will lose fat and burn calories at ALL Cycling pulse intensities!

What ultimately determines whether you lose fat is the final balance of the total cycling calories that are burned, minus the calories you have consumed. It's realy that easy!

By training with low pulse which corresponds to Zone 2 your body use almost entirely fat and only few carbohydrates as energy source, therefore this zone is called the fat burning zone. By training with high and very high heart rate your body uses many carbohydrates and only little fat as an energy source. Consequently, many had thought it natural to recommend the Zone 2 training training intensity to lose fat.

Detailed studies of energy shows that any trainer or dietician rather should advice clients about proper nutrition before, during and after training and competition than recommend training with low intensity.

This example shows you how much energy coming from fat and carbohydrates by training with low and high heart rate on a 30-minute workout:

  • 65% of max heart rate = Energy consumption 50% fat + 50% carbohydrates (glycogen)
  • 85% of max heart rate = Energy consumption 30% fat + 70% carbohydrates (glycogen)

When we look at the total number of calories are burned by these two training examples (below), we are informed that you burn more calories on the half hour when trained harder:

  • 65% of max heart rate = Combustion: Total approx. 220 calories, 110 calories of fat + 110 calories of carbohydrates
  • 85% of max heart rate = Combustion: Total approx. 320 calories, 110 calories of fatt + 220 calories of carbohydrates

Although the percentage of energy coming from fat is less by training at high heart rate the number of calories coming from fat is the same!

The fact that training with low pulse is more comfortable and easier training to do and simultaneously give you the weight loss in the form of fat. If you do not have much time for training you should rather go for training with high heart rate.

There are however a number of side effects of both types of training you should be aware of.

Training with low pulse is easy to perform in practice and you can go on for hours if you have a reasonable fitness level. Your muscles are not used as explosively and therefore will over time be developed as more sinewy and slimmer. This fact alone will besides the loss of fat also result in weight loss from muscles which are not always what you aim for as a cyclist. The low intensity workout gives you only a limited burning of fat and your body will very quickly register as full loaded of carbohydrates. When stocks of carbohydrates are filled, all excess carbohydrates are being stored as fat. The balance of storing fat is hard to notice and many have great difficulty to stay away from sweets, desserts, red wine and soda. These carbohydrates are the ones who will be stored as fat, even if you otherwise get a lean and sensible diet.

The advantage to train with high pulse is that your metabolism increases a lot. Your needs of carbohydrates for recovery are increased and sweets and desserts burned faster without them being stored as fat as long as the total calorie intake does not exceed what you have consumed. Your after combustion is high and you can eat a little almost constantly. The higher combustion will also include an increased loss of fat if you provide your body with the correct dose of carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients from your diet. Most can easily manage a durable weight loss combined with exercise when they occasionally may allow themselves to eat some "forbidden" food simultaneously with a lean protein diet.

The bottom line is that for you have to adjust the intake of calories compared to the workout in your current training situation and thus ensure that you are not consuming more calories than you burn!

Ref. Studies from Georgia State University and West Virginia University

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