How many calories do you burn cycling?
For some a goal for others it's a question we've all thought about: how many calories do I burn cycling? There are countless formulas and gadgets to track your calorie burn. As useful as this can be, the exact combustion remains an approximation (as accurate as possible). Still, it is useful to keep track of your calorie consumption to keep an eye on your training or weight loss goals.
Estimated calories burned on the bike
Let's start with average estimates based on your weight and speed. The table below gives an indication of the calorie burn per hour at which speed.
What variables do you have to take into account when burning calories?
The consumption above is an estimate at average conditions. In reality you will be dealing with a lot of variables. Think of weight of the material, wind, hills and the interval of pedaling. Three more important factors are highlighted below.
The aerodynamics have a major influence on the burning of your calories. The larger your frontal area, the greater your air resistance. If you have a large body, an upright sitting position and flapping clothing, you need more energy to move forward than compared to a razor-thin rider in tight lycra. The less aerodynamic you are, the harder you will have to pedal to reach the same speed. And your calorie consumption will therefore be higher than with higher aerodynamics.
Rolling resistance is the resistance your wheel encounters when it rolls over a surface. In other words, the energy that is lost during the rolling out of your bicycle tire. There are several factors that influence rolling resistance. Think of tire pressure, body weight of the cyclist, tire width, diameter of the bicycle tire, the profile of the tire, the composition of the bicycle tire and the ground you are cycling on.
A calorie is a term to express energy. But there is a difference in how calories from nutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) are absorbed by the body. Your body converts part of your food directly into accessible fuel. The type and quality of food affects how quickly and efficiently you convert fuel into forward motion. If you drive fast, you mainly burn carbohydrates, while you will burn more fat at a slower pace.
How do you calculate your calorie consumption on the bike yourself?
By using a formula we can approximate the exact calorie ratio. In this formula we include the following variables:
- Weight: The heavier you are, the more energy it takes to move.
- Speed: Simply put, the faster you cycle the more calories you burn.
- Cycling time: the longer you cycle, the more you burn.
The actual formula to calculate calories burned:
[(Age x 0.2017) - (Weight x 0.09036) + (Heart Rate x 0.6309) - 55.0969] x Time / 4.184.
[(Age x 0.074) - (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate x 0.4472) - 20.4022] x Time / 4.184.
Now we understand that you are not going to calculate this every time. That is why it is best to use a measuring instrument such as a sports watch or app.
What's the best way to measure calories burned?
Depending on the information you enter and the equipment you use, your calorie reading at the end of a given ride may be accurate, close, or quite far from it. Here's what you need to know to make them as accurate as possible.
The harder your effort, the higher your heart rate, the more energy you expend. By wearing a heart rate monitor that works with your cycling computer, you make your calorie counts more accurate than if those calculations were based solely on your body weight and conditions. For the most accurate calorie measurement during your rides, use a power meter, which measures what you deliver in energy. This will give you a number in kilojoules (kJ). Power meters are available for all kinds of components in your road bike. But beware. Even if you have the most accurate calorie estimate, it's important to always see that number in the right content. For example, a sprint or interval workout gives a low number of kJ but can have an enormous effect on your calorie burn.