Finding it hard to budge the scales past a certain weight? Have you also noticed your body not looking like it should do, even though you are working out more than ever with your cycling? It could well be you’ve plateaued with your weight loss and need to think about varying your workouts.
The problem is usually down to ‘adapting’ – something the human body is unique at doing no matter the stimulus. You see, if the body feels it is under stress, it will try to compensate by bringing itself back to ‘equilibrium’, or into ‘balance’ again no matter what. Indeed, this is what makes the human body remarkable, but not so useful when you are trying to lose weight.
For example, when you started out to lose weight 3 or 4 weeks ago, your body will have found your initial few bike rides challenging. Let’s say a 20 mile bike ride was definitely a challenge. Calories were being burned and you lost fat relatively easily.
The next few weeks your body was adapting positively and you could go further. And by week 4 you could go 40 miles, making the initial 20 mile ride now a ‘walk in the park’.
However, over time, your body has slowly started to adapt to those rides. I say ‘slowly’ adapts, because for you to ‘see’ or ‘feel’ change usually takes about three to four weeks or so. When the body starts to adapt to its exercise routine, so the demand for energy starts to decrease. And when your body needs less energy, it burns less calories. In other words, your body is catching you up with the demand you are placing on it.
The solution then is not to do MORE of what you’re already doing. The solution is to ‘wake up’ your body and change the workouts. By ‘changing’ the workouts, you are effectively causing the body to ‘respond’ again to a new demand. Change is good, it keeps the body guessing and keeps the fat being burned.
There are 4 things you can do to your weekly workouts to cause effective ‘change’:
1. Vary the length of the workout. If you’ve been going short and hard all the time, it’s time to lengthen one long easy ride a week.
2. Vary the intensity of the workout. If you’ve been going long all the time at one pace, it’s time to go harder, or faster over a shorter distance once a week.
3. Change sports and do cross training once a week: swim, jog, walk, hills, …switch around.
4. Change the terrain: climb a few hills, or go off road on the mountain bike. MTB-ing can be a great challenge for any roadie used to the relative ease of tarmac.
Now you might think ‘starving the body’ or ‘shocking it’ with less food is a solution too. This could be a big mistake. The problem with restricting too many calories … yes, you guessed it … the body starts to adapt to its stimulus of having ‘less fuel to burn’. You slow down, you feel weak and you train less. Workouts will consequently be breaking you down, instead of building you up with energy.
To highlight this a little more – imagine a wood fire. To burn it needs more wood (the fuel). If you restrict the amount of wood on the fire, it will eventually stop burning and go out. Your body adapts the same when it senses you are restricting food intake too much: it slows down your rate of fat burning (your metabolism) and this is why you start to feel lethargic and lacking energy. If you feel like this and crave raiding the fridge in the evening, you’ve most likely gone too far.
Have a slice of toast and re-think your strategy – you need food to burn fat and lose weight!
In most cases, if you’ve restricted portion sizes realistically, it’s not the food that is causing your slowdown – it’s the exercise!
So the bottom-line is, if you think you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, switch up your bike workouts from now on, and you should see the weight coming off again in no time, and feel absolutely terrific for it.