Does Peloton Make You Gain Weight? (Reasons and solutions)


Doing peloton classes every day is great because it burns lots of calories, but it also increases your allostatic load, appetite, and hunger afterward (which as you can imagine can lead to weight gain).

Today, I will explain what are the most common reasons why you may gain weight from the peloton, and (most importantly) what can you do about it.

my belly fat after using peloton

It’s possible to gain weight from using a peloton, especially if you’re exercising above your limits. Overtraining and excessive calorie restriction often lead to decreased performance, fatigue, and energy compensation that results in weight gain. However, when training volume matches the recovery, it’s unlikely you will gain weight.

Here is my general answer but if you wanna know more details about if the peloton is making you fat and how to know if you’re overtraining, keep reading.

I spend too much time on the peloton bike and gained weight

I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. I used to train on my peloton bike like a maniac, doing 2-3 workouts per day, counting calories, and measuring food portions.

  • I would wake up in the early morning to do 45 min HIIT ride followed by a quick 20 min Strength class before I even had breakfast.
  • I was training like that becasue I noticed I have so much more energy for the rest of the day.
  • At the same time, I noticed that my appetite went up, so to “balance” the calories, I added another afternoon class.

I divided my lunch breaks into two parts. The first part was for 30 min Bootcamp ride, and the rest was for eating.

On the weekends, I would spend a total of 8 hours on the bike with over 2,000 calories burned. I was obsessed. I thought the more I train, the better I would feel.

Yes, using peloton too much can make you gain weight

After riding my Peloton bike day by day, my energy started to drop and my body felt sorer than ever (I also started to drink coffee excessively). To combat this fatigue, I would jump on the bike or sleep.

Needless to say that after a few months, my body started to crash, and (no surprise here) I started to eat more than before.

Is it normal to gain weight with a peloton?

In general, it is not normal to gain weight with a peloton because indoor cycling should increase your metabolic rate, burn calories, and helps to reduce excess body fat.

However, it is not uncommon to see people training and still not losing weight.

How does peloton make you gain weight?

After this experience, I started to read several scientific studies and online publications about exercise and weight gain.

Soon, I discovered that the more I exercised, the more my body started to “compensate” and let loose to recover from that stress.

Too much intensity

This phenomenon is called energy compensation, which makes you more hungry after increased physical activity.

Energy compensation is the result of intensive workouts done for a prolonged period of time. Energy compensation often leads to overeating.

Research

Marie-Ève Riou, PhD., an exercise physiologist from the University of Ottawa in Canada, did a systematic review of exercise and energy compensation. The review included over 60 studies with almost 1000 participants.

Here are the key highlights:

  • Energy compensation was the same between men and women.
  • No significant difference in the degree of energy compensation between lower and higher intensity.
  • The biggest predictor for energy compensation was exercise duration (about 80 weeks).

Dr. Riou

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

It basically means that people who train consistently in the long term are more likely to gain weight.

On the other hand, people who just getting started are less likely to gain weight, as long as they maintain a calorie deficit.

I won’t be covering here all the nuts and bolts about peloton and diet. I’ve already covered that in my article peloton diet, which I recommend you read.

To lose weight, reduce your training volume

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 the capacity to recover, and lead to overeating.

Here’s how it works:

  • Peloton workouts involve many high-intensity interval training rides, as well as prolonged endurance rides.
  • These workouts burn a significant amount of calories and subsequently increase food energy demands.
  • Using the bike every day puts a lot of stress on the body and can lead to overtraining and muscular fatigue.

I gained weight becasue I was eating not enough

In the short term, there is nothing wrong with eating less or almost nothing. People do intermittent fasting all the time and rarely gain the weight back.

In the beginning, I felt like all the weight was coming off me. I was eating one meal a day and riding my Peloton every day.

However, this didn’t last for long.

  • I started to crave foods like sweets, pasta, rice, and bread.
  • My endurance was lower than ever. I wasn’t able to maintain my usual FTP for both short and long rides.
  • The weights that I was lifting felt heavy and difficult. I wasn’t able to lift the weights that used to be easy during my training.

Basically, I started to feel worse, not better. And as you may have guessed, I started to eat more and gained weight.

I gained weight from using peloton
My belly after doing too much peloton and eating more that usual
  • I gained over 12 lbs (I went from 190 lb down to 202 lb).
  • According to my skinfold calipers, my skinfold measurements went from 35 mm to 40 mm.

Using Peloton every day where I progressively increased intensity, as well as lowered my food intake to just one meal a day, started to bring diminishing returns.

