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Calories burned cycling...

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Old 07-28-12, 12:49 PM
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XringX
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Calories burned cycling...

I have never really paid attention to my calories, in or out..but I am now.

I am using My Fitness Pal on my phone and its pretty darn nifty!

But I question the calories burned it comes up with.. and I Googled it, and all the other calculators agree...

I weighed 249 this AM. I just rode 30miles in 1hr 59min and 6seconds at an avg pace of 15.1mph.... the calculators say I then burned 2300 some odd calories.. Does that seem right to you all??? I ride a bike path for the most part and its not completely flat..but still....

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Old 07-28-12, 12:55 PM
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If you use the search function you will find countless threads about this. No, it isn't right, most of these programs grossly overestimate calories burned. You'll have burned no more than about 40kcal per mile, about 600 per hour or 1200 for the whole ride.
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Old 07-28-12, 01:09 PM
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I estimate my usage as about 500 per hour. It's probably less than that, given the problems I'm having losing weight.
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Old 07-28-12, 01:52 PM
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I just rode 42 miles with 5,200 feet of climbing in a little under 4 hours and it was GRUELING... garmin says it was 3k calories, Strava says 2k and frankly, I don't really believe any of them.

A flat bike path at 15 mph...well, it's weight dependent obviously but I'd probably question anything over 350-400 an hour. Your best bet is to ride for the calorie consumption and the metabolic benefits and don't include them in your daily requirements (ie don't add in 2300 calories because of your bike ride). Well, it's your best bet until you get into more extreme distances.
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Old 07-28-12, 03:17 PM
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I find 100 miles does burn a lot of energy, Not the 4500 calories that endomondy tells me it does, but enough to require refueling along the way. 22 miles on the other hand, does not burn the 1000 calories it says it does. Someone needs to improve the assumptions used in these formulas.
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Old 07-28-12, 07:24 PM
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I estimate my calories based on time and perceived exertion. For example, my ride to work takes between 15 and 20 minutes and in the morning it's about the same level of exertion as walking. Since walking one mile takes about the same amount of time, I estimate about 100 to perhaps 130 calories for the ride. Coming home I sometimes go faster, about the same level as jogging, so I figure I burn about 100 calories for 10 to 12 minutes then. It's a rough estimate, but less than most calorie charts would say.
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Old 07-28-12, 09:13 PM
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I don't even think about calories burned any more. I believe that bicycling changes our bodies on many levels, in many areas, besides simple calorie burn. Our lungs stretch, and become supple and strong; hearts grow and the entire cardiovascular system strengthens. Blood thins and is able to reach the extremities with ease. The body becomes more able to heal itself. Endorphins raise the mood. Weight control becomes the by-product of the healthier body and lifestyle, and is no longer the primary goal. Yes, the calorie deficit causes us to shed the pounds, but the real goal is health. The weight loss is the by-product, or, rather, the "symptom" of a better level of health. Systemic change is more important than calorie calculations when riding.

Right now Weight Watchers is helping me lose weight, and definitely because of calorie counting (or, as we WW users call them, "points"), but the primary purpose for cycling is the systemic change in my body.
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Old 07-31-12, 08:40 PM
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I use a polar watch with chest strap which measures your hr...which I believe is about as close as one can get to knowing your true calorie burn (without let's say professional input)... & even so, if it is off by a hair..if nothing else it lets me know from one ride to the next how the ride I'm on is stacking up to my last ride.
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Old 07-31-12, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Pedals View Post
I use a polar watch with chest strap which measures your hr...which I believe is about as close as one can get to knowing your true calorie burn (without let's say professional input)... & even so, if it is off by a hair..if nothing else it lets me know from one ride to the next how the ride I'm on is stacking up to my last ride.
Yes, an HRM is the best you can do to estimate calorie burn.

If I go for an hour at high intensity (for me) I will burn around 450 calories per hour @ 225 pounds and riding as steel frame MTB with suspension forks at ~14mph.
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Old 07-31-12, 09:20 PM
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I use the figure of 30 calories per mile. I just figger that if I am off, I am hopefully off on the low side, so the unknown surplus goes in the "win" column.
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Old 07-31-12, 09:43 PM
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If your really serious garmin offers a settin in their newer gps units where you can enter your leaf score...its a seperate test you have done at a fitness type place (my doctors office actually does them) and if you enter that, its supposed to be as close as you can get with home equipment.

I personally have never seen the point, but you may.
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Old 08-01-12, 02:38 AM
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chasm54
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Originally Posted by mcrow View Post
Yes, an HRM is the best you can do to estimate calorie burn.
Actually the algorithms used to estimate calories burned from HR typically don't work all that well. Too many variables. If you want to be accurate you have to invest in a power meter.
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Old 08-01-12, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Actually the algorithms used to estimate calories burned from HR typically don't work all that well. Too many variables. If you want to be accurate you have to invest in a power meter.
I agree. I believe that an individual cyclist over a period of time with experience will be able to estimate their own calorie burn using their heart rate during exercise, but to think we can create a chart that covers all cyclists based on their heart rate is silly. There's too many personal variables (When was your last meal? What did it consist of? Did you have a lot of caffiene today? Are you fully recovered from yesterday's ride? Do you have heart disease? Is a big ugly German Shepard chasing you? Do you have a cold? What is your weight/fitness level? What is your max heart rate? etc.) and bicycle variables (Are you on a mountain bike, road bike or BSO? What are your tire pressures? Are you going downhill? Do you use clipless or platforms? Are you sure your hr monitor is accurate? Are you facing a headwind? etc.)

