I used to be a bit overweight and decided to lose it. Because of several injuries and not watching my diet I gained about 23 LBS/10.5 KG. Combined with less calorie intake and riding about 90 minutes 4 times a week I was able to lose weight by mountain biking fast.
Not only is mountain biking a great sport, it’s very efficient when it comes to weight loss. You burn an average of 600 to 800 calories per hour and build up muscle. It’s also a low impact sport and you won’t suffer injuries as much as other sports, given that you don’t crash.
It only took me 8 weeks to get back at my normal weight, but it’s not only riding my mountain bike that did it. You really have to watch what you eat. Make sure you eat less than you need and increase your protein intake so your muscles won’t feel sore.
1. Slowly Build Up
If you’re a couch potato you shouldn’t go all-in at once. Slowly build up and just start with riding for an hour one or two times a week. You don’t have to ride gnarly trails, some mellow trails or even just the road will do fine. After a few weeks, you’ll get stronger and you can increase your workouts.
If this sounds too much, just start with half an hour, just take it easy, 30 minutes is better than nothing and you’ll develop a taste for mountain biking. Also, don’t worry about being too heavy, just make sure to get a decent MTB and visit your local bike shop for advice.
After mountain biking for 5 days in a row, I usually feel sore in my legs. In order to still burn calories, I decided to also train my upper body and hit the gym. At first, I only went once a week but I really liked the fact that I go stronger soon went twice a week.
A stronger upper body is a huge benefit when riding trails, it made climbing a lot easier and it just feels good!
2. Set Realistic Goals
Whether you’re 30 or 60 LBS overweight, it’s important to set realistic goals and milestones. Somehow this works helping you to achieve your longterm goals. If you cut your longterm goal into several smaller goals, it seems less intimidating making it more likely to succeed.
Don’t think too much about how much weight you want to lose, think about how often, how long and when you want to ride your mountain bike. You’ll burn fat anyway! What I did was just trying to improve my track record, it’s a great feeling beating your former self.
You can even decide to take a break for a week, it will help you recover and you’ll feel stronger next time you ride. As long as you watch what you eat, taking a short break will be beneficial. It allows your body to recover and you won’t run the risk of overtraining.
Don’t forget to treat yourself, yes you can have a pizza, burger or fries. Just make sure your overall calorie intake a week are lower than what you need. Don’t do this too often though, but a burger (or whatever you love) just tastes so much better if you worked hard and deserve it! Don’t feel guilty, you’ll just ride a bit harder next time.
3. Count Calories Each Day
You’ll need a deficit in calories, the average male can take about 2500 and females about 2200. It also depends on your height. Anyway, make sure to eat less but healthy. I consumed about 500 to 800 less than I needed and this works. Combined with mountain biking my weight went down drastically and fast.
Make sure that by the end of the week you eat 500 calories less on average. Some days you eat more and some days less, depending on how hard you ride. Less calorie intake combined with mountain biking is all I did to achieve my goal.
A good way to keep track is by getting a scale that can measure accurately. It may be annoying at first, having to put all your food on a scale but it really helps you to understand just how much you can eat.
At some point, you’ll get a good idea of how much is too much and you won’t even need to weigh your food anymore. It also helps you to get enough of the right ingredients each day without starving yourself.
4. Keep Track of What You Eat
Get a scale that can accurately weigh food so you know how much calories are in your food of choice. I skipped my cappuccino for example and replaced it with tea. That saved me 120 calories (including the sugar). Eat enough fruit and vegetables and eat yogurt for protein (your muscles need it to grow and recover).
When shopping for groceries make sure to read the back of the products you buy. Sometimes food seems healthy but looks can be deceiving. Also, try to avoid processed food, it has a lot of additional ‘ingredients’ that destroy your diet.
Don’t forget to eat something you really like once every while. Sure you can eat fries or a burger now and then but just make sure you still have a calorie deficit or train harder. This doesn’t go for people that like low carb diets, of course, there isn’t a single diet that’s perfect. The best thing to do is to eat healthy food and cut down on the sugar. Don’t eat like a kid.
5. Avoid Alcohol and Soda
I like a cold one now and then but alcohol is just the worst. I can now afford to drink a cold beer after an intense ride but in general, it’s better to avoid alcohol. Sure drinking a beer now and then isn’t going to hurt but keep away from alcohol as much as you can.
As for soda, it’s almost pure sugar. Drink tea, water (ad a bit of lemon) and occasionally a diet coke. People underestimate how much calories soda contains and it’s killing for your diet.
6. Don’t Overtrain
It can be incredibly motivating to see results fast but one of the biggest mistakes people make is burning themselves out. I can relate, I went all in and got results fast but after 4 weeks I fell off the wagon. I overtrained and was too tired. My legs felt sore all the time and my training sessions got inefficient.
I decided to take a break but still watch my diet. After a week my body recovered and I went back to my routine, well I toned it down a bit in order not to burn myself out again. I started eating a bit more protein and made sure I recovered before going out there again.
7. Keep it Sustainable
If you go in too hard you’ll have a difficult time maintaining such a lifestyle. Don’t starve yourself and don’t overtrain yourself. You can eat a bit more on training days and a bit less when you recover. Recovery is important to keep your mountain bike sessions efficient and fun. If you don’t have energy climbing a slope is hell.
There are tons of trackers that can make you aware of your eating habits. I took a scale and weigh everything I ate and counted the calories. On intense training days, I eat more, my muscles need the fuel and it helps not feeling sore all the time.
