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26 years old, 160 lb, roughly 20% body fat.

I eat a pretty normal vegetarian diet. I avoid soda, fruit juice, anything with sugar. Maybe one can of soda or a candy bar per week at the most. I do eat quite a bit of cheese though, so definitely getting some fat from that. I'm not sure how many calories I get per day, but I would estimate somewhere around 2500. I try and eat carrots, broccoli, spinach, and kale every day. I usually eat quite a bit of peanut butter toast, always on whole wheat bread, eggs, and greek yogurt.

I also ride my bike every day. I have a bike computer to keep track, and it comes out to 5 miles per day for the past four months, every single day. I usually bike at 12-15 mph. Sometimes up to 20 mph on flat ground.

I'm not really noticing any fat loss, but my quads are huge now. My main goal is fat loss though. How much do I need to increase my cardio? Should I bike 10 miles per day, or should I do jogging as well? Is biking really cardio? It sort of feels like weight training just for my legs. Do I need to cut cheese out altogether? How much should I cut out in terms of calories? If I do cut calories out, is it normal to feel hungry all the time?

Thanks!!

Follow up:

Wow!! Thank you so much to everyone who responded. I've been keeping very careful track of all my calories. Juice has way more calories than I thought possible. Time to switch to decaf tea. (Caffine makes me feel sick) And I didn't know how much an ounce of cheese was, I had to weigh it out, haha! Today I ate 1800 calories, and added 20 minutes of jogging to my fitness routine. I figure biking 20 minutes at 15 mph is about 200 calories burned, so I am shooting for a daily "deficit" of 600 calories. I'll eat 1800 calories, jog for 200, and bike for 200 more. That way I am 4200 calories short per week, which I am guessing is around 1.25 lbs lost per week. I'm also adding in: 100 push ups per day, 10 pull ups, 10 chin ups, and if possible, doing weight training at the gym 3 days a week. I know it's not cardio, but I'm bound to burn some calories with that extra exercise.

My only question now: will I be losing purely fat? Or some muscle with that fat as well?

Thanks again folks! Now it's just a matter of sticking to my routine.

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2  
Just a quick tip. You can reduce calories without feeling hungry all the time by eating so-called 'zero calorie foods' (I hate that word). Those won't even have to be disgusting to work ;). It took me some weeks to find the stuff that I wanted to eat (taste-wise), though, so stay patient, try new stuff. You might want to try cucumbers, celery, water melon, broccoli, salads (no dressing!) etc. Stuff like that will keep you full without adding anything substantial to my calorie balance. –  LarissaGodzilla Jul 10 at 6:20
    
Nice idea with the watermelon! –  cat pants Jul 25 at 7:23

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Fat loss will come from eating less calories you consume, and the easiest way to create a deficit is through your diet. The biking is a great supplementary activity, but it will be extremely difficult to add mileage or begin additional jogging without consuming more calories to make up for those activities. Adjusting your diet while maintaining your current physical activity means you know eating less than you currently are will produce a deficit; if you add in additional exercise, the uncertainty of the correct amount to eat will make losing weight more difficult (Increasing mileage and decreasing food intake will work if you can manage it, but I've found it to be very difficult to maintain).

In regards to how to change your diet, yes, eliminating cheese would likely get you to the necessary caloric deficit, but it is not the only way to get to this point. Besides the cheese, everything you are eating looks healthy, but healthy food items still have calories. If you don't want to cut out cheese completely, try limiting slightly the amount of the other foods you eat. With a caloric deficit, you may indeed feel a constant hunger, but over time you will adjust, and when you first begin to observe a difference in your body, fighting the hunger pangs will be that much easier. In terms of how much to cut out in calories, dropping ~300 a day to start should feel somewhat OK, and as you adjust to that you can work on taking that number down further, with an end goal of 2000 or so total calories (based on your body type).

And yes, biking is cardio, unless you've set the resistance far too high :)

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More cardio for fat loss: Not really in your situation. You should focus on your diet and your exercise choice. It seems you work out every day, and that should be enough.

Diet: Cut the bread. Eat fruits after you train, otherwise try to scale back on carbohydrates. Eat more protein (eggs), and understand a calorie is not just a calorie and that nutrient timing matters a great deal. Got some money? Get some professional help from a nutrition expert - they don't need to follow you the rest of your life, but even a few session can help a great deal. Find someone with a real degree, and not something pseudo-science.

Training: Start lifting some weights. If you do 3 days of cardio and 3 days of weight training and eat proper, the fat should melt of you.

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Cycling 5 miles per day at 12-15mph equate to only 20 minutes of cardio per day. It's good but not great and unless you're always climbing hills it is unlikely to be very high intensity at that speed. Mind you speed numbers are not all that useful for your fat burning goal because they depend so much on road elevation profile and wind conditions.

