Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that dropping pounds turns out to be the easy part. Keeping them off? Not so much. In fact, a recent study puts the odds at one in six for maintaining weight loss.
That's pretty discouraging news. The better news is that as an active cyclist, you're already one step ahead of the game. "People who maintain their activity levels have much better odds of staying at their lower weight," says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, author of the Active Calorie Diet (If you're still wondering why that is, read 7 Sneaky Ways Cycling Takes Off Pounds).
The National Weight Control Registry reports that among people who successfully keep weight off, men burn an average of 3,293 calories a week and women an average of 2,545. That works out to about an hour of moderate riding every day. As activity levels slide, weight creeps back on.
You may also need to start eating a little less. Losing weight resets your metabolism. And the more you ride, the more efficient you become at burning calories. In short, the new, leaner you needs fewer calories to sustain your body both on and off your bike. The adjustments aren't huge. For each pound you lose, your total daily calorie requirements dip by about 10. So a rider who dropped 10 pounds needs 100 fewer calories each day. Keep following the plan until you hit your goal weight. Then stay with it for three months, allowing your metabolism to adjust.
Having a focused plan can also help. Here are four other strategies that researchers have linked to keeping weight off (For a complete nutrition and fitness guide to staying lean, read Find Your Ideal Weight).
Eat breakfast It keeps your energy level steady so you don't overeat later in the day.
The vast majority of people who stay slim step on a scale at least once a week—those concrete numbers staring up at you are simply too hard to ignore.
Most folks who keep the pounds off do so by staying the course. They eat well most of the time without swinging between deprivation and bingeing.