Calories on Strava

Heltor Chasca

Out-riding the Black Dog
I never take into account the vagaries of calorie counts.

Wind? Altitude? Ascent? Descent? Gear selection? Panniers? Your health? Your heart rate?

I really can’t see how it can be calculated.

As for GPS elevation: I have heard that only barometric measurements are worthwhile. But even then, I’ve heard there are variables. I’m still learning.


Legendary Member
As above. I go with an estimate of 30 per mile if you’re bothered

Your own weight also makes a difference, you’ll burn more if you weigh 20 stone vs 10


Über Member
I get the same difference between Garmin calories and Strava calories. I have it on strong authority that Garmin calories are indeed accurate. Although this is not based on scientific evidence, unfortunately. What it is based on is my need for beer and high calorie food post ride.


OK its only a guide but it depends on the parameters that you put in. Weight, height, sex, type of bike, weight of bike, average speed etc.

Check what you have put in yours and see of there are any discrepancies. Out of interest how far did you ride and how fast?

Alan O

Über Member
As most people have said, estimates of calorie burn by fitness devices/cycling computers/etc are really not very accurate, for a variety of reasons - with the biggest variation coming from individual body weight and fitness.

One thing in particular I've always considered useless is calorie counts on gym exercise machines - they have no clue about the weight of the exerciser, which is the biggest contributor to calorie burn.

Having said that, I think it can still be very useful, but only when consistently using a single device and comparing it against itself. You can get a feel for day-to-day energy usage, even if the actual calorie count is not accurate. And I think the most useful devices for it are 24-hour wearable fitness trackers.

I wear a fitbit tracker, which has 24-hour tracking of my heart rate and all physical motion, it knows my age, and I tell it my weight every week so it can adjust for that. When I have a "moderately active" week (as in the usual calculator speak), it tends to estimate around 2,700 kcals usage per day (which is 100 kcals more than an online calculator I just tried).

I set myself a target to average 500 kcals more than that per day (fitbit kcals - they're arbitrary units, so it doesn't really matter if they're not quite the same as real kcals). I also try to keep my daily kcal intake (based on estimates for each food item) to 500 to 1,000 kcals less than my fitbit kcals burn rate.

I suspect the fitbit overestimates kcal burn when exercising hard as I have some surprisingly high-cal burn days on longer or harder rides (or harder gym sessions). But the net result of my approach is that I'm losing weight at around 0.5kg per week, and my fitness is definitely improving (rest HR is down to around 56bpm, from around 64 about a month ago, and in the 70s at New Year).

So, yes, if you treat it as an arbitrary number, and use the same device so that the arbitrary number is consistent, it does give you something to measure and compare against over time.
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Does one of those numbers try and take into account Basal Metabolic Rate (Calories used just existing), while the lower number could represent the calories used by only the exercise? Even in such innacurate estimates, they seem worlds apart.


Perhaps This One.....
Strava changes the amount of calories 'burnt' depending on which bike I tell it I was riding, so there must be some form of calculation going on, though I doubt it has anything like adequate information about me to give an accurate figure.
For occasions when I'm even slightly interested, I also use the 30 calories per mile @vickster mentioned. Even this is based (I believe) on 'average' numbers and from what I've read can vary up to 40 or so...


I tend to stick to the Strava numbers as I find them consistent, I'm not too worried about accuracy as long as it's reasonably close. I tend to find that I'm hitting around 35kcal per mile, which I think is not unreasonable given my size.
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