Pro cyclists might get their bike clothes for free and have VO2-max ceilings the rest of us can only dream about, but many of them are like us in one surprising way: If they don't watch what they eat, they gain weight fast. We asked 10 racers how they stripped the fat--from 10 to 80 pounds--from their bodies and transformed themselves into lean machines. Their tips are refreshingly simple and undeniably effective.
I LOST 55 POUNDS
The Racer: Dan Schmatz
The Body: 5-foot-10, 160 lb.
The Team: BMC
The Secret: "Exercise early, abstain late."
Schmatz's hard-core routine isn't for the faint of heart: He doesn't eat after 7 p.m., and he often does a 30- to 60-minute run, ride or hike before breakfast. Some studies show that low-intensity exercise before breakfast helps the body burn more fat than usual. Schmatz cautions that if you try this, don't cancel the benefit by pigging out: "A lot of people don't realize that a breakfast of a gourmet coffee drink and a bagel can pack 1,000 calories," he says.
I LOST 10 POUNDS
The Racer: Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski
The Body: 6-foot-1, 150 lb.
The Team: Subaru-Gary Fisher
The Secret: "Eat dinner like a pauper."
The winner of four consecutive national mountain bike championships, Horgan-Kobelski says, "The single biggest thing that has helped me lose weight has been eating a light dinner. Even after a huge day of training, if I fueled properly throughout and after the ride, I can usually get away with eating just some salad or steamed or grilled vegetables with a small amount of lean protein."
I LOST 10 POUNDS
The Racer: Betina Hold
The Body: 5-foot-6, 125 lb.
The Team: Cheerwine
The Secret: "Chew more."
When she was desperate to lose weight to transform herself from muscled-up competitive rower to lean cyclist, Hold stumbled onto one of the simplest ways to lose weight. Studies have shown that simply chewing your food longer--as many as 100 times per bite, in some research--results in reduced caloric intake. Hold also began chewing gum at the first craving for food. She says it gives her time to decide, "Am I really hungry or am I bored, nervous or stressed? I find in many cases, I just chew some gum and I don't really need food."
I LOST 80 POUNDS
The Racer: Jack Seehafer
The Body: 5-foot-6, 145 lb.
The Team: Einstein's cycling
The Secret: "The simplest way: Ride more, eat less--and drink less beer."
Seehafer packed on 100 pounds during seven years of inactivity when he stopped cycling after high school. After he started riding again, the weight came off, which motivated him to cut calories from his diet. This can be as simple as using smaller plates at home, always leaving several bites on your plate, or waiting 15 minutes before deciding whether to go back for seconds. When Seehafer met lean pro Kori Kelly, whom he eventually married, he adopted her eating habits and chiseled away more weight. Today, he keeps the pounds off with vigilance: "As soon as I notice that I've gained a couple pounds, I immediately adjust what I'm eating and increase my exercise," he says.