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  1. #1
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    Does Cycling Really Burn Up THAT many calories

    Hi,

    I'm just shy of being a Clydesdale (199 lb) and just took up cycling. I've used MapMyRide and Strava to count the calories I burn.

    I typically ride flat terrain at 14-15mph and both apps are telling me I burn 1000 calories approximately every 15 miles.

    Now my online life coach (part of my health plan) says that's not correct and I'm way over-estimating. But how can both apps be so wrong?
    Last edited by Inpd; 04-22-15 at 02:56 PM.

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    Well, hate to break it to you, but they are wrong. I don't know what the correct calculation is because I have never seen a reliable source quoted for calorie burn. All i have ever heard is that the numbers that most things record for calories burned is wrong.

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    Senior Member Willbird's Avatar
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    The "why" of it is probably pretty elusive :-). I think you will find Strava will give you a lot different numbers if you add a Heart rate Monitor like a Wahoo TICKR as one example of the one I use.

    My best advice is use 400 cals an hours as a rough estimate, and do not eat any of that back anyway unless you are preparing for say a 100K or a 100 mi event the next day, and maybe eat it back the day of the event too at 100-200 cals per hour of the proper nutrition during the event. Until you reach your target weight anyway :-)...then your own body will become the best tool to let you measure calorie burn.

    Bill

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    meh Hypno Toad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
    Hi,

    I'm just shy of being a Clydesdale (199 lb) and just took up cycling. I've used MapMyRide and Strava to count the calories I burn.

    I typically ride flat terrain at 14-15mph and both apps are telling me I burn 1000 calories approximately every 15 miles.

    Now my online life coach (part of my health plan) says that's not correct and I'm way over-estimating. But how can both apps be so wrong?
    This is one of my wife's biggest frustrations, the over-estimate of calories burned with fitness apps. The only accurate way to measure is with a power meter, with cheap power meter being more expense than a decent bike, it's not an option for most people.

    A hear monitor is a more affordable option, but still not a good way to measure calories burned. My wife signed up for Strava Premium and use her heart monitor to get a 'suffer score'. It's more of a relative measure, unlike calorie estimates that are trying to give you a concrete measurement.

    To burn the most calories riding - ride hills, do intervals (for example, ride hard for a minutes and easy for five, repeat). Riding old rail/trail at a mellow rate is a good for the heart (& fun!), but will not be the big calorie burner.
    I didn't say it was your fault, I said I'm blaming you. There's a difference.

  5. #5
    Senior Member ckFoxTrot's Avatar
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    Calories burned can be tough to nail down. Depends on a lot of factors and how it all is calculated. I'm sure some other people here know a lot about it and will chime in.

    I forget how Strava used to compare to my Sigma Rox 10 for calories burned (stopped using Strava a while ago). Now, I get a small difference between my Rox and MyFitnessPal.

    Today, my Rox (with heat rate monitor) says I burned 1396 Calories, riding 19.44mi over 78min on the streets and some MUPs (164bpm average). Plugging my time into MyFitnessPal using "Bicycling, 14-16mph, vigorous," it says I burned 1,211 Calories (and I weigh basically 204lbs right now). I'd expect that my Rox is more accurate, since it has more data to draw from and base its calculations on, but I go by the more conservative estimate (MyFitnessPal) when thinking about my caloric intake and such. Seems like both could be over-estimates though.
    Last edited by ckFoxTrot; 04-22-15 at 03:22 PM.
    :)

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    RR3
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    for a two hundred pounder, 15 miles in one hour is probably 500 calories or maybe a touch more if the route is flat

    1,000 kCal is grossly off unless your had significant amounts of climbing on the ride

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    RR3
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    If you have a power meter, take the average watts over the hour multiply by 3.6 times 4.184 and then divide by metabolic efficiency (0.22 typical up to maybe 0.25 for very fit riders who generate less heat and are more efficient)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
    Hi,

    I'm just shy of being a Clydesdale (199 lb) and just took up cycling. I've used MapMyRide and Strava to count the calories I burn.

    I typically ride flat terrain at 14-15mph and both apps are telling me I burn 1000 calories approximately every 15 miles.

    Now my online life coach (part of my health plan) says that's not correct and I'm way over-estimating. But how can both apps be so wrong?
    lol 4000 calories in an hour lol the true fact is about 10 times less ,,you burn about 350 calories in an hour

  9. #9
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howeeee View Post
    lol 4000 calories in an hour lol the true fact is about 10 times less ,,you burn about 350 calories in an hour
    I figure 750 cal per 30 miles, which is about 2 hours for me.

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


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    Quote Originally Posted by howeeee View Post
    lol 4000 calories in an hour lol the true fact is about 10 times less ,,you burn about 350 calories in an hour
    Thanks for all your feedback. But how did you get 4000 calories. Strava/MapMyRide says I burn around 1000 calories per 15 miles which for me is one hour of riding. I thought both consider elevation changes and also changes in pace.

