Does Peloton Make You Gain Weight? (Explained)


Doing peloton classes every day is great because it burns lots of calories, but it also increases your appetite and hunger afterward. In this article, I will explain if you can gain weight from the peloton.

In general, peloton workouts won’t make you gain weight, as long as you don’t overtrain and you stay in the mild calorie deficit. Overtraining and excessive calorie restriction often lead to decreased performance, fatigue, and weight gain.

However, another reason why people may be gaining weight from peloton is by adding more muscle mass, which is a good thing in the long term (more on that later).

Peloton And Weight Gain

Gaining weight on the peloton may be related to either energy compensation or to gaining lean muscle mass.

What is energy compensation? As a whole, energy compensation is the effect of reduced calorie intake and increased levels of activity for a prolonged period of time. This may bring diminishing returns in energy expenditure because of compensatory responses.

Studies have shown that “energy deficits meant to produce increased mobilization of energy stores trigger a number of somewhat persistent adaptations that together increase the drive to eat” (Doucet et al. 2018).

This means that overtraining and/or excessive calorie restriction can provoke adjustment of energy intake.

Not only that.

Dr. Marie-Ève Riou from the University of Ottawa in Canada concluded that “lower energy compensation occurs with short-term exercise, and a much higher level of energy compensation accompanies long-term exercise interventions.” (Riou et al. 2015).

The big point that I want to make here is this.

Training with high intensity and high volume on the peloton bike can actually have more negative effects, reduce capacity to recover, and lead to overeating.

Not Losing Weight On Peloton

If you’re not losing weight on a peloton it means you’re eating more calories than you burn. Doing high-intensity classes daily impacts the calorie intake by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, increasing stress, and increasing your allostatic load.

What is allostatic load?

As a whole, the allostatic load is the accumulation of all physical and psychological stressors like highly demanding jobs, caregiving, family situations, and other things that increase your stress. Doing high-intensity and high-volume workouts also adds to the allostatic load.

Take a look that the graph below.

Peloton and weight gain

As you can see, people who already have a lot on their plate are more likely to rebound after intense peloton sessions and default to eating more than usual.

In other words, gaining weight on a peloton can be due to having high pressure because people who have already too much stress going on have lower stress tolerance.

This means that doing an additional high volume of high-intensity classes can trigger overeating.

Peloton Bike and Weight Gain

In general, a peloton can cause weight gain if you eat more calories than you burn. The high volume of high-intensity sessions increases your sympathetic nervous system.

What is sympathetic activity? Sympathetic activity is part of the autonomous nervous system. It is also called fight or flight mode or the stress response. During high-intensity exercises, the sympathetic nervous system elevates glucose levels, increases the heart rate, and increases cortisol levels.

Studies have shown that increased sympathetic activity is related to weight gain (Davy, 2009).

Of course, a little short-term stress is often good for us. Having the right amount of good stress (e.g. short burst of exercise) that we can recover from improves our health. A 20-minute peloton workout can make us feel better if it’s done correctly. That is called good stress.

On the other hand, if the workout is done too much, too often, and too intensely, we don’t recover from it efficiently. That is bad stress.

You can learn more about “how often should you use peloton” in my article here.

Is Peloton Making Me Fat?

What makes the exercise “too much” or “too often” will depend on a host of factors and what else is going on in your life right now (your allostatic load).

Here are some of the factors that can contribute to weight gain.

  • wanting to lose weight
  • work stress
  • poor sleep
  • poor nutrition
  • loneliness
  • relationship stress

Please remember that exercise (when done properly) can significantly reduce stress and lower allostatic load. However, when done too often and too much it can add to the problem.

Not only that.

Selecting the class intensity and duration is individual. This means that if you’re not having a lot of stress, then a daily 20-minute session can make you feel even better than you were before.

However, if there is already too much on your plate, the same 20 minutes session done every day can make you feel worse than you’re before.

