Beginner here...need advice on wt loss and cycling


New Member

first time joining a forum. My husband bought be a trek bicycle almost two years ago after I was diagnosed with post partial cardiomyopathy from my 2nd child. I used my trek indoors mostly as rehab for my heart during that time. we have been cycling for a year with our toddlers but not doing more than 15 miles a week. For the last 5 weeks, I’ve been averaging 50 miles a week outside and have noticed my pants are tighter around hips and butt area. My muscles are very sore and tight right now. Also out 4 lbs on the scale since I started this. Oddly I’m developing small biceps from cycling too. So my goal was to tone and shed weight, hoping clothes would actually be looser. Does the inflammation like this just happen initially and then go down? Also, how many calories should I eat on cycle days? For example today I burned 697. I only wanted to consume 1300 but since I burned 697 do I need to add on another 697 of calories or can I do the deficit? I tried doing keto when I first started and I bonked on the ride. So I’ve been adding carbs in to keep from bonking. What am I doing wrong since my pants are tighter after 5 weeks? Thanks y’all!


You're not doing anything wrong. You are building muscle. This will happen a bit more quickly than the fat melts away. As you are finding out, cycling works more than just the leg muscles and your whole body will tone up. The fat will go eventually, but cycling is not a quick fix, more a longer term project. However, if you can keep up close to 50 miles per week and keep the diet to just what you need to fuel the rides, you will soon notice a difference and in 6 months time this will be significant.

The soreness will disappear fairly quickly, but do factor in occasional rest days to allow the muscles some recovery time. Also, the calories burned will be more than just what you use while riding, but afterwards as your metabolism is elevated for a while after the ride.


Legendary Member
Don’t use the calorie burned figures from a device to guide what you do or don’t eat, they are a rough guesstimate at best. How far are you riding in one go, at what level of effort?

Get in the habit of stretching after a ride, legs (especially calves, hamstrings, hip flexors), lower back, shoulders, neck :okay: google should provide a guide for stretches for cyclists. Have a hot bath or shower to further help loosen up the muscles. Check that your bike set up isn’t off and contributing to the soreness


Slightly retro
West Wales
I’ve been adding carbs in to keep from bonking. What am I doing wrong since my pants are tighter after 5 weeks? Thanks y’all!
You've just answered your own question! We all eat far more carbs than we need, carbs spike your insulin levels, insulin parks the carbs as fat. (Yes, I am aware that is a gross oversimplification.)

I've been on a low-carb diet (not keto) for the last 7 months and have lost 5½ stone. I am exercising more than ever before, including plenty of brisk cycle rides, and I have never bonked once. In fact, I seem to have more energy than I can remember. Elite athletes at the limits of performance may need to carb load, but for the rest of us, we needn't worry. The idea that we need a plate of pasta to do more than a 200-yard gentle walk is a myth, probably promoted by people who prefer pasta to exercise. (I used to be as guilty as anyone of this.) If you want to lose weight, eat healthily, watch your carb intake, stop snacking, and watch the pounds drop off.


Slightly retro
West Wales
10-15 miles, pushing myself quite hard, plenty of 10%+. Often twice a day. OK, I'm not an elite athlete, but then I don't think the OP is either.


Puzzle game developer
10-15 miles, pushing myself quite hard, plenty of 10%+. Often twice a day. OK, I'm not an elite athlete, but then I don't think the OP is either.
Yes, that is safely within low-carb territory. I don't know where people get the idea that they have to stuff carbs down them for an hour or so.

Longer, slow, flat rides are doable too.

The problem can come when you hit some combination of longish, quickish, and lumpy! (Especially if you get a headwind too...)

I've had spectacular bonks when overdoing my efforts and underdoing food and drink... THIS was my first and I have done my best to avoid it since then, but occasionally still get caught out.

I just drink water for up to about 25 miles or so. I would probably go to about 35-40 miles just adding some OJ to the water. Beyond that I would start adding carbo-powder to my drinks and/or eating something on the ride.

I know people who can do 50-100 miles pretty much on one bottle of water, but I wouldn't make it!


Slightly retro
West Wales
Sure. I am not for one minute suggesting that someone should follow a low-carb diet and try to do century rides on tap water. That would be foolish and possibly dangerous. But for the average recreational rider there is no need to load up on carbs in the way that marathon runners do. Standard advice, even from the NHS, is to 'eat plenty of healthy carbs to lose weight', but in my experience that is just not true. I don't eat rice, pasta, bread or spuds and get all the carbs in my diet from the small quantities in vegetables - but I do get plenty of protein and all my dairy is full-fat. To be honest, it suits me and I have never felt healthier or I am much more active than I used to be. The weight loss is obviously a big part of that, but having a low-carb diet doesn't seem to be holding me back.


Über Member
If your pants are tight on the thigh rather than the waistband, it sounds like you are building muscle. When I was weight training my legs got muscular fairly quickly (leg press), and even though we females do not build muscle as easily as men you will soon find your legs firming up with regular exercise.

Also, I really struggle to lose weight unless I eat very little, but if you are building muscle you may well change your shape, without seeing much of a reduction on the scale, as muscle weighs more and takes up less space than fat.

