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Calories Burned While Cycling…But Should Calories Be Important?

By Jennifer Sage On January 3, 2014 Under General Fitness and Health, Weight Loss

beyond-pedaling-IC classBicycling magazine just posted an article on how calories work. The article is really too short to explain much at all, but I do like the following:

Your Garmin says you torched 500 calories. You decide you deserve an extra slice of pizza. But you’d have burned nearly 70 calories parked on your chair during that same hour. So your ride probably dispatched closer to 430. “People overestimate what they burn,” says Stephen Secor, PhD, of the University of Alabama. The real amount also depends on factors like body composition and fitness level.

It’s one of the reasons why so many people overestimate the amount of calories they burn in a cycling class, then go have a venti caramel macchiato at Starbucks afterwards as a reward, then wonder why they never lose weight. It’s why we get ridiculous articles such as this.

But, are calories the primary reason we should be working out?

Here is a great article in AceFitness called Myths and Misconceptions: Exercise is Not for Calorie Burning, by Christopher McGrath, MS. Christopher says:

There may be nothing more pragmatic than to suggest exercise is NOT for calorie burning. For many, the primary focus of their workouts is on their caloric expenditure. And while exercise does burn calories, choosing this as the primary focus is an extremely narrow view and can easily divert your attention away from more important factors associated with fitness. If you have ever uttered a phrase that resembles, “I worked out today and burned 300 calories, but I ate a muffin after and ruined it,” you may need to seriously rethink your approach to exercise.

What are your thoughts on these two articles?

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Ramiro
    January 3, 2014
    2:11 pm #comment-1

    I have always looked at exercising for the overall benefit (emotional, physical). I have never understood people constantly depriving themselves from eating/drinking something at times. If one eats healthy, and exercises that is in itself a big plus!

    After all, it is always about having a balanced life!

  2. pascal hannecart
    January 3, 2014
    3:45 pm #comment-2

    Calories are giving too many importance and would never help you reach your goal AND be happy.

    Eating is not just feeding our body as exercise is not just to “lose weight” … eating properly require to take time and enjoy it, number are not important but of cause if you do not have common sense or have been raise properly by your parents you need to read a little about the subject … and everything said is the same for exercising.

    When you listen to your body it would tell you what you need but listening to the body is not listening over pseudo satisfaction … when you enjoy what you eat, you take time for it and you do not abuse it.

  3. Jennifer Sage
    January 3, 2014
    4:11 pm #comment-3

    I agree. Far far too many people, trainers and programs focus on calories. They get tunnel vision. It ruins the enjoyment of eating and the enjoyment of exercise. AND, the calculation is usually wrong, especially on the output part.

    I’ve never ever been a calorie counter, in either direction. I believe if you focus on eating clean and unprocessed food on the intake side, and just moving and balancing your workouts on the output side. Some workouts to moderately hard, some to hard, and occasionally to very hard, and loving the feeling of work in the body. Do this and you don’t ever need to record (or even glance at) a single number. The only thing you care about is how your clothes fit and how you feel.

    But I do have to say, since I’m in the industry, as an instructor and as a writer of profiles and articles for instructors, there are times I feel I have to say the “C” word! Only to catch their attention (the students, or the instructors as the case may be). Once I’ve got their attention talking about raising caloric burn by increasing power output (or without a power meter, simply by raising resistance for longer periods) then I’ll educate them.

    It’s almost like a “Loss leader” in marketing! Or call it “bait and switch” if you will…but it works! 😉

    • pascal hannecart
      January 3, 2014
      4:20 pm #comment-4

      I was doing the same Jennifer we have to attract their attention, sometime we have to go backward to go forward.

  4. Jennifer Sage
    January 3, 2014
    4:20 pm #comment-5

    I also want to add the the things you should be reading on the back label of a food product is not how many calories it has but the list of ingredients. Learn to say NO to HFCS, GMP, anything artificial and many other chemicals. Give me BUTTER over margarine any day!! It has fat, or higher calories, but it’s all natural and unprocessed? Then just eat less or workout a little longer, but enjoy life!

    BTW, you’ve also gotta learn when something is TRULY all natural and not hyped-up marketing-speak, or rather, lies, that the food industry is feeding you (pun intended).

  5. Maggie Jones
    January 3, 2014
    4:30 pm #comment-6

    I know first hand that you can work out as hard as you can, but if you don’t support it with diet, then all the work is for nothing (when you’re trying to lose weight). We do tend to overestimate what we burn!! I have unsynced my FitBit from My Fitness Pal so that it doesn’t count my exercise calories towards my “allowed calories”. When I do, I find that I justify eating that extra piece of bread or another piece of chocolate. I teach a 45 minute indoor cycling class 5 times a week and while my body (especially my heart) has benefited from it so much, my weight hasn’t been impacted because my eating hasn’t changed. My purpose for exercising is mostly emotional nowadays. My mood is more stable, I have more energy throughout the day and I feel focused. Physically, I went from having bipulmonary emboli which rose my BP and left my resting HR at 95. Four years later (and about 6 months after I started teaching), I have amazing BP and my resting HR is around 58. I love it!

  6. Jennifer Sage
    January 4, 2014
    4:54 pm #comment-7

    Maggie, thanks for sharing. That is awesome!
    Yes, people do want (and need) to lose weight, but as Maggie say, the diet part is perhaps the most important (though one without the other doesn’t work very well).

    But exercise is so much more! There is so much to benefit from!

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