Cycling may appear to be the preserve of the fiercely fit or the dedicated sports enthusiast, but it’s actually an incredibly accessible and efficient way for anyone to burn calories and get in shape.
Cycling is a great exercise, not just because it works for people of all fitness levels, but also because it burns quite a number of calories. It doesn’t matter if you’re pedaling through picturesque landscapes, navigating urban jungles, or spinning on a stationary bike at home, every rotation of the pedals is a move toward improved health and fitness.
However, simply getting on the bike isn’t enough if you want to maximize your calorie-burning potential.
There are strategic ways to get more bang for your buck when it comes to burning calories while cycling. With the right approach, you can turn every ride into a high-powered, calorie-burning workout, which will ensure that every minute you spend in the saddle is time well spent.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Calories Burned Cycling: The Basics
The number of calories you burn while cycling isn’t just an arbitrary figure. It’s a reflection of the energy your body uses to keep the pedals moving and you on the right track.
You’ll burn more calories while you are cycling when:
You Weigh More
This sounds a bit odd, right? But think about it. If you’re carrying a backpack that is full of books, you’d have to work harder to walk than if you were empty-handed. It’s exactly the same with body weight. The more you weigh, the more energy your muscles require to get you moving and keep you going.
You Push Harder
This one is a no-brainer. Just like sprinting burns more calories than a leisurely jog, pushing yourself harder on the bike will increase your calorie burn. So, next time you’re on your bike, try adding some sprints or hill climbs.
You Ride Longer
Again, this is pretty straightforward. The longer you’re in the saddle, the more calories you’ll burn. It’s similar to reading – the more pages you turn, the more of the story you get. This essentially means that the number of calories burned riding your bike for 1 mile will be less than those burned when cycling for 10 km.
Your Fitness Level Is Lower
Now, this may appear counterintuitive, but when you’re less fit, your body needs to work harder to keep up. This is due to a lower efficiency relating to biomechanics and the muscular and cardiovascular systems, which results in increased energy expenditure due to the effort that is required to perform the tasks. As your fitness improves, your body will become more efficient with these physiological processes, thereby reducing the effort that is required to perform the same task. This can result in a slight adjustment in energy expenditure.
Dropping pounds by the dozens without putting yourself through the wringer is everyone’s weight loss pipe dream. But what if we told you that the BetterMe app can make that happen? Keep yourself in prime shape with our fat-blasting workouts, delicious budget-sparing recipes, and body-transforming challenges with our app!
That being said, there are some general estimates of calories burned cycling that may be useful.
According to the calories burned calculator provided by Calories Burned HQ, cycling at a speed of 8-10 mph burns approximately 6.5 calories per minute, while cycling at a faster pace of 14-16 mph may burn approximately 12 calories per minute (2).
Research by Harvard University suggests that a moderate speed of 12 to 13.9 miles per hour will cause a person who weighs 155 pounds to burn approximately 288 calories in 30 minutes (3).
At the same time, a healthy 75kg (165lb) male rider who undertakes a moderate-intensity workout at a pace of 14 mph may burn approximately 600 calories per hour (2).
If you’re looking for a more personalized estimate, several online calculators are available. They range from stationary bike calorie calculators to duration-based calculators such as 1-hour cycling calorie calculators.
However, the most accurate cycling calorie calculators allow you to input your weight, the duration of your ride, and the intensity of your cycling as a means of calculating the approximate number of calories burned.
It is important to remember that these figures are just estimates and the actual calories burned can vary based on individual factors such as metabolic rates and the specific conditions of the ride.
How Does Cycling Change Your Body Shape?
Cycling is a fantastic form of exercise that improves your cardiovascular health and overall fitness while also having a significant impact on your body shape. Here’s how:
Tones Lower Body Muscles
One of the most noticeable changes you’ll see from regular cycling is in the lower body.
Cycling targets the muscles in the thighs, glutes, and calves, which helps tone and strengthen these areas. As you pedal, you’re essentially performing a type of resistance training that can lead to muscle definition over time.
While it may not seem like it, cycling is a great workout for the core (4).
Maintaining balance and control of your bike requires engagement from the entire core including the abdominals and back muscles. This constant engagement helps strengthen your core, which helps improve your posture and gives you a more toned appearance.
Enhances Upper Body Strength
Although cycling is primarily a lower-body workout, it is also beneficial for the upper body, particularly if you’re riding a road or mountain bike where you need to control its handling.
