How many calories do I burn cycling if I want to lose weight?
So many of us older cyclists (including me) want to lose weight by cycling. So one of the obvious questions to ask is how many calories does cycling burn?
Because losing weight, at its simplest, is just a matter of using up more calories than you take in. Burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight. Consume more calories than you burn and you’ll gain weight. Simplistic, but basically correct.
Of course taking up cycling is not just a matter of burning calories. People take up cycling for all sorts of reasons, and losing weight is often just one of them. It’s fun, it’s good cardiovascular exercise, it’s a great social activity and much more.
But for many people burning calories on a bike is one of the more important reasons for cycling. Particularly for us older people, who have a greater number of years behind us in which to build up the weight, losing weight is an important goal.
So, how many calories do I burn cycling?
I’m sorry to say that I can’t give you a definitive answer. Lets look at a few factors surrounding the question.
There’s a massive range of factors which will govern how many calories you burn cycling, and which will mean that there is no consistent answer that can be applied to us all.
What type of cycling are you doing? Are you road cycling? Are you mountain biking? Are you cycling indoors on a trainer?
How much do you weigh? How heavy is the bike? How hard will you be riding? Will you be cycling uphill or downhill or a combination of both? Do you carry one water bottle or 2?
Are you cycling into the wind or with it?
Hopefully you’re beginning to see what I mean. There is no simple answer to calculating the number of calories burned by cycling. It depends upon so many variables that trying to pin down a specific number is virtually impossible.
Of course this has been studied, one such study was by Dr. Edward Coyle from the Human Performance lab at the University of Texas. He came up with some figures for calories burned while cycling, but made it clear that the figures were very rough, and didn’t take into account different circumstances such as hills, cyclist weight or wind resistance. All of these, of course, change the outcome.
But what if you really want to know your calories burned while cycling?
Whilst it’s almost impossible to make generalised statements about calories burnt cycling it is quite possible to come up with an answer for any one individual. It’s a matter of that person making an effort to find out for themselves how many calories they burn on a bike.
That can be done with a quality heart rate monitor properly programmed. A good heart rate monitor with calorie tracking, when programmed, will give you a far more accurate result than simply trying to find some generalised figures which will probably be quite wrong.
And of course calories burned on the bike is only part of the answer to losing weight.
There’s no doubt that cycling burns calories, and if you’re looking to lose weight cycling then increasing the number of calories burned will help.
So as well as counting the calories burned you need to pay attention to improving your fitness so that you can cycle for longer. And you burn more calories when riding hard than you do when riding gently, so an important part of the equation is getting fitter to allow you to ride harder as well as longer.
And of course counting calories burned on the bike is only part of the equation. Counting calories consumed is also important. You need to watch the input as well as the output.
So if you’re serious about losing weight cycling and want to count those calories investigate a quality heart rate monitor that will track your effort, and your calories burned.
To keep track of your efforts over time you could try My Fitness Pal which will allow you to track everything carefully, including your exercise, your input and your weight, and to set yourself some realistic goals around those. I’ve just come across it and haven’t yet used it yet so can’t really say how well it works, but I’ve had a quick look and think it’s worthy of investigation.
But again it doesn’t take into account personal factors when cycling, so using it in conjunction with a heart rate monitor would be useful. Taking the calories burned figure from the heart rate monitor and plugging them into your account at My Fitness Pal should be more accurate.
But remember, no matter how many calories you burn cycling if it isn’t fun then you’re not likely to keep it up, so make sure it’s fun first, that comes before counting the calories. Don’t flog yourself to lose calories faster or it won’t be fun any more, you’ll give up and won’t lose any weight.