Over the past few years – since moving to Austin in 2010 – I’ve been struggling with weight loss. Look, we’re all cyclists. We probably all ride with skinny, fit dudes and as a bigger guy, it’s frustrating. Even now, at the peak of my fitness, I still get dropped by “climbers”. What I found was to take these experiences and use them as part of my motivation. There was one defining moment however. A majority of it came from a ride I did in Australia a few years back…
Granted, this ride was really tough. Two, 100-120 mile days with over 15,000′ elevation a day in the Australian summer. I didn’t bonk, but it took me forever to climb, then I laid down and rested for 3-5 minutes. No big deal. It did however lend itself as an opportunity for Andy to make some sort of comment along the lines of “you’ve got big lungs and long legs, if you got in shape, you’d be a strong rider.”
From there, something burned inside me and I’m not talking about a hot pizza slice. I wanted to be able to enjoy tough rides and be fit enough to carry camera gear with me, or sprint up ahead to set up a photo. I wanted to up my game.
I began thinking about what I was eating. Instead of getting BBQ after a ride, I ate lean protein and salads. Instead of drinking beer, I switched solely to bourbon and instead of riding at a comfortable pace solo, I began pushing myself.
It took over two years before people began to see a noticeable difference in my fitness.
Here I am in 2012, racing cross. I probably weighed around 215 here, down from 225.
2013, around 210.
2013, opening weekend of cross season, right at 190lbs.
Now, in 2014 I fluctuate between 175 and 185, depending on what I’m riding, how often and hydration levels. “Race weight” is 175, sitting on my ass driving a pickup truck down the PCH and traveling to see family for a month weight is 185.
That’s over four years of steady, slow weight loss. Any doctor I’ve talked to has told me that is the key. Weight loss should come from a lifestyle change, from diet, to physical exercise and it should happen over time. If you rush it, you’ll do your body more harm than good.
That said, here are the main changes I made with my lifestyle. Granted, you shouldn’t try to go all in here. Just make small changes. Cutting yourself off from your favorite foods sucks. Instead, treat them as a reward. Really love burgers? Reward yourself after a tough ride with a burger. Just don’t keep eating burgers every single day!
Here we go. Healthy helps. These are my normal meals:
Breakfast: a 1/2 – 1 cup of oatmeal with blueberries, toasted almonds, cinnamon and water. Simple. Or quinoa with a fried egg. Yolk and all.
Lunch: I have two lunches, the post-ride lunch and busy day lunch.
-Post-ride: fish tacos (grilled) or a salad with fish on top.
-Busy day, no ride: Fresh soup and tortilla chips. Even canned soup is good, just watch the sodium.
Dinner: I love the shit out of greens. Bok Choy, kale, chard spinach. Sauteed, steamed, whatever. I eat a good portion of greens every day. That’s a given. Fresh fish from the market, cooked on a skillet. Sweet potatoes, squash, brown rice, quinoa. Whatever. If you like Whole Foods, look into the “Health Starts Here” food items. Hell, try to go vegetarian.
Photo by Margus Riga
Ride a lot, often. The shorter, sweeter rides are better than always doing 60+ rides. I’ll go out on the road bike in the morning for 20 miles and then the mountain bike at night sometimes for the same. Mix your riding up. Mountain bikes rule because they wipe out your entire body. Give yourself time to recover. If your legs are sore, do a recovery spin. Don’t go out hammering away.
Don’t overdo it. You can literally ride yourself into trouble.
That said, big rides help in weight loss for sure. I still do one or two big rides a month. Eat on the bike, but avoid mass-produced bars. Instead, go for foods like avocado, almonds, mangos, almond butter, etc. Sweets are ok on the bike, so relish them! Just remember, if you eat foods high in cholesterol, you’re not helping your body.
Fuck beer. Seriously. It’s the worst. If you’re trying to lose weight, stop drinking beer! It’s tough, but that stuff is like drinking dead calories. You might as well be eating pizza every night.
Bourbon has the least amount of calories than any other liquor. It has no additives, no flavoring, it’s a mash in a charred oak barrel and that’s where it gets its flavoring. Vodka is also good. Drink it on the rocks, or neat. Mixing with ginger ale or ginger beer is horrible for you. Look at how much sugar is in ginger ale!
If you’re going to drink beer, drink shitty, “light” beer.
Snacking. Buy almonds, salted is fine. They’re great for you. Just don’t eat an entire bag. I usually snack on a handful if I’m hungry. Or eat a banana. If I am craving something sweet, I literally drink a thing of Skratch.
Finally, recovery! I used to do nothing for recovery, aside from trying to eat in 30 minutes of finishing a ride. Now, when I finish a ride, I take a plant-based protein mix. Doing so has really helped me build lean, healthy muscle.
Normal protein has so much added shit in it, makes you feel bloated, swells your muscles and it always made me gassy. This stuff is amazing. Vanilla is my favorite.
Photo by Kyle Kelley
I know that didn’t read much as a guide book to losing weight, it’s more of an explanation as to how I lost weight. Look, it’s not easy, don’t be fooled. There’s a lot of times that I want to gorge on pizza, or eat nonstop. You will be hungry, a lot. It’s tough, but you’ve really just got to ‘shrink your stomach’ and your appetite.
Like training on the bike, you’ve got to train yourself to eat well, in order to be well. Yes, I still eat breakfast tacos, or pizza, or burgers, but a lot less than I did. Remember, it’s about a happy medium.
I’m happier when I’m healthy and hydrated. It’s like, there’s a science to fitness or something…
Questions? Comments? Queue them up in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.