Your arms and shoulders get a workout as you steer and stabilize the bike, which can result in increased strength and toning in these areas.
Promotes Weight Loss
Cycling is an effective way of burning calories, particularly if you push yourself to ride at a brisk pace or tackle challenging routes that include hills. This calorie burn, in conjunction with a healthy diet, can contribute to weight loss and a reduction in body fat, helping reveal the muscles you’ve been toning and strengthening (4).
Shapes the Bum
Contrary to what some may believe, cycling will not flatten your bum. Instead, as cycling works your glutes (the muscles in your bum), it can actually help tone and shape the bum. The more you cycle, the more you will work these muscles, and if you combine it with an adequate diet, your bum will actually become more defined.
Improves Posture And Coordination
Similarly, the constant, synchronized movement of pedaling helps improve coordination between arms and legs.
Cycling also helps increase flexibility, particularly in the lower body (4).
The pedaling motion involves a constant cycle of extension and flexion, which improves flexibility in the hip joints, knees, and ankle joints. This increased flexibility can contribute to a greater range of motion, reduced stiffness, and enhanced physical performance.
Does Cycling Reduce Belly Fat?
Yes, cycling can be a powerful tool in your fight against belly fat. Adding it to your summer weight loss plans is a fantastic idea.
However, even though cycling can help reduce belly fat, it’s not a magic solution. It is most effective when it is combined with a healthy diet and a balanced exercise routine including both cardio and strength training.
Here are some of the ways consistent cycling can help blast stubborn belly fat:
Cycling is an aerobic exercise, meaning that it gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe harder. This process burns calories, which helps create a calorie deficit – which is when you burn more calories than you consume, and this is essential for weight loss.
As you can’t spot reduce fat (lose fat from just one part of your body), burning calories can help reduce fat all over the body, which includes your belly.
When you cycle, particularly at a higher intensity, you’re not just burning calories while you perform the activity.
You will also boost your metabolism for several hours afterward. This is often referred to as the “afterburn effect” or “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” (EPOC) (1). This means you continue to burn calories (and potentially fat) even after you’ve hopped off your bike.
While cycling is primarily a cardio workout, it also involves a great deal of resistance, particularly when pedaling uphill or against resistance on a stationary bike. This resistance can help build muscle, particularly in the lower body and core.
Having more muscle can increase your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns while at rest), which helps you burn more calories throughout the day.
Furthermore, those who wonder if cycling is better than running will be pleased to know that when it comes to building muscle, it can actually be more effective. There’s generally constant resistance to work with, unlike when running on a flat surface.
Similar to other aerobic exercises, cycling can help reduce stress by increasing the production of endorphins, including serotonin and dopamine, which are your body’s feel-good hormones (5). This is important as high stress levels over a period of time can result in weight gain, particularly in the belly area. By helping manage stress, cycling may indirectly aid in the reduction of belly fat.
Can Cycling Give You Abs?
Cycling can contribute to developing abs, but it won’t directly build your abdominal muscles in the same way as targeted ab exercises such as crunches or planks.
When cycling, your abs play a crucial role in stabilizing your body and maintaining balance. This constant engagement of the core helps strengthen these muscles. Furthermore, cycling at a higher intensity or standing up on the pedals can provide your abs with a tougher workout.
In addition, cycling is an excellent aerobic exercise that can help burn calories and potentially aid fat loss. If you have excess fat that covers your abs, cycling can help reduce it and make your abs more visible.
However, for the most effective results in achieving a defined six-pack, it is recommended that you incorporate strength training exercises that specifically target the abs together with regular cycling.
It’s essential to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, as nutrition plays a significant role in fat loss and muscle definition.
Does Biking Build Muscle?
Yes, biking can help build muscle. The primary muscles worked out when cycling are the quadriceps and hamstrings in the upper leg, and the gastrocnemius and soleus in the calf. These muscles will develop and strengthen over time with regular cycling.
In addition, muscles in the core, back, and glutes are also worked when cycling, which contributes to overall body strength.
However, cycling does not have the same muscle-building effect as weightlifting or resistance training. If your goal is significant muscle gain, you may want to incorporate other forms of strength training into your routine in addition to biking.
Want to build an attention-grabbing bubble butt, blast away fat that’s stored in all the wrong places, spring-clean your diet, turn back the clock on your skin, skyrocket your self-confidence and shatter your insecurities? Check out the BetterMe app and set this plan in motion!
