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As a passionate runner, you must equip yourself with sufficient knowledge about calories and understand how they work. In this article, we will try to explain everything related to calories in plain English. Enjoy!
Theory: What’s a Calorie?
Simply put, a calorie is a measure of energy the same way a kilometer is measure of distance. A calorie represents the amount of energy needed to change the temperature of 1 gram (= 1 milliliter) of water by 1 degree Celsius. This definition in not important in itself but its implications are. In other words, calories are the energy your body needs to do virtually anything and it’s divided into two main parts:
- Basal Metabolic Rate
This term represents the energy consumed for basic bodily functions, including heart bumping, stomach digestion, hair and nails growth, you name it! Basal Metabolic Rate varies from one person to the other and is directly proportional to one’s weight. It goes without saying that the a 500 pounds man would require more energy for heart pumping compared to a 300 pounds man. Still, the basal rate is more or less the same for each person unless he or she undergoes major weight changes.
- Other Activities
Any activity or effort that you would do other than natural bodily functions falls into this category. Everything we do consumes energy. Right now I am consuming energy as I write these words due to my fingers movements on the keyboard. And anything else you would think of would involve energy consumption.
Your overall calorie consumption = Your Basal Metabolic Rate + Energy consumed by other activities
The average Joe would need between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day. Food provides you with calorie intake and your activities consume some of or all of these calories. If you consume all the calories you get through food, your weight will remain the same. However, if your calorie intake was higher than your consumption, excess calories will be stored in your body as fats. To shed them off, we recommend that you run, run and then run!
Practice: How to Calculate the Calories You Burn While Running
As we mentioned earlier, people are so unique when it comes to their calorie consumption. However, there are four main factors that could help you determine your calorie burning rate.
- Your Weight
Here is a great but certainly not a surprising news for heavy runners: the heavier your weight, the more calories you will burn while running. Typically, a 150 pounds person running at 6-mile-per-hour speed (assuming the speed is constant) would burn around 700 calories in an hour. To calculate your own rate, simply add/subtract 60 calories for every 10 pounds weight difference. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, then based on this criteria, you would be burning 820 calories for running 6 miles for an hour.
- Running Time and Distance
Your running distance is a key factor in determining your calorie burning rate. How you calculate it will depend on your running terrain. For example, if you will be sidewalk running, it is best to measure the distance between your starting and ending points ahead of time. You can also pre-measure the distance or estimate the distance of one lap if you are running on a track. Next, you will need to calculate your running time. Distance and time will be needed to calculate your speed.
- Running Speed
Speed = Distance / Time Sticking with our 150-pounds, 6-mile-per-hour, 700 calories formula, add 100 calories per hour for every additional mile. So, if you ended up running at 8 miles per hour speed, you will have burned about 900 calories in an hour (assuming you are 150 pounds). Use the weight addition/subtraction method discussed in point (1) to calculate your exact calorie burning rate.
- Running Environment
Your running surface has a huge effect on your calorie consumption. For example, when you run uphill or on a rigid surface, you exert much more effort (calories) compared to running on a treadmill or downhill. In addition, carrying a backpack or using ankle weights will magnify your overall mass and hence contribute to increasing your calories burning. Also, running in a hot/humid weather is far much different that running in mild/cold weather. So, it is important to take all these factors into account when measuring your calorie burning rate.
You may also use calories calculator if you wish. Regardless of the type of calculation you go for, please understand that your result will be an estimate of your calorie burning rate as there are many factors involved, including your muscles and body fat ratios. These calculations should be regarded as a general indication of the effectiveness of your running routine.