How to Lose Weight Without Losing Muscle During Cycling

Look and feel your best with cycling's fat-burning, muscle-building benefits.
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Cycling is a great way to incinerate calories if you're on a quest to shed some poundage. A 135-pound woman can blast almost 500 calories in an hour of moderate cycling. Amp up the speed to a vigorous 14 to 16 mph and you'll burn an additional 100 calories. This is all dandy, but the line becomes fine when you're trying to scorch fat without accidentally burning off your hard-earned muscle. So what's a girl to do? Keep the wheels a-turnin', that's what. A few tricks will help you fine-tune your workouts and diet to keep your body mean while you work on getting lean. Remember to talk with your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program.

Don't Go Diet Crazy

    Diets that advocate severe-calorie restriction will get results on the scale, but usually at the sacrifice of lean muscle mass. To lose 1 pound of fat, you must create a 3,500 calorie deficit. Burning 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day will lead to a safe weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. Severe calorie restriction and fad diets will cause you to lose weight, but much of that loss will be from water and muscle, not fat.

Become a Grazer

    Eating small meals five to six times a day will fuel your rides and keep your metabolic furnace burning while discouraging lean mass loss. Weight-loss coach and personal trainer Shawn Lebrun recommends eating meals that are high in protein, moderate in carbs and low in fat every three hours or so. Lebrun suggests a macro-nutrient ratio of 50 percent protein, 40 percent carbs and 10 percent fat, but your ratio may vary depending on your physiology, fitness level and training intensity.

Trade in Endurance for Intensity

    While the propensity for most cyclists is to engage in long, steady-state workouts, it might be beneficial to swap out some of those endurance rides for shorter, high-intensity training sessions. Shorter workouts will burn fewer calories overall, but that's exactly what makes high-intensity training more muscle-sparing than low-intensity, endurance workouts. They also build explosive power and strength, which will make you a stronger cyclist -- while shaking the boring out of your current-training regimen.

Eat More Protein

    Increasing your intake of lean protein can help preserve muscle mass in athletes. A 2010 study in "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise" examined how dietary protein can affect muscle preservation in dieting athletes. Researchers found that the group of participants consuming a diet of 35 percent protein had significantly superior muscle preservation during short-term dieting than the group consuming only 15 percent protein. If choking down egg whites and chicken breast all day doesn't appeal to you, a 2012 study in "Nutrition Journal" concluded that supplementing with whey protein during calorie-restricted diets promoted fat loss and minimal lean tissue loss of participants.

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