Don’t forget to treat yourself now and then within reason. It shouldn’t feel like your punishing yourself but more of a fun way to get rid of some weight.
8. Don’t Weigh Yourself Every Day
Don’t grab your scales every day. Your weight varies each day and it can become an obsession. It can be downright demotivating to weigh more after a few days of diet and training. You’ll also build up muscle and your body consists mostly of water. This has a big impact on what the scales say.
Instead, weigh yourself just once a week at the same time. Also, use your mirror, you’ll see results even if the scales tell you otherwise. At some point, you might even gain weight, not because of calorie intake but your muscles will start to grow.
9. Vary Your Training
The days of riding within a fat-burning zone are gone, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is where it’s at. You’ll burn more calories even 24 hours after your training. Just ride slow for a few minutes and then give about 80%-95% for a minute and repeat. Good news for trail riders, trail riding is interval training. You have to climb, speed up, slow down and repeat. trail riding on a mountain bike is great for losing a few pounds!
If you don’t have a trail nearby, roads or gravel will be fine. Just make sure to not always ride at the same pace. Your body gets used to it over time and it becomes less efficient. HIIT helps you to let your body get accustomed to your rides and it’s very forgiving compared to HIIT training when running.
If you feel your legs are getting sore consider hitting the gym at least once a weak. Do some core training, train your upper body and you can always skip leg day. You already train your legs when you ride and they can use a break.
10. Apps and Trackers
I got myself a sports watch that was able to track my route and heartbeat. It doesn’t help you burn fat but I liked looking at the data and seeing myself improve over time. It’s a huge motivation and if you decide to work out that much, you deserve something nice.
There are many watches out there that do the job. I personally used the Tomtom multisports so I could also track working out in the gym and track my occasional trail runs. It has a built-in heart rate monitor, GPS and compass. It’s also a lot cheaper compared to Garmin or Polar and it gets the job done. Not everyone likes the design but I personally have no issues with it, it’s the best watch you can get at that price.
At least install Strava. It’s free and you can see how you improve over time. They do like to collect data though, I guess that’s why it’s free.
11. Ride Your Mountain Bike to Work
I do this often but I’m lucky enough that my work is a 45 minute (intense) ride. I just put on my MTB clothing and ride like a madman. I hit the shower at work and feel great when I sit down at my desk. It really helps me to work more efficiently and I can stay focussed for longer. I even grab my bike when it rains.
On my way back I usually ride a bit slower but enough to call it a workout. I somehow have this issue that I can’t ride slow, I just need to keep going fast. When I get home I don’t have to go to the gym or anything, which saves me some time. If you decide to do this make sure to bring an emergency repair kit. A flat tire is no bueno when you’re on your way to work.
12. Get a Decent Mountain Bike
A good mountain bike is one that fits properly and has quality components. Don’t buy a cheap bike, it won’t last you long and will be a frustrating ride. Expect to pay at least a 1000 bucks for a good MTB. Hardtails are cheaper than full suspensions.
Go to your local bike shop (if it’s a good one) or see if you can get a good deal on a used MTB. Check out my guide on how to buy a used MTB to save yourself a lot of money.
Riding a good mountain bike will help you to keep motivated. I used to ride an old one but once I got a decent MTB I was hooked. Riding always felt like a struggle but once I got a new bike I couldn’t wait to go out there again.
13. Drink Lots of Water
Bring lots of water during your ride. I really had to push myself drinking more water and after a while, I got used to it. It will help you going during your ride and is just a healthy thing to do.
14. Sleep & Stress
Lack of sleep and stress are huge factors when it comes to weight problems. I can’t give you advice on how to sleep properly or how to reduce stress but it’s something to keep in mind. I know stress causes sleep deprivation and sleep deprivation stress, oh boy.
Sleep will help you to recover and I probably don’t have to tell you that sleep deprivation turns you into a monster. I am the worst person you’ll encounter after a few days of sleep deprivation!
15. Start in Spring or Summer
Winter is depressing over here, so tip this is only for those people. You go to work in the dark and get home in the dark. I can take it for a while but after a few months, I’ve just had it. I personally couldn’t have done this in the winter, sure it’s the perfect time to get that beach body for the summer but the lack of light depresses me. I always failed to start out in the winter.
Once spring has sprung it’s time to go ride your MTB. More sunlight, more vitamin D, just better everything. I need less sleep in the summer and feel more energized. If you recognize what I describe, start out as soon as the weather gets better it’s a huge motivational boost. The woods are alive, birds singing, everything is green and it just lifts your spirit in general.
16. Maintain Your Weight and Lifestyle
The danger in wanting to lose weight fast is blowing up like a balloon once you reached your goal. You need to keep watching what you eat and keep riding your mountain bike to stay in shape. The way I did it is often not the best way. Sure I lost a lot of weight but the real challenge is not to gain weight again.
I cut down on the beers and pizza, work out more frequently and still ride at least 2 times a week. The moment I stop doing that I will gain weight again in no time.
It’s about changing your lifestyle, eating healthy, not drinking too much and a varied diet. Exercise regularly and mostly when you don’t feel like it. Changing your behavior is far more challenging than losing weight. So keep on riding your mountain bike and hit the trails. It’s fun and exercise at the same time!
What Works for Me May Not Work for You
Consult a health care professional if you are unsure about a new diet or training program. Don’t forget to wear a helmet and don’t eat less than 1500 calories each day (men) or 1200 (women).
I’m just a blogger sharing my experiences, it worked for me but may not be for you.