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  1. #1
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    Does cycling faster burn more calories? (For a set distance?)

    My coworker and I were recently discussing running (I know, it's bike forums, not running forums.) We were debating whether or not running faster for a set distance burned more or less calories. Instinctually, you'd say running faster would burn more calories. But, if you think about it, if you run faster for a set distance, you're running for less time. (Same goes for biking.) So, we went off to google and I found this.

    Mythbusting: Running A Mile Always Burns The Same Calories | Runner's World

    This article talks about running (sorry, it's not biking.) and basically says that when olympic runners ran faster their energy intake in joules/meter actually went down. Therefore they'd burn less energy for a set distance. (The study didn't take into account anaerobic energy used, a point the author of the article quickly pointed out.)

    Now, I wholeheartedly disagree with this. I was a competitive D1 runner in college and I know what my legs feel like after a workout day compared to a long distance day. But, I can't find any studies that say similar things for biking as the article above, or any studies giving real data on how many more calories are burned when you run/bike faster. I guess a power meter would be perfect for these types of measurements, therefore there has to be data on this somewhere...

    Anyone know of any good data for this? Anyone have any opinions about the matter?

  2. #2
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    the math says it all

    +Crr v

    As the drag force goes up, your calories per foot traveled goes up.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

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    What about climbing, where drag isn't an issue?

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    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    If you're really going slow so Fd~0, it takes the same number of Joules to climb a certain distance, so no.

    PE= mgh.

    Edit, but you're talking like under 6 mph.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    If you're really going slow so Fd~0, it takes the same number of Joules to climb a certain distance, so no.
    Ideally, yes. Practically, no. I would argue that traveling up a hill faster uses more anaerobically produced energy, which burns more calories.

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    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
    Ideally, yes. Practically, no. I would argue that traveling up a hill faster uses more anaerobically produced energy, which burns more calories.
    Ideally no too, Drag kicks in at a pretty low speed.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Serious Headwinds and Hills can be a Lot of work done at low speeds..

  8. #8
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    If your heart rate is up and you're breathing harder it seems to me that you're burning more calories.
    My bikes: 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2015 Cannondale Supersix EVO carbon

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  9. #9
    Senior Member bbbean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
    My coworker and I were recently discussing running (I know, it's bike forums, not running forums.) We were debating whether or not running faster for a set distance burned more or less calories. Instinctually, you'd say running faster would burn more calories. But, if you think about it, if you run faster for a set distance, you're running for less time. (Same goes for biking.) So, we went off to google and I found this.

    Mythbusting: Running A Mile Always Burns The Same Calories | Runner's World

    This article talks about running (sorry, it's not biking.) and basically says that when olympic runners ran faster their energy intake in joules/meter actually went down. Therefore they'd burn less energy for a set distance. (The study didn't take into account anaerobic energy used, a point the author of the article quickly pointed out.)

    Now, I wholeheartedly disagree with this. I was a competitive D1 runner in college and I know what my legs feel like after a workout day compared to a long distance day. But, I can't find any studies that say similar things for biking as the article above, or any studies giving real data on how many more calories are burned when you run/bike faster. I guess a power meter would be perfect for these types of measurements, therefore there has to be data on this somewhere...

    Anyone know of any good data for this? Anyone have any opinions about the matter?
    Riding/running HARDER burns more calories. Speed only loosely correlates. Same with distance. You have to take work load into account.
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  10. #10
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    the math says it all

    +Crr v

    As the drag force goes up, your calories per foot traveled goes up.
    Yes. But this isn't very clear since his question is about calories and this equation is force.

    it works out though because work (calories burned) is the force times distance. Distance is the same in both cases in OP's question so the relative amount of extra calories is the same as the relative amount of extra force, so the force equation says it.

    How about, going twice as fast we'll burn somewhere in 2 to 4 times as many calories over the same distance.

  11. #11
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
    My coworker and I were recently discussing running (I know, it's bike forums, not running forums.) We were debating whether or not running faster for a set distance burned more or less calories. Instinctually, you'd say running faster would burn more calories. But, if you think about it, if you run faster for a set distance, you're running for less time. (Same goes for biking.) So, we went off to google and I found this.

    Mythbusting: Running A Mile Always Burns The Same Calories | Runner's World

    This article talks about running (sorry, it's not biking.) and basically says that when olympic runners ran faster their energy intake in joules/meter actually went down. Therefore they'd burn less energy for a set distance. (The study didn't take into account anaerobic energy used, a point the author of the article quickly pointed out.)

    Now, I wholeheartedly disagree with this. I was a competitive D1 runner in college and I know what my legs feel like after a workout day compared to a long distance day. But, I can't find any studies that say similar things for biking as the article above, or any studies giving real data on how many more calories are burned when you run/bike faster. I guess a power meter would be perfect for these types of measurements, therefore there has to be data on this somewhere...

    Anyone know of any good data for this? Anyone have any opinions about the matter?
    Soreness may not necessarily have any correlation to calories burned, either.

    I would expect that for a given amount of time, riding faster/harder would burn more calories, because of the energy "wasted" due to aerodynamic drag.

    More tangentially, I'm curious what the goal of this thought experiment is -- if the goal is to lose weight, diet warrants more attention than burning calories through exercise, since it's not hard to out-eat what you burn off.

