Why do cyclists have big bellies?

We all start cycling for different reasons, but once we catch the bug, we just have one question. How can I improve my speed?

Excess fat is the most common hurdle for most people. As we approach and beyond middle age (by far the most populous population in cycling and triathlon), a lot of that fat begins to collect around our midsection and becomes frustratingly tough to shift. We ride for miles and burn a lot of calories, yet it seems to have little to no effect.

Have we been heading in the wrong direction all along? Why do cyclists have big bellies?

Why do cyclists have big bellies?

Cycling is a kind of exercise, hence it is frequently associated with fit people. As a result, people are perplexed when they see an overweight cyclist. The variables that explain this phenomenon are listed below.

Calories In Calories Out

Aside from illness, the primary cause of obesity is the consumption of more calories than the body requires to complete its everyday duties.

The excess energy obtained from meals is stored as fat. Exercising boosts one’s energy output and so raises the threshold for the process’s beginning, but it does not reverse it.

In other words, no matter how much you exercise, if you eat too much, you will gain weight.

As a result, it’s not uncommon to see touring cyclists or commuters wearing potbellies. They may cycle a lot, but their food consumption exceeds their caloric needs, forcing the organism to store the additional fuel as fat.

In contrast, some people do not exercise much or at all and remain relatively thin. What is their secret? Even with their sedentary lifestyle, they consume little food.

Quantity versus Quality

Eating “clean,” healthful foods can also lead to fat buildup if calorie intake exceeds caloric expenditure.

Even when consuming junk food, one can lose weight if the calories consumed are less than the required energy requirements.

Cardio Increases Hunger

Cycling does not require gasoline or electricity, yet it is not without energy. Because the cyclist is the motor, bikes run on fat and carbs (calories) as well. As a result, you get hungry after a lengthy ride.

Other types of cardio also enhance the practitioner’s hunger and, in rare situations, may induce a person to consume a calorie bomb.

When you combine this with the fact that many individuals believe they have earned a desert after exercising, you have a recipe for overeating while believing you are losing weight. I was so hungry after a bike that I ate 4 slices of pizza and 2 donuts at the same time.

Conclusion: It’s very easy to “out-eat” the calories you expend while cycling and stay the same weight or even gain weight.

For example, if you go for a bike ride and burn 500kcal, you could come home and eat two waffles, which can easily exceed 500kcal.

At the end of the day, the old saying “you can’t out train a lousy diet” still holds true.

The First Stages of Weight Loss

Another reason you could see obese cyclists is that some people join the sport specifically to lose weight, but their journey is just beginning, and you’re catching them in the beginning. I recommend you to read How long should a beginner bike ride? to know exactly how long you begin to lose weight.

Cycling is a popular weight-loss activity for the following reasons:

  • Cycling is less stressful on the knees because you’re technically seated, and the load on the knees comes solely from the pedaling motion. Knee stress can be reduced to very low levels if the gear is set low enough.
  • Running, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, increasing joint tension. When a person is overweight, the detrimental effect is amplified due to the additional mass that the skeleton must support.

Many athletes over-carb before an average ride and then refuel with even more carbs, sometimes the wrong kind of carbs. You simply cannot ‘out-ride’ a terrible diet unless you create a substantial caloric deficit through cardio and compensate for the energy expended by eating more food.

I frequently write about how cyclists can enhance their performance or become better athletes. The subject is common: losing body fat improves performance.

You may be aware that males, in particular, are more prone to growing a pot belly, especially when their nutrition is out of whack. Age and declining testosterone levels exacerbate the problem, thus it is not uncommon for a middle-aged man cyclist to have a football tucked away under his Lycra.

Not only does an increasing waistline not look good, but it is also related with a number of major health risks.

Unless you create a big calorie deficit by performing a high volume of cardio, the weight reduction that can be predicted as a result of steady-state cardio is minimal.