Struggling to lose weight

Hey all - I’m new to cycling, been on the Couch to Crusher plan for about 7 weeks. I feel so much healthier and stronger, but I’m not losing any weight. I’ve read through the Eating to Suffer guide. I want to create a plan for myself, but don’t totally understand what I need to do. I’m 37 and 210lbs. I’d like to get down to 180 over time. After I finish this training plan (like 2 1/2 weeks more) I plan on repeating the same plan. My work/life cycle allows me to do a workout Mon & Tues, then Thurs & Fri (usually in the afternoon) - might add a weekend ride on occassion. Which nutrition plan should I be following and what modifications should I make based off my workout schedule and weight loss goals? I use calorie trackers and am usually in a calorie deficit. Side note - I am a late night person, and I’ve found myself RAVENOUSLY hungry often - it’ll wake me up at like 5:00 am and I have to each a big bowl of cereal or something …
I appreciate any guidance in helping me suffer more and more and more :slight_smile:

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From what I have read, it is almost impossible to do real weight loss based on exercise alone, you have to reexamine your diet.

Aside from cutting out junk food, and eating balanced meals, one of the most important things I have discovered about weight loss is portion control, and learning how to eat slowly. The body’s feedback mechanism to indicate that it is full has a bit of delay. You can easily eat too much of the “right” foods.

As to what foods to eat, let me just say, opinions vary. You need to experiment on yourself and see what works. The science is very difficult to conduct, and often results in unclear and contradictory results. Calorie tracking is enormously difficult. The major reason for this is that 70-80% of weight gain or loss is heritable. Some people have it easier/harder to gain or lose weight.

Also, get the right amount of sleep every night.

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While the fundamentals of weight loss (burn more than you take in) are ‘simple’, I feel like the reality ends up being quite personal in how we achieve that.

For myself, it’s been a journey with ups, downs, and lots of plateaus.

5 years ago realizing that I wanted to get and stay healthy for my soon to be born son was enough to get me off the couch and into the gym and dropping 20 lbs in a few months.

2 years ago, having gone up in the interim starting to bike to/from work 3-4 times a week was enough to drop 10 lbs in ~9 months.

Since then I’ve hit a few plateaus and always needed to introduce some new stimulus in order to observe an effect: cycling intervals, running, meat reduction, and most recently time-restricted eating. That last one seems to have had a major and lasting impact for me, as it’s introduced discipline of not just what but when I eat.

All of which to say, I don’t know what stimulus you need to start seeing the changes you want, but you could experiment with a variety of choices. I’d take them one at a time so you can observe effects in relative isolation.

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I’d have said me too for the past 5 years. It took me 4 years to lose 15 lbs, or more accurately to lose 15 during outdoor season, gain 10 over the holidays, and repeat each year.

My biggest issue was that my employer would cater lunch every day, free food from area restaurants, mostly Chicago street food. With COVID, I lost 10 lbs working from home and doing solo rides outdoors on the weekends. Started putting on weight in October, repeating the vicious cycle.

I started a Keto diet with my wife in November before Thanksgiving. I’ve lost another 10 lbs over the holidays and continue to lose weight. I’m down to 159 lbs, a weight I haven’t seen since 2005!

I’m sure this all sounds very familiar. And I’m not saying the Keto diet is the solution for you. It is working for me. But more critical is a new mindset. That losing weight is training. I used to willingly suffer in every other way except my diet. My Mt Sufferlandria is to see my abs again.

On thing that most diets have in common is the use of liquid volume to reduce cravings. If I get hungry I have a cup of coffee or drink some water. If I’m still hungry an hour later, I’ll make something to eat. My wife and I also use a meal replacement shake once a day with vitamins to offset the ones that are lacking from our diet. Vitamin and mineral deficiency can also trigger hunger, so a multivitamin can help too.

Sorry for the long post, it’s just that I’ve struggled for far too long and have something that’s working for me.

Lastly, you can’t compensate for a bad diet with exercise. I used to jokingly tell my cycling buddies that “I ride my bike so I can eat more”. And I’ve proven that only left me frustrated with my lack of progress. To put this in perspective, I typically ride between 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year. I tried to lose weight solely by exercising, with limited success.

Now I’ll do fasted workouts for anything under an hour in duration. When riding over an hour, I’ll have a few carbs beforehand and eat a snack mid-ride only if I need it.

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As someone who lost 50 lbs last year doing Suf training plans over the winter and outdoor rides all summer, it is all about calories in and out. Run a healthy deficit, you’ll lose weight.

