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Having a beautifully ripped abdomen is a goal for many exercisers. We make various attempts to reach this, starting with a series of crunches and ending with cardio. However, it does not always help us achieve the desired effect, which can be frustrating for some of us. One of the ways to reduce belly fat is cycling. Is this statement true? Why is cycling so effective? How long and intensive do we have to do it to achieve the effect? You will find the answer to all your questions below.

Locally burn belly fat

 

When starting the adventure with weight reduction, we often set ourselves a particular goal, for example “I want to lose fat from the lower abdomen and inside of the thighs”. At first, it seems logical to perform exercises in order to force a specific part of the body to exercise. While reading this article, the first thing you should ask yourself is whether there is such a phenomenon as local fat burning at all? Well, it turns out that not altogether is true, and wrongly set aims can only lead to dissatisfaction with the end results.

In order to supply energy to, for example, the abdominal muscles to perform a crunches, or to the thigh muscles to perform a squat, the body will not use the fatty resources located in these places at first [1-2]. In addition, the amount of adipose tissue deposition, the place where it is stored and the rate of fat burning depends not only on exercise, but also on the diet, individual conditions and hormone profile. Thus, we lose adipose tissue equally throughout the body. Even if there are differences in fat burning in the whole lot [3,4], they are not significant, and our body is smart enough to inhibit this process, trying to equalize the percentage of body fat in certain areas of the body, such as on one leg and the other or both hands.

What kind of exercise is the most effective to burn fat?

 

After tormenting thousands of crunches or squats, we still do not see the expected effects, it is worth direct your attention to low and medium-intensity aerobic exercises or high-intensity anaerobic exercises (HIIT) and include them in our training plan [5, 6]. Cycling, jogging or swimming will be a great option. Such exercises increase both heart rate and body temperature, involve many muscle groups, and by forcing them to work, we burn plenty of calories. Do not forget about weight training that intensifies lipolysis (the process of releasing fatty acids from adipocytes (fat cells)), but burn relatively little energy. Combined with aerobic exercise that will spend it on energy goals, we will achieve the best effect.

Does cycling burn (belly) fat?

 

Cycling as an example of endurance training is ideally suited to the fight against excessive fat tissue. While riding a bike, we engage practically all muscles in our body (in particular, the back, buttocks, thighs, and abdomen), thanks to which, we not only burn a lot of calories but also sculpt muscles. During one hour of cycling at a moderate pace, a man weighing 70 kg will burn about 500 Kcal. This value will fluctuate, depending on our body weight, training intensity, and the terrain we move on.

In addition, cycling has other health benefits, such as improving the body’s immunity, circulation, heart function, and oxygenating the body. Moreover, by forcing practically all muscle groups to work, it strengthens them. However, it is not enough to get on the bike and pedal pointlessly. In order for the fat-burning process to take place properly, we must follow certain rules.

How long should cycling training last?

 

To know how long we should ride a bike for optimal fat burning, let’s first get acquainted with the physiology of exercise. Surely you have heard the statement that we start to burn fat only after 45 minutes of training. This is not entirely true, because the body uses the reserves of adipose tissue at every stage of workout – only its percentage differs [7]. Under normal circumstances, muscles work on the following fuels: muscle glycogen, blood glucose, intramuscular triglycerides, or blood fatty acids. Their involvement in energy expenditure depends on the intensity and duration of the training unit. The longer the exercise time is, the share of fatty acid oxidation increases.

So how long should the training last to make fat burning as effective as possible? Actually, there is no specific answer – 30 – 60 minutes is considered a reasonable duration of training. However, from the point of view of weight loss, time is of little importance. The body will strive to compensate for the depleted resources of both intramuscular glycogen and triglycerides. So it will need to extract energy from adipose tissue or food, and this will translate into fat reduction. In this case, I would focus on introducing a diet with an appropriate caloric deficit.

Fasting training vs fat burning

 

Fasting aerobic training is a frequently chosen weight loss strategy. Proponents argue their choice that because they deplete body fat from exercise fuel. Research supports this theory. It has been shown that training, which was not preceded by a meal, oxidizes 20-30% more energy from fat [8]. The results seem promising, but it is worth noting that the energy from fat is not only that stored in the subcutaneous adipose tissue, but also the aforementioned intramuscular triglycerides. The source from which we draw exactly depends on the degree of our training (beginners use 50% of energy from subcutaneous fat, trained people only 30%) [9]. It also has some benefits – the burning of intramuscular triglycerides is associated with increased insulin sensitivity and exercise performance. In the light of the above – fasting training may bring benefits in the form of increased fat burning, especially in people who are just starting their adventure with losing weight, but among advanced it will not matter much. So, train the way you like – both before and after the morning meal will bring the expected results.

