I recently took a trip to New York. It wasn’t until venturing off the relatively sheltered sanctuary of Vancouver Island that I realized the full magnitude of what society was currently facing. An epidemic some might say. Popping up faster than Starbucks, and destroying fitness goals like no other. The age of Spin is upon us. Spin classes have been around for years of course but with the emergence of brands like SoulCycle and much more alike they are gaining in popularity and fast.
Just one problem. As a singular modality to lose body fat it simply won’t work. Okay, it might for a bit. Bit then the progress will come to a grinding halt, moving slower than that stationary bike you’re sitting on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than nothing. However, if you’re serious about your results, you want to get the most value out of your time, you want to look better naked, and you want to set your body up in the best shape possible to deal with modern lifestyles then spin just isn’t the best way.
Calorie Deficit = Fat Loss or not
Let’s start with the science. Spin is cardio. Cardio burns calories. A calorie deficit equals fat loss.
Well, that’s the theory. In reality, it doesn’t work like that, see our bodies are adaptation machines. They are constantly adapting to their environment and looking for ways to make sure we stay alive. Our body doesn’t understand the fact that there are a Whole Foods around the corner and that you are hitting up the ‘make your own burrito bar’ after a spin. It still thinks you have to hunt and scavenge for food, therefore, it is finely tuned to adapt its own caloric needs just in case food is scarce.
If you’re sitting at a calorie deficit and throwing in spin 3 times a week on top of that, your body is panicking. And the solution to this is to slow your metabolism down. This means you’re now burning fewer calories in a day, meaning you need to eat even less to lose weight. Your body is also now practicing spin on a regular basis. This means it’s learning, your biomechanics are improving and technically you are becoming more efficient at riding a bike. The more efficient you get, the fewer calories you burn.
To make matters even worse your body has to find a way to slow your metabolism, it doesn’t just do it by magic. It does it by losing muscle. Muscle is an expensive tissue. It burns a lot of calories, the body doesn’t want it unless it feels like it needs it. Only doing spin? Goodbye muscle, and goodbye to that killer physique you set out for in the first place.
Let’s paint a picture for a second. You work in an office all day, maybe you have money problems, maybe you have relationship issues, maybe your boss is a dick. You didn’t sleep much last night, your nutrition is awful but you need to lose weight. Life is stressful. Work, finances, lack of sleep, these are all things many people face every day. Let’s throw spin into the mix. A 45-60 minute class designed to get your heart racing. More stress. Your body reacts to stress by producing a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol levels increase, our resistance to insulin can also increase.
This means that your body isn’t able to process glucose efficiently. An inability to process glucose will result in that energy being stored as fat. Heres the bigger problem. Cortisol initially feels good. It’s an important hormone designed to help keep us alive. That release of endorphins is so good it can actually become addictive. This means you keep going back for more and more spin, increasing the negative effects of ten fold.
Take a look around you next time you’re out in public. Look at people’s postures. Do their shoulders round forward a little bit? Do their butts stick out like they are Kim Kardashian? Does their head poke forward in front of their body causing the top of their neck to round over? I’m willing to bet you’ll see at least two of these posture faults, if not all three on the same person.
This is because we sit all day at work and are incapable of standing in a line or waiting anywhere alone without looking down at our phones. Lets now go and sit on a bike for an hour, tighten up those hips a little bit more and round our shoulders forward to reach for the handlebars. Why does poor posture matter? Increases risk of injury causes chronic inflammation and joint pain, it simply doesn’t look good.
Even after reading all of this you still want to go to spin, don’t you? I get it. You enjoy it, it’s a great way to socialize and you feel good afterward. But you want results so what should you do? My advice is as follows. Make sure you combine your spin classes with weight training. Resistance train full body at least 3+ times a week, this should help you hold onto or build muscle and mitigate some of the metabolic damages caused by spin. Within your resistance training make sure that you pay extra attention to strengthen your posterior chain.
Mainly your glutes and your back/ rear delts. This will help you to improve your posture and make sure spin doesn’t make things worst. Finally, focus on recovery. Whilst I recommend resistance training, it is also a stressor. Try to spend as much time looking after yourself when you’re not exercising. Areas to focus on include nutrition, sleep, reducing caffeine intake, finding ways to relax, avoiding blue light at night.