Biking to Lose the Belly
Many of my Hubber colleagues know me as an avid bicyclist. I do really enjoy cycling, but for years now my knees hit my belly whenever I was "hammering down in the drops" - that is, whenever I am pedaling hard with my hands down in the lowest part of my drop handlebars.
But no more. Why? Because I changed my diet and added a very small amount of exercise to my existing regimen.
Unlike many people, I did not change my diet because I wanted to lose weight. I was looking for foods that made me stronger and gave me more energy because I wanted more endurance while cycling and I wanted not to feel so tired at 3pm every afternoon. Really, I felt like I was going to pass out every afternoon at my job around 2pm or 3pm.
Then I read an article in Bicycling Magazine about eating for more energy and endurance and less body fat at the same time. The basic rules of the diet are:
- Avoid starches like potatoes, pizza crust, pasta and bread
- Increase omega 3 fatty acids from foods like salmon, olives, dark chocolate and avocado
- Increase non-fat protein intake (fish, soy protein, a little dairy protein, nuts)
The idea behind the diet that if you eat a lot of pasta and bread, these foods become sugar in your bloodstream. This teaches your body to burn sugar and store fat. If, on the other hand, you have little starch turning to sugar in your bloodstream and extra protein and omega 3 fatty acid, this encourages your body to burn fat and use the protein to build muscle. As you exercise your body is signaled to build more muscle and increase blood flow to your muscles, making you stronger and giving you more endurance.
The chief obstacle to success, I discovered, was maintaining adequate calorie intake. I start my day with unflavored plain oat meal and, of course coffee. When I get off the bike at work I clean up and then have a Think Thin energy bar because I like the protein/fat ratio and snack on dried fruit and/or nuts until lunch and lots of water. For lunch I have a pouch of Pillar Rock cooked salmon (1000mg of omega 3, 7g of fat and 13g of protein), with 1-2 oz. of dark chocolate for dessert. In the afternoon I have a fresh fruit like an apple, a non-fat or low-fat yogurt, and more dried fruit. I basically eat all day. For dinner I have whatever the fam is having less the bread.
One day there was nothing else in the house, so I had a sandwich and experienced a big boost in energy. So I surmise, though I am no expert, that a little bread is a good thing. Hopefully some of my fellow hubbers with real expertise in this area will chime in in comments below.
My experience with this program has been positive. Although I have exercised more rigorously in previous years, this is the first year I have been able to virtually eliminate my belly fat. I now have plenty of room when pedaling hard, bent over my handlebars. Not only that, but I can maintain a faster pace for a much longer period of time. Recently I have noticed my speed creeping up, too. I was averaging 14 to 15mph, now I am in the 16 to 17mph range constistently. This is interesting since I am actually training about ten percent less than I did last year!
Also I am no longer sleepy in the afternoon at work and can maintain a steady pace there, too.
Another source of positive reinforcement - now instead of one big ab I am starting to see six little abs. This is not such a big deal to me, but it is kinda fun. I feel encouraged to do some sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups, maybe a little weights, and see what I can do with that. I'll let you know how it works out.