    But looking at this calculator Calorie Calculator | Bicycling they are not too far off. This calculator says I would burn 907 calories doing 15mph for an hour.

    Now given this calculator Walking Calorie Burn Calculator says I would burn 500 calories walking an hour at 4 mph 1000 calories for cycling doesn't seem too far off.

    Where are people getting this 500 calorie number from which app/calculator?
    Last edited by Inpd; 04-22-15 at 04:10 PM.

  11. #11
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RR3 View Post
    If you have a power meter, take the average watts over the hour multiply by 3.6 times 4.184 and then divide by metabolic efficiency (0.22 typical up to maybe 0.25 for very fit riders who generate less heat and are more efficient)
    That's not exactly the formula (multiply by .22). But see an even easier formula at the Powertap site:

    calories = average watts x hours x 3.6

    So 100 watts for an hour is 360 calories.

    Watts can be rough estimated by one of the many bike speed calculators out there. For instance, this one, or this one.


    A typical rider on the flats at 14-15 mph average is (at a guess) probably averaging between 80 watts and 110 watts. So about 300 to 400 calories an hour. I do approximately 150 watts if I'm working hard at a fast but sustainable pace, so about 500-600 cals/hour, and maybe 200 watts pushing hard up a steep hill (but not for a whole hour!)

    Wind, or small rolling hills will raise the wattage needed to maintain the same speed. Anyway, this is all just estimates. But those 1000 cal/hour estimates seem way high.

    I've seen comments that a rough estimate of 25 calories per mile is often pretty close. 25 calories * 14 mph=350 calories per hour.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 04-22-15 at 04:25 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    I just use Strava Premium. It is more conservative that the calorie burns I get with my HRM. I think its around 600 an hour @ 15-17 MPH with some climbing.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Drew Eckhardt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hypno Toad View Post
    This is one of my wife's biggest frustrations, the over-estimate of calories burned with fitness apps. The only accurate way to measure is with a power meter, with cheap power meter being more expense than a decent bike, it's not an option for most people.
    An inexpensive power meter these days is $150 used (wired Powertap with little yellow computer) and $400 (4iiii, use your Garmin) new.

    That will get you a reasonable lower bound. The high end is 25% more (20 not 25% efficiency).

    You need to visit a lab (or have the sports medicine people join you on a ride) to have your respiration products measured if you want to do better, and even then there' can be a few hundred Calories from elevated metabolism following harder efforts.

    Rather than trying to make that arithmetic work I did great eating only when hungry; only eating when still hungry 30 minutes after the last bite going back for seconds or thirds as necessary; eating whenever I was hungry so I could stick with that; and eating fewer carbs when I didn't need to fuel hard rides so my satiety was longer lasting (in hindsight, that probably shifted my energy source more towards fat )

    To burn the most calories riding - ride hills, do intervals (for example, ride hard for a minutes and easy for five, repeat).
    That does not optimize net negative calories which determine weight loss.

    Going beyond an endurance pace (Friel's zone 2, below the aerobic threshold) won't loose the most weight (if any) because that depletes your glycogen stores, drops your blood sugar, increases hunger, and most people eat to compensate.

    Conversely at lower intensities it's nearly all fat which you can go through without hunger.

    I noticed my weight stabilized wherever it was once I got fit enough for two hard days a week and easy days turned into tempo rides.

    weight_2010_03_25-2011_06_17.jpg
    This time I did things differently with a long base year in 2014 - 205 pounds starting the year, 5226 nearly all easy miles, 148 starting 2015. I'd probably have done about as well with a polarized approach (80% endurance pace and slower, 20% above threshold) and not been slow.

    I'm more polarized in my training now (one zone 5 day, one tempo day, the rest endurance or active recovery) for performance reasons which makes loosing too much weight a problem. At 5'10" and 138 pounds I'm eating extra when not hungry so I don't accidentally slide past my optimum cycling weight.

    Riding old rail/trail at a mellow rate is a good for the heart (& fun!), but will not be the big calorie burner.
    It depends on how far you ride and how fast your fitness (noting you can be fat and fit) makes a mellow pace.

    I totaled 4435kj over 164 miles and 11 hours on my last rest week which is 4223 - 5380 Calories between 25 and 20% metabolic efficiency although I'd use 4435 as a rule of thumb (4.2kj = 1 Calorie, 1 kj = 1/4.2 Calories, 1/4.2 / .25 efficiency getting to the cranks = .95 Calories/kj, 1:1 is close enough especially with a few percent drivetrain losses measuring with a Powertap hub).

