Although cardio isn't all about burning calories and losing weight, it's helpful to know how much energy you're expending on a long run, especially if you're on a weight-loss path. Fitness trackers have proven to be unreliable in the calorie-counting game, so we have to turn to more credible sources to find out how many calories you're burning on that 5K trail.
Michael Olzinski, MSc, Purplepatch endurance coach, Equinox run coach, and ultra-marathoner told POPSUGAR, "Calories are very simply a measure of energy that you spend during physical activity, and the more muscle mass or body mass a person has, generally the higher the energy requirement for a specific activity." That's why men tend to burn more calories than women if they run the same distance with the same amount of effort.
Previous studies have shown that, on average, women burn about 100 calories per mile and men burn about 125 calories per mile. "This is incredibly broad, with lots of room for fluctuation of course, but in general that would be true with all external factors removed," Mike said.
Previous studies have shown that, on average, women burn about 100 calories per mile and men burn about 125 calories per mile.
That being said, how many calories you burn when you're running isn't simply calculated by how many miles you've run. It's also about the level of intensity and the programming. "I try to maximize the person's time, so I would select a workout that requires the most energy in a short amount of time, which will continue burning higher amounts of calories for the next 24-48 hours," Mike explained.
"I like runs that require lots of variation and efforts, creating peaks and valleys in heart rate and paces," he said. "The most common run would be an interval run. My personal favorite is hill interval running." Mike says this kind of workout "requires great running form, lots of energy to complete, and it leaves your body feeling strong with the minimal amounts of corrosive stress from very heavy impact on your joints."
Not only will these kinds of runs burn the maximum amount of calories during the workout, but they will also set you up to burn many more calories throughout the rest of your day. "The greatest benefits of running for calorie expenditure is that the true benefit and the biggest impact actually happens after your run is all said and done," Mike explained. "When you run at a hard effort, your body requires energy and oxygen at a much higher rate than your typical daily energy requirement. This places you into a state of 'debt' for oxygen, which experts refer to as excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)."
EPOC may sound fancy at first, but all you need to know is that it allows your body to "spend the next extended period of time (can be up to even 24 hours) taking in more oxygen and thus burning a higher amount of calories every minute, even while you sit and rest." Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?
"When you run at a hard effort, your body requires energy and oxygen at a much higher rate than your typical daily energy requirement."
But the cliché is true in this scenario: no pain, no gain. You can't achieve EPOC unless you put a solid effort into your workout. Mike says you have to get to the point where you're expelling more carbon dioxide than you're taking in oxygen.
"It's hard, it's tough, it can be uncomfortable, but with repetition and practice you can get used to this feeling," he continued. "It feels like you can't catch your breath. You could not have a conversation with your friend that might be running near you, and you most definitely can not sustain this effort for very long."
That's exactly why he loves an interval run for burning the most amount of calories. You'll spend more time in "an EPOC-inducing zone" than if you went for a long, steady-paced run.
So how do you achieve this? "You have to practice this feeling!" Mike advised. "It is not normal and comfortable, but the more intelligently and consistently you can bring yourself to these types of efforts, the more comfortable and realistic they will get." These workouts are so tough that Mike says elite runners can only do two or three a week, at most — "and that would be a hard week."