It seems like HR would be able to wade through all those variables, since it seems to summarize the body's workload at any given time. However, it can't. For example, if you rode a hard century on Tuesday and went out for a ride on Wednesday morning before you are fully recovered, then your heart rate on Wednesday is higher - but not because of Wednesday's ride, but because of recovery from Tuesday.

I think that's why many of us (see my earlier post) don't think about "calories" much while riding, but would rather think about overall aerobic benefit and health gains through cycling. Weight loss comes as a natural and expected by-product of the better lifestyle choices.
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Old 08-01-12, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Actually the algorithms used to estimate calories burned from HR typically don't work all that well. Too many variables. If you want to be accurate you have to invest in a power meter.
If you mean a device like a Garmin with power meter you are not any better off than HRM. In order to accurately measure power you need to know the crank length, wheel size, bike weight,wieght of the rider, tire tread, grade of the path, and wind. No device currently available. The power meters in the popular cycling computers are no more accurate than HRM.
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Old 08-01-12, 06:56 AM
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I do turn on the computer for longer rides but rarely look or care about those numbers. A month ago I did a long fun ride out of the city into the country ending at a brewery. When we got there my friend asked how many beers did my iPhone say we earned? I showed him it said 2100 cal. And he said that’s it? I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was most likely only really 1000.
Those numbers are just a very general guide and as others have mentioned there are way too many factors not being taken into account.

I have a friend that’s as thin as a pole and he eats enormous amounts of cals. And burns them off at rest I guess because he gets very little activity. To me the benefit of riding isn’t in consuming cals. As others have mentioned its cardio and building muscle that burns more cals. at rest.

If there is a plus to measuring cals. expended during something like riding it’s a mental picture you build in realizing just how little food we actually need to do work. When you combine that mental picture knowing weight loss is cals. in has to be less than cals. out, it becomes logical to eat less. Logic is only half of it and doing it is the harder part.
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Old 08-01-12, 08:35 AM
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HRM is a good indicator. Also, if you analyse data, whether from a HRM or a power meter, you will discover, as I did, that you can use Cal/mile as a pretty good approximation. If you consider heart rate/time, then riding fifteen miles at fifteen miles an hour is, for me, one hour at about 130bpm. At 20 mph I will cover 20 miles in an hour at about 150 bpm. The numbers here are approximate, and the ratio is not exactly 1:1, but as a rule of thumb, I use 10 Cal/mile. Works for my 230 lb carcas, and now that I have a Garmin with HRM, the numbers kind of agree.

(Caveat; I have yet to sustain 20 mph for 20 miles, but am now able to do fifteen at fifteen, on the flat-no wind.)

Last edited by CommuteCommando; 08-01-12 at 08:40 AM. Reason: bolded "Cal/mile"
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Old 08-01-12, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by CommuteCommando View Post
I use 10 Cal/mile.
When you say 10 cal / mile, do you mean additional cals above and beyond what you would burn doing nothing for that time period without taking any in?

The only reason I ask is because I never know if these programs take into account some baseline burn rate or not based in part on time. Like I said I haven’t studied this much and don’t give them much credibility.
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Old 08-01-12, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
When you say 10 cal / mile, do you mean additional cals above and beyond what you would burn doing nothing for that time period without taking any in?

The only reason I ask is because I never know if these programs take into account some baseline burn rate or not based in part on time. Like I said I havenít studied this much and donít give them much credibility.
Every calculator I have EVER seen, whether on the internet, a cycle computer, HRM, or attached to fitness equipment INCLUDES your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) in the equation.

There's other problems with calculators too - they might be somewhat accurate for those beginning fitness on cheap gear... but not for conditioned athletes on smooth-rolling equipment...

IE: Bicycle 16-19mph on many calculators at my weight shows a REMARKABLE amount of calories burned. If I were unfit, I'd burn more at that speed than I do. If I were on a walmart bike I'd burn more than I do... Heck, I find myself doing 16-19mph on a recovery ride if I have any wind or small slope down...

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Old 08-01-12, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
When you say 10 cal / mile, do you mean additional cals above and beyond what you would burn doing nothing for that time period without taking any in?

The only reason I ask is because I never know if these programs take into account some baseline burn rate or not based in part on time. Like I said I haven’t studied this much and don’t give them much credibility.
I don't profess to be a medical professional. In the words of Sheldon Cooper, I'm "only an engineer", but here is the method I used to come up with this.

