Cycling is a popular sport that counts thousands of practitioners. The newbie cyclists often wonder how does the bike workout works? What is the consumption of calories and the energy distribution of this activity?
Another popular question of those who are thinking of embracing this sport is whether cycling helps losing weight.
Find the answer to all these questions and understand the bike workout calories and energy distribution in the article below.
The Physiology Of Cycling
Compared to other sports, such as running or swimming, cycling is a simplest sport. The only muscles that are truly exposed to stress are the muscles of the legs, and more specifically the quadriceps.
The leg muscles are exposed to a concentric effort, as they need to constantly contract and relax while pedaling. For this reason, this type of effort associated with the large surface of the muscles involved in the movement, allow the cyclist to train the cardiovascular system better than any other activity, increasing the oxygen consumption.
Among all cycling disciplines, mountain biking is the most challenging and also the most rewarding from a calorie consumption perspective. In fact, especially when mountain biking is practiced on demanding trails, the sport can help lose weight and improve your physiological system.
Regarding the difficulty of cycling, this sport is not as traumatic as others. Cycling itself doesn’t have a great impact on the joints. Nevertheless, the position assumed during cycling can cause cervical and backbone problems.
In addition to this, cycling for several hours can also cause other medical issues, especially in men. For this reason, it is recommended to invest in high-quality saddles and adequate cycling equipment.
Bike Workout Calorie Consumption
Cycling is a demanding sport in terms of energy and calorie consumption. In fact, the power developed by a cyclist is at least comparable if not higher than the one developed in running. For this reason, the maximum energy consumption per hour is comparable to running and it can easily reach 1000 kcal.
The main difference between running and cycling is the variation of the calorie consumption with the speed. The calories consumption is linear and not dependent on speed in the case of running, but in the case of cycling the linearity is not observed.
In other words, if a runner who weighs about 150 pounds runs for about 6 miles, he will consume about 700 kcal regardless of the speed. However, a cyclist will have to cover about 24 miles to consume the same number of calories, and the calorie consumption will vary depending on the speed.
This difference in calorie consumption is given by the characteristics of each sport. In cycling, the cyclist only has to deal with the resistance of the air, which varies with the speed. In running, air resistance is negligible because the athlete will consume the calories to sustain his own weight.
Due to these differences, if a cyclist wants to achieve a caloric hourly consumption similar to a runner, he must ride at an intensity that is close or equal to the maximum intensity that can be expressed in the available time, which usually is at least 18 mph.
It is useless to say that such a performance is psychologically difficult to maintain and only the highly motivated cyclists will be able to resist the challenge. In fact, it is sufficient to reduce the speed even with a few miles per hour to see a significant drop in the calorie consumption.
Therefore, if you are considering bike workout to lose weight, remember that if you cycle on flat and smooth surfaces, such as a road, the calorie consumption you can rely on is about 300-400 kcal/hour. The consumption rises when pedaling uphill. In this case, the power is mainly used to win altitude and the calorie consumption increases.
In uphill cycling, the speed loses importance and the performances become comparable to those of a runner. This means that calorie consumption will increase with the miles traveled, therefore the average calorie consumption will be around 600 kcal/hour. This value can easily increase if the climbs are tough and the cyclists still do his best to maintain an increased cycling speed.
Bike Workout Energy Distribution
Many cyclists believe that energy is only a support for the efforts undertaken during a workout. Nevertheless, things are slightly different.
The human body has its own energy consumption and the proper functioning of your organism will require its energy regardless of your workout. In fact, throughout the day, the body requires energy to digest food, create enzymes and hormones, build tissues, transport oxygen, and more.
Although the energy demand is high, the body is not very efficient in utilizing the energy it produces, and about 85% of this energy is transformed into heat and dispersed. For this reason, metabolism, weight loss, and body heat distribution are typically connected between them. The energy is usually measured in calories, namely the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a liter of distilled water with 1 degree Celsius.
To understand the efficiency of the energy distribution during bike workout, the best thing to do is to use a power meter. However, these devices are usually limited and they can’t actually quantify the total energy consumption of the body, but only the mechanical energy that is consumed through the workout.
On the other hand, the body is not completely efficient in metabolizing, thus transforming into mechanical energy, the energy that is stored as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Because of these limitations, only one calorie in four is transformed into mechanical work and the efficiency of the workout varies greatly depending on multiple factors.
When burning energy, the proportion derived from the complete combustion of macro nutrients is different. Fats produce a lot of energy for each gram, about 9,4 kcal. Proteins, on the other hand, only produce 5,56 kcal per gram while the carbohydrates produce 4,3 kcal per gram.
Considering this, and considering that the human metabolism is not completely efficient, when estimating the energy distribution of a bike workout one must only consider the mechanical energy that is used to move the pedals and not the total energy consumed by the physiological processes of the body.
This means that the energy distribution is about 26% and an hour of cycling typically requires about 260 kcal. There are many special software that can evaluate the mechanical efficiency of the cyclists and some devices, such as the Garmin, are even able to measure both the energy distribution expressed in kjoules and the approximate number of kcal consumed during the workout.
These type of devices use an algorithm that combines sex, height, weight and fitness level of the cyclists to determine the approximate energy distribution and calorie consumption. As a general rule, a 2-hour workout at an energy consumption of about 2000 kjoules per hour means a total of 2200 burnt calories. Nevertheless, reaching this performance is almost impossible.
It is important to mention that one of your main concerns should also be the energy restoration after biking workout. In fact, not all calories you consume can be used to restore the balance of energy. The digestion and assimilation processes also require energy, while thermogenesis is another process that requires energy, thus calories.
Restoring your energy balance is important in order to ensure a proper functioning of the organism and understanding how to manage your energy efficiently can also help you increase the performances. For example, those who practice endurance cycling, usually manage to maintain a lower power-induced thermogenesis. This helps saving energy for the periods of intense physical activity.
The total energy consumption of a workout day can be estimated by summing up the energy requirements of your body, respectively the needs of your basal metabolism, and the energy requirements of the daily activities you want to perform. There are many online tools that can help you calculate your daily basal metabolism needs.
Most workout plans also offer details regarding the estimated energy consumption.
By predicting the energy requirements for each day, you can then determine the best bike workout plan for you and decide whether to combine intensive training with rest periods or opt for a more linear training schedule. If you are unsure, the best solution it is to consult a trainer or nutritionist that can advise you either on how to train or on how many calories you should consume to ensure a proper energy balance for every day of the week.
A mistake many newbies make is to believe that consuming fewer calories and increasing the intensity of the workout can help lose weight faster. This might be true, but there is a high price to pay.
A negative energy balance means that the body consumes more calories than it actually needs for proper functioning. While this will certainly make you lose weight faster, as the body will start consuming its energy deposits, the practice has a negative impact on your workout performances.
If you have less energy than you need, your workout performance will drop and this will affect your cycling. Therefore, it is essential to maintain a positive balance if you want to optimize your long-term bike workout.