By Monique Ryan MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Are you looking for a great form of exercise with a small carbon footprint? Then consider adding biking to your weekly fitness routine.
Biking is a great way to improve your health and burn calories. In fact, because it is a weight supported activity, it is a great starter exercise that is easy on the joints. Even at a modest pace of 10 miles per hour, a 160 pound person can burn 300 calories during a 45 minute ride. Bike three times per week at this pace and you would lose 13 pounds over one year. In addition to supporting your weight management goals, biking tones muscles, increases endurance, and enhances lung capacity. This nearly life-long activity can be social, or a great family fitness outing enjoyed by both kids and parents.
Join a Club
Biking is fun! Many cycling clubs hold organized rides at varying levels of speed and difficulty, so get involved and gradually increase your pace and endurance on the bike, as well as the calories burned. Weekend organized rides offer support stations with fluids and foods to fuel your body optimally during longer rides. Mountain biking also offers a chance to go "off-road" and enjoy nature.
Bike to Work
If possible, consider biking to and from work. In addition to the health benefits, there are environmental and financial perks as well. A bicycle has virtually no negative environmental impact. Purchase a solid bike and it can last over 10 years. Commuting via bike saves money on gasoline and parking, and cuts down on the time you spend in traffic. A morning ride also produces endorphins, so you can arrive to work with the pleasant buzz these natural chemicals produce. And you can even bike away a tough work day on the way home.
Safety also Important
Be a safety conscious commuter. Always wear a helmet, as this can prevent 85 percent of head injuries from bicycle accidents. Ride defensively and be aware of your surroundings. A white LED front light makes you visible when approaching intersections, and a red, blinking light in the back makes you visible to drivers approaching from behind. A fender provides protection from water splashing onto you from the rear tire.
Fuel Up for the Morning Commute
Before a morning commute, eat light and divide breakfast into "before the ride" and "after the ride," to sustain energy and prevent hunger until lunch.
Before the Ride
- ¾ cup high fiber cereal
- 1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk
- ½ cup berries
After the Ride
- 1 banana and
- 18 raw almonds
Fuel Up for a Longer Ride
If you're looking at a longer ride, 90 minutes or longer, fuel up on carbohydrates two hours before the ride to power your muscles with energy. Keep the meal low in fat for easy digestion. Include whole grains, fruit and a modest amount of protein.
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal
- 8 ounces orange juice
- 1 medium banana
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1 egg
Reviewed April 2013
Monique Ryan, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN is author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes and owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, LLC which provides nutrition programs for athletes of all ages and levels for endurance and team sports.