The latest in our Ask The Experts series is a big one … How to lose weight as a mountain biker.
“I’d love to shed a few pounds to help my riding but no amount of time on the bike helps.
I’m too busy with work, the family and real life to fit in loads of gym time or to start road riding or fit in extra MTB rides.
What can I do to shift my beer belly and get a bit faster and fitter on my bike?”
We’ve asked Ben at MTBStrengthFactory to answer this one…
Charlie Sheen and hookers
It always amazes me how much stock is put in spending money by riders on cutting the weight of their bikes, rather than the weight of their bodies.
Riders will happily spend hundreds of pounds on the lightest new bit of kit … but don’t realise that they’ll get smoked on the climbs if they’re carrying a few extra pounds and aren’t as healthy as they can be.
When you consider that for some mountain bikers, cake and beer go hand in hand like Charlie Sheen and hookers … it does take a bit of work to keep in shape and stay strong on the bike. If you’re a bit out of shape though, don’t panic, it is fixable if you’re willing to put the work in.
You are what you eat.
Your diet is the heart of your health. If you eat and drink crap you’ll look, feel and ride like crap.
I’m sorry to say it but there’s no such thing as a healthy fat person. You cannot build performance without health.
Eat natural food. Eat vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, poultry, some nuts and seeds and a few other bits and bobs like eggs. You will need to learn to cook. You will need to plan meals and prepare packed lunches.
Keep your meals simple and cook from scratch. Avoid sugar like the plague and eat as many greens as you can fit on your plate. If you ride once a week and work at a desk or behind the wheel all day then you should avoid carbs – they’re fuel for your body that you don’t need. Eat leafy greens instead.
Forget the energy drinks. You don’t need powerade to get round the Blade at Afan. Water is fine. Drink lots of it and get a purifier to filter out all the Oestrogen and Chlorine that’s found in our water supply.
If you don’t already do any, strength training should be your first move to improve performance and lose body fat.
Keep things simple and try to do all of the following types of movements on a weekly basis: Squat. Hinge. Lunge. Push and Pull. Rotation and Core. The video below shows you how do all of those. Try them at home or get to a gym and work on them with some proper equipment.
By building some muscle you can increase the amount of calories that you will burn each day as well as improving other systems in the body that may help you burn fat as fuel. Remember to always train with proper form and to work on your mobility to compliment your work in the gym.
If you’re a mountain biker you probably ride your bike quite a lot – you’re probably pretty efficient at it. That makes it really hard to actually lose any body fat. You can ride further and harder but that doesn’t always work and can (trust me) even make you more overweight.
My advice would be to add in some conditioning alongside your strength training – and to do it in a way that’s as inefficient as possible. You need to give your body a shock and get it moving in ways it’s not at all used to. Finding ways to move heavy things in as least efficient a way as possible is actually really efficient for losing weight!
“You need to give your body a shock and get it moving in ways it’s not at all used to.”
Let’s imagine that you took a 30kg sandbag, carried it 20 metres, put it down, picked it up and repeated with it on the other shoulder. Assuming you’re not a labourer this is probably something you’re not used to doing and is really inefficient. Do this 3 times for 5 minutes and you’ll have an awesome fat burning session that’s also great for your core and your back.
Keep it simple
If you want to keep it really simple you could just stand on the spot. Lay down on your front with your arms extended. Stand up. Repeat onto your back. Repeat. Try this for 2 minutes flat out and you’ll get a great work out that doesn’t need a gym, doesn’t need any equipment and doesn’t cost you a penny. Just remember to warm up first.
The key is to find movements that use your whole body and that get your heart rate pretty high. You should keep your durations pretty short, between 30 seconds and 5 minutes, and let yourself recover in between. And make sure you warm up first.
You can lose weight on your bike through sprints, intervals and hill climbs but only if you’re eating right and taking the time to recover. Your exercise needs to be inefficient on your body to be efficient on your time – so getting off the bike for a strength session once a week might be the best thing for you.
Basically just try to add in a type of training that you don’t already do and that will be a shock to your body. Don’t do strength training? Get a programme. Don’t do sprints? Then add a session in once per week.
Healthy brain, healthy bike rider
Last but not least, take a look at your wider lifestyle. You need to be on top of your stress, your sleep and your emotions to be healthy.
Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
Limit your exposure to stressful situations as best you can.
If you’re struggling then seek help to get your emotions in control and understand that you need to be mentally healthy to be physically healthy.
And be patient
If you’re trying to lose weight – good luck and good job. Make a plan, keep at it, follow my advice above and you’ll start to feel the benefits to your health and your waistline in a couple of weeks.
Weight loss won’t happen overnight but if you want it to happen and stick to your guns, it will happen.
If you’ve read this and been inspired we’d love to hear from you.
Tell us in the comments below how you’re getting on with your mission to be fitter and faster.
You can read more from Ben at MTBStrengthFactory – his website has loads of free advice and some great downloadable training guides.
Thanks to Roo Fowler, Ian Lean, Saskia Dugon and Jacob Gibbins for the images.