You could invest in a heart rate monitor and target zone 3 for your cardio instead of the 'fat-burning' Zone 2 (read up on HR zones and fat burning).

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For you to obtain your fat loss goal is simple.

You do not need to alter your diet too much since from what you have quoted it seems like you have quite a decent diet that is not overloading on the wrong food.

What you need to do is ensure you do a minimum of 40minutes of cardiovascular activity a day.

BUT the cardio you do must elevate your heart rate above a certain amount for the exercise to actually make a difference. This will depend on your age.

If you are say 20-25years old then you should aim to elevate your heart rate to about 170-190bpm throughout the exercise period.

After a workout make sure you re-fill yourself with nutrients and some complex carbs so you are not running on no energy.

In Summary, a 20minute bike ride will not be sufficient exercise to guarantee loss of fat. It may be good for maintaining your current condition but will not help you burn the fat you want. If you can increase this to 40Mintues of intense cardio then I am sure you will start to see some results.

SOURCE: Personal experience and training other people to get the most out of their workouts.

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170 bpm for 40 minutes? One, is that even possible? Two, is that healthy? –  Kneel-Before-ZOD Jul 10 at 14:34
    
170-190 is a really high bpm to shoot for, especially when the goal of OP's exercise is fat loss. A bpm of 140-160 is both more maintainable and more beneficial in achieving their goal. Also, you say OP needs to double their activity while holding their diet steady, this change will not be an easy one to make and continue. Your plan would be well suited for someone training for a race, but not necessarily suited as well for fat loss. –  meanderingmoose Jul 10 at 14:34
    
I can imagine about 80% of the participants passing out after 2 mins of 170 bpm. –  Kneel-Before-ZOD Jul 10 at 15:25
    
I agree that 170 bpm is not recommended, it is just too high given what cat pants writes about his/her present exercise intensity. –  Count Iblis Jul 10 at 15:50
    
I think you guys are right. 170bpm is tough to maintain if high intensity exercise is not a norm. I train twice a day morning and evening, 5 times a week so I guess I am used to that amount of exercise. But my main point if we disregard the high BPM is that the heart rate must be elevated to a certain point where it is working hard and pumping blood round the body at a relatively higher intensity rate than normal. –  cocojay Jul 10 at 17:42

I agree with the spirit of cocojay's answer but I favor a more moderate approach.

For cardio you should increase the speed a bit, I would recommend that you measure your heart rate while you exercise and make sure it is around 150 bpm or a bit higher. Before you do that you should make sure there are no medical issues here, if you are not sure you should first check with your doctor. Then, you may find that you can only do this for ten minutes. You should then try to increase the exercise time, e.g. via interval training or simply by sticking to the ten minutes for a while until you feel that you exercise for longer. The rule of thumb is that you should not increase the time by more than 10% in one go.

As you get fitter, you will not only be able to cycle for longer, but you will also be able to cycle faster at the same heart rate. The rule of thumb for good cardio-fitness is the power to weight ratio. If you divide the amount of sustained power you can deliver (say for 20 minutes) in Watts divided by your weight in Kg, then this ratio should be 3 or higher. But then you are doing a maximum effort while in exercise sessions you should go slower. For you this amounts to about 220 Watt of power.

Another measure is the heart rate recovery rate. If you exercise for, say, 20 minutes at a heart rate of 150 bpm, then you can measure how fast your heart rate goes down if you significantly reduce the effort. It should drop by at least 30 bpm per minute in the first minute, so after one minute you should be below 120 bpm. Your resting heart rate should also get lower over time, but this is a less reliable measure for fitness.

If you do this and you keep good track of your cardio fitness, then as you gain experience with increasing your cardio fitness, you should work toward increasing this to about an hour per day. You will likely only start to lose weight when you are exercising more than half an hour per day at high intensity.

I would not recommend dieting, as that will interfere with building your fitness up to top level. It is far better to become stronger first which then will lead to an increase in your base metabolic rate to above 3000 Kcal/day. You will then gradually lose a bit of weight as your body reconfigures itself. So, you will actually start to eat a lot more and still lose a bit of weight.

I lost a bit of weight from about 62 kg to 57 kg over the course of about 6 years. I gradually increased my fitness from running 20 minutes per day 3 times per week to 50 minuted 5 times per week now. But I eat a lot more than I did 6 years ago. Had I restricted my calory intake 6 years ago, I would have lost a bit of weight, but I would not have been physically much fitter. Also, it is likely that visceral fat around the organs could have increased due to dieting.

If you tell your body that it is ok not to be superfit and that it can't always count on enough calories, then what is the logical response? Compare that to telling your body that unless it is superfit it may not survive (that's a lie but the cells in your body dont know that you are only exercising hard for fun), but that it can always count on enough calories. Obviously your body will respond differently in this case.

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