Written by James Cooper
Last Updated

There can be no doubt that cycling is a great way to burn hundreds of calories quickly and easily, but the problem is many people overestimate just how many calories they have burned and then ruin it all by indulging in snacks because they think they have earned them. 

The problem is, working out how many calories have been burned is quite difficult, even with all the fitness trackers and apps which are out there, it’s still a tricky calculation to get the numbers perfectly accurate.

There are many factors that come into the calculation, including cycling speed, your own metabolic rate, your weight, and your fitness levels – so one person cycling at 12mph will burn a totally different number of calories to another person. 

The fitter you are, the fewer calories you will be burning because your body works more efficiently, so if you are riding while fit, you might not be burning anywhere near as many calories as you think you are. 

So the idea that you can treat yourself to a huge blow-out on sweet treats just because you’ve been good and gone for a ride is a mistake as you could end up putting on weight and destroying all of your hard work. 

How many calories are burned cycling?
What about wearing trackers?

With the wealth of fitness trackers out there you might think it’s easy to see exactly how many calories you have burned off but studies have shown these can be off by a relatively high percentage because they rely only on the information they are given, and the differences between individuals. 

The more details you can input into your device about yourself, including your weight, height and heart rate, the more accurate your calorie counting results will be. If you can sync it up to a heart monitor it will help the results even more. 

What about wearing trackers?
What about using a power meter?

A power meter is another alternative way to measure the calories you are burning. It will tell you how many kilojoules of energy you are using up while cycling and one kilojoule equates to one calorie, making it an easier way to measure. 

The meter measures your energy use so you can be confident of a small margin of error if you really need to estimate how many calories you are burning on your ride. However, it’s not a good idea to get too obsessed with calorie counting. 

There is a lot more to weight loss and fitness than just counting calories and you don’t want the enjoyment of your cycling to get lost in trying to count numbers to see if you can eat a doughnut afterwards or not. 

Cycling improves your overall fitness, stamina and energy levels so there is a lot more to it than just counting calories, but if you are wanting to track your fitness that way, then just don’t rely on it as a way to then treat yourself to something calorific afterwards. 

There is no doubt that cycling burns up a lot of energy and therefore uses up calories and the more often and harder you ride, the more you will burn, but for weight loss, it’s no doubt more important to keep an eye on the calories you put into your body to start with. 

Cycling requires energy so eating a balanced diet with fruit and vegetables and reducing your intake of sugar, harmful fats and things like fast food, will go a long way to helping with your weight loss rather than just counting your calories. 

Cycling alone won’t help you lose weight if you just eat rubbish again after every ride you have been on. For a weight loss regime to work you need to combine healthy eating with better exercise routines as the two things go hand in hand. 

If you go out on a bike ride and your tracker or meter tells you that you have used up 800 calories, don’t think great, I can eat some cake; celebrate with a cup of tea and a toast to yourself for doing so well. 

Cycling uphill and across hard tracks will get your body moving, strengthen all your muscles and improve your overall stamina, as well as burning off unwanted calories, so include as part of a weight loss programme but don’t fixate on that one element. 

Enjoy your cycling as a hobby or leisure activity, or sport and you will end up burning up those calories and improving your body shape and fitness without even being aware that you are doing it. Counting calories should never become the main purpose of heading out into the countryside on your bike with friends and family, it’s all about having fun, enjoying yourself and getting fit and healthy along the way as well. 

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