You know that starving feeling after you have done a long run? For me it usually doesn’t hit until the next day, but when it does, I will eat everything in sight. Back when I was a teenager, I could eat whatever I wanted and never gain weight. I was that annoying guy. But when I hit my mid 20’s, things changed. Now, as I am approaching my 40s, I need to start watching what I eat. Mainly because I am cheap, and don’t want to have to buy all new pants.
One of the main reasons a lot of us run (or exercise in general) is lose or just maintain weight. We do this by burning calories during our runs. Yep, not only is exercise “fun” it burns calories, isn’t that great! Watching what we eat and drink helps keep this weight off. So, what is the number of calories burned running a mile? Well, there are a lot of factors that give us that answer.
First lets talk about what a calorie actually is. A calorie is actually the amount of energy it would take to raise 1 ml of water 1 degree Celsius. As you think about it, that means if you drank a liter of water that was at or near freezing (0°C or 32°F) it would take 37,000 calories to warm it up to your body temperature (37°C or 98.6°F).
Now, we all know that this cannot be true. That is a lot of calories in a glass of water. Well, it is true. The issue is that the calories listed on all the food we eat are actually what they call LARGE calories, or kilocalories. These large calories are actually 1000 of the other calories (aka small calories). So, that liter of ice water actually burns 37 calories when you drink it. And that 37 calories doesn’t include the energy it takes to walk to the bathroom to pee. More if you walk to a different floor.
Basically, if you want to drink a can of soda (usually 160 to 170 calories), without guilt, then all you need to offset it is 4 liters of ice water and several trips to the bathroom.
Beer has about the same amount of calories as a beer (unless you drink a nasty low calorie beer), but ciders actually have more, over 200. There all those empty calories, and bad food, carbs, paleo, etc. But, I am not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat, I am just talking about calories burned while running. (For me, I run so I can eat.)
How many calories (from here on out, when I say calorie, I mean the large calories that we know and loath) do you burn when you run a mile (1.6 km)? Well, it depends on a lot factors: your age, your gender, your height, and most importantly, your weight. Notice I didn’t say anything about speed. I’ll get to speed in a bit.
So, I am a 38 year old male, I am 5’8” (1.73m), and for math’s sake, lets say I weigh 165 lbs (75kg). If I run a 9 minute mile (on flat ground with no wind), the Map my run Calorie calculator says that I burned 136 calories. That is about 3560 calories for a marathon (it was 6800 for my 50 miler!)
Note: I used this calculator because it allowed me to play with the most factors, and didn’t require me to sign up for anything.
Here are some interesting variables:
Obviously, the more you weigh, the more energy is required to move your body across that mile. I would only burn 108 calories if I weighed 140 lbs (64 kg) and 177 calories if I weighed 200 lbs (86 kg).
The older you are, the more calories you burn during your mile run, about 3 more calories for every 5 years.
Ladies, you will burn more calories than us men do. You burn calories at the same rate as a man who is 15 lbs (6.5 kg) lighter.
If you are taller, you burn less calories than someone who is shorter, about 1 calorie for every two inches (5 cm). The longer legs help tall folks run more efficiently.
But, Dashing Dad, what about SPEED!
As I said above, I will burn 136 calories for a 9 minute mile. If I ran a 5:30 mile it would be 137 calories, and a 12:00 mile is 133 calories. Oddly enough, when I did the calculations for this, my calories burned fluctuated between 133 and 142 between 5:30 and 12 minutes. Oddly enough, the most calories burned per mile was at 11:30.
Once I calculated faster than 5:30 and slower than 12:00, the calories burned began to drop. It seems weird that your body is more efficient at higher speeds. I am guessing because you are propelling yourself farther with each step. Obviously, if you are running uphill, you burn more calories, same as if you are running on trail (there is less traction, so it takes more energy to go forward), or running into the wind.
Basically, when you are figuring out how many calories you need to burn off to eat that piece of cheesecake, drink that beer, eat the pizza, etc. speed isn’t really much of a factor. Yes, you will burn more calories per hour by running faster, but not per mile.
If you really want to burn calories, you should eat 5 lbs of pasta before you run, so you weigh more.