Winter sees an influx of new subscribers to Zwift as well as the annual migration of winter-only Zwifters. One group of note are those interested in losing weight and keeping it off. Their number appears to be a growing population on Zwift.

What is Zwift?

Zwift is advertised as a training game. Zwift’s main page quotes “Training made fun” from Road.cc. The visual interest over purist workout mode (TrainerRoad) continues to attract new subscribers. Add the expense of a smart trainer and you’ll get more realism.

Zwift has a very low-key approach to weight loss. It is fair to say they have demonstrated a hands off policy. There are good reasons for such a position. Zwift is a gaming company with graphic designers in a virtual reality world of cycling. They don’t claim to have expertise in the field of health fitness, especially the varied approaches to weight loss. I consider Zwift as simply a tool one can use for weight loss.

While the weight loss business is big money, customers expect results when they pay for a weight loss program. One of the big names in the weight loss business costs $40 a month, just for guidance. Purchase food through the top two companies, expect to pay $300 to $400 dollars a month. (Jan 2010 CBS MoneyWatch) Usually those companies have a difficult time convincing their customers to exercise. On the other hand, exercise alone is no guarantee of weight loss. People who exercise must control what they eat. It is difficult to find a consensus among the top experts. Following their advice, as we all know, can be harder still!

What is ZwiftOff?

ZwiftOff is simply a group of individuals seeking to lose weight. It is a Facebook group with Zwift at its forefront. It was established in early December 2017, and while still in its infancy, ZwiftOff is taking off. Members are increasing daily. The first group workout had 69 riders, the second 112.

ZwiftOff is a free group. The conversations are private, as diet and weight loss are sometimes a very private matter. Members can share their success and offer encouragement to other members. There’s been a lot of positive feedback on our 45 minute ‘Apollo-11’ workout.

The Research 

Zwift recently published a post, “Burn Fat with Zwift” essentially saying the same things as our series. The contributor was Dr. Jeukendrup, “a leading sports nutrition scientist.” Dr. Jeukendrup is associated with Sports Science, a subscription service for diet and exercise advice for race-oriented athletes. Of interest is his examination of exercising to burn fat. The published study was used as a basis for three ZwiftOff workouts along with other workout designers who design workouts to improve fitness and avoid monotony. You can certainly do a solid thirty to sixty minutes of Zone 2 effort. But you might find it hard to maintain that on a daily basis. You can also use the Epic Mountain climb or climb the Volcano twice. Those with expertise in the field of exercise recommend a strength or muscular pedaling force approximated as 60-80 cadence, rather than a 90-110 spin style.

Although the emphasis was partially on how women may burn fat differently than men, the research shows fat burning occurred at its highest level from 45% VO2Max for men to 52% VO2 Max for women. This should be about  50-60 % of FTP for most riders.

My study of the sourced research report is slightly different than Dr Jeukendrup’s view. The study did state that the men in this study were more overweight, or had a higher fat mass, than the women. Even with exactly the same fat mass, healthy women have a higher percentage of body fat. A woman with 40% fat may reasonably be asked by their doctor to get down between 25-30%. A man’s level would be set at 18-24%. Thus, the woman in this scenario is 10% overweight, and the man 15%.

More and more experts quote research studies that show fasted exercise burns more fat than other efforts. I would define this as morning exercise before breakfast with water only. While this may give you the highest percentage of fat burned per calorie, some focus on the number of calories burned. For example, Livestrong.com notes that burning 60% fat for one hour will burn less fat than two hours at a higher effort burning 35% fat. Others take the approach of counting calories throughout the day and ensuring you have a specific number of calories to burn each day. To be fair, we should examine this in another article.

Join Us For a Group Workout!

I hope you will benefit from joining our group workouts, currently at 7:10 am EST on Zwift. “ZwiftOff with Zee” is scheduled every Sunday from January 7 2018 to March 25 2018. You can socialize with ZwiftOff members by joining us on Facebook.