What is the Best Cycling Cadence for Weight Loss?

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Written By James Quilter

Passionate cyclist and content creator

Having difficulty finding the optimal cycling cadence to increase fat burning? Keep in mind, both high and low cadences can be effective, but in different manners.

First off, cadence is measured in revolutions per minute (rpm). A higher number shows a faster rate of pedaling.  

If you’re riding on a stationary trainer, a good way to track your cadence is with a sensor. Check out ‘Top 5 Best Speed and Cadence Sensors for Zwift‘ for the best ones. 

High cadence and low gears

If you want to lose weight by burning carbs, a higher cadence (speed) during your rides is a good option.

A cycling at a higher cadence – i.e. faster pedalling but in a lower gear – shifts the the output from muscles and to the cardiovascular system.

A higher cadence the preferred way to by many endurance cyclists, and most training plans include some high cadence training.

It also increases your heart rate and makes you breathe harder. You’ll also build strength and endurance faster.

Burning carbohydrate for fuel

According to this Q&A in the New York Times, a higher cadence can help you burn more calories per hour. Try increasing your cadence to 90 rpm or 100 rpm.

While Healthfully.com said:

A high calorie-burning cadence is one that is near the higher range, such as 100 to 110 RPM, and is performed in a low gear with not a lot of resistance. This ensures that you are able to maintain your workout for an extended duration to burn fat calories and add to your weight loss.

It added your target heart rate while pedalling should be between 65% and 85% of your maximum heart rate.

Burn Fat at a Lower Cadence

However not everyone says fast pedalling is the right way to go. For some, a high cadence is effective to burn carbs, but a lower cadence can burn fat.

According to Cyclist a cadence in the 40-60 rpm range is better for fat burning.

All the evidence shows that a low to moderate cadence – 40-60rpm – is the most efficient. You use less energy and burn more fat. Pedalling faster expends more energy, and burns more carbohydrate.’

Stern adds: “Cadence is a dependent variable, rather than an independent variable.”

What is your cadence level? 

Studies show that people who cycle at higher cadences lose more weight than those who ride at lower cadences.

Cycling is a great way to get in shape and lose weight, but it can also be a bit of a challenge if you’re not sure what your ideal cadence should be, then read on. 

To determine your ideal cadence, start with a low number and escalate it until you feel comfortable. You may also want to consider using an app on your smartphone or computer to measure your cadence.

How Lance Armstrong rode with a high cadence …

Lance Armstrong rode the Tour de France with a very high cadence, sometimes as much as 100 revolutions per minute.

Armstrong’s ability to produce a very high cadence was crucial to his success. Armstrong’s ability to produce a very high cadence was crucial to his success (as well as other things). 

Lance Armstrong, who rode at around 110rpm, always worked on the basis that a higher cadence stresses your cardio system more, whereas riding at a lower cadence is harder on the muscles.
British Cycling coach Will Newton

A high cycling cadence helps save stress on the muscles and puts more of a focus on the cardiovascular system. As a result, endurance is improved. 

High cadence cycling (or spinning) is an effective way to burn calories while you exercise. It works by increasing your heart rate, making your body work harder and burning more calories.

Use a stationary bike or smart trainer to cycle

Stationary bikes are great for cardio workouts, but they don’t allow you to adjust resistance levels like smart trainers do.

In addition to cadence, smart trainers and apps like Zwift and Rouvy also offer many features such as automatic interval training, resistance, and calorie counting.

Zwift has an app available for iPhone and Android devices. It allows users to connect their Apple Watch or Fitbit device to the app. This will give them real time feedback on how hard they are working out.

Rouvy is another option for tracking your progress. You can use Rouvy on iOS and Android devices.

Calorie intake – be sensible

If you cut down your calories too much, then your body won’t be able to use them for energy during workouts because they’re not there anymore. So, cutting out too many calories from your diet could actually slow down your progress instead of speeding it up!

If you’re eating less than 2000 calories a day, you’ll need to increase your calorie intake to make sure you have enough energy to sustain yourself throughout the day. 

If you’re cutting out carbs entirely, you may feel tired and lethargic. Again be sensible, and consult a doctor if you are unsure. Speaking for purely personal experience, riding while low on energy is no fun.

That said, the only way weight loss happens when you have a calorie deficit, so hold off of those cakes when you’ve done your ride. And at the end of the day, just riding on your bike is going to help – no matter what RPM you’re pedalling.