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When I’ve been serious about dropping a few pounds, the one trick that always, literally always works, for me is to keep a food diary.
But the deal is - for me, everyone’s mileage will vary - I have to write down every single thing, pretty much as soon as I eat it. So if I walk into the kitchen and eat three tortilla chips, I have to write that down. An apple at 3pm, write it down. Every item on my dinner plate, write them down

I think the biggest part here is that my interest in a handful of tortilla chips isn’t strong enough for me to then make the effort of recording it in a food diary. But it also just makes me pay attention better and I can see patterns in what I’m eating and it’s easier to incorporate more veggies when I can see that the last two nights I ate rice and potatoes but no salad.

So maybe try the food diary and be ruthless about recording EVERYTHING!

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100% this, being honest with myself about what I was eating and holding myself accountable makes all the difference for me.

I have also realised that I can’t have things in moderation, when I cut out snacks I don’t miss them. If I decide to ‘treat’ myself to a biscuit for example I crave more.
I dont live like a monk 24/7/365 but I do periodize my diet and dont worry about my weight when it doesnt matter and prioritise it when it does.

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Last year I lost around 10 kg over a 6 month period by running a slight calorie deficit. I used MyFitnessPal to log calories initially (for about the first month) and then once I settled into a routine I stopped logging everything.

I hit my target weight of 75 kg by August. But I was often left feeling a little hungry and my fitness was reaching a plateau. So I took some advice from a well known cycling fitness podcast and started fuelling my workouts much more aggressively, even the shorter ones. I felt much stronger on the bike and my fitness improved. I also put on a little weight, around 2-3 kg over the winter, but my power and strength has improved to more than compensate. Plus I’m not feeling hungry anymore!

So I think you have to be very carefully about focusing only on a target weight. Why exactly did you choose 180 lbs? It may or may not turn out to be your optimum weight. Your true optimum weight could well be a little higher or lower depending on your physiology and goals. In my case I thought 75 kg was a good target, but turns out I’m stronger and faster at 78 kg.

So now I’ve stopped focusing on weight and instead focus on my cycling performance and good, natural nutrition on and off the bike. Every workout is fully carb fuelled and I eat well afterward for recovery. Of course I try to minimise junk food intake. I now find that my weight has stabilised at around 78 kg with no hunger pangs and the quality of my training has improved. I just feel better!
.

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First of all, you are amazing @vonnyp2

Weight loss is tricky - our bodies can react to things differently.

A few years ago my former employer offered Omada for free. On the program I lost 27 lbs. gradually over a year. Since then, I’ve mostly maintained.

Some things I learned.

  • To change eating habits it needs to be gradual and take place over time. Like training for a race - changing eating habits takes practice.
  • Don’t count calories, don’t label foods as good or bad
  • Know in your heart you can do this
  • Endurance athletes need carbohydrates.
  • Eat easy to digest nutrient rich foods before your workout
  • Save the protein for after the workout to build and repair muscles
  • Keep a food log - use what ever format is easiest - but having a spreadsheet where you can get a count of foods by meal is eye opening!
  • Over the course of a day aim for 1/2 of your intake to come from fruits and vegetables, 1/4 whole grains, then proteins, fats, etc.
  • Have fun and experiment with different foods. Try vegetarian and vegan recipes. Chicken breast with 1/4 sweet potato and 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli gets boring
  • Practice portion control - look at your plate or bowl and load up on the veggies
  • Don’t beat yourself up for eating 1/2 a pie or 1/2 dozen donuts at once. It will happen. Especially during the TOS or training for a 100 mile sportive. Your body needs fuel.
  • Build a meal and snack plan for the week + shopping list to support it. Too far out? How about three days then?
  • The scale is brutally honest and sometimes it will appear you are not making progress. Keep at it and stay focused.
  • If you are not already, add in strength, yoga, and a daily walk (doesn’t have to be far, do it at a different time than your training)
  • Be patient and congratulate yourself for ever win. You got this.
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I turned it into a math problem and it worked for me personally. In 2020 I went from ~220 lbs to under 135 lbs.

I tracked all calorie intake, aiming for a calorie deficit. This led me to really plan out meals to make best use of the calories I did have. A food diary helps IMMENSELY in this. I used MyFitnessPal to track caloric intake (and still do).

I exercised. A lot. I started out with lots of walking, then moved onto the bike when I felt comfortable getting back on it (I’d been in reasonable shape and rode a lot years ago, but life intervened). I tracked those calorie burned estimates as well and figured them into what my calorie estimates.

I found specific foods that were reasonably filling, that I liked, and were within my calorie goals. I ate the hell out of those. Not everyone is happy eating the same thing over and over, the control side of that appealed to my OCD brain.

You got this.

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I’ll agree with some of the others here and say that weight loss is much more about eating habits than it is exercise. Sure, massive amounts of exercise can more than offset excess consumption, but it’s not easily achievable.

