Running Calorie Calculator
Calorie Burn & Running
Understanding the energy requirements of running, and being able to calculate how many calories you burn during different types of run, can be extremely useful for a range of reasons.
Running, as is true of all exercise, can form an important part of a weight loss plan.
Because running is a simple way to increase activity levels, many people will take up jogging or recreational running in the first place as a way of losing weight. Most of these people eventually fall in love with running and stick with it.
Knowing exactly how running contributes to the goal of weight loss can help such runners adjust their food intake or how often they run so that they burn more calories and accomplish a desired calorie deficit. These runners may like to think of this tool as a calorie deficit calculator.
And understanding daily calorie requirements and daily energy expenditure is especially useful in helping to avoid overcompensating or undercompensating for exercise, which is particularly common with new runners.
If you're trying to lose weight then be sure to avoid large calorie deficits, otherwise a reduction in performance (and potentially health) can occur. Gradual weight loss is best, since this allows for finer analysis and control, greater loss of fat, and less loss of muscle mass.
In contrast to those who want to run to lose weight, many runners want to lose weight in order to run faster.
Everybody will have an ideal body weight for running or racing, and as you approach this weight more fine tuning is required so that you don't overdo it and stay on track.
It's important for such runners to be able to calculate calorie deficit so that they can lose weight effectively and safely.
If you're hoping to gain weight, then keeping tabs on extra energy requirements is crucial. Especially during periods of high mileage, it can be hard for some people to make up energy deficits. Planning ahead by being able to calculate how different durations and types of run contribute to calorie burn can make this task much easier.
Runners who are happy with their body weight but have changing requirements, perhaps because they're increasing or decreasing training volume, can benefit from understanding how a change in the amount of running they do affects their calorie requirements and can adjust food intake accordingly.
In order to promote recovery it's important to refuel properly, especially after harder or longer sessions. It's ideal for some of this refuelling to take place as soon as possible after the run. This is where recovery drinks can be useful. The remaining energy deficit can be made up throughout the rest of the day, either before or after the run.
Energy intake can be increased prior to a run, especially leading up to harder or longer sessions, in order to ensure that enough fuel is available. However, assuming you're not fasted, you should generally have enough energy available to complete most workouts without increasing food intake.
Beware of eating too much immediately before a run. It's unlikely to cause any major problems, but can provide for an uncomfortable experience.
Fuelling on the run
Taking on calories during a run usually involves the use of energy gels. Being more aware of the demands of your training runs means you're better table to plan how many gels to carry and how often to take them.
Running intensity and calorie burn
You'll note that faster (and hence more-intense) running speeds result in greater calorie burn. A simplistic conclusion to draw from this is that in order to maximize weight loss it's better to run faster. However, remember that calorie burn also increases with the duration of the run, and it's possible to run for longer at slower speeds. Additionally, recovery from slower-paced runs tends to be quicker, which means a greater overall volume of training can be achieved.
The best approach is probably the same as that used for running performance: to include a mix of paces and intensities in your overall training regime.
Hill running and energy expenditure
Running uphill at a fixed pace requires more energy, and therefore results in greater calorie burn, than running on the flat. Similarly, running downhill at a fixed pace requires less energy, and therefore results in less calorie burn, than running on the flat. The reduction in calorie burn for downhill running is about half of the increase in calorie burn for uphill running.
Proper hill running technique can mitigate this to some degree, but never completely.
Hills have less of an impact on calorie burn than you might expect. However, if you know the elevation gain for your run (or the treadmill grade or angle of ascent) you can include this in the calculation.
How It Works
This calculator is based on the concept of METs. MET stands for Metabolic Equivalent of Task. METs are used to calculate how much energy is expended for a particular task, taking a person's weight and the duration of the activity into account. A single MET is roughly the amount of energy required to sit down and do nothing. METs for other activities are determined with reference to this baseline. For example, running at 5 miles/8 kilometres per hour (about 12 mins/mile or 7:30 mins/kilometre) requires approximately 8.3 times more energy than sitting still and doing nothing. So, this running speed is equivalent to 8.3 METs.
METs and Calories (kcals)
Conversion from METs to Calories (kcals) is achieved with the following formula:
Calories/kcals = activity (METs) x weight (kilograms) x duration (hours)
So, the number of Calories/kcals required for a 6 MET activity performed for 1 hour 30 minutes by a person weighing 70 kilograms is:
6 x 70 x 1.5 = 630 kcal
Hill running and Calories
Our calculator allows you to estimate the effect of hills on calorie burn.
Research by D. B. Dill in 1965 showed that the cost associated with the vertical component of running uphill (i.e. the elevation gain), is 1.31 millilitres of oxygen for every metre climbed per kilogram of weight.
This value should be approximately the same for most slopes. just be aware that very steep hills require quite different biomechanics, and the energy requirements also become quite different.
If we multiply this value of 1.31 by the runner's weight and the overall elevation gain, we get the overall oxygen cost associated with the vertical component of a run:
Oxygen requirements in millilitres = elevation gain x weight in kilograms x 1.31
For example, if your run included an elevation gain of 600 feet/183 metres, and you weigh 170 lbs/77 kg, then oxygen requirements for the vertical component of your run (regardless of the run distance), will be:
183 x 77 x 1.31 = 18,459 ml
So, that's about 18.5 litres of oxygen consumed.
For every litre of oxygen consumed, about 5 kilocalories are burned.
So, our calculation now becomes:
Energy requirement in kilocalories = elevation gain x weight in kilograms x 1.31 / 1000 x 5
(note that we divide by 1000 to give oxygen in litres rather than millilitres)
For our example, that gives us:
183 x 77 x 1.31 / 1000 x 5 = 92.3 kcal
But, we also need to consider the reduced cost of running downhill. Research suggests that downhill running results in a speed increase of about 55% of the speed decrease of uphill running. It's not unreasonable to extend this to reduced energy requirements. Assuming a net zero elevation course (i.e. you do as much downhill running as you do uphill running), we should reduce our calorie estimate by 55%:
(if your run was pure uphill, for example, if it was completed on a treadmill, then you can check the "uphill only" checkbox in the calculator)
Energy requirement in kilocalories = elevation gain x weight in kilograms x 1.31 / 1000 x 5 x 0.45
For our example, that gives us:
183 x 77 x 1.31 / 1000 x 5 x 0.45 = 41.5 kcal
For a more intuitive context, I would describe 600 feet/183 metres of elevation over a 10 mile run as "moderately hilly".
That figure is probably less than it feels like it should be. But consider that when you're running on the flat you're already working quite hard; adding an uphill component is perceived as being much harder, but in terms of actual work output and energy requirements it won't be that much different. Also bear in mind that uphill running slows us down, so part of the added energy requirement is accounted for by the fact that you will be running for longer on a hillier course. In fact, if you run at exactly the same intensity uphill, downhill, and on the flat, then the extra calorie burn will be completely accounted for by the extra time spent running. However, most runners do work harder uphill and less hard downhill, so it seems reasonable to include this modification.
To determine the METs for running at various paces/speeds, we use the values provided by the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities List for Running
In the case where METs are not available for a specific pace/speed, we use linear interpolation to derive a suitable MET value.