Calories: What You Need to Know Now

It’s the New Year! That means some of your participants might have resolutions on their minds. The big question for many will be “How many calories did I burn?” Some of them may be sporting fancy new fitness trackers or heart rate monitors; others might show a renewed interest in calorie estimates on bikes with computer consoles.

Sometimes the very devices people hope will help them lose weight can lead them astray. How many times have you seen people post pictures on social media of heart rate monitors showing an astronomical number of calories burned during a workout? I’ve seen claims as high as 1800 calories for a one-hour class! Even 800 calories in one hour is suspect.

The trouble is, when people believe they burned more calories than they actually did, they feel “entitled” to eat more food than they need. Many will fail to lose weight (if that is their goal), and may even find themselves gaining. In order to help you answer your students’ questions about calories burned while cycling, let’s take a look at how heart rate monitors and power meters estimate caloric expenditure.

Then in the coming weeks, we will examine energy expenditure and caloric consumption in more detail, arming you with the information you need to educate your riders about the truth behind how hard they are working.




  1. I have been telling my students for years not to rely on HR monitors and treadmills for calorie expenditure. Now I can explain it to them in clearer terms. Thanks.

  2. great information! Thank you.

  3. A lot of information there! Like Margaret, I will be feeding this bit by bit to my class in the New Year.

  4. Great information to kick off 2016. thank you Jennifer. I look forward to your upcoming articles.

  5. Really appreciate this article…have to work hard to instill a less is more thought process to some in my class. .especially when I know they go to other instructors who demand 140 rpm!..
    One I was at recently started a track at 50 rpm and took it incrementally to 140 without touching..holding it above 120 for a couple of mins then brought it back down..all without touching resistance! To say I was gobsmacked doesn’t begin to describe it…
    This article will go a long way to helping me explain better why we do what we do.. and don’t do the other stuff….

  6. Some very very valuable information that I’m going to feed a little bit at a time to my classes during the first quarter. Thank you, Jennifer!

  7. Great article! THANKS.

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