How To Maximize Calorie Burn While Cycling for Weight Loss
Follow the below tips to maximize calorie burn through cycling for impactful weight loss:
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
One of the most effective ways of burning calories while cycling is by incorporating High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into your routine. This involves alternating between periods of intense effort and periods of lighter activity or rest.
For example, you may sprint for 30 seconds and then pedal at a slow pace for a minute, repeating this for the duration of your workout.
Increase Distance And Time
Setting goals to gradually increase your cycling distance and time can also help maximize calorie burn. The longer and further you cycle, the more calories you’ll burn. However, you must remember to balance this with adequate rest periods to avoid overtraining.
High Cadence Cycling
Maintaining a high cadence, or pedal speed, while increasing resistance can challenge your body and increase your calorie burn. This means you must pedal faster, not just harder. It’s about turning the pedals quickly against a moderate resistance, rather than turning them slowly against a high resistance.
Incorporate Hill Climbs
Hill climbs are a great way of increasing the intensity of your cycling workout and burning more calories. The added resistance of an incline makes your muscles work harder, which increases your heart rate and calorie burn.
Regular practice is beneficial when it comes to cycling for weight loss. Riding regularly at an easier pace can burn just as many calories as less frequent, more intense workouts. In addition, the cumulative benefits of indoor cycling are more profound than those of an occasional ride.
Add Weight To Your Bike
Adding more weight to your bike can increase the total weight you must move, which increases the number of calories you burn. However, you should be careful not to add too much weight, as this can make cycling more difficult and potentially result in injury.
You should remember that exercise is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to weight loss. Good nutrition is equally important. You must aim to maintain a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, and ensure you consume sufficient energy to support your individual needs, activity level, and weight loss goals.
Read more: Carb Cycling For Women: The Ultimate Guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is cycling for 1 hour a day enough to lose weight?
Yes, cycling for an hour every day can help you lose weight, provided you also maintain a consistent calorie deficit. The exact amount of weight loss you’ll achieve is dependent on your weight, the intensity of your cycling, and your overall diet.
How long do I need to cycle to burn 500 calories?
This can vary, depending on factors such as your weight, intensity of cycling, and individual metabolism, but on average, a person who weighs 155 pounds will burn approximately 500 calories with an hour of moderate-intensity cycling.
Is cycling or walking better for belly fat?
Both cycling and walking are effective forms of cardio that can help burn fat, which includes belly fat. However, cycling has a tendency to burn more calories per hour than walking, which makes it potentially more effective when done at a high enough intensity and for a long enough duration.
Do you burn more calories walking or riding a bike?
Generally, you will burn more calories per hour when riding a bike than walking. This is due to the increased intensity, constant resistance, and the use of large muscle groups during cycling. However, individual results may vary based on factors such as speed, terrain, and body weight.
How many calories does cycling burn in 30 minutes?
The number of calories burned during 30 minutes of cycling varies significantly, depending on factors such as speed, resistance, and body weight. On average, a 155-pound person may burn anything between 210 and 460 calories in 30 minutes of cycling, depending on intensity.
How many calories does a 15-mile bike ride burn?
The calorie burn from cycling is dependent on weight, speed, and effort level. However, as a rough estimate, a 155-pound person who cycles at a moderate pace may expect to burn approximately 500-600 calories during a 15-mile bike ride.
How far do you have to cycle to burn 1,000 calories?
The distance required to burn 1,000 calories when cycling is dependent on a variety of factors such as your weight, speed, and effort level. However, for a 155-pound person who cycles at a moderate pace, it will take approximately 30-40 miles to burn 1,000 calories.
The Bottom Line
Cycling is an effective and enjoyable way of burning calories and losing weight. Through the incorporation of strategies such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), increasing distance and time, maintaining a high cadence, and adding hill climbs, you can maximize your calorie burn.
Regular cycling, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep are also essential for achieving your weight loss goals. It is important to remember that everyone’s body responds differently, so what works for one person may not work for another.
You should listen to your body, adjust your routine as required, and keep pushing towards your goals. It’s important to remember that sustainable weight loss requires consistency in your new lifestyle habits and routine.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Things to Know About Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) (2014, acefitness.org)
- Calories Burned Biking / Cycling Calculator (n.d., caloriesburnedhq.com)
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2021, harvard.edu)
- Cycling – health benefits (n.d., betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- The Role of Exercise in Stress Management (n.d., lww.com)