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How many calories are burned cycling?

Friday, November 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


My late 2015 cut ended nearly one month ago (on October 22, 2015), and I’ve been slowly raising my caloric intake over the past four weeks. I’ve been very cautious to not raise my calories too quickly, and, because of that, I’ve continued to lose weight over the past month. When my cut ended my scale weight was 162.4 pounds, and over the following three weeks I lost nearly 3 more pounds (my scale weight this past Sunday was 159.8 pounds).

I think my weight is finally starting to stabilize. This morning my scale weight is 159.8 pounds–exactly the same as it was this past Sunday. It’s truly amazing how much clean food I’m able to consume without gaining weight. Of course cycling 250-300 miles per week also burns quite a few calories, but my healthy diet is the main reason I’m able to eat pretty much all I want.

It’s nice heading into the holidays with a bit of a cushion. My maintenance goal is to stay somewhere between 160 and 165 pounds, and right now I’m obviously at the low end of that range.

I mentioned above that cycling 250-300 miles per week obviously burns a significant number of calories. Determining precisely how many calories I’m actually burning through exercise is nigh impossible. Garmin Connect, Strava, VeloViewer, Golden Cheetah, Training Peaks, etc. all provide estimates of calories burned, but they can only be rough estimates. This is especially true considering the “afterburn” effect that comes from intense riding is not accounted for.

Let’s take a look at my July 2015, during which I rode a total 1,311.7 miles and spent 66 hours in the saddle, and see what a few of the sources I cited in the previous paragraph estimate I burned that month.

Garmin Connect: 44,833 calories
VeloViewer: 50,340 calories
Golden Cheetah: 48,276 calories
TrainingPeaks: 43,856 calories
Strava: Strava provides calories burned estimates per-ride (power meter required), but does not allow monthly reports to be pulled. I’m too lazy to add all the numbers up. Get with the program, Strava. How about some stronger reporting capabilities for premium members?

Okay, so we’ve got TrainingPeaks coming in on the low end of things with an estimate of 43,856 calories, while VeloViewer’s estimate is the highest with a total of 50,340. That’s a 13.767% difference between the lowest and the highest estimates (( | V1 – V2 | / ((V1 + V2)/2) ) * 100).

For the sake of argument, let’s use an average of those 4 estimates: 46,826.25 calories. That comes to 1,510 calories burned, on average, each day. If we want to believe those numbers, that means I burned 35.698 calories per mile ridden, or 709.489 calories per hour of riding.

That’s probably a fair estimate of how many calories I burned while riding in July, but it does not account for calories burned after riding due to elevated metabolism (the “afterburn” effect mentioned above). Also worth noting, intensity level has a huge effect on how many calories you’ll burn. Soft pedaling around at 14 MPH is obviously not going to burn nearly as many calories as going full gas.

So, even without considering calories burned after exercise, an extra 1,500 calories per day is pretty significant. Combine that sort of activity level with a clean diet, and you can pretty much eat all you like.

John Stone Fitness Comments

One Response to “How many calories are burned cycling?”
  1. “Combine that sort of activity level with a clean diet, and you can pretty much eat all you like.”

    Yep, that’s pretty much how it works for me. When the frequency and duration of my rides drop off, I easily gain weight but keeping up a regular schedule allows me to be pretty free with the quantity of food I can eat. Hence, the new Kurt Trainer i’ve just acquired for the upcoming winter season. 😀

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