From my own experience, I went from 225 to 185 over the course of 3.5 months several years ago by spending 3 hours in the gym 6 days a week doing 60 mins of high intensity on the stairmaster followed by 60 minutes of rotating strength training, followed by 60 minutes of moderate varied cardio; along with 5-10 mile walks a few days a week, and some cycling mixed in, along with keeping my caloric intake to 2,000 or less 6 days a week, and having 1 cheat meal on day 7. That required a tremendous amount of discipline as I was hungry all the time, and had to resist the desire to eat, and found drinking large amounts of water with a splash of juice for flavor helped. I used myfitnesspal to log everything I ate to ensure I kept to the plan. Using this tool to track calories, and most importantly sticking to mostly made at home food with a good balance of macros was critical. If you lie on what you input, or underestimate how much of something you are eating, you’re only lying to yourself and hurting your own results.

That was a challenging but rewarding few months that got me back into shape and feeling healthy after putting on more weight that I should have due to reduced activity. It was only really possible due to having several hours a day available for exercise. A few months back, I found myself having crept up on the scales due to too much staying home due to Covid and too much indulging in extra portions and treats. Not having the same amount of time available, I shifted to a plan of 1500 calories per day, and 5-6 days of on average 1 hour of moderate to high intensity exercise, with some additional walking added in when possible. This allowed me to go from 205 to 185 in 2 months. I think this is a sustainable way to lose weight over a few months, but you will be hungry, you will want to eat more than the 1500 calories, but if you can work on maintaining the willpower you will get results. The calorie numbers will probably be similar for you based on your weight. The first 10 lbs will be pretty easy and it will get harder as you go, but you’ll be getting fitter, you’ll feel better and the end result is worth it. Then it’s a matter of slowly adding in more food to avoid being hungry, while still maintaining mostly healthy food choices and staying active.

Set a goal, find a plan you think you can stick to, and work at it. You may have a bad day, or a bad week, but try to stay to your plan as much as you can. You’ll get there!

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My $0.02, coming from a guy who went from 31% body fat last spring to 24% body fat this morning. I’m aiming for 20% by September, and I’ll get there a little bit at a time.

Weight is an imprecise target. As you know, muscle weighs more than fat: would you rather be a walking skeleton or a well-muscled athlete? % body fat vs % body muscle is, in my opinion, a better metric. There are several reasonably-priced scales on the market that measure both. Why bother? Well, it’s entirely possible that you’re healthier and stronger because you’re losing fat and gaining muscle, which does nothing for your weight but everything for you.

That said, here’s what works for me:

  1. Track all food intake. Whether you use a spreadsheet, a notebook, or one of many apps (I use MyPlate), the simple act of tracking forces you to think about what you’re putting in your mouth. In my experience, that often diverts me from “I’ll grab this handful of chips which will satisfy me for fifteen minutes” to “I’ll grab a carrot which will satisfy me for an hour.”

  2. Allow yourself some treats, but think about them. A couple of squares of Ritter Sport chocolate will satisfy your dessert craving just as well as a slice of apple pie a la mode, but at a much lower caloric cost.

  3. Don’t neglect strength training. The thing about building muscle is that muscles burn energy even when you’re just sitting around. I see Suff has what I presume to be an excellent, bike-oriented, strength training program. Personally, I use the Fitbod app as I travel extensively and the app builds workouts depending on muscle group “freshness” and whatever equipment I tell it is available at a given hotel’s gym. It then saves the setups of all the different gyms, including my basement gym. This really helps maximize my gym time on the road. That said, I’ll take a break from Fitbod when my annual subscription expires and try Suff’s program for a few months. It might be better!

  4. Do Sufferfest’s Mental Toughness Program. That thing really works!

Finally, really, relax and be happy. I have a buddy with a gut like the Mayor of Couchlandria’s. He’s a Boston qualifier who can kick my ass on the track or in the gym any day of the week. Well, maybe this week. I’m off to BMYATTKHT.

All of you are the most gentlemen-like badasses! I REALLY appreciate everyone’s input. I’d love your feedback on some take-aways here.

  1. I’ll be vigilant on tracking my food (after today - son’s birthday party & super bowl …)
  2. I’ve debated keto, as I’ve successfully lost weight in the past, but I’m gonna pass for now, and work on balancing my carbs without overdoing it.
  3. Gonna trim the alcohol - I brew really good beer. I’ll have to limit it to occasions, as opposed to or or two a day.
  4. I’m gonna incorporate some strength into my routine to increase my muscle mass & metabolism.
    A couple questions
    @ErickT Can you help me out with some good examples of what you meant when you said “Eat easy to digest nutrient rich foods before your workout”
    Also - I plan on working calorie deficient overall, but when should I plan on eating more carbs in preparation for a 500+ calorie workout? The day before? Morning of? Should I just not do that and balance it all throughout the week?
    Thanks again!

