Descent World – Scottish Mountain Biking | Film Production | Photos | Adventure Stories – Get fit for next season!

As another summer draws to a close and the racing calendar begins to thin out again, it is a good time to look back on how things have gone this year – health, riding and results. However, it is also a good time to look forward and not only think about specific training, but if you are not in one already- getting yourself into a healthy routine.

Join a spin class?

Join a spin class?

Losing weight is a common catalyst for many people to start training. And when you look at a sport where the rider is the sole source of power- having the best power to weight ratio and getting leaner is vital! However beyond this, burning fat is a good starting point to a healthy lifestyle that will make you feel better and will help you both on and off the bike.

Burning fat will help reduce body weight, decrease the amount of body fat you have, and also increase your lean body mass. All of which are advantageous from a health point of view as well as a sporting point of view.

The ability to burn fat can actually be ‘trained’ and an athlete can actually mobilise fatty acids more readily, burn them more easily, and will also spare carbohydrate usage- which means one can exercise for longer than someone who does not exercise regularly. In contrast to this, those people with obesity or diabetes may have difficulty using fat as a fuel. It is therefore important to understand how we can best train to burn fat- so as to help us become fitter, leaner and healthier.

Essentially training to burn fat will make you look better off the bike – and ride faster on it!

As we start any exercise session, fatty acids are mobilised. The majority of fat stores are in subcutaneous adipose tissue, but we do also have some fat stores in the muscles themselves. As exercise begins, fatty acids are transported to the muscles, across the muscle membrane and then into the muscles ‘engine room’ to be broken down. This process is relatively slow and produces energy at a relatively slow rate. We need to bear this in mind, as if we exercise at too high an intensity, we cannot provide the required energy from this source and thus as a training session to burn fat, it will actually be poor.

Brenddog fit as a fiddle

Brenddog fit as a fiddle

Therefore, to best utilise this energy pathway we must look at the exercise intensity and also the duration. For best fat burning, long, steady exercise is key. In simple terms this means any exercise that you can do for around 45minutes to an hour (or more) at a time. For a completely untrained rider, any exercise might be a challenge to do for this duration, so non-impact sports such as swimming or cycling are ideal. As you progress, running will give another great training method. The intensity of the exercise should be classed as ‘moderate’ so if you are running or cycling you should still be able to hold a conversation whilst training and not get out of breath quickly. If you go too hard you will reduce the amount of fat used, and increase the proportion of Carbohydrate used, so it will not be a good session if fat burning is the main aim.

Diet is also very important. It is clear that a high intake of fatty foods – especially saturated or trans-fatty acid rich, are not beneficial and should be avoided. However it is also worth noting that a high carbohydrate diet will actually suppress the use of fat as a fuel. So reducing portions of rice, potatoes, pasta and bread will actually help you to burn fat more readily and aid fat burning. You will also burn fat more readily when you are in a fastest state – so first thing in the morning. Training before breakfast will cause fat to be the predominant fuel source which is ideal for weight loss. Do be aware though that on an empty stomach you will not be able to train to the same capacity as if you are fully fed – so do not expect too much and take it steady to begin with until you know an achievable session. But with this in mind it makes it a good time of day to train.

When it comes to the best exercise for fat burning, running has been shown to burn fat at a higher rate, for a given exercise level, than cycling. So if you are looking for the ideal excuse to buy a new pair of running shoes – this is it!

There are companies that try to sell us supplements for building muscle, and also losing weight. It is worth noting that the vast majority of nutritional supplements aimed at increasing fat loss show NO evidence of working! For example Ginseng and Chromium show no evidence of helping at all even though they are often touted as offering weight loss solutions.

However, for all the tea drinkers out there, it has been shown that an ingredient found in Green tea does help fat burning. Believe it or not, it can help increase fat burning by up to 20% so is one supplement well worth looking at.


As a final thought, do remember that you cannot achieve any weight loss without a negative energy balance- that means you must take in less energy (in the form of calories) than you burn. This is regardless of where you get your calories from so a balanced diet is important, as well as understanding that you must burn more energy per day than you eat.

So, to set you up as a lean, mean, riding machine for ’09, try to plan a regular weekly training session from now, head to the shops to get some decent running shoes, and then put the kettle on!

Written by Alan Milway

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