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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Posts
    32

    How do you calculate calories burned?

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    I appreciate that this is not an easy question to answer because the amount of calories burned depends on so many factors, like weight, elevation etc.

    Part of the reason why I'm taking up cycling is to lose weight and get fit. From past experience, what works for me is to use the Spark People website / app. It gives you a calorie range and a food and exercise tracker. Previously, when doing a lot of running and weights, I had a tendency to under eat and not eat enough protein because I didn't realise how much calories I had burnt and was estimating how much more I needed. Spark People was what made me realise that I needed to up my calorie intake and include snacks on runs (though I've heard that cycling has the opposite effect and makes you ravenous).

    I was pretty fit and healthy as a result and that's where I want to get back to. I'd like to use the same method again because I know it works. So now I'm trying to figure out how to calculate calories burned when cycling outside and on a trainer.

    I found an article that gives rough estimates.

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/13...king-one-mile/

    And also a pretty intricate calculator, which seems a too much for what I need.

    http://bikecalculator.com/tripUS.html

    What does anyone else in a similar position do?

    Also, does time on a trainer count for more than on a ride outside - purely on a fitness level (not technique obviously) - because you can't freewheel? Does this affect the calories burned calculation?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    55
    Personally I use a heart rate monitor, although I don't have a power meter so it doesn't have all of the metrics for really, really close accuracy, but it still makes it easier. My recommendation would be a HRM with cadence and speed sensor (GPS optional) but if you don't want to go that route take into account not just your distance, speed and/or time (which are the factors that those calculators typically use) but also your perceived effort.

    For example, I rode 8.7 miles pretty hard the other day. It was pretty windy out though, and my average speed was only 12 miles per hour (max 18) and it took just under 44 minutes. My Garmin says I burned 360 calories. Using a calculator such as this http://prod.bicycling.com/training-n...ned-calculator I burned somewhere between 296 and 395 (12mph is right on the dividing cusp between light and moderate speed). If I didn't have my HRM I would take into account my effort and go with the higher number, which would put me relatively close to what my Garmin got. If I was right on the cusp and the wind was behind me the whole time or I was coasting a lot I would probably go with the lower number or an average of the two.

    Of course this means you need to know your speed, or at least your distance and time so you can get an average.

    In the past, I've bought most of my HRMs and equipment on Ebay at a steep discount.
    2007 Trek 7.2 FX
    2015 Felt F85X with Specialized Oura seat, Specialized Road Pro II handlebars, and Look Quartz pedals

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Posts
    32
    @Bones8

    Thanks for that. That's very helpful.

    I have an ANT+ / Bluetooth speed / cadence sensor and am actually now probably going to get the Garmin Edge 500. There's a 25% off offer on at the moment.

    The calculator you gave is very useful. Like you, I don't need to know the exact calories burned. I just want a ballpark figure. That's how I calculate calories burned for core / weights workouts and walking.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    1,940
    I wanted to reply to this yesterday and I hesitated because I did not want my response to sound snarky. I have done a lot of training over the past 10 years, lots of endurance training and long sessions. I have been most successful managing a comfortable weight when I do NOT factor exercise into my calorie consumption. I fuel during the ride or run as necessary, but the rest of the day, I eat like I do not work out. Just good clean food, clean snacks, very low sugar. That was the biggest difference.

    I run into trouble the minute I think, well I ran two hours today and burned X amount of calories so I should have or can have_____________________. As soon as I started to do that I had immediate success. From what I have researched MOST of the gadgets that calculate are way off in the calories count anyway. I could never figure out why I was logging all of those miles and not losing weight. And then bingo.

    Just food for thought, no pun intended. If you have any questions or want specifics, just let me know. I can give you more details.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    I can't even remember where I ran across this discussion, probably someone linked to it here so apologies if it's a duplicate. But I thought it was interesting and it concords with what I know about the subject. (FTR, even though I have a couple of devices with one of the more sophisticated algorithms, I ignore the calorie count too.)

    http://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/Azd...sing-one-21472


