“Why is it despite having a ‘clean’ diet and cycling to work and back every day that I seem to be slowly getting fatter!
The problem here is that you are getting older. From our early twenties, we are all subject to a condition called Sarcopenia, which is essentially a natural loss in skeletal muscle mass as we age. Despite a regular cycling routine and a clean diet remaining a constant, your muscle mass has decreased ever-so-slowly over a significant period of time. This leads to a relative decrease in the amount of energy you burn even though you are still doing the same things.
Part of the problem, then, is the type of exercise you are doing. Cycling is largely a cardiovascular activity, which means you will probably have become fitter in your lung capacity and oxygen consumption, but not particularly improved your muscle mass. This is important because muscle mass also directly relates to metabolic rate - the amount of metabolic activity occurring in your body at any given time - and the higher it is the more energy (calories) you need to maintain it. By not training to preserve your muscle mass, you have created a net decrease in metabolic rate and therefore calorie consumption. Enter the belt notches...
It is essential that you begin some resistance training activities in order to build some muscle tissue back. This doesn’t mean training to be a bodybuilder, but it will mean hitting the weights. You mention you have a gym membership, so you can probably ask to have a programme done for you by one of the gym team, or employ a personal trainer for a few sessions to show you the ropes and give you some ideas for your training.
You should be looking to undertake what we call ‘compound’ exercises. These are multi-joint, multi-directional exercises designed to use the big muscle groups like legs, back and chest in order to promote calorie burn and muscle growth. You should aim to be hitting the hypertrophy (muscle building) range of 8-12 repetitions, finding that you are just about at failure on the last repetition. Leg press, chest press, lat pull downs are all exercise that you can do at the gym, whilst lunges, press ups and chin ups can all be done in the home or often in a local park.
Without seeing a food diary it’s hard to tell whether you are over-eating, which can still be done with healthy foods, but if you are about to increase your activity levels, I wouldn’t recommend a drop in the volume. You’ll need all the protein and calories to create a growth in muscle tissue.”