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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 07-20-09, 12:38 PM   #1
johnknappcc
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Question about how many calories burned on a long distance ride

I did a hair over a century on Sunday. When I got home, my wife asked how many calories I thought I had burned. I'm doing this more for fun (although I could stand to lose 5-10 pounds) so I hadn't thought about it until she asked.

I'm 175, my ride was 100.6 miles, 6 hours and 23 minutes in the saddle, 8 hour total trip time, 16 mph average (had some rough roads around 65-80 mile mark and slowed me down). Generally though, my actual average was anywhere in between 18-20 mph, I generally spin more than mash. Also, this is mostly flatland, with the occasional viaduct.

I did a couple calorie calculators online and I came up with some wildly varying results (all of which seem high to me). Anywhere from 3000-8000 calories burned. I was guessing closer to about 2000 calories.

All I had for the nutrition was a bowl of cereal, strawberries before. A single brownie cliff bar throughout the ride, two mocha cliff gels, and a 24 oz gatorade (and of course a giant plate of french fries, because if you don't stop for fries or ice cream where is the fun?).

I was hungry when I got home, but not exceedingly. My last century, all I had were gels, and an ice cream sandwich (and I was starving when I got home).

Does anyone have a reliable estimator?
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Old 07-20-09, 01:12 PM   #2
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Does anyone have a reliable estimator?
The quick answer: No.

Less quick: Calories burned will depend on a whole ton of factors, and even if you're using an HRM with a "calories" display it's still not going to be that great. The most accurate systems I've seen make use of HRM data tied in with a power-measuring hub. Barring that kind of expense, an HRM will be a 'close enough' estimate for most people (or at least it is for me), but I haven't seen a decent online estimator.
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Old 07-20-09, 11:42 PM   #3
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I think Clifton's right, it varies based on a lot of factors. But the ball park numbers I tend to hear most frequently are in the range of about 700 - 900 calories per hour if you're riding at the pace you described. I have no idea if that's accurate, it's just what I've heard fairly consistently from several different sources. In other words, those numbers have the full authority of the internets behind them.
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Old 07-21-09, 04:08 AM   #4
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It seems to me that about 40 calories per mile is a decent estimate. More if lots and lots of hills.
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Old 07-21-09, 04:36 AM   #5
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I generally assume about 500 calories per hour ... and kk4df's matches that estimate, given that it takes me roughly 8 hours to do a comfortable century on a nice sunny day in summer.
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Old 07-21-09, 05:52 AM   #6
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7.500 for the "Etape du Tour" (Limoges - Saint-Flour) in 2004 and 36.000 for PBP2007 in 80 hours for a friend of mine
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Old 07-21-09, 06:08 AM   #7
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The sad truth is that no matter how many it was, you probably already replaced them and more, possibly just with the fries.
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Old 07-21-09, 07:03 AM   #8
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I think HRM estimators are way out of line, at least mine...


And remember - the more you ride, the more efficient your body becomes at burning the same calories for more energy to the pedals... so as a newb a rough estimate may be close - but as someone who rides LD all the time - hopefully their body has adapted and they are getting more bang for their caloric buck. Increasing cardio and overall fitness not only means you can ride harder and longer - it means that you process energy more effectively as well.
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Old 07-21-09, 09:20 AM   #9
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And remember - the more you ride, the more efficient your body becomes at burning the same calories for more energy to the pedals...
If only I could teach my stomach to understand that I'm more efficient and require less food now! I've lost 15 pounds and gotten more efficient, but still want to eat everything within reach.
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Old 07-21-09, 09:41 AM   #10
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If only I could teach my stomach to understand that I'm more efficient and require less food now! I've lost 15 pounds and gotten more efficient, but still want to eat everything within reach.
i think it is highly dependent on an indiviual's metabolism - and the nature of the work you are doing. long steady distance is one way to get the body more efficient at burning fat and calories and turning them into pedal strokes...

