Cycling is a popular type of exercise. It is certainly a great low-impact workout but how many calories does cycling burn?
Cycling is known as one of the exercises you can do to get a good workout without being too hard on body parts like knees and back. On top of that you can also use your bike as an actual mode of transport in your daily life.
While the exact number of calories burned with cycling varies from individual to individual, the average person can expect to burn around 118-203 calories per 15 minutes of moderate effort cycling between 12-13.9 mph.
This article will also show you a more detailed chart that takes multiple factors into account and ways to increase the number of calories burned by cycling.
Biggest factors in calories burned by cycling
A fact that many people find annoying is that the number of calories you burn while doing something like cycling is hard to predict correctly. This fact can make things like weight loss feel like a guessing game.
Even so, good estimations can be a helpful starting point. By taking a few important factors into account you can make your estimations more accurate.
Some of the biggest factors that influence how many calories you burn with cycling include:
- Weight: To move around your body needs energy, measured in calories. The more you weigh, the more energy you need to fuel movement.
- Body composition: Body composition is how much of your body weight is made up of different tissue. Two people can weigh the same but for one individual most of the weight can come from fat while the second individual has a lot of muscle. The reason that is important is that the same weight of muscle requires more energy than that weight in fat.
- Intensity: If you’re looking at calories burned per minute of cycling this can vary a lot by going at a fast vs slow pace.
- Slope: Another factor that can make a big difference when it comes to calories burned while cycling is the angle of your cycling surface.
- Wind direction: A large quantity of your energy usage when cycling will be to overcome air resistance. There will be a big difference in calories burned between cycling with or against the wind.
Hidden calorie burning from cycling
There are many other aspects that make it even harder to put how many calories you burn with cycling into an exact number. This includes the fact that the calorie-burning effects of cycling are not limited to during the workout.
As mentioned, how much you weigh plays a relatively big role in how many calories you burn. This doesn’t just apply to your workout, this is also the case during everyday activities.
Chances are that by cycling you also build some muscle mass. Even though it won’t be as much as for example weight lifting, this extra muscle mass will help you burn more calories day in, day out. It is however extremely hard to put this amount into a number.
Doing a workout at high intensity can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stop doing the exercise.
Estimations for calories burned with cycling usually don’t take into account these long-term effects.
Chart of cycling calorie-burning estimations
The centers for disease control and prevention simplifies the number of calories burned by cycling into 3.5-7 calories per minute for cycling between 5-9 mph on level terrain and more than 7 calories per minute for anything faster or steeper (1). In reality there are tools to make more precise estimations.
To calculate calories burned during certain exercises more specifically you can use a formula with MET values. A MET value is an exercise-specific value to indicate how intense a specific type of workout is.
You can use this in the following formula: METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories burned per minute
Estimations for METs while cycling depend a lot on cycling speed but vary from 4 at bicycling <10 mph to 16 at bicycling >20 mph (2). The below chart will show you estimations for moderate effort cycling between 12-13.9 mph.
Again keep in mind that these are estimations. This formula doesn’t take into account certain factors that do influence calories burned with cycling.
To put these estimations into perspective, 100 grams of boiled potatoes contains 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 number of calories burned with cycling is certainly not something set in stone. There are a few ways you can increase this amount per time interval.
The challenge for most people is fitting in workouts in their busy schedule. They want to burn as many calories in the least amount of time, which means burning more calories per minute of cycling.
If you do have more time, spending more time cycling will generally burn more calories although at some point overtraining may cause the reverse.
A more obvious way to burn more calories while cycling is cycling at a faster speed. At some point you also get the added afterburn effect.
A second way to burn more calories with cycling is by making the weight you have to carry around heavier. You can do this by for example wearing a heavy backpack or even better building some extra muscle mass.
The third way is to cycle on a more challenging surface. For example by cycling in a hilly area.
How long does it take to see results from cycling?
One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to see weight loss results from cycling will also depend on the number of calories in your diet.
One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.
15 minutes of cycling a day could help you burn an extra 1460 calories in 10 days which is about 0.42 pounds of body fat. 30 days 4380 calories and so on…
Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be harmful. In general, a 500 calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.
Should you do cycling for calorie burning?
Cycling can be a great exercise choice to burn a lot of calories.
An added benefit is that cycling is also one of the workouts that is less heavy on body parts like knees and back. This is especially great if you are carrying around extra weight.
Another benefit is that you can actually use a bike as a mode of transport. Instead of taking the car somewhere you can get to your destination while burning some extra calories with cycling.
One potential downside of cycling could be the cost of a bike suited for workouts. Other workouts like for example pushups require no investment at all.
If calorie burning is your main goal it may also be smart to implement some exercises in your schedule specifically for building muscle on top of cycling. The extra muscle mass will help you burn more calories day in, day out, including during your cycling sessions.
Also keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.