I've been cycling for about 1.5 yrs now doing about 1.5 hrs on a daily basis. I've been able to tone my muscles but I cannot lose my belly fat. Does anybody have any idea to decrease belly fat while cycling?

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    Lose weight. There is no documented way to "target" fat loss in a particular area of the body, Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 11:38
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    You cannot sit for 8+ hours a day at work/home, and then sit on a bike as your form of exercise and expect to get in shape. Your apparent fatness is a result of tight hip flexors and poor posture all around. Look into anterior pelvic tilt for more information.
    – HC_
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 17:19
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    @HC_ I disagree that measurable fat in the midsection is actually tight hip flexors or poor posture. If you can measure fat with calipers on your waist, then that is indeed how much fat is there. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 14:55

5 Answers 5


You cannot outride (or outrun or out-any-other-exercise) a bad diet. On top of that, decades of research shows it's impossible to "spot-reduce".

Your options are:

  • Eat some combination of food that results in fewer calories in. Shoot for somewhere between 200-500 fewer calories for moderate weight loss.
  • Ride some combination of harder and longer while maintaining your current intake. Harder could be adding hill climbs and sprint intervals. Longer would be adding a 3-4 hour ride on the weekend or something. This is hard to because as soon as you start riding harder you will want to eat more. It takes strong self discipline. It also assumes your diet isn't horrible to begin with.
  • Do a combination of the first two.
  • Forget everything above and start saving for liposuction or any of the other modern body sculpting surgeries. Personally I'd rather spend that money on a nicer bike and continue to try to ride the belly off, but to each their own.

Outside general weight/fat loss, strength and endurance exercises targeting the area will tone the underlying muscles, but will have little to no effect on your spare tire.

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    The self discipline problem can be helped by eating the right stuff. A can of Coke and a bowl of Oatmeal contain the same number of calories, but the bowl of oatmeal won't have you feeling hungry again in half an hour. Try to stay away from high calorie drinks altogether because most people don't actually adjust their food intake when drinking them. If you have a can of Coke with lunch, you should really be eating 140 less calories with your lunch, which most people don't do.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 15:13
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    Note that changing your diet means changing it forever, so don't go in extremes (like those 7 days cure where you eat nothing but veggies or whatever). Eating better and a little less will definitely help for the weight, but you have to keep that discipline or else you will regain that fat. Small changes can go a long way over time.
    – Bibz
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 19:31

I had the exact same issue. I was on a swim team and biking to work every day, but staying the same weight. It changed when I started replacing carbs and sugars in my diet with fiber, protein and fat. This meant eggs instead of cereal or toast at breakfast, a big salad instead of a sandwich at lunch, and avoiding pasta, pizza and tortillas at dinner. It also meant wine instead of beer and 75% dark chocolate instead of ice cream.

Use the Glycemic Index (measure of how much sugar pours into your bloodstream after eating) of the food in question to know if you should eat it. A bagel might seem healthy, but it has a higher glycemic index than Coke. Avoid oatmeal. Eat eggs and sausage instead. It seems counter-intuitive, I know.

Without the rise and fall of blood sugar making me hungry, my appetite got under control and I felt less sleepy.
I dropped weight so fast, I started feeling too cold in winter and couldn't make automatic doors work any more (OK, just kidding in that last one).

The problem is that like most diets, it is tough to stay on this one and when you do slip, it kicks off that blood sugar roller coaster.

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    Oatmeal has a low glycemic index.
    – djechlin
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 22:13
  • Yup. Well, a medium one anyway. I can't eat it without sugar though and that puts it into high.
    – mcgyver5
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 22:25
  • Avoid oatmeal? Why?
    – cherouvim
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 5:44
  • Avoid it because it is a conduit for sugar and carbs and it often gets a free pass because it has a reputation for being healthy. Preparing it from steel cut oats and adding nuts and fruits instead of sugar can reduce but not eliminate carbs.
    – mcgyver5
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 15:25

An 80kg person who rides vigorously for an hour burns about 2600kj of energy.

There is 37000kj in 1kg of fat, which is equivalent to the energy spent over 14 hours of vigorous riding. However, depending on the intensity, much of this energy will come from glucose in the muscles, so to burn 1kg of fat it might take 2 - 3 times longer. Say 28 to 42 hours of riding.

However, riding will also make you hungry, and if you eat too many carbohydrates they will be stored as fat, negating all that exercise.