Fab Foodie

hanging-on in quiet desperation ...
Yes any regular physical activity will alter your body shape and cycling firms butts and increases thigh muscles, though it's not great for upper body.
However, the style of cycling will also affect your shape. Pushing a high gear hard all the time (akin to weight-lifting) will generate muscle mass (look at sprinters), spinning a lower gear will tone but not increase the muscle bulk to the same extent relying more on Cardio-vascular than brute strength.
No special dietary changes needed for those sorts of distances (10 to 20 miles per day).
Eat more plants. Don't obsess over calories and the scales but look in the mirror and ask how you feel?

Anecdata: After a longish lay-off from regular cycling I started doing 10 miles every morning ate more plants as a total percentage of my diet and reduced a little my alcohol consumption (from a high level). Now much fitter, only half a stone lighter from 15st BUT my body-shape particularly my waistline has dropped significantly (I can tell from the change in my belt holes, at least 4"). My jeans are a bit tighter round my thighs, but who cares about that - they look toned not flabby!
At weekends will sometimes ride up to 50 miles at a 12mph average (gentle) pace without breakfast and then eat normally after.


Legendary Member
@stephanie38 your experience matches that of many and plenty of good advice and comment above all of which I would endorse.

It sounds as though your goals are to lose weight and get fitter. You will not necessarily lose weight but you will move it around. My interest in weight control is body shape and not carrying dangerous fat. My body shape is good and I can always tell if I'm gaining weight as it goes straight to my stomach and I physically feel it. If my weight increases but my stomach is flattish I'm happy.

You asked about taking in carbs to replace those a device says you have used. My view would be ignore the device - completely. How can a fitness watch, for example, accurately tell you this? It's just a theoretical number based on averages across large groups of people.

Do not eat to replace carbs. It's important to view your body as an engine. An engine requires fuel before and while it is in use. You have to fuel a car before you drive, your body is the same. On your cycling days you should fuel your body adequately. If you don't the body will be stressed.

For example my daily breakfast is always porridge made with 40g of oats and 280ml of water. On a cycling day I increase this by 50% to provide the fuel for the 50/60 miles I intend to ride. When I get home I have my ordinary lunch, nothing extra.

Cycling will help you lose weight and you can enhance this by understanding your diet, eating the foods you need to fuel your daily activities and dropping the crap we all are tempted by.

Drink lots of water every day - 2-3 litres.

Ming the Merciless

There is no mercy
Inside my skull
Just stick with your normal diet and keep the cycling going. The weight doesn’t come on rapidly so don’t try and lose it quickly. If the rides are about an hour each you shouldn’t need to eat anything extra during the ride. As you begin to feel fitter then try riding a bit quicker but don’t push hard all the time. Try to resist snacking after a ride. Just stick to your usual meal times.

Something I sometimes do is take it easy for the majority of a ride. Then when I have just two hills left back to home , I up the intensity and try that bit harder knowing the finish is in sight. Guaranteed not to bonk (unless ride is quite a number of hours) 😀


I find in winter I pack on about 5-8lbs but then lose it in the spring without changing my eating habits. I think it’s due to the colder weather and shorter days so I am not moving around as much. My jeans get tighter round my thighs but my waistline doesn’t change.

I cycle 3 times a week on a lunch on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It’s for about 25mins on the turbo trainer and I do a short lap of somewhere on Zwift which usually has a sprint and a king of the mountains on. It’s fun, gets my heart rate up and I end up a sweaty mess from trying unsuccessfully to be in the top half of the live leaderboards. I don’t bother with any of the chats or group rides.


Active Member
I'll add some broad bullet points from my own experience, but you should qualify them from the perspective that they are highly subjective.

* I notice a much bigger change in physiology in the early days of a new workout regime, but that change will level out and plateu with time.
* I don't worry about sports related nutrition, other than keeping adequatly fuelled on any ride longer than 1hr.
* No matter what the calculators say, you've probably burnt less calories than you think.
* Related to the above, you'll probably overeat (without even realising it) during the week as your body attempts to claw back some defecit. You don't need to consciously add any more.

The great thing about cycling is you can put almost no thought into it and still reap the health rewards just be doing it regularly. It's low impact, highly efficient at converting human power into motion and bikes can be ridden within a huge range of perceived effort. On an off day, I can still get on a the bike and turn the pedals gently for an hour, come home and go about the rest of my day. But on the same off day, if I went for a 30m run it would probably wreck me for the rest of the day.

Tl;dr - don't over think it, just ride and be happy, you'll get fitter and trimmer.


Legendary Member
I don't think the OP has been back to check the thread but thought I'd mention this which might interest others. Strava reports I burned 4578 calories on my ride yesterday. It doesn't know I had porridge for breakfast and during the ride beans on toast, poached egg, flapjack, granola bar and Cacao brownie bar - this was long, hilly ride, 90 miles, 8500 feet. I had a normal evening meal.

I've no idea of the calorific value of what I ate during the ride but do know in the last three miles I was hungry and if there had been further to go I would have eaten something more. I've read an active male of my age, 66, needs 2000 calories per day. For me this suggests considering making up any calorie deficit after a ride isn't a beneficial approach. I fuelled a hard ride with just enough and then ate normally which seems to me to be the correct way to approach cycling and weight loss.
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