and yeah. my weight is like a yo-yo. up down up down.
i'm currently taking a break from a bit of burnout. i put on 5 pounds since my last event - for no reason... and i'm generally fatigued and have heavy feeling legs and elevated HR... so overtaining without enough rest or a big enough base - and i'm pretty much always hungry. not the greatest combination!
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Old 07-21-09, 12:56 PM   #11
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I have a Garmin Edge 705 with HRM and have to think its calorie estimates are way off. After also trying various online estimators (e.g. Mapmyride and other dedicated counters), I've pretty much given up on counting calories per ride now. They all 'feel' way off and don't match each other, as has been explained here. Instead I focus on the workout itself: cadence, HR, zones, type of workout, mileage, speed, all that stuff. And I weigh myself every day and *try* and pay attention to what I eat to measure the impact on my weight from the workouts. But yes, it sure would be swell to have a simple, accurate estimator.
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Old 07-21-09, 04:26 PM   #12
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It seems to me that about 40 calories per mile is a decent estimate. More if lots and lots of hills.
+1. It's a good baseline for all but the hilliest rides and automatically accounts for speed. And, it's cheap!
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Old 07-21-09, 08:43 PM   #13
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Does anyone have a reliable estimator?
No - and after all you are asking about "estimates." One unfortunate aspect of cycling is the inability to account for the "load" placed on a rider due to terrain or wind, and of course speed as well as the bicycle's relative efficiency.

This is why the 40kcal per mile statement is pretty much crap. And it is also why any given stress a cyclist encounters can increase caloric expenditures.

If you did happen to ride at a sub maximal intensity that never varied - and you have a correctly setup HR monitor, and you only wanted to account for a single period or work - you could get a fairly accurate result. (and you have a normal body mass index, and a normal metabolism)
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Old 07-21-09, 09:40 PM   #14
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While it is interesting to know how many calories you burn while riding, I think a more relevant question for long distance riders is how many calories can you take in while riding? It's pretty universally accepted that you can't take in as many calories as you burn while you're riding (assuming a minimum brevet pace or better). So, to minimize your caloric deficit, you want to take in as many calories as you can process, but no more. Everyone is different with regard to what they can process while riding, but the good news is that it's pretty easy to figure out what your GI system can handle just with trial and error and by paying close attention to how much you're eating on rides. Experiment with something with a known and consistent number of calories (Cliff bars, gel shots, etc.). Try 300 calories/hour and see how that works for you. If that works, try 350/hour on your next long ride. You'll know when you get to the point where it's too much. If it's too much, back off a bit.
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Old 07-21-09, 09:56 PM   #15
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The general recommendation is actually between 250 and 300 calorie per hour.
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Old 07-21-09, 11:43 PM   #16
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The sad truth is that no matter how many it was, you probably already replaced them and more, possibly just with the fries.
But they were so worth it . . .



Yumm, fries, much better than this . . .



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Old 07-22-09, 10:36 AM   #17
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+1. It's a good baseline for all but the hilliest rides and automatically accounts for speed. And, it's cheap!
But it doesn't account for variance in the weight of the rider (and gear if applicable).
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Old 07-22-09, 05:15 PM   #18
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But it doesn't account for variance in the weight of the rider (and gear if applicable).
That's OK. In fact, that's good. If a heavy person wants to lose weight, the heavy person should assume he/she is burning the calories of the goal weight, not the current weight. When it comes to weight loss it is a good idea to estimate that the calories burned are low, and the calories in the food on the plate are very high.
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Old 07-22-09, 05:54 PM   #19
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Fwiw it's worth I don't count calories on or off the bike, I just eat as needed. If stomach feels empty, eat. Simple as that.

Are y'all really counting the calories in some cookies you bought at a store, and adding everything up? How do you calc for a handfull of peanuts?

I guess don't have the patience for keeping track of it all. So far, so good.

