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How many calories does it take to burn fat and lose weight?

Burn more than you consume to slim down but unfortunately, that's sometimes easier said than done

Silhouette of cyclist on the background of beautiful sunset,Silhouette of man ride a bicycle in sunset background.

by Cam Mitchell

If you want to burn fat and lose weight, it can seem pretty simple, expend more calories than you consume. Unfortunately, that’s a lot easier said than done. In fact, your body may be working against you. In a literature review published out of the University of Ottawa, researchers concluded that your body increases its drive to eat following a training session. The body’s demand for food often overcompensates for the calories burned, leading to little weight loss.

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Researchers at the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment set out to discover if there was a magic number that led to significant weight loss. The study was organized into two groups. One group (group one) was instructed to burn 300 calories a session (1,500 calories a week), while the second group (group two) was asked to burn 600 calories a session (3,000 per week).

As expected, all the participants compensated by eating more. Group one compensated by eating an additional 943 calories per week. Group two ate an extra 1,007 calories per week. Interestingly, no one in group one lost weight, but those in group two lost six pounds (average) throughout the study (12 weeks). Participants in group two also lost five per cent body fat.

So, what does a 3,000 calorie training week look like? Well, that depends a lot on your physical characteristics – height, weight and age. It’s also going to depend on how fit you are. The fitter you are, the more time and effort it takes to burn calories. A 180 lb person will burn approximately 650 calories an hour riding at a moderate intensity per hour so to accumulate a 3,000 calorie training week would be just over four and half hour week of riding.

Silhouette of cyclist on the background of beautiful sunset,Silhouette of man ride a bicycle in sunset background.

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For many cyclists, riding isn’t just a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. Riding can be a way to lose a few pounds in the process. So, if you’re trying to get active after a sedentary winter or training for a fondo or charity event, remember to prioritize nutrition and recovery with your training.

A version of this story first appeared on Triathlon Magazine Canada.