Interval training for weight loss


New Member
Aug 17, 2012
All, Sorry if this is a repeat thread but search on my iPhone where I access the forum isn't working. I've been working out hard for about 5 months now. I started with running and have excelled from not being able to run for 5 minutes to completing a 5 k in a little over 28 minutes. To take some strain off my knees I've added cycling and love it. I'm doing very well with cycling as well, doing 25-40 mile rides consistently averaging ~18 mph pace. However since adding cycling my weight loss stopped dead. Totally hit a plateau. I have gone from 277 lbs to 240 lbs in about 5 months. Now, I haven't lost anything in 4 weeks after throwing cycling into my routine. Can anyone offer advice on a hybrid running/cycling interval training plan? My understanding is intervals can help you blast through a plateau.
There's no real magic in terms of specific intervals or other approaches to burning more calories on the bike. You can ride harder or you can ride longer or somewhere in the middle but in the end it will come down to burning more calories each day compared to what you take in. A lot of folks and a lot of on line caloric burn charts over estimate the calories you'll burn while riding a specific pace. Some of the HR based approaches dramatically over estimate calories burned and a lot of folks find that when they ride longer rides (which generally burn more calories) they also come back famished and over eat.

Tough tradeoffs, but best approach I've found is to keep doing the workouts, eat and use some energy drink on any rides over an hour or so and then be careful to refuel but not over fuel when you get off the bike. You definitely want to refuel after longer or harder rides so that you can top up your energy stores for future workouts but not as much as many folks think. I can't count the number of times I've done a group ride where we all went out and gorged on pizza, pasta, and the like but where my power meter (about as accurate a caloric burn meter you can get for riding) told me we hadn't burned nearly as many calories as we were chowing down post ride. Something about those longer modestly paced rides really gets me hungry.

Keep up the riding, keep working on steadily increasing your pace when you can and you'll burn more calories during exercise. But pay close attention to post ride refueling and what you eat during the rest of the day if you want to maintain a caloric deficit and drop weight. But don't try to drop it too quickly or deprive yourself too much or you'll either lose energy for your workouts, or eventually get frustrated and binge after a lot of deprivation. Tough balance but try to just burn a bit more than you consume each day, like 300 to 600 calories in deficit and give it time. The good news is that as your fitness improves and your average speed and average sustained power rises you'll burn more calories for the same time on the bike.

Good luck,
Thanks Dave. I have been consistent in food intake and exercise. I'm doing 800-1600 calorie work outs 5-6 times a week. I'm intaking roughly 1800-2000 calories a day. Overall I have a deficit of 600-1000 per day. It's worked very well over the last 5 mths. Just seemed to have stopped. I'm holding quite steady - no gains, but no loses. I'm wondering if my workouts have become routine. If I need to change it up a bit, therefore my questions on intervals.
Originally Posted by 616fun .
....Overall I have a deficit of 600-1000 per day....I'm holding quite steady - no gains, but no loses
I suspect you realize this isn't possible, you can't hold a 600-1000 Calorie daily deficit and hold steady on weight over the long term.

The most likely culprit is you're over estimating calories burned on the bike. But in the end it'll come down to calories in vs calories out and yes that includes RMR or other background caloric burn and not just what you do during exercise. Have you re-evaluated your BMR/RMR after you've dropped so much weight? That alone could be part of the issue as they'll drop a bit as you've got less body mass to support. Similarly any other lifestyle changes like more desk time or more driving and less walking could be influencing things but in the end it always comes back to calories in vs calories out and if you've stayed steady for over a month now then either up the caloric burn rate (increase cycling intensity, duration or both) or cut some additional calories from your diet. There really aren't any other options, but yes interval work is performed at a higher intensity so that is one way to increase caloric burn but if it ends up cutting your workout duration by too much or leaves you too tired to ride on subsequent days it can be a bad tradeoff.

If you want to give interval work a shot to see how well it works for you, I'd strongly recommend longer Tempo/SST/Threshold intervals that are at least 10 and preferably 12 to 30 minutes long if you have the available roads for them. These aren't, make ya puke gut busting sprints, they're basically mini time trial intervals where you block out time or distance and ride a steady fast pace that's very hard to complete but not impossible and not so hard you blow up mid way and have to slow down to finish. It'll take some time to dial in your best pacing for those durations but within a couple of weeks you should start to find your best sustainable pace.

A good guideline is to focus on your breathing while performing these sustained efforts. After the first few minutes you should be breathing deeply and steadily such that speaking more than a few words at a time would be tough but not impossible. If you're gasping and can't talk at all you're going too hard, if you hardly notice your breathing and could chat with another cyclist then pick up the pace. If you get thirsty you should be able to take a drink but it might take a couple of deep breaths first and then a quick swallow or two out of your water bottle if you're riding Threshold pace. Not every session should be this hard but on the more focused 'interval' days your riding should require focus and ideally in sustained efforts not a minute here, minute there.

These are typically much better for both improving all around aerobic fitness and for burning more overall calories than short gut busting minute or thirty second style anaerobic efforts. Yes, those super short and super intense efforts burn a lot of calories for a minute or so at a time but overall the workout sessions end up being much shorter and burning fewer total calories which is what matters and don't do as much for sustainable aerobic power and overall fitness which is much more valuable in the big picture of riding faster, longer and sustaining more power which translates directly to burning more calories per hour.

Good luck,
I'd bet that you're eating too little.

If you're eating 2000 calories per day and burning 1600 in your workouts, your body will hold on to everything it's got, even if it means letting go of muscle tissue and your health.
I lost during 3 months 9 kilogrames ( sorry I'm spanish and I don't know in Lbs).
I use only a 3 days/week training ( I'm not fat , my height is 6 feets (1,80 meters) and now 69 kg.
I combine 3 hours with low/medium pulse rate to burn fats and some miles with high speed to burn carbohydrates.
I eat all I want without excesive sugar and I avoid animal fats ( I eat with olive oil, or good fats).