I think what I'm trying to say is ignore the numbers, just do what feels right, you'll get hte hang of it eventually. There is no magic formula for this stuff.
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Old 07-22-09, 09:12 PM   #20
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According to my Garmin 705 I burned just under 14,000 after a 205 mile ride in 12.5 hours.
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Old 07-22-09, 10:09 PM   #21
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I did a hair over a century on Sunday. When I got home, my wife asked how many calories I thought I had burned. I'm doing this more for fun (although I could stand to lose 5-10 pounds) so I hadn't thought about it until she asked.

I'm 175, my ride was 100.6 miles, 6 hours and 23 minutes in the saddle, 8 hour total trip time, 16 mph average (had some rough roads around 65-80 mile mark and slowed me down). Generally though, my actual average was anywhere in between 18-20 mph, I generally spin more than mash. Also, this is mostly flatland, with the occasional viaduct.

I did a couple calorie calculators online and I came up with some wildly varying results (all of which seem high to me). Anywhere from 3000-8000 calories burned. I was guessing closer to about 2000 calories.

All I had for the nutrition was a bowl of cereal, strawberries before. A single brownie cliff bar throughout the ride, two mocha cliff gels, and a 24 oz gatorade (and of course a giant plate of french fries, because if you don't stop for fries or ice cream where is the fun?).

I was hungry when I got home, but not exceedingly. My last century, all I had were gels, and an ice cream sandwich (and I was starving when I got home).

Does anyone have a reliable estimator?
2000 would only mean 350 cal/hour, which wouldn't be very much. I'd guess that you were closer to perhaps 500 cal/hour at those speeds, which would put you up around 3000 cal.

I did a hilly century (livestrong) a few weeks ago, and my polar 625 said 4600 calories. My best guess is that it's 10% optimistic, so may around 4000 calories or so.
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Old 07-23-09, 05:59 AM   #22
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I found this Calories per Minute with a google search, that turned up a thread here

Men: C/min = (-55.0969 + 0.6309 x HR + 0.1988 x weight + 0.2017 x age) / 4.184
Women: C/min = (-20.4022 + 0.4472 x HR - 0.1263 x weight + 0.074 x age) / 4.184
weight is in kg
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Old 08-02-09, 07:43 AM   #23
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You really need to weight yourself before and after the ride, and have a precise accounting of calories consumed during the ride, as well as amount of liquid intake, to be able to start calculating anything.
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Old 08-02-09, 10:33 PM   #24
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The values that the HRM's put out are based on the information (age, weight, sex, max HR, some record HR history) that you put in, combined with the external inputs (speed, Power Readings, cadence, actual HR), and are tied into a proprietary one-size-fits all calculation that the HRM companies guard.

The online equations are from scientific journals, and are just as one-size-fits all. Most recently, a British study on cycling and calorie loss stated for a 175 lb. male, take the average heart-rate over a given period of time and multiply it by the number of minutes exercised...thereby your calories. A lower HR=either more efficient or less taxing, and therefore fewer calories. If you're lighter or heavier than 175, use a multiplier (i.e......a 200 lb person for a given heartrate would burn 200/175=1.15 time more calories for a given heartrate).

The key point...no matter which measurement you use, as long as you COMPARE from one day to the next, you'll be able to gauge your fitness improvement...don't need to know how much you're burning, but if you're getting fitter then the calculation applied after a few months of training will show fewer calories burned for a given distance over the same time period, or you'll be going faster/further for burning the same amount of calories. As for eating during riding, any of the websites marketing their powdered endurance, drink, electrolyte, recovery, pre-ride prodcuts (Hammer, Endurox, PowerBar, Clif) generally agree that you need to eat/drink something, on longer rides over 3 hours it must have a protein component, and that you need to find out what your level is before your big ride...be it 200 or 500 calories. And unless you're moving at a glacial pace, you cannot consume as much as you will expend, hence the need for recovery.
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Old 08-03-09, 06:11 AM   #25
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Another thing to consider is post-ride calories. After rides like this, your body doesn't simply shut down. Your metabolism will remain elevated for hours afterward.

A short, intense 1 hour ride is unlikely to have the same effect.
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