In his senior year of high school in small-town Texas, Mitchell Sides weighed 250 pounds (113kg). Today he is racing as a professional on Elevate Cycling, weighing just over 160 pounds. His main advice for losing weight by riding bikes? Consistency.
With a physiology degree from the University of Texas, Sides is also coaching for Source Endurance, helping other riders improve on the bike.
For Sides, losing weight wasn’t the motivator to get on the bike in the first place. He got into cycling after watching his older brother ride in 2011, and decided it looked like fun.
“I never really noticed that I was big until after the fact,” Sides said. “I never noticed I was very overweight until I wasn’t anymore. We did a 10-mile ride [16km] and I was just done, exhausted. But I kept going, doing other rides. Now we do 100-mile rides pretty much all the time.”
Here are Mitchell’s three tips for losing weight by riding. (Pro contract not guaranteed.)
Tip #1: Be consistent
“Consistency is the number one thing,” Sides said. “I didn’t really change much as far as eating for a while. I was just riding more and more, and kept chugging along.”
Sides didn’t have a plan to lose a certain amount of weight, much less to turn professional. He was just following his newfound passion. Off the bike, he learned about the mechanics of the human body studying physiology at the University of Texas, where he raced for the college team.
“I never expected to be where I am now, but it just worked out that way,” he said. “What I learned from school, from riding and now from coaching is that consistency is the main thing. As long as you are regularly riding, the ‘more, faster, better’ comes. What is great about cycling, is that you get out what you put in, regardless of how talented you are.”
Sides is a coach and a racer for Elevate Cycling, a UCI Continental professional outfit
Tip #2: Pay attention
For weight control, you have two main levers: what you put in, and what you do to burn calories.
“The biggest thing is to be aware of what you’re putting in,” Sides said. “If you think about it more, it will improve. What is tracked can improve. Just keep an eye on it.”
As for the other end of the equation, Sides said a power meter is very helpful to quantify the amount of work being done, and energy being burned.
“But even without that, just be aware that if you’re not riding hard you’re not crushing 1,000 calories an hour, so you can’t go home and eat everything in the house,” he said.
Tip #3: Don’t obsess
“I like counting calories a little bit, but you don’t have to be super strict,” Sides said. “In fact, if you’re too strict then that can lead to blowing it all. That’s one thing I’ve had issues with. You can have cheat days every now and then. But too much focus on quick weight loss can backfire.”
Instead, Sides recommends focusing on eating healthy foods over calorie-rich foods, and matching input to output.
Sides got into cycling for fun, not with a weight-loss agenda
Sides’ favorite foods
Before a ride, Mitchell has a healthy breakfast with protein, such as cereal with milk, eggs or a bagel with ham and cheese. "Protein helps prevent of breakdown of muscles, especially for harder days," he said. "I make sure I have 10-20g of protein before a big ride."
"During a ride, I eat complex carbohydrates, like Bearded Brothers bars. Right now I really like a Coke on a long, hard ride," he said.
After a ride, Sides makes sure to get protein with some carbs, often in the form of a protein recovery shake. “My number one thing in the past six months is getting 10-20g of whey protein within 15 minutes of getting out the bike,” Sides said. “I really notice that I feel better the next day when I do this.”