One of the hallmarks of cycling is the emphasis put on being thin. Just venture out on one of your local group road rides and you will inevitably hear at least one comment that equates being skinny to being faster. The question, however, becomes one of the chicken and the egg. Are cyclists fast because they are skinny or are cyclists skinny because they are fast? And if weighing less makes you faster on your bike, then will riding a bike help you lose weight?
Food is a sacred word to most people. If you start talking about restricting this or cutting out that, there is oftentimes a backlash and some gnashing of teeth! Just mention the word diet and the sense of anxiety will be palpable. Interestingly enough, Newsweek recently published an article about obesity and its relation to what we consume. What’s caught our attention about the writeup is its condemnation of how the obesity epidemic is currently being handled.
Federally funded obesity prevention programs focus on eating less and exercising more. Their philosophy is that in order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. So, you can either eat less or exercise more. The problem with that type of thinking is that is shifts its focus away from the true causes of obesity. During the Great Depression, for example, there was an obesity epidemic in children. Like today, these kids had very few resources, but they exercised a lot and ate far less than kids today. So what gives? Why were they fat?
It turns out that the leading cause of fat accumulation in the body is the consumption of refined sugar, flour, and starches. In other words, it’s not eating too much that is making people fat, but rather it’s that they’re eating the wrong things. During the Great Depression a high percentage of the population had little access to fresh fruits and vegetables. What they did have access to were bread and sugar. A similar problem exists today. A loaf of white bread costs less than $1.50 in most stores. That same $1.50 will only buy you about three apples. If you’re struggling to feed your family, which would you buy?
So, back to our original question. Will riding a bike make you skinny? The answer depends on what you eat. If you eat a diet high in refined sugar and flour, cycling will not make you skinny. If, however, you eat a diet of healthy protein, vegetables and fruits, then cycling certainly can make you skinny. There’s one easy way to think of this. Your diet will dictate your weight and exercise will dictate your body composition.