How to Gain Muscle, Burn Fat, and Lose Weight Biking and Cycling

Updated on May 2, 2018
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Michael exercises six days a week to build strength. Here's how he built up to doing handstand push-ups.

Cycling vs. Biking

Riding a bike is one of the best ways to burn a lot of calories. It is a low-impact exercise that is easy on your body. This means you can do it more often than higher-impact exercises like running or jumping rope. You can go fast or slow and you can use gears to increase or decrease the resistance. Biking is good for interval training when you switch from intense exercise to less intense exercise and back again. It's also great for long endurance workouts.

First, a couple of definitions: Cycling and biking mean almost the same thing. They both involve riding a bicycle. When I go biking, I ride my bike at a leisurely pace of about 12 miles (19 km) an hour. I enjoy the scenery and dress in normal clothes. If you go at a slower pace most of the time then you are biking. People who race by me in spandex on expensive bikes are cyclists. In the gym or at home, cycling means going fast like you are in a race.

Cycling in a race.
Cycling in a race. | Source

How Many Calories Can I Burn on a Bike?

When I bike for an hour at a good pace I burn around 500 calories in an hour. On an elliptical trainer, I can burn around 700 calories an hour. If I run on a treadmill for an hour, I burn about 750 calories.

Biking is not the fastest way to burn calories, but biking for an hour is easier than running for an hour and the amount of time you spend exercising makes a big difference.

I can burn a lot more calories biking than I can on a run because I can bike more often and for longer periods of time. If I am exercising inside, I burn more calories using an elliptical trainer than on an exercise bike because my elliptical workouts tend to last longer than my exercise bike workouts.

Biking at a leisurely pace.
Biking at a leisurely pace. | Source

Can I Gain Muscle or Lose Weight on a Bike?

Biking is a great way to lose weight. It's not a good way to bulk up, but you will gain some muscle if you give your body enough time to recover between workouts.

How much muscle you gain and how much weight you lose depends on the shape you are in when you start exercising. After biking once a week you will be leaner with nice leg muscles. As you improve you will gain a bit of dense muscle. Gaining muscle can make it harder to lose weight, but easier to lose fat. Some people do not want muscle but the extra muscle makes it easier to burn calories.

If you really do not want to gain muscle, then focus on long, slow rides. I do not recommend overtraining but I do recommend that you try to improve every time so you burn more calories.

I took this picture while I was biking in a provincial park.
I took this picture while I was biking in a provincial park. | Source

How to Stay Interested in Your Workout

Exercise only works if you can get yourself to do it. Workouts can be boring because of the repetition and getting yourself to continue to bike can take a lot of willpower. When biking inside you can watch TV or listen to music. Personally, I prefer to bike outside. It takes less willpower to get myself to bike to a park than to bike inside. I can get myself to bike more often and I can get myself to bike further.

If you can, start going for bike rides outside. Take yourself to interesting and relaxing places. One bike ride a week might be enough to get the results you want and you will feel more of a sense of accomplishment if you actually go somewhere.

When cycling or biking to lose weight it is important to do more than check the scale. See how your clothes fit and how much belly fat you can grab.

How to Assess Success With Biking

Weight loss is when your weight decreases. You can step on a scale to see if you lost weight. Fat loss is when you lose fat. You lose fat when your body breaks it down and uses it for energy. Sometimes you lose fat without losing weight and sometimes you lose weight without losing fat.

When cycling or biking to lose weight it is important to do more than check the scale. See how your clothes fit and how much belly fat you can grab. When people say they want to lose weight they usually mean fat. Thinking of it as losing fat weight or losing fat makes it easier to slim down.

Biking made my leg muscle bigger.
Biking made my leg muscle bigger. | Source

My Results From Biking

When I started biking once a week in late spring, I lost inches of fat. Biking helped me fit into my summer clothes. It only took three bike rides to notice a difference. Biking burned a lot of calories. I gained muscle from biking and lost weight, but I also gained weight. My fat weight decreased while my muscle weight increased. Instead of losing weight, I ended up gaining 20 pounds.

The good news is that the extra muscle weight makes it easier to keep the fat off. I did not notice that I weighed more until I used a scale, but I did not notice the extra muscle at first either. It was easy to tell that I was leaner.

What to Expect From a Biking Workout

  1. You gain muscle and lose fat. It is easy to gain muscle by riding a bike but the muscle gain will not be very noticeable. If you are skinny, fat, or just a little overweight then you will probably gain weight. If you are 40 pounds or more overweight, then you should lose weight. If you are 20 to 30 pounds overweight then your weight could stay the same as you lose fat.
  2. You are less likely to increase your muscle weight if you do not increase the intensity and the duration of your bike rides. However, that could prevent you from burning enough calories to lose the fat. Stick to long, slow bike rides if you want to limit the muscle gain. The best way to lose fat weight by biking is to improve. Increase the speed, distance, or resistance a little each time until you have the results you want.
  3. Biking one day a week can be enough if you go for long bike rides and improve your endurance. To burn enough calories to lose some fat, bike for 3 to 5 hours a week. If you are going for shorter bike rides then bike up to 5 days a week. Resting at the halfway point can double your distance. I recommend biking somewhere, resting, and then biking back. Another approach is to cycle at a fast pace for 60 to 90 minutes a week. Cycle at a fast pace 3 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes.

If you really want to look more like a cyclist then make bike-riding your new hobby.

© 2018 Michael H

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    • profile image

      Sharon 

      4 weeks ago

      Very informative! I am doing what is and seeing great results. My clothes are big on me and the scale seems the same which is ok since i am 130lbs!

      Thanks for the info!!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      5 months ago from Brazil

      Very informative, especially with the cycling season right around the corner for many. I too found it deadly boring in a gym, it's much better to be out and about getting fresh air.

      I'm glad you mentioned that you gained weight but that you are leaner. I think that is important to mention because too much emphasis is put on weight and not overall health.

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