Some people exercise for the health benefits. Others to lose fat in areas like their belly. Does cycling help you burn belly fat?
Unfortunately it is generally not possible to choose where you lose fat. So to burn belly fat your best bet is to burn fat overall until your abdominal area is next.
An important factor in how much fat you lose is how much energy, calories, your body uses. Exercises like cycling can help you with this.
In fact cycling is an exercise that can help you burn a relatively high number of calories in a short amount of time. On top of that cycling is not as hard as other workouts on body parts like knees and back.
If you’re currently not used to exercising at high intensities it may be smarter to start out with something more simple like walking.
Other lifestyle factors like what you eat are also very important factors in whether or not you will burn fat.
There are also situations where your belly can be bloated that have nothing to do with accumulating fat. By resolving the root cause of that you might be able to slim down your belly to some extent without fat loss.
Why you generally can’t focus fat loss
Some people get the impression that to burn fat you have to stay at a certain heart rate, eat certain foods, or do specific workouts.
Unfortunately, targetting fat loss in a specific area like your belly is generally not possible. To burn fat, or more specifically belly fat, you have to lose weight overall.
Some people claim that you can feel a “burn” in a specific place when you are working the muscles in that area with a certain exercise. However, it’s not because specific muscles are working that your body only uses energy from that place.
Your body looks at your body fat as a single store of energy. It does prioritize certain areas but you generally don’t have a say in the order this happens.
How do you gain body fat?
Every day you do all kinds of activities that require energy. Walking, breathing, sleeping, eating,.. you need energy to do all these things. Your body gets this energy, which is measured in calories, from food.
When you absorb more calories from your food than you use your body stores this energy for later use. As body fat and in other ways. Ultimately, the more excess calories you consume the more body fat you will gain.
Your body prefers some areas over others for fat storage. Most often the preferred areas are places like your abdomen and hips.
At a certain point, it can be more useful for your body to have the excess body fat divided into different areas. From a certain point on you will gain gradually gain body fat in other areas too.
The problem is that excess body fat increases the risk of all kinds of diseases and is generally not considered visually appealing.
In what order does fat loss happen?
Luckily it is also possible to reduce these excess energy stores again. When your body wants to use more energy than there is coming in from food it starts using its energy stores.
Once you start losing body fat, the reverse of this storing process usually happens. The last place you gained fat will most likely be the first place you will lose fat again.
This means that in the beginning, you will lose a lot of body fat in places like face, hands, and feet. The places where you gained fat first will most likely be the last where you lose fat. That’s why you may have heard from “stubborn belly fat”.
The main reason this order of fat loss is different in different people is mainly due to genetics. Some people easily gain weight on their belly, others easily store fat in their thighs. There is little you can do to influence this order.
Is cycling good for calorie burning?
A popular way to increase the number of calories burned and thus tap into body fat energy stores is by exercising. By moving more intensely and building muscle you increase the amount of energy your body requires.
Cycling is one of the most popular cardio exercises. Partly because it is a workout that is not heavy on knees but also because it can help you burn a relatively high number of calories in a short amount of time.
Below you can find rough estimations for calories burned for individuals cycling at different speeds for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that in reality these numbers will likely look different for you (1).
If you want more in-depth estimations and techniques to burn more calories while cycling make sure you read the article on how many calories cycling burns.
|Cycling 10-11.9 mph |
|Cycling 12-13.9 mph|
|Cycling 14-15.9 mph|
|125 Pounds (56 kg)||177 calories||236 calories||295 calories|
|155 Pounds (70 kg)||220 calories||293 calories||366 calories|
|185 Pounds (83 kg)||262 calories||350 calories||437 calories|
|215 Pounds (97 kg)||305 calories||406 calories||508 calories|
These estimations are for during the exercise. Doing a workout at high intensity can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stop doing the exercise.
It’s hard to estimate these more long-term calorie burning effects.
Is cycling a good way to lose belly fat?
Whether cycling burns any calories is not the only question. How does this workout compare to the amount of energy in food and other exercises?
And these are relatively weight loss friendly food examples. It’s clear that what you eat plays a big role in whether or not you will lose belly fat while cycling.
The following numbers are calorie-burning estimations for a 155-pound person cycling vs other workouts for 30 minutes (4).
- Cycling 10-11.9 mph: 220 calories
- Cycling 12-13.9 mph: 293 calories
- Cycling 14-15.9 mph: 366 calories
- Water Aerobics: 149 calories
- Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
- Dancing (Fast, ballet, twist): 223 calories
- Stair Step Machine (general): 223 calories
- Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
- Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
- Running 6.7 mph: 409 calories
- Swimming (crawl): 409 calories
- Running 10 mph: 614 calories
Overall, cycling can certainly be a great cardio workout in terms of calorie burning and thus losing belly fat.
How long should you cycle to burn fat?
One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to burn fat with cycling will also depend on the number of calories in your diet.
One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.
15 minutes of cycling a day at 12-13.9 mph could help you burn an extra 1465 calories in 10 days which is about 0.42 pounds of body fat. 30 days 4395 calories and so on…
Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be harmful. In general, a 500 calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.
How to improve appearance in body areas
There are many reasons why someone would want to lose belly fat. One of these reasons is simply improving their appearance. While you can’t target fat loss you can sometimes improve the appearance of certain areas of your body.
The first way you can make your belly appear less fat is by reducing swelling. You do have to keep in mind that not everyone who has feet that appear fat necessarily has swelling.
You can learn what some possible causes are. By excluding these you know whether or not you need to lose fat in your feet if you want to see a visual change.
Here are some possible reasons your belly might be bloated (5):
- Eating a lot of salt
- Fluid retention
- Drinking too many carbonated drinks
- Certain medicines
- Medical conditions
While excluding these factors can help, keep in mind that if the number on the scale is high too you likely have to focus on losing fat too.
Toning body parts
The second way you can make body parts appear less fat is by building muscle in these areas. This won’t improve fat burning in the area but the muscle can make it look better.
In the case of your belly, you can do exercises that focus on your abdominal muscles like for example sit-ups.
Things to keep in mind
In terms of calorie-burning, cycling is a good exercise choice. You do need to keep some other things in mind when choosing a workout to burn belly fat.
First of all, if you’re currently not used to exercising you likely don’t want to jump straight into cycling at high intensities. You want to get your muscles, including your heart muscle, back into decent shape first. This is where something like walking can be a great workout to start out with before cycling.
If burning belly fat is your main goal it may also be smart to implement some exercises in your schedule specifically for building muscle. The extra muscle mass will help you burn more calories day in, day out, including during cycling.
Also keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.