    I swapped two of my usual 25 mile zone 2 rides for 100K in one ride at the end of the week 1932kj from car to car

    https://www.strava.com/activities/283506228

    Intervals

    Interval Name Duration Time Riding Distance (miles) Work (kJ) Average Power (watts) xPower (watts) Max Power (watts) Average Heart Rate (bpm) 95% Heartrate (bpm) Average Cadence (rpm) Average Speed (mph)
    Registration to 1st rest stop 1:09:35 1:06:17 15.6 547 131 146 470 137 160 86 14.2
    1st to 2nd rest stop 1:32:56 1:32:26 24.8 730 131 137 577 141 151 92 16.1
    2nd rest stop to end 1:14:32 1:13:02 22.7 617 138 145 899 149 159 96 18.7
    Ride 4:12:39 3:54:27 63.2 1897 125 140 899 141 158 91 16.3
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 04-23-15 at 05:33 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Willbird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarrett2 View Post
    I just use Strava Premium. It is more conservative that the calorie burns I get with my HRM. I think its around 600 an hour @ 15-17 MPH with some climbing.
    I have been Premium last year, then dropped it over the winter, then fired it back up when spring came around, I never considered that it may do something different as far as calorie burn depending on whether you are Premium or not.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    Actually, I'm not sure if it does. I didn't notice calorie burn there until I got premium. Maybe free has it too.

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    It does. So are yoybsaying strava is wrong mapyourride is wrong and those websites are all wrong. That's hard to believe.

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    Senior Member Willbird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
    It does. So are yoybsaying strava is wrong mapyourride is wrong and those websites are all wrong. That's hard to believe.
    Yes they are all wrong :-).

    It really is that simple :-)....mapmywalk will give me some huge calorie burn for walking too :-).

    I ate at a -7000 calorie a week deficit for over 300 days, and rode at least an hour a day at the paces you are describing, if I was burning 1000 calories an hour I would have lost a LOT more weight than I did. At best I think I lost an extra lb a week from all that riding, and gained a LOT of fitness :-).

    Bill

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    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
    It does. So are yoybsaying strava is wrong mapyourride is wrong and those websites are all wrong. That's hard to believe.
    Well, strava seems to be in the ballpark.
    The last Garmin GPS recorded ride I uploaded to strava:

    Distance: 30.3 miles
    Average watts: 129W; 894kJ
    Avg speed 15.7mi/h max 38.9mi/h
    Calories 997
    Elapsed Time 2:17:32 moving time 1:55:54

    The simple formula says: 129 watts x 1.9 hours x 3.6 = 882 calories. It's just 13% lower than strava. Remember, these are just estimates! Plus or minus 20% is expected.

    The same ride on ridewithgps estimated an average 189 watts (!) and 1320 calories. Nope. It recorded the same average speed, 30.5 miles instead of 30.3 miles, and same moving time of 1:56. So just the watts were different.

    ~~~~~~
    Last fall, the fast-for-me Tuesday evening ride was 161 watts, 18.5 mph average (with a lot of drafting included), 1:28 ride time. The watts estimate seems reasonable.
    Strava said 949 calories.

    The formula of 161w*1.5 hrs* 3.6 = 870 calories, or 580 per hour.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 04-22-15 at 06:52 PM.

  19. #19
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    This way lies madness.

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    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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    I use myfitnessplan and put a 110km ride in, just over 5 hours of moving time and it says that burned 2,812 calories. I'm sitting around 200lbs these days, usually just a hair under so I would wager that you aren't burning 1000 calories in an hour just because you're riding a few mph faster than I do. MFP says that I'd burn 907 calories for an hour of 14-16mph cycling, which is what they call "vigorous". Apparently the MFP calculator doesn't subtract your basal calories from that period of time that you were exercising but I don't know if that was ever fixed or not.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Willbird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post
    This way lies madness.
    If I use the wahoo ap, mapmywalk, Strava, ant Fitbit all at once, then enter the workout manually into MFP I can hit line 100,000 calories an hour :-).

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    at a decent pace.. I'm 600-700c/hr I'm ok with that.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    Here are some of mine from Strava with me at 275 lbs.

    Avg Speed 15.4mi/h
    Elapsed Time 1:11:29
    Calories 757

    Avg Speed 16.8mi/h
    Elapsed Time 2:06:31
    Calories 1,285

    Avg Speed 17.1mi/h
    Elapsed Time 2:25:30
    Calories 1,508

    It all comes out around 600 calories an hour.

    This is what my HRM reports:

    Avg Speed 17.1
    Elapsed Time 1:06:44
    Calories 806

    Avg Speed 16
    Elapsed Time 1:54:10
    Calories 1,464

    My HRM reports 700-800 calories an hour.

    So I just use Strava since its the more conservative of the two.

  24. #24
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    I go by +/- 10% per strava has most people covered that doesn't use a power meter BUT use a HRM and fill in the fields on the profile correct. A power meter will get within 5% of that number or tighter.

    But than again I don't count cals either
    Rule #10 // It never gets easier, you just go faster.

  25. #25
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    This is way over thinking things for me. I do it the real simple way... if I am losing/maintaining weight, I keep doing what I am doing... if not, I ride more and eat less.

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