Exercise calories burned…watch those bike calories

One of the challenges in counting calories is that the numbers just really aren’t very accurate…particularly exercise calories, since there are a lot of variables that come into play.

…for example swimming…since I’m not a particularly elegant swimmer, the number of calories that I burn for a particular speed is going to be higher than someone that glides through the water without a ripple…so at least that’s good news in the quest to drop a few pounds.

Cycling though, I think is a real trap…I wrote about it in an earlier post…probably worth taking another look at again:

The numbers calculated by various methods and programs are _all over the place_ and I believe generally too high…like _way_ too high

One example from yesterday on an easy bike ride, reminds me again:  36 minutes, 15.2 MPH, 152 Watts power…calorie calculations:

  • PowerTap power meter on my bike: 325 calories (9 calories/minute)
  • MyFoodDiary.com (biking 14-15.9 MPH): 577 calories (16 calories/minute)

The PowerTap calorie calculations are the lowest that I’ve seen, so the ones that I use…also consistent with One of many Carmichael articles that I’ve read, where he suggests 8-10 (recovery)  to 12 calories per minute (tough but sustainable pace) for an overall ride depending on intensity.

So, if your cycling calculator gives you a calorie burn on a normal ride, of more than 12 calories per minute, it’s probably high…or just use 10 calories per minute, and you’ll probably be more in the ballpark

…and not eat that donut thinking that you have burned an extra 300 calories, that just wasn’t there 🙂

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6 Responses to Exercise calories burned…watch those bike calories

  1. Anne Boone says:

    I agree. If I burned as many calories as most charts say I should, I’d be able to eat pretty well.

    I estimate that, at 133 pounds (need to get to 130 by IMFL), I probably burn 500 calories per hour biking and running, at a pretty good effort (16.5-17 mph on bike, 9:45 minutes/mile on run). Swimming I figure 400/hour if I’m swimming good steady laps.

    • Dad says:

      yeah, the only advantage of a few extra pounds is that the calorie burn is higher to carry the load around 🙂

  2. Casey says:

    I think most calorie calculations are based on total calories burned for the duration of the exercise. I started working with a RD and my calculations finally started to seem feasible.

    I’m 34, 220 lbs, 6′ tall.
    My Garmin roughly tells me I burn 1100 calories per hour while biking.

    First you have to bring in your body composition. If I were 220 lbs of pure muscle I would burn more calories than if I were 15% body fat, at that same weight. So if I were 15% body fat I would take that right off the top.

    1100 * .85 = 935

    Then if you are truly after the amount of calories the “exercise” burned you also have to subtract how many calories you would have burned during that time not moving. According to this site ( http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/ ) I require nearly 2200 calories per day to maintain my current weight. Yes, this should also factor in body fat but I couldn’t find a BMR calculator that included that.

    2200 cal / 24 hours = 91.66, rounded to 92 calories per hour

    935 – 92 = 843 calories per hour on the bike

    That is a 257 calorie difference, quite significant when you think about it. Slightly more than a Clif Bar, per hour. I think your power meter is the most accurate because it is a measure of work, more specifically the work you are doing on the bike. Not the work your body is doing to maintain it’s bodily functions and exercise.

    Love to read your posts!!!

    • Dad says:

      Casey, thanks for the note, and passing along that great detail! …sounds like you have it really dialed in…

      I wish that I was 6 feet tall when I was 220 pounds about 20 years ago 🙂

      • Casey says:

        🙂 Thanks, becoming an endurance athlete has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. In high school and college I was an offensive lineman. I carried as much weight as I could and all exercise was short bursts of anaerobic.

        Just three short years ago I was still 6′ tall but was just shy of 350 lbs. I had some medical issues pop up because of how unhealthy I was. I remember the first day I got on the stationary recumbent bike, I could only ride for 10 minutes.

        Triathlon and the competition of triathlon has given me back my “fire”.

        • Dad says:

          Great job Casey! wow 🙂

          …as it turns out, as a fullback in University, my dearest friends were the offensive linemen on my team 🙂

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