Instead of losing weight, I was gaining fat.

Dieting too much

Dieting too much can increase your desire to eat.

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, as well as excessive calorie restriction, can provoke adjustment of energy intake (we get more hungry).

In the video below, Jerry Teixeira explains the details of how this work.

Why am I not losing weight on the peloton?

Below you will find some of the most common reasons why people may use a peloton bike and not lose weight (or worse, gain weight).

Eating too much food

One of the reasons why you’re not losing weight on a peloton is that you’re probably consuming more calories than you think (let me tell you what I mean by that).

Market Research Corporation of America (MRCA) did a fascinating study across 5,752 people and compared their perceived food consumption versus actual food consumption.

The food groups included grains, fruits, veggies, milk, meat, and sweets.

See the graph below.

illustration on what people eat vs what they think they eat
Perception vs reality on food consumption
  • On the top, you have the people’s perception of how much food they consume from each of the groups.
  • On the bottom, you have the actual food consumption from each group.

My point is that people’s perception of eating meat, veggies, fruits, and milk is overestimated, compared to reality. This means we may think we eat less, but in reality, we eat more.

People who already have a lot of stress are more likely to indulge in mindless eating and rebound after intense peloton sessions by eating more than usual, without even realizing it.

(This was exactly what happened to me).

You’re not burning enough calories

Another reason why you can gain weight from a peloton is that your workouts aren’t intense enough to see progress (I know it may sound contrary to what I said earlier).

For example.

  • If you only choose low-intensity classes where your heart rate does not spike up and you barely break a sweat, this means you’re not burning enough calories to lose weight.
  • If you’re choosing classes that do not require hard work (recovery rides or beginner classes) and you stay away from more advanced workouts (long-distance endurance and strength).

Stress

One of the reasons why people may not be losing weight with a peloton is becasue of too much stress in their lives, which increases their daily allostatic load.

Let me explain.

  • 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.
  • The sympathetic nervous system elevates glucose levels, increases the heart rate, and increases cortisol levels (plus, studies have shown that increased sympathetic activity is related to weight gain).

Take a look that the graph below.

illustration of several factors that can contribute to weight gain
Doing too many peloton rides can increase stress and allostatic load

The graph above illustrates multiple reasons why people are eating more and not losing weight on Peloton. Hunger signals are often triggered by a number of psychological and physical factors like:

  • Stress
  • Overtraining
  • Worries
  • Bad emotions

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.

The problem is when you do too much, too often, and don’t spend enough time to recover from it efficiently. That is bad stress.

In the video below you can see how stress contributes to weight gain.

Exercising too much

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.

Everyone is different and to know how often should you use a peloton, head on to my article.

How to use peloton without gaining weight

Start with the correct intensity

Selecting the class intensity and duration is not cookie-cutter.

  • People with a lot of stress shouldn’t do more strenuous classes (doing high-intensity and high-volume peloton workouts also add to the allostatic load).
  • They should do shorter workouts with moderate intensity (this way you feel better after class, not worse).

For example.

  • 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 were before.

The difference between doing classes with too much or too little is basically your ability to recover from this class.

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 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.

Don’t forget about recovery

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.

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

People who lose weight have high parasympathetic activity, whereas people who gain weight have high sympathetic activity

Tentolouris et al. 2006
  • 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 gaining weight

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.

Build more muscle mass

Sometimes it’s better to step back from doing peloton bike 7 days a week and start doing more strength training to build muscle. More muscle mass means more calories you burn at rest.

I noticed that since I started doing strength training, it was much easier to maintain weight loss results.

I’ve also written many guides on how to build muscle with the peloton where I explain which classes are best for that.

My thoughts on gaining weight with the peloton

One of the biggest problems I had is that I could not stop exercising. For me, it feels like a therapy session.

I use workouts to feel good and be more productive, so to skip a workout would make me feel uncomfortable. So when I drop the ball and skip the day, immediately I feel bad about it.

I’m used to doing spin classes daily but with more exercise, I was getting more hungry.

So I would eat more food and use exercise as a justification for why I’m hungry. Which was true but I was eating way more than necessary.

Over time, too many peloton workouts led to overtraining and overeating. It took me several months to figure out what was going wrong.

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.

I started to eat more proteins

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.

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.

Conclusion

  • Gaining weight on the peloton doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the program.
  • It means that you need to take a step back and look around at what else is going on in your life right now.
  • Some of the most common reasons why people gain weight from cycling are too much (or too little) intensity, eating too much food, or having too much stress.

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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