One solution that is becoming popular (again) is a low-carb high-fat diet (e.g. mcgyver5's answer). In this diet you replace most carbohydrates with fat. The body adapts over a week or so to using ketones (from fat) instead of glucose (from carbs) as it's main energy source, going into a state of 'nutritional ketosis'. Many people lose weight without exercise on this diet. Once you are used to the diet - 'keto-adapted' you can use fat more efficiently, and most of the energy for riding will come from your fat stores instead of glucose. You should have less hunger after riding and avoid hypoglycaemia (bonking).

I have been on the diet for about 7 weeks, and ride casually between 30 mins and 1 hour a day, with some rides up to 2 hours with friends. I've lost 6kg over this period, and my brother on the same diet (but much fitter than I) has lost that belly fat you talk about. However, I have noticed on some rides I got leg cramps. The may be due to lack of water or salt. Some people recommending upping salt intake and taking magnesium supplements.

Also after waking in the morning you are in a state of ketosis so it might be beneficial to ride before breakfast (or eating anything)

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The graph below shows the range of ketone bodies in the blood for various states of ketosis. Nutritional ketosis is 0.5 to 3.0 millimolar. Keto-acidosis occurs above 10 millimolar. From what I've read, keto-acidosis only occurs in diabetics and alcholics and won't happen on a LCHF diet. e.g. http://www.lowcarbdietnews.com/what-is-ketosis-and-should-i-worry-about-it-on-a-low-carb-diet/

enter image description here

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    It needs to be noted that ketones, above a certain level, are toxic. "Ketosis" (excess ketones) is a common cause of "bonking" or "hitting the wall" -- you feel really lousy and queasy and it takes hours, if not days, to recover. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:01
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    @DanielRHicks From what I've read, toxic keto-acidosis doesn't occur on LCHF diet, it is something that happens to type 1 diabetics and alcholics. As for bonking, I have never experienced it, but isn't it lack of glucose that causes it, not 'excess ketones'. (Do you have a link?) It seems many ultra-marathoners and other athletes are switching to LCHF to prevent bonking. meandmydiabetes.com/2012/08/11/… Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 3:26
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    What do you think causes ketosis? It happens when blood sugar levels drop and the muscles must burn fat more directly. The by-product of this form of metabolism is ketones. The way to tell simple low blood sugar from ketosis is to consume some carbs and see if you quickly recover. Of course, if you don't then you're pretty much out of action for hours. (If you've never experienced this form of "bonk" then don't discount it -- it's not pleasant.) Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 12:06

what worked for me was serious, hard, (90 to 100% ) maximum heart rate interval rides. any good cycling training book can give you more specifics. they only need to be done 2/3 days a week. the other days you can ride in a more relaxed/recovery ride type of way. a lot will depend on how hard you are riding presently, if your heart rate isn't high enough, you wont see the results you are looking for. a good training book and a heart rate monitor could make the difference. Weight training for the large muscle groups, (butt & legs) would make difference as well.

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    In terms of training and power, yes, but for burning fat no. Short high intensity work outs will not reduce fat.
    – Qwerky
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 10:41

When you exercise your muscles burn two fuels;

a) fat
b) glycogen

Glycogen is carbohydrate stored in the muscles. Glycogen is quick and easy to metabolise, fat is slow and hard. Your body burns these fuels at different rates depending on how intensely you are working. At a low heart rate you burn more fat than glycogen. At high heart rate you start burning more glycogen because the rate at which you can metabolise fat isn't enough to supply the necessary energy.

Its worth noting that the body still burns more fat and total calories at higher heart rates, so high intensity exercise will still burn more fat than low intensity exercise for the same amount of time exercised ...and here is the key. You can keep up low intensity exercise for much longer than you can high intensity exercise. Double the time at half the intensity will burn more fat overall.

The answer therefore is to take regular long rides (2 hours or more) at low heart rate (heart rate zone 2). Try and do 3 or 4 long rides a week. To get this right you might want to invest in a heart rate monitor.

I would disagree with those suggesting high intensity exercise. All this does is quickly exhaust your glycogen and that's going to stop you exercising and make you want to eat more (when your glycogen levels get low your body releases chemicals that make you crave carbohydrates). 2 hours at zone 2 will not exhaust your glycogen so you should not feel the need to eat more. I would agree with those suggesting you also improve your diet. Its easy to reduce your total calorie intake by cutting out the crap, eg sugary soft drinks, crisps and other snacks.

  • The muscles also burn glucose (blood sugar), from recently ingested carbs (or from the conversion of fat to glucose in the liver). Fat is burned in the form of fatty acids, which must be released into the bloodstream as a result of several enzymes, primarily in response to low blood sugar and resulting low insulin levels. It's necessary to deplete blood sugar to a degree before fat burning begins in earnest. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:58

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