Cycling is an easy and fast way to burn calories. You certainly don’t have to be a top athlete. Even with a bike ride to work, you burn calories. If you go cycling or mountain biking in a sporty way, you will, of course, burn more than with a quiet tourist ride or when commuting.
We often overestimate the number of calories we burn because it is not that simple to determine the exact amount. To find out the correct calorie consumption, we have to take into account several factors.
Calorie consumption bike riding
To know exactly how many calories you consume while cycling, you have to take the following parameters into account:
- Condition Level
- Age and gender
- Intensity and speed
- Terrain and surroundings
The heavier you are, the more calories you will consume than someone who weighs less. For example, someone with a weight of 75 kg will consume about 300 kcal at a leisurely cycling pace, while someone of 85 kilograms will consume around 360 kcal.
If you have a good basic condition, you will need less energy to cycle for an hour, for example, than someone who has a bad basis. You will use fewer calories in a better condition simply because cycling takes less effort.
Age and gender
As you get older, calorie consumption also decreases. Your muscle mass begins to decrease. Muscles use more energy than fat mass. You will have the greatest calorie consumption between the ages of 14 and 50. There is also a significant difference between men and women regarding calorie consumption. In most cases, women will consume less because they are lighter and have less muscle. There are, of course, exceptions.
Intensity and speed
Depending on the intensity of your bike ride or workout, you will consume more or fewer calories. If you drive leisurely, you will consume less than when you go fast or intensively.
Terrain and surroundings
Riding against the wind, cycling uphill, mountain biking on rough terrain, cold or warm temperatures…. If these factors influence your calorie consumption. The more difficult and intensive the cycling, the higher your calorie consumption.
The material you ride with also plays an important role. Do you have a heavy or light bicycle? Do you have a lot of rolling resistance (for example, riding a mountain bike with fat tires on the road). Again, the heavier and harder, the higher your calorie consumption.
Only when you take into account all the above parameters and influences can you determine exactly how much your calorie consumption is. You will, of course, see for yourself that it is almost impossible to determine this exactly.
Burn calories with bike riding
Suppose we ignore external factors for a moment. How can you roughly estimate your calorie consumption?
Calorie consumption based on weight and duration
If you want a quick guideline about how many calories you can consume during your ride, look at the table below. This table only takes into account your weight and the duration of cycling at a leisurely pace. This is not an exact value but an average. You can sit below or above it depending on the other factors that were not taken into account here.
|60 kg||70 kg||80 kg||90 kg|
The MET value or Metabolic Equivalent of task measures the amount of energy required for an effort compared to the energy expenditure at rest. This value is expressed in oxygen consumption per kilogram of body weight per minute.
The MET value does not take into account the various factors that can influence calorie consumption, so it is more of an average. For example, the MET value of walking is 3.3, while brisk cycling gives a MET value of 8.
Calculating calories from cycling
With the following formula, you can simply measure your average (estimated) calorie consumption:
MET value X 3.5 X your body weight in kg / 200 or MET value X 0.0175 X your body weight in kg
If I did an intensive bike ride of 1 hour, I would come to the following consumption: 8 X 3.5 X 74 kg / 200 = 10.36 kcal/minute.
I’m going to cycle for an hour, so I multiply this number by 60, and I get: 10.36 X 60 = 621.6 kcal/hour.
Again, take this number with a grain of salt; this is purely theoretical and only takes into account your weight, duration of the training or ride, and the MET value of the activity.
Burn calories with electric bicycles
Electric bicycles are extremely popular, you see them everywhere these days, and you can gradually see them popping up in the woods and on mountain bike trails. It is important to know that you only use half as many calories on average with an electric bicycle than with a non-electric or sporty bicycle. This is, of course, because you get support from the engine.
If you still want to use some (more) calories while riding an electric bike, turn off your support now and then or turn it down a level.
We live in a digital age, apps and smartwatches control our lives, and we think we know everything about our health and calorie consumption through these tools. The truth is, unfortunately, something different.
Depending on which data you have to enter when starting up or setting up a calorie app or smartwatch, it will indicate your consumption. The more data you enter, the more accurate the result will be, at least that’s what we think.