Not sure about for men (only women and we’re not small men) but for eating to replace calories lost in a workout, apps like MFP expect you to replace them all. I find replacing half of them spread across my meals the following day is the way to go. I do that by just jacking up my portion sizes.

For food and tracking, you might want to think about tracking Macros (carbs/protein/fat). Again, not too sure about the optimum ratio for men, but for a woman of my build and age, a macros ratio of 40:30:30 = carbs: protein:fat works well

Of course. A few things I do.

If short on time I’ll have a gel 15-20 mins before the bike workout. They usually run 300 calories and most workouts I burn more than that - so you start with your reserves and finish with the sugar from the gel.

Other things that have worked for me:
Banana
Slice of minimal ingredient sourdough bread toast with 1/2 teaspoon of honey and sliced strawberry
1/3 cup of fresh blueberries
2-3 strawberries
1 pear
2-3 dates 45 mins before

All of these get me through without creating a calorie surplus. So mostly fresh fruit. Avoid higher fiber fruits right before and protein or fat rich foods. They’ll sit in your gut and you’ll need the SUF bucket.

Lately I’ve been eating 1/2 cup of oats w 2 handfuls of berries, 5-7 cherries, 5-7 kumquats, a banana. 1 and a half hours before my workout (I’m not working for now). Plenty of time to digest and be fueled.

Post workout is Icelandic yogurt/Skyr for protein fueled quick recovery. Also pretty easy to digest.

I think it’s a good call to carb up your workouts. You will perform better and burn more calories in the process.

I try to eat something an hour or two before and try to take in plenty during the actual workouts, especially if over an hour. What you actually eat/drink to get those carbs in is a very personal thing. You will have to experiment to see what foods work best for you. I try to eat natural, so mostly fruit. It’s pretty much impossible to take in a surplus of carbs during a workout. So I try to start well fuelled and then top up during the session.

It sounds like you’re on the right track. Tracking food is definitely important to maintain your accountability and get results. I’d definitely lean away from keto for now and focus on a good balance of nutrition. Since your goal is weight loss, I’m going to stray from the others here and say you don’t need any special carb loading for a 500 calorie workout. Maybe go with a sports drink vs straight water at most if you feel you need it, but in reality your body has plenty of carb stores for 3-4 times that workload. If weight loss is your primary goal right now, you don’t want to be replacing the calories you’re burning.

Drink plenty of water everyday to stay hydrated, don’t go too extreme with your daily calorie intake goal and you should be fine for workouts up to 90 minutes. Beyond that is where you’ll want to start thinking about some additional fueling. Again, this is for a weight loss focus versus a pure training focus. Also, if you’re using a tracking app, I found it important to not see the increased calorie goals and eat all those calories. DameLisa’s idea to adding back in half of the extra calories sounds like a good baseline to start from.

When I’m in weight loss mode, I’m always trying to stick to my base nutritional goals and only adding in extras when I really feel I need it. Getting used to feeling a bit hungry between meals is when your body is feeding on those fat reserves (at least for me). Since you’re a brewer, I’d say to make having 1 beer a reward for days when you put in a bigger workout. Savor and enjoy the 1 beer, and you’ll also keep the alcohol from significantly detracting from your body’s recovery and rebuilding stronger processes.

It’s not for everyone but I find my best weight loss results doing fasted workouts in the morning before breakfast. Particularly something like a longer zone 2 workout where I’m not pushing too hard, but want my body to burn some of those stored calories at the lower intensity. It also pushes back my breakfast time and keeps me from getting hungry again too early. As a go to food, I make oatmeal on the stove using old fashioned oats, milk, a sliced banana, small handful of raisins, a couple teaspoons (measured) of brown sugar and spices. It’s a great balance of nutrition, the fiber and protein help to satisfy for hours and I enjoy the taste.

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Some good points there John. My fuelling strategy changed quite significantly from when I was focusing primarily on weight loss to later focusing on pure performance.

In my weight loss phase I ran a general calorie deficit with minimal extra carb intake for workouts. But once I got down to my target weight I started taking in a lot more carbs before and during workouts. I found that was the best way to continue progressing my performance, particularly endurance at tempo.

There is no doubt about exercise and nutrition going hand in hand and using a calorie tracker will help you monitor your daily intake and make sure you are not starving yourself at the end of each day. It is already a great sign you are feeling healthier and stronger form the workouts, make sure to eat healthy foods to keep that going.

Coach Suzie wrote a great piece you may find interesting and complement our guide to healthy eating:

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I’ve never done Keto (GCN has a couple videos w Jeremy Powers where he does it), but I’ve done Whole Life Challenge a few times, which is super carb-restrictive.

My takeaway from it - I was as ripped as I’ve ever been, and had no endurance on the bike. Was not worth it for me.

But all bodies are different.
Good luck!