post Does Cycling Burn Belly Fat (According to Science)

Does Cycling Burn Belly Fat (According to Science)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 8, 2023
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Cycling is a top-notch cardio activity that works all of the major muscle groups.

But just how effective is it in getting rid of belly fat?

We researched the science behind cycling to see if it can actually torch body fat, specifically around your midsection.

Here’s what we discovered.

Quick Summary

  • Cycling burns belly fat, and promotes waist trimming, and weight loss, but it takes time for the results to be visible.
  • To increase weight loss through cycling, occasionally adjust the intensity of your workout.
  • Studies published in the International Journal of Obesity show that riding a bike to work is just as good for weight loss as going to the gym five days a week.
  • Based on my experience, cycling stands out as a highly efficient method for sustained fat loss and overall health improvement.

Can You Lose Belly Fat By Cycling?

A man holding his belly fat

Yes, you can lose belly fat by cycling. While it may take time before you see the results, cycling is a low-impact exercise, meaning you are less likely to hurt your joints when doing it.

As a fitness trainer, I've seen clients reduce overall and belly fat significantly through cycling.

This moderate aerobic exercise not only burns calories but also lowers cortisol levels, a stress hormone often associated with abdominal fat.

Additionally, it enhances mental health and motivation, essential for consistent weight loss.

Here are more benefits associated with taking a long ride on your bike.

Burns Calories Fast

According to research, you should burn at least 8,400 kJ (2,000 calories) a week through exercise to efficiently shed extra weight.

“Even after cycling for 30 minutes, you could be burning a higher amount of total calories for a few hours after you stop.”

- Mark Simpson, Sports Physiologist 

From my time training clients, I've observed that steady cycling can burn about 1,200 kJ (300 calories) per hour. As you work harder, the more you’ll appreciate its fat-burning result.

Additionally, cycling can enhance gut health, which plays a crucial role in metabolism and fat loss.

Raises Your Heart Rate

Getting on your bike not only raises your rate of heart; it can also torch calories.

If you do more cycling, as a way to be physically active, your body will use more calories and burn fat, including abdominal fat as fuel, thereby helping you achieve weight loss.

Helps You Lose Overall Body Weight

To eliminate belly fat, you must aim to reduce overall body fat instead of just targeting a specific area for fat loss.

Based on my experience as a fitness trainer, cycling is as effective as working out in the gym as it boosts your metabolism and builds muscle mass while efficiently burning pounds off your entire body.

A health study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that riding the bike to work was just as good for weight loss as going to the gym five days a week [1].

Improves Sleep

Many of my clients have reported improved sleep quality after incorporating cycling into their routines.

Better sleep, as I've observed, significantly enhances their metabolic health, making their weight loss journey smoother and more effective.

How To Lose Weight With Cycling

A group of cyclists

Your stomach muscles don’t stretch with cycling as much as they do with high-intensity exercise. Still, this aerobic exercise can help you reach your weight loss goals faster.

Here’s how you can losing weight by cycling.

Adjust The Intensity Occasionally

A man riding bicycle outdoors

Start cycling at a moderate pace, gradually increasing intensity as endurance builds.

Aim for low to moderate intensity 80% of the time, and moderate to high intensity for the remaining 20%.

High-intensity interval training, taking 30-45 minutes, effectively burns belly fat.

Stationary bikes or indoor trainers are ideal for safety at higher speeds.

Plan most of your workouts at about 70% of your maximum rate of heart for about two hours. As your fitness level improves, take longer rides to three hours or more for maximum calorie burn.

Try Off-Bike Exercises

Most people tend to concentrate on stomach crunches and sit-ups to get rid of belly fat. Although strength training can help build muscle and improve core strength, they won’t eliminate unwanted fat.

Aerobic exercises such as yoga, planks, jogging, and Zumba are some of the most effective methods to remove fat.

Related: Top-Rated Smart Exercise Bikes

Ride Fasted

A man relaxing near a bridge beside his bike while holding a coffee

Based on my experience, riding while fasted in the morning has helped some of my clients maximize fat burn.

This approach encourages the body to use stored fat as fuel, which can be particularly effective for those struggling with stubborn belly fat.

Riding fasted in the morning can be exhausting.

So, have a cup of black coffee or water before starting and keep it under two hours.

Avoid Stress

You might find yourself binge eating to deal with your emotions, it is a habit that can keep you from achieving your weight loss goals — so, aim for less stress.

Cycling is effective at combating stress, anxiety, and tension. which are all related to high blood pressure. This form of exercise can also boost your mood.

Maintain The Right Diet

A healthy low carb diet

To lose fat, burn more calories than you consume. Monitor your calorie intake, especially foods that spike blood sugar or risk diabetes, while ensuring you eat enough for optimal functioning.

Prioritize a healthy diet with lean proteins (like eggs, chicken, and salmon), leafy greens, beans, and potatoes for weight loss.

Avoid sugary snacks and high-saturated fat foods such as cheese and butter.

Get Adequate Rest

Losing weight also requires getting enough sleep, so get some good rest after a long day of cycling.

Research published by the National Institutes of Health shows that you’re more likely to gain weight if you’re sleep-deprived [2].

Get at least 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, especially when going for tedious rides.

Sleep is also essential for post-exercise recovery and injury prevention.

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