From a celebrity trainer saying that spinning can make you gain weight to a physiologist citing studies showing that women lose fat from their guts and lower bodies through cycling – even if their thighs might look temporarily pumped post-workout – what’s the truth? Does indoor cycling make you gain weight? The answer isn’t so clear-cut, according to a Women’s Health article that explains why cycling both is and isn’t good for weight loss.
A 2013 article published in Harper’s Bazaar, “Is Spinning Making You Fat?” reported on why some indoor cycling devotees were abandoning the bike, with the answer being that they thought it made their backsides bigger.
David Kirsch, a celebrity trainer interviewed for the Harper’s Bazaar piece, said, “If you have a predisposition to bulking in your lower half, Spinning can make your butt and quads bigger.” The key is that it depends on the type of body that you’re starting with, and the type of body that you’re expecting and wanting to achieve through indoor cycling.
The Harper’s Bazaar article also addresses another important factor when discussing weight gain: diet. Cycling can make people very hungry since they’re burning anywhere from 400 to 600 calories per 45 minutes in an indoor cycling class. This can lead to eating more after workouts, or as Hollywood trainer Harley Pasternak puts it, “I call it the carte blanche effect: ‘I did a kick-ass class today. I deserve dessert.’”
On the other hand, that caloric deficit can help lead to weight loss, as long as you’re supplementing your physical activity with a healthy diet, according to Women’s Health. It’s important to note that spot reduction, or the belief that training a specific muscle will result in fat loss in that area, is a myth according to the American Council on Exercise. So, while cycling is a great form of cardio, it doesn’t necessarily strengthen all your muscles in equal ways, which is why incorporating other types of exercises – think strength training and/or yoga – in addition to cycling can help with your weight loss efforts and protect your bones and joints.
“If you’re Spinning because you think it’s going to help you burn body fat but you actually hate it, then Spinning is not going to work for you in the long run,” says Charlie Seltzer, MD, an obesity medicine physician and ACSM-certified exercise specialist, who was interviewed in the Women’s Health article. “It’s not like it’s way more effective than other kinds of cardio or your only option for losing weight.”
The low-impact benefits of cycling can make it an attractive cardio exercise, though, especially for people who struggle with running or jogging. So, if you enjoy cycling and it’s working for you, that’s great – keep doing it. And for anyone who wants to start cycling, but is worried about your health, an injury or how it might affect a specific condition that you have, Dr. Seltzer recommends getting evaluated by your doctor before taking a cycling class.