The difference between good stress and bad stress is your ability to recover from it. Here you can see the table that illustrates how to know when the peloton session is making you feel.

Good sessionBad session
is short-lived
you do it when you feel like it
is infrequent
leaves you feel better than you’re before
last long time
you do it when you think you need to
is frequent
leaves you worse than you’re before
Good versus bad peloton session

As you can see, when a workout is done too much and too often will lead to overtraining and burnout. The body will start to compensate by making you feel hungry and causing weight gain.

Is It Normal To Gain Weight With Peloton?

You can have two people doing the same peloton classes, where one will feel invigorated and another will feel crushed, burned out, and want to eat more. This is normal.

If that’s the case, the most important factor in getting the results is to focus more on recovery.

What is recovery? Recovery is basically everything that you do to stimulate a parasympathetic response in your body (e.g relax).

Studies have shown that “people who lose weight have high parasympathetic activity, whereas people who gain weight have high sympathetic activity” (Tentolouris et al. 2006).

Why recovery is important in the peloton? Recovery is important in the peloton because it helps to reduce sympathetic activity. It also helps to enhance the clearance of pro-inflammatory compounds that cause muscle and joint pain and helps to facilitate better metabolic adaptations after exercise.

In other words, having the right balance between those two systems prevents overtraining and overeating. Here is the list of workouts that the peloton offers that stimulate your parasympathetic response.

Peloton classWhat it does
StretchingHelps to facilitate better recovery
Reduces DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
Reduces muscle tension
YogaReduces stress
Helps with sleep
Helps to relax and digest food
MeditationHelps with mindfulness
Increases stress tolerance and resilience
Reduces anxiety
Peloton classes that prevent from overtraining

As you can see, non of those classes are high-calorie burn or high impact.

Another great option is to use peloton low impact rides as those not only help to recover faster, but also improve muscle perfusion and reduce soreness.

Sometimes it’s better to switch from doing peloton bike 7 days a week and plug in a couple of down-regulating activities. They don’t burn as many calories as the bike, but they help you to relax and eat less.

Peloton workouts that offer HIIT or Bootcamp are effective, especially if you want to build muscle.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about does peloton build muscle

Overeating On Peloton – What to do when I want to train every day?

I have several clients who say they just need to exercise every day, despite their high cortisol levels. They say it just feels like a therapy session for them. And when they drop the balls and skip the day, immediately they feel bad about it.

I can totally relate because I also feel like exercise helps me to stay focused.

Over time, too many peloton workouts lead to overtraining and overeating. One of the simple ways to stop overeating, or at least manage the effects is to add an efficient amount of proteins and fiber-rich foods to the diet.

Why protein is important in peloton training? Proteins are essential nutrients that help you to increase your satiety and lower hunger pangs. They also increase energy expenditure, and trigger muscle protein synthesis, you keep your metabolic rate high and burn more calories.

The high amount of proteins not only keeps you fuller for longer but also helps to lower the hunger pangs. Another part is adding more high-fiber foods. Fiber also induces satiety after the meal (Clark, 2013).

There are several other ways to reduce hunger and appetite, which I won’t be covering here. I’ve already covered that in “intuitive eating and weight gain“, which I recommend you read.

Peloton Making Me Gain Weight

Generally, you’re gaining weight on the peloton because you’re eating more food. Peloton workouts offer high-intensity classes that can stimulate more hunger and cravings for food. The more energy you expend, the more hungry you get.

In the short term, the more you train, the more calories you burn which is good for weight loss. However, over time, doing a lot of peloton high-intensity sessions can upregulate the sympathetic nervous system and increase cortisol levels.

I used to do spin classes daily and used a bike to get to work. But with more exercise, I was getting more hungry. So I would eat more food and use exercise as a justification of why I’m hungry. Which was true but I was eating way more than necessary.

Conclusion

Gaining weight on peloton doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the program. It means that you need to take a step back and look around what else is going on in your life right now.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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