    One thing that no one's mentioned is recovery nutrition. Your window to replace muscle glycogen starts closing half an hour after your workout ends, and returns to baseline within two hours. If I let my muscles stay depleted after a long workout, I'll be ravenous, literally, for days, because my body thinks it's starving. I pretty much have to force myself to eat after long runs and especially longer tempo runs, I have no appetite whatever at that point, but I know I need to do it, both for the sake of my next workout and also so I won't be guaranteed to overeat for the next few days. The general rule I've read is 2-300 calories immediately after your workout ends, ideally at a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, then a full healthy meal within two hours.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 01-07-2015 at 07:53 AM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    1,940
    I am very careful about packing recovery nutrition when we mt bike because we usually have a minimum 45 mins home in the car after. If I did not have something I would be starving when I got home. We usually split a PB and J or I bring bananas and yogurt. Worse this time of year after riding in the cold.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,824
    Quote Originally Posted by rocknrollgirl View Post
    I wanted to reply to this yesterday and I hesitated because I did not want my response to sound snarky. I have done a lot of training over the past 10 years, lots of endurance training and long sessions. I have been most successful managing a comfortable weight when I do NOT factor exercise into my calorie consumption. I fuel during the ride or run as necessary, but the rest of the day, I eat like I do not work out. Just good clean food, clean snacks, very low sugar. That was the biggest difference.

    I run into trouble the minute I think, well I ran two hours today and burned X amount of calories so I should have or can have_____________________. As soon as I started to do that I had immediate success. From what I have researched MOST of the gadgets that calculate are way off in the calories count anyway. I could never figure out why I was logging all of those miles and not losing weight. And then bingo.

    Just food for thought, no pun intended. If you have any questions or want specifics, just let me know. I can give you more details.
    Related to this --

    http://www.sportingnews.com/sport/st...uring-exercise

    I know that I do tend to be very sedentary for the rest of the day after a long bike ride, and if my legs are feeling tired I will cut back on daily activities for the next few days, e.g., take the elevator at work instead of walking up the stairs. One of the reasons I don't do century rides anymore is that they caused me to gain weight -- I'd be too tired for any exercise for several days after long training rides, but at the same time I was very hungry and eating a lot.

    BTW I still find Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook to be a great resource for weight management as well as guidance on what to eat before, during and after bike rides. She also posts links to some interesting articles on her twitter feed.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    Quote Originally Posted by ny biker View Post
    One of the reasons I don't do century rides anymore is that they caused me to gain weight -- I'd be too tired for any exercise for several days after long training rides, but at the same time I was very hungry and eating a lot.
    If you ever want to try it again, you might want to bump up what you have for your recovery meal. That really sounds like classic glycogen depletion.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,824
    Quote Originally Posted by OakLeaf View Post
    If you ever want to try it again, you might want to bump up what you have for your recovery meal. That really sounds like classic glycogen depletion.
    You are probably right -- I now make sure to have a cup of OJ ready immediately after finishing long rides, and also have a food plan, either a snack I have with me or a place I know near the ride finish where I can get a sandwich. But I did not used to do that.

    On the other hand, I also did not really enjoy the long training rides, and since I am not a fast rider I ended up with too many miles still to ride during the hottest part of the afternoon and finishing after the post-ride picnic has run out of food and most people have gone home. So I prefer metrics, with an occasional 75-80 miler. Always followed by OJ and a snack or sandwich.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Posts
    32
    Thanks, girls. I appreciate all the feedback and useful links etc. I've had a quick look, but will look into them properly again. Definitely food for thought there (pardon the pun)!

    I used to work out 6 days a week (including 10 mile runs three times a week), so I understand the need to refuel directly during and after a workout. I also know that it's not good idea to get caught up in exact calories burned. But for me, I like to have a ballpark figure so that I can ensure I'm getting the right amount of protein / carbs / fat etc. I like to plan what I eat. It makes life easier. It's what I used to do and it was very successful. I was in the best shape of my life. Otherwise, I know from past experience, that I will guesstimate what I need and get it wrong and then wonder why I'm not performing as well. For example: I was doing 10 mile runs and wondering why I was so sluggish since I was eating so healthily and wasn't hungry and was refuelling during my runs and afterwards. I couldn't understand what was going on. It turned out that I wasn't eating enough and having enough protein or fats (I wasn't avoiding fats either btw!). If I hadn't been tracking my food and calories burned, I would never have figured this out. I upped my calorie intake and changed around the ratios of what I ate. After that, I was fine.

    @rocknrollgirl - Your comments are fine. Not snarky at all! Maybe your approach is worth considering as another way of looking at things. The calories burned counter that Bones8 put up is also very useful. I may end up using that to have as a rough guide for me to use.

    On another thread, I've been asking about HRMs. I'm in two minds now whether they're useful or not. I think I need to read more and decide for myself.

 

 

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