How Many Calories Will Biking One Mile Burn?
Biking burns lots of calories. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to do so. Especially given how easily cycling can fit into your everyday life–bike to work, evening ride, run to the store–it is a wonderful way to shed some extra pounds or just keep trim. Making biking a part of your daily routine will help you stay in great shape, and maybe even let you get that extra scoop of ice cream.
What impacts how many calories you burn?
No matter what workout you do and no matter how similar you are, you and your biking buddy will almost certainly burn a different amount of calories on any given day. Even in a cycling class where everyone is doing the same workout for the same amount of time there is likely to be differences between almost every rider.
There are three things that go into calculating the number of calories burned: body weight, duration, and intensity. A person with a higher body weight tends to burn calories at a faster rate than a person with a lower body weight–that’s just how it is. And of course, you burn more calories cycling quickly uphill in the wind than you do spinning at a leisurely pace in the gym.
How many calories can you burn in a mile?
Let’s say you’re biking at a leisurely pace of 5.5 miles per hour around your block. If you’re just going one mile, this ride will take about ten minutes. Suppose it’s mostly flat, your bike is in good shape, and the wind is low. For the sake of calculation, let’s also assume a body weight of 155 pounds. How many calories do you think this burns? 100? 200?
This ride wouldn’t even burn 50 calories. That’s half a banana. But never fear–this is a pretty low intensity workout, and things gear up quickly. Suppose you cycled for 10 minutes, but now you were racing. You’re up to 140 calories!
Now, take the speed back down to a moderate 12 miles per hour. It will take you (our 155 pound person) 5 minutes to bike a mile, so we’re again looking at about 50 calories–but that’s in half the time as it was before. Extend this to a 45 minute workout and you’re almost to 450 calories, or about 560 in an hour!
The same workout for a person weighing 170 pounds pushes the calorie count over 600. Use this tool to calculate the calories burned for yourself.
Why do you need to know this?
Tracking burned calories during a workout may seem trivial, especially if your goal isn’t necessarily weight loss, but there is much more to tracking calories than shedding pounds.
Suppose you’re training for a race. This probably entails many hours of training week, and you’ll also want to be building muscle while you’re training. If you go for a two hour long ride, around 12 miles per hour (again using a weight of 155 pounds), you’re already torching more than 1100 calories–that’s over half of the recommended daily calorie intake for an average person!
In this case, you need to understand how many calories your workouts are burning so we can ensure you take in the right amount of calories. Too few and you won’t have the energy for your hard days, and your muscles will lack energy necessary to grow. Too many calories and you might feel sluggish or gain extra weight.
Now, many of us probably aren’t training for races. Does calorie count still matter? Yes! Think back to our first example. Pretend the cafe is a half mile down the street. You choose to bike there. Arriving, you think to yourself, “I biked here–I deserve a large latte and a blueberry muffin.” Even after your ride home, you’ve gained about 500 calories.
All of this to say, it is very important to understand how many calories various levels of biking burns so you neither underestimate or overestimate how many calories you are using–and, therefore, how many calories you should be eating.
There must be a better way!
The tracker tool linked above is a great (free) way to estimate how many calories you are burning by cycling, but it’s options are limited. There are only three options for speed, the time only allows increments of ten minutes, and there is no way to track your caloric burn over time.
Thankfully, there are plenty of wearable calorie counters to help you monitor calorie burn in the moment and assist in tracking it over time. Many smart watches will keep track of calories burned, and fitness trackers and GPS watches often do the same.
If your wearable does not come with tracking software–or you don’t like using it–pair your wearable with either a digital or physical tracker to monitor your trends over time. Calorie burn and intake can vary greatly from day to day, but a tool like this can help you match your intake to your burn in order to maximize your cycling efficiency–or just to keep a realistic picture of what the impact of your exercise actually is.
Upping your daily calorie burn
Burning calories is not the only reason cyclists cycle. Many do it for the added focus throughout the day, the pleasure of being outside, or the challenge of a race. If, however, you are motivated to shed a few calories, there are plenty of ways to do that.
First, if you aren’t already, consider using your bike as a primary method of transportation. Imagine you spend an hour total on your daily commute, and you squeeze in another half hour on your lunch break, then another half hour after dinner. You’re up to two hours already, which is 1100 calories burned–not a bad day!
If that isn’t your speed, add a cycling class, or swap out yoga for spin. An hour long, high-intensity spin class can burn more than 800 calories. That’s about 600 more calories than an hour of Hatha yoga.