3 tips that may help you losing belly fat by cycling

Use intervals (HIIT)

It is worth adding interval training 1-2 times a week to your training plan. There is a lot of research into the beneficial effects of this type of exercise on fat burning. It can be especially useful when reducing stubborn adipose tissue. This is exactly the kind that is hardest to get rid of. Usually, it stays with us until the end of our weight loss, and even though the whole body looks great, there is still a roll of fat on your belly. Interval training is one way to get rid of it – it’s good to include it at the end of our weight loss way.

Typical cardio training is characterized by long, steady physical effort, typically 40-60 minutes. While this type of exercise will be effective at the beginning of our journey, treating the body with constant low stimuli, it will quickly get used to the effort and in the long perspective, it will not be as effective as at the beginning. Then it is worth focusing on interval training, which will be shocking enough for our body that it will knock it out of homeostasis. In addition, this training will be great for those who are living in a hurry – HIIT sessions usually last about half an hour.

How to do it? There are many ways to perform HIIT. Here is the simplest: after warming up, increase the intensity for 30-60 seconds, then train at a moderate pace for a minute. Do 4-8 intervals, then rest for about 5-10 minutes. Repeat the session 2-3 times. Read more about HIIT training.

Don’t overdo it

Too frequent and intense workouts, no time to regenerate – all this exposes your body to oxidative stress and increased cortisol levels, which in the end, instead of burning fat, will make it accumulate. Additionally, excessively high exercise intensity may lead to an increased risk of insulin resistance, muscle catabolism, and faster aging of the body [10]. So take it easy! Plan your workouts (especially HIIT – it’s enough if you do it 1-2 times a week), carefully and give yourself time to recover. For more about recovery after training, see this article.

The workout is not everything

Remember that how effectively you will burn fat depends not only on the training itself but also on many other factors. One of them is a healthy, balanced diet. For fat reduction to take place, we must create a caloric deficit (the energy expended should be greater than the energy consumed). It cannot be too big or too small. Properly selected nutritional values ​​will allow us to gradually and effectively reduce body weight, without the risk of nutritional deficiencies and health consequences. Too low supply of calories can lead to similar effects to excessive training, but also to hormonal disorders, reduced immunity, or chronic tiredness, among others. Equally important, a balanced diet is an adequate duration of sleeping (7-8 hours), which is the best form of regeneration, reduces stress levels, and promotes weight loss.

Summary

 

As a type of endurance training, cycling promotes fat burning not only on the abdomen but also the whole body. You should do it wisely and exercise moderation in frequency and intensity. Workouts performed on an empty stomach can accelerate fat burning, but this rule will work mainly for people starting their adventure with cycling. For those more advanced, I recommend including HIIT sessions in your training plan, which will not only provide new stimuli for the body, helping to fight stubborn adipose tissue but will also be a good solution for people who are running out of time. As with everything in life, moderation is very important – do not expose your body to additional stress or elevated cortisol levels – these factors make the effect of our efforts counterproductive. In the fight against excessive fat tissue, choose the type of activity you like – cycling, but also swimming or jogging will be great. Be patient – what we have accumulated over the years will not disappear in a month. Remember that training is not everything. A properly balanced diet and proper regeneration are also of great importance. Regular head-on training combined with these factors will give you the best results.

Resources:

  1. Vispute SS, Smith JD, Lecheminant JD, Hurley KS. The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011;25(9):2559-2564. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fb4a46
  2. Katch FI, Clarkson PM, Kroll W, McBride T, Wilcox A. Effects of Sit Up Exercise Training On Adipose Cell Size and Adiposity. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 1984;55(3):242-247. doi:10.1080/02701367.1984.10609359
  3. di Palu Mbo AS, Guerra E, Orlandi C, Bazzucchi I, Sacchetti M. Effect of combined resistance and endurance exercise training on regional fat loss. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2017;57(6):794-801. doi:10.23736/S0022-4707.16.06358-1
  4. Kordi R, Dehghani S, Noormohammadpour P, Rostami M, Mansournia MA. Effect of abdominal resistance exercise on abdominal subcutaneous fat of obese women: A randomized controlled trial using ultrasound imaging assessments. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2015;38(3):203-209. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2014.12.004
Iwona - Dietician

Iwona - Dietician

Master's degree in dietetics with a passion for sport and travel. She lives in Poland and runs her own diet clinic daily. She works mostly online not only with athletes but also with people who require specialized diets. Privately, she runs a blog about traveling and dietetics.

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