Most people know that exercise can be helpful for weight loss. Find out how effective cycling is for burning calories.
Some rough estimations are that the average person can expect to burn around 236 calories to 406 calories while cycling at a moderate effort (12-13.9 mph = 19.3-22.4 kmh) for 15 minutes.
The estimation of 236 calories per 15 minutes of cycling is for a person with a 125-pound (56 kg) body weight.
On the other end of the range, the 406-calorie estimation for the same duration and intensity of cycling is for a 215-pound (97 kg) person.
Something else to keep in mind is that these numbers are very rough predictions. Even people of the same body weight can burn different amounts of calories by cycling.
This article will also go over more in-depth estimations for different body weights and time periods, how to burn more calories while cycling, how long it takes to see results, and more.
Biggest factors in calories burned by cycling
Something important to keep in mind is that it is hard to predict (and even measure) exactly how many calories you burn while doing something like cycling.
This makes it even harder to figure out what your lifestyle routine should look like to see weight loss results or stay at a healthy point.
That being said, knowing what factors make the estimations harder to do, you can make your workouts a bit more effective. Additionally, it could make your estimations more accurate.
A few examples of details that influence how many calories you burn with cycling include:
- Weight: Your body needs energy to keep your body alive and move it around. Moving more weight typically requires more calories.
- Body composition: Your body weight consists of different tissues like fat, muscle, bone, etc. Body composition means in what ratio these different tissues are present. Muscle generally requires more energy while cycling than the same weight in fat.
- Intensity: Something else that influences how many calories movements require is how fast you do them. Movements that are more intense typically require more energy.
- Slope: As anyone who has cycled uphill can tell you, your cycling surface can influence the intensity of the workout a lot. In turn, this will also require different amounts of energy.
- Wind direction: A lot of the energy you use when cycling will go toward overcoming air resistance. There will be a big difference in the number of calories burned between cycling with or against the wind.
Hidden calorie burning from cycling
There is something else that makes the calorie-burning estimations resemble reality less. Cycling can also sometimes help you burn more calories after you stop working out.
If you cycle intensely enough you could experience something called afterburn. This is where you burn more calories than usual when you stop cycling.
You should not expect the craziest results from afterburn. It also typically does not last longer than 72 hours.
However, it is still fair to say you could potentially get more results than the calorie-burning estimations imply at first. These are only for during the workout itself.
Chart of cycling calorie-burning estimations
A cheat sheet from the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention puts the number of calories you burn by cycling into two categories.
The first one is burning 3.5-7 calories per minute for cycling between 5-9 mph on level terrain. Secondly, they mention you can burn more than 7 calories per minute for anything faster or steeper (1).
Luckily, there are ways to make more precise estimations for certain body weights and time frames.
There are numbers called MET values that represent how physically intense activities are. You can use these values in a formula to estimate how many calories cycling burns.
Formula: METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories burned per minute
The estimations for cycling METs can vary between sources and over time. That being said, in one source, the METs range from 4 at bicycling <10 mph to 16 at bicycling >20 mph (2).
In the chart below, you can find how many calories people of different body weights burn while cycling between 12-13.9 mph for different amounts of time.
Again, you want to keep in mind that these are estimations. The calculation formula above does not include details that do influence how much energy you use.
Additionally, if you don’t know what effects you can expect from these numbers, 100 grams of boiled potatoes contain about 87 calories (3).
|1 Minute||15 Minutes||30 Minutes||45 Minutes||60 Minutes|
|125 Pounds (56 kg)||8 calories||118 calories||236 calories||354 calories||473 calories|
|155 Pounds (70 kg)||10 calories||146 calories||293 calories||439 calories||586 calories|
|185 Pounds (83 kg)||12 calories||175 calories||350 calories||524 calories||699 calories|
|215 Pounds (97 kg)||14 calories||203 calories||406 calories||610 calories||813 calories|
Ways to burn more calories with cycling
The chart above may give you the feeling that your results from cycling will be static. That you can not influence them a lot.
However, this is not the case. There are a few things you can do to get more calorie-burning results from your cycling sessions.
First of all, you could consider spending more time on your (stationary) bike. This will generally help you burn more calories.
That being said, most people want to get more results per minute of cycling. Fitting exercise into your busy schedule may already be relatively challenging.
The first way to do this is by cycling at faster speeds. If you move intensely enough, you can get the additional afterburn effect mentioned above.
Next, you can increase how much weight you have to cycle around. In theory, you could wear a backpack or weighted vest. In practice, you will likely prefer building a bit of muscle mass.
Lastly, you can burn more calories while cycling by finding a more challenging surface. For example a hilly area.
How long does it take to see results from cycling?
All of the extra calorie-burning cycling offers is helpful but you likely want an idea of what this means in terms of results in other areas.
The first thing to note is that while cycling can help weight loss, it is also no guarantee. Your habits in other areas like your diet still need to be good enough too.
That being said, assume there is a 185-pound (83 kg) person who has a routine that keeps them at the same weight. The only change they make is cycling more.
If this 185-pound (83 kg) person would cycle 12-13.9 mph for 15 minutes a day for 10 days, they would burn an extra 1750 calories or about 0.5 pounds (0.22 kg) of body fat.
By continuing the same cycling routine for 30 days, the same person would burn about 1.5 pounds (0.66 kg) of body fat.
Again, all of these calories do not necessarily come from body fat. Your other lifestyle habits need to be good enough too.
Should you do cycling for calorie burning?
While there are a few options that are even better, cycling can be a great exercise choice for burning a lot of calories.
One of the benefits of cycling is that you can do it for a long period of time. As you can see from the table above, this can result in a lot of calorie burning.
Cycling is also a low-impact way to help you get in shape. You could even use it as a healthy mode of transport too.
Something to note is that it can also be smart to implement resistance training exercises to build muscle if burning calories is your main goal.
The extra muscle mass you build will help you burn more calories during your cycling sessions and the rest of your day.
Additionally, you want to keep an eye on other lifestyle habits like nutrition if you want to make sure the calories you burn come from using up body fat.