    Another thought is that high-intensity exercise (often done through intervals to allow bursts of maximal exertion) seems to be better for body composition than lower-intensity exercise, even when fewer calories are burned during the exercise.
    Last edited by ThermionicScott; 12-02-14 at 06:05 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    Yes. But this isn't very clear since his question is about calories and this equation is force.

    it works out though because work (calories burned) is the force times distance. Distance is the same in both cases in OP's question so the relative amount of extra calories is the same as the relative amount of extra force, so the force equation says it.

    How about, going twice as fast we'll burn somewhere in 2 to 4 times as many calories over the same distance.
    I wonder if that holds for long descents?

  13. #13
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    mean after 21? its All, down Hill ..

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    Soreness may not necessarily have any correlation to calories burned, either.

    I would expect that for a given amount of time, riding faster/harder would burn more calories, because of the energy "wasted" due to aerodynamic drag.

    More tangentially, I'm curious what the goal of this thought experiment is -- if the goal is to lose weight, diet warrants more attention than burning calories through exercise, since it's not hard to out-eat what you burn off.
    If the goal is to lose weight, and time riding is not limited too much, never forget that you can ride a LOT longer at 80-90% effort than you can ride at 100% effort.

    You can probably ride 4-5 hours at 80% of of the power you can ride at for one hour. If you can burn 1,000 calories in an hour of all-out riding, you can probably ride 5 hours or more at 700 cal/hour and burn well over 3,000 calories.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    mean after 21? its All, down Hill ..
    21?

    More like 5. Having to do work starts in first grade. Before that? You got NOTHING to worry about.

  16. #16
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Grow tall then get old and shorter..

  17. #17
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by achoo View Post
    If the goal is to lose weight, and time riding is not limited too much, never forget that you can ride a LOT longer at 80-90% effort than you can ride at 100% effort.

    You can probably ride 4-5 hours at 80% of of the power you can ride at for one hour. If you can burn 1,000 calories in an hour of all-out riding, you can probably ride 5 hours or more at 700 cal/hour and burn well over 3,000 calories.
    I think you missed my point, unless the subject in question has 5+ hours of free time to spare every day, and is so morbidly obese that they need to create an insane deficit every day.
    Last edited by ThermionicScott; 12-02-14 at 06:25 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

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    Quote Originally Posted by achoo View Post
    If the goal is to lose weight, and time riding is not limited too much, never forget that you can ride a LOT longer at 80-90% effort than you can ride at 100% effort.

    You can probably ride 4-5 hours at 80% of of the power you can ride at for one hour. If you can burn 1,000 calories in an hour of all-out riding, you can probably ride 5 hours or more at 700 cal/hour and burn well over 3,000 calories.

    I don't have any goal, this is purely speculative. I think your second statement above isn't what I was trying to ask. Sure, you can ride slowly for a long period of time, but say you have a set distance you want to travel, a route. Would riding it at 100% burn more calories than riding it at 80%? Taking into account that you're riding longer if you're riding slower.

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    Riding faster will burn more calories per mile as it is less efficient due to wind resistance. Exactly the same effect as observed in a car travelling at 50 vs 80mph.

    I've used a power meter for years and enter all the data in a spreadsheet that also tracks calls/mile. It ranges from about 37 to 50ish for a recovery vs a 'hard' ride or race.

    The talk about anaerobic efforts is a bit of a red herring with respect to cycling as it's primarily an aerobic sport and no one cares how many calories they burn in a 30 second sprint at the end of a race or some hard effort in the middle of a race.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    I think you missed my point, unless the subject in question has 5+ hours of free time to spare every day, and is so morbidly obese that they need to create an insane deficit every day.
    If your base metabolism is about 2,000 cal/day, not eating at all won't get you as large a deficit as burning 3,000 calories on a bike can.

  21. #21
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by achoo View Post
    I wonder if that holds for long descents?
    Nope. the simple force equation is assuming that the wind speed is all from your efforts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    Nope. the simple force equation is assuming that the wind speed is all from your efforts.
    Yeah, but which way does it fall apart?

    My gut feel is that it'd take a LOT more than 2-4 times the amount of calories to double your speed on a descent, only because first, you can go pretty fast on a descent and burn zero calories, and second, the faster return of energy from going down faster is only linear with speed while the driving force is squared with speed and the necessary driving power cubed.

    But I don't care to figure out the actual equations and plot the results.

  23. #23
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by achoo View Post
    If your base metabolism is about 2,000 cal/day, not eating at all won't get you as large a deficit as burning 3,000 calories on a bike can.
    The math works. Is riding 5+ hours to create a 3000 calorie bonk common?
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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  24. #24
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    I want to add that in the real world when I ride slow I coast and when I ride fast I am on the pedals much more. So I am sure I burn more calories riding the same distance fast


    Mike

  25. #25
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    In the big picture zone 2 riding helps me lose more weight over time because I can ride longer and more often without as much recovery time. In the short term more work equals more energy/calories burned. If I know I will be riding a few days in a row I stick with zone 2. If I know I will be off the bike for a couple of days I do hill training, faster rides, or mountain biking.

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