Some people are really good at riding the trainer andmaintaininga good diet over the winter months. I am not one of those people.

I have put on exactly 10 lbs. since last fall, placing me just at the edge of the clydesdale class. 🙁

The thought of lugging myself up all those signature Colorado climbs this summer is just depressing, and ‘diets’ don’t tend to work for me; not even that no-carb fad.

If any of this sounds familiar, here’s what we can do about it.

Setting aside fad diets and gimmicks, weight loss is about one thing: burning more calories than you ingest. It sounds simple, right? If only! Of courseexercising ups the calorie burn for a given day, but depending on your schedule and locale, it may be difficult to get in a workout this time of year. That leaves cutting your calorie intake as the best way to fit back into those race-cut jerseys.

On the flip side, starving yourself is also a bad idea and generally results in amajorsetback and then quitting. This is the reason most diets fail.

So what we really need is a personaldietitianto plan all our food intake, track what we do eat, and help keep us accountable. Easy, right? Virtually speaking, it actually is. A number of websites have popped up recently that allow you to enter your demographic stats, your current and target weight, and your desired weight loss time frame. From this data, the site will calculate the maximum number of calories you can consume in a day and still lose about 2 lbs per week, which is the generally accepted safe amount.

Disclaimer: Always make sure to see your doctor for regular exams, and tell him or her if you plan on starting a weight loss program, or any training regimen for that matter.

How it works

All nutritional planning / weight loss websites use what is called the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) to determine how many calories you can consume in a day. In plainEnglish,yourBMR is how many calories you burn just existing. Yes, this means that you can lose weight by sitting on the couch playing video games, as long as your calorie intake is less than your BMR. It takes discipline, but it is doable.

Tracking the data

There are a number of nutritional planning sites out there and I have tried a couple. One that I really like is LoseIt.com. It is free, simple, and even includes an Android app to help you keep track on the go.

The concept is very simple. You enter your age, height, gender and current weight, along with your desired weight, and the site then sets your targeted daily calorie intake and the date you will reach your weight goal. (The site can also be used to maintain your current weight, or even to gain weight, if that’s what you need.)

Once you have input your baseline data you need to learn to eat the recommended number of calories in a day, which can be difficult at first. Throughout the day you can log what you eat and the site will keep a running tally for you. How much you’ve consumed and how much you can still eat is displayed on a graph for at-a-glance updates. If you have the Android app, you can simply scan the barcode on a package of food and it will automatically enter it for you. The database is extensive and even includes popular restaurant items, or you can enter a food by hand if it’s not listed.

In addition to calorie intake, you can also add exercise. Pick your category and duration, and it will enter the average amount of calories for that activity. It will also deduct the calories from your chart of total calories for the day. (So that you can eat more 😀 )

The Bottom Line

Nutrition tracking websites are a handy tool, but it still comes down to discipline and learning healthy eating habits. Once you start tracking your caloric intake, it quickly becomes clear that fast food, junk food and soda are a bad idea. One meal at the drive-thru or a restaurant like Chili’s can exceed your recommended calories for the whole day. Snacking can also be a killer as even a small bag of chips can have 300 calories or more. The trick is to find healthy alternatives. Grilled chicken, potatoes and avegetablemake an excellent meal with a moderate calorie count. The same goes for spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread. For snacking, popcorn has about 1/4 the calories of potato chips. Also make sure to drink plenty of water and limit your soda or beer.

For me, what separates a ‘diet’ from basic nutritional planning is this: with most traditional diets you either completely deprive yourself of something (like carbs) or you limit your calorie intake so severely that you are set up for failure and binge eating. Withnutritionaltracking however, you don’t really give up anything specific, but rather just eat smart. You quickly learn what is loaded with calories, and you also learn to plan ahead if you’re going out to dinner or having a few beers with the guys…all the while dropping that excess winter hibernation weight!

# Comments

  • mtbgreg1

    Great blog post, maddslacker, and so timely! I’ve been counting calories since the beginning of the year, and am trying to drop 16 pounds by the time the spring riding season really gets underway. If I succeed, that will probably be the lightest I’ve been since Freshman year of highschool. Of course, I’m aiming to also increase my power output over that time…we’ll see how it goes, and if it’s achievable.

    But to do this, I’ve been doing exactly what you talk about in this article: logging my caloric intake and the number of calories I’ve burned. I use a similar website, caloriecount.com. They also have an Android app and an iPhone app… I know the MapMyRide site & app also offer calorie counting options, but I’m not sure how extensive their food database is. One thing I like about CalorieCount is that it has almost anything you could desire in the database. It also has a barcode scanner that allows you to scan a food item and automatically look up the nutritional information.

    Anyhow, thanks for the blog post and the inspiration! Maybe we need to start a weekly weigh-in thread on the forum, lol!!

  • steve32300

    Man I like that mobile app bar code scanner thingy,I’m gonna check that website out Greg,but I gotta finish reading Madd’s blog first.

  • maddslacker

    @steve32300, LoseIt.com also has the bar code scanner, and you can even buy wifi enabled scales to auto-log your weigh ins.

    @jtorlando, I have access to that informtion. 😀

  • dgaddis

    Great post, very timely. I need to drop a few pounds as well. Love the calorie counting apps…got me one and will use it! It’ll be interesting to see how it goes. I’d like to drop 15lbs by the end of March. Definitely have to change my routine….my breakfast that I get 3 or 4 times a week was about 50% of the calories I need to meet my goal! Most of that was from the mocha frappe…it’s gotta go I reckon.

    Greg…I like the idea of the weekly weigh in thread.

  • maddslacker

    @dgaddis, it’s amazing some of things with way more calories than you’d expect.

    Avoid Sonic altogether, for one.

  • bikecowboy

    precisionnutrition.com is a site probably worth checking out. their programs aren’t free although they do provide some good nutrition guidelines for free. they have programs for losing weight, gaining weight, for athletes, etc.

  • dozzerboy

    Hey, dgaddis! Look at the bright side. You’ll be saving money by not buying that Starbuck’s expensive stuff.

  • grandlakejames

    @maddslacker, great article, the picture you paint is excatly myself and I think having a website to track calories easily will work for me.

    Since I don’t know anyone on the Loseit.com website and it says it’s best to have friends for motivation, if you need additional friends on the website let me know.

  • CrispyMTB

    Just ride all winter. I did last year and I was smoking everyone on the trails come spring.

  • crossroads

    Just like you said, counting calories is the way to go. I lost 75 lbs using livestrong and biking over the past 2 years. Just a few pounds above my high school weight and maintaining. I ride all year and have a blast. Just stay away from the buffet!!

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