As best I could determine (and it wasn't easy given the conflicting data all over the internet), a baseline daily caloric intake for someone my size at rest is about 2200/day. That works out to 90 Cal/hr @ 60 bpm. I know that the relationship between HR and Cal burned is not exactly 1:1, but it's close enough. At 120 bpm, it works out to about 90 cal/hr over what is already burned. At 120 bpm, I do about 12 miles in an hour. 90 Cal/12 mile ~ 7.5 Cal/mile.

This isn't perfect, but we are dealing with rules of thumb, and life is too short to assume that a perfect formula can even be found, let alone spend time trying to accomplish it.
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Old 08-01-12, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by CommuteCommando View Post
As best I could determine (and it wasn't easy given the conflicting data all over the internet), a baseline daily caloric intake for someone my size at rest is about 2200/day. That works out to 90 Cal/hr @ 60 bpm. I know that the relationship between HR and Cal burned is not exactly 1:1, but it's close enough. At 120 bpm, it works out to about 90 cal/hr over what is already burned. At 120 bpm, I do about 12 miles in an hour. 90 Cal/12 mile ~ 7.5 Cal/mile.

So that is just additional calories above BMR as posted above.

At 12 MPH you bike at a rate of 7.5 calories/mile so if you did a 100 mile day on the bike you would need 750 + 2200 or 2950 calories that day to not gain or lose anything.

I think I got it.
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Old 08-01-12, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by mcrow View Post
If you mean a device like a Garmin with power meter you are not any better off than HRM. In order to accurately measure power you need to know the crank length, wheel size, bike weight,wieght of the rider, tire tread, grade of the path, and wind. No device currently available. The power meters in the popular cycling computers are no more accurate than HRM.

I dont think this is accurate.

A wheel based powermeter such as cycle ops is measuring torque divided by rpm (think i have it correct) since its measuring that at the wheel, all tires, weight, grade, crank length, etc are factored in as they would simply change the amount of torque required to move the bike.

The crank based powermeters do the same thing, but have already calculated crank length in to the equation.

I also am unaware of any correlation between HR and Power, so I dont think a power meter would ever make your HR more accurate, and therefor your calorie consumption. For instance, if I am cranking at near my max power (for me) in intervals I am at 240 or so power, and near my 170 range HR, but a fit skinny guy could easily be at 240 power and not even breathing hard, so obviously the calorie consumption is going to be different with the exact same power numbers.

This is a bit general, but I think more or less accurate.
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Old 08-01-12, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by mcrow View Post
If you mean a device like a Garmin with power meter you are not any better off than HRM. In order to accurately measure power you need to know the crank length, wheel size, bike weight,wieght of the rider, tire tread, grade of the path, and wind. No device currently available. The power meters in the popular cycling computers are no more accurate than HRM.
I am talking about a power meter. For example, a Quarq. Most of the serious racers now train with power. Because the meter tells you to within 1% or 2% accuracy the amount of power you are putting out, it is easy to do a quite accurate calculation from kilojoules to kilocalories.

the power meter isn't interested in your HR, it doesn't care about wheel size, or gradient, or any of that stuff, it just measures how much power you are putting through the drivetrain. That's it .

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Old 08-01-12, 11:30 AM
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Dang! This thread is so depressing, (if one is striving to use cycling as a weight loss mechanism). 10 cal/mi @ 15mph? That's only 1,000 calories for a century ride. That has to be low. Or 300-400 per hour? Sheech! No wonder we, (as a society), have an obesity problem. A lot of us consume enough calories in a single, unhealthy meal, to fulfill our energy needs for the entire week. I wished food didn't taste so good, or that I could find some other outlet other than "comfort food". I am weak, (but have lost 18.2 pounds in the past seven weeks, so I'm trying. About 17 more to go to get to where I want to be).
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Old 08-01-12, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by vesteroid View Post
I dont think this is accurate.

A wheel based powermeter such as cycle ops is measuring torque divided by rpm (think i have it correct) since its measuring that at the wheel, all tires, weight, grade, crank length, etc are factored in as they would simply change the amount of torque required to move the bike.

The crank based powermeters do the same thing, but have already calculated crank length in to the equation.

I also am unaware of any correlation between HR and Power, so I dont think a power meter would ever make your HR more accurate, and therefor your calorie consumption. For instance, if I am cranking at near my max power (for me) in intervals I am at 240 or so power, and near my 170 range HR, but a fit skinny guy could easily be at 240 power and not even breathing hard, so obviously the calorie consumption is going to be different with the exact same power numbers.

This is a bit general, but I think more or less accurate.
I didn't say that using a HRM with a power measuring device would make it more accurate. I said that an power meter like the one in the garmin computers are no more accurate. The Garmin ones do not have a hub based device as far as I know. The hub/crank based ones are more accurate than an HRM but still you are losing some power to the efficiency of the bike so it's really not that much more accurate for calculating calorie burn. I think they are best used for their purpose which is high level cycling analysis. Not only that they are not practical for most people at $1000-$2000.
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Old 08-01-12, 11:40 AM
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I always figured 40-50 calories per mile when riding hard (20mph +- depending on wind etc.) at 230lbs, but I have never tracked or counted.
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