A study* from Stanford University found that the watches they tested had an average deviation of 27% to 93% in energy consumption. So let’s say that according to our smartwatch or app, we have registered consumption of 2000 kcal. In reality, this would be at least +- 1600 kcal and maybe even less.
*The Stanford University research was published in 2018 in the Journal of Personalized Medicine.
Use your Garmin-connect or Strava to view your data from your ride, and you will also find the (estimated) caloric consumption in the results. Again, this strongly depends on the data you have entered with the apps.
The more data you enter, and the better you measure your effort (for example, by wearing a heart rate monitor), the closer you get to the exact consumption.
If you would like an indication of your daily movement and calorie consumption, be sure to check out these five activity trackers or these multisport watches with heart rate measurements. Therefore before you start measuring, it is best to pass on as much information as possible to your tracker so that the results are as close to reality as possible. Always keep a margin of error in mind and do not blindly believe all statistics.
Calorie consumption examples
The above data is from a mountain bike ride recorded with a Garmin cycling GPS and synced to Strava. My GPS and Strava know my weight, height, and age. As you can see, I also wore a heart rate monitor, which makes the result more realistic compared to the following example.
In this example, I have completed a 21.6 km hike. This trip was recorded with the Strava app via my smartphone. I wasn’t wearing a heart rate monitor here. During this trip, which took less time than the bike ride in the previous example, I would have consumed 2050 kcal. This is slightly less than the 2497 kcal that I would have consumed during mountain biking. You already feel it; something is not right somewhere.
If we then add the details of my girlfriend’s walk:
My girlfriend is smaller and weighs less than me, yet we still see a fairly large difference in calories consumed compared to my consumption. Her condition is not as good as mine. According to her smartwatch, she consumes 802 kcal on the same hike, while I would have consumed 2050 kcal.
In this case, it seems to me that the smartwatch comes pretty close, while my app shows a fairly large deviation.
When I want to calculate the consumption for us on the basis of the MET value, we get the following results:
My girlfriend’s consumption: 601 kcal
My consumption: 927 kcal
In the meantime, we are on a walking tour with four different values. We cannot say with certainty what value we should now take as accurate. So always take the calorie consumption that appears in your app with a grain of salt.
Lose weight by bike riding
When we talk about calories, we should also be talking about our body weight.
Although most people often start exercising to lose weight, not everyone wants to lose weight by cycling. That is why it is important that you can still estimate your energy consumption.
You have to absorb the energy you use during exercise or cycling after your training. If you don’t, you will lose weight. It is also very important that you start to replenish your energy during your exercise, especially if your exercise lasts longer than one hour. In my article about sports nutrition, you will find out what you can eat before, during, and after exercise or cycling.
Losing weight is actually quite easy, although you do need some character to keep it up. To lose weight, we must therefore expend more calories than we take in.
The healthiest way is to have about 500 kcal per day, so to consume more than you take in. In this way, you would lose about 0.5 kg per week.
Once you’ve reached your goal weight, hopefully, you’ll continue to cycle, exercise, or exercise. When you have a good taste for cycling, for example, you will probably want to cycle more and more. As a result, you will use more energy, so you have to absorb this energy again. Otherwise, you will start losing weight again.
To gain weight
If you want to gain a little weight for whatever reason, make sure to keep moving at least as much as before, but adjust your diet a bit. Make sure you take in more calories than you expend.
We now know that we cannot rely 100% on our calorie counters or the data from our smartwatch or app. How do you best handle this?
First, you have to use your common sense, which will get you a long way. Weigh yourself regularly and check that you are doing well. If you want to lose weight, but your weight remains the same, you have to exercise more or eat less… If you do use a calorie counter or app to measure your consumption, always take into account a margin of error of at least 25% and check whether you are doing it correctly by carefully monitoring your weight.
If you do not rely so much on your common sense, you can go a step further by engaging a nutrition coach or dietician. That person will draw up a schedule tailored to you and give you the necessary tips to achieve your goal in terms of weight.
Do you take calories into account during and after cycling, and which aids do you use for this? Let me know in a comment at the bottom of the page.