Surprisingly, how fast you run doesn’t drastically impact calorie burn per mile according to Dr. David Swain in a 2015 Women’s Running article. Dr. Swain is a professor of exercise science and the director of the Wellness Institute and Research Center at Old Dominion University, and he suggests calories burned per mile remains about the same. However, what can change is how many calories you burn in a certain time frame.
For example, you will run more miles in 30 minutes if you run an 8-minute mile compared to a 12-minute mile, which increases overall calorie burn.
There are some quick calorie estimates you can use to determine how many calories you burn when running, but they should be used as a general guideline. Exact calorie burn can vary as fitness efficiency changes and if weight loss occurs.
A Quick Guideline for Calorie Burn During Running
If you want a quick estimate of how many calories you burn during running, many studies have shown that, on average, adults burn about 100 calories per mile.
This, of course, is an estimate that may have some variability, but it is a general rule of thumb most people can use. There will be some variance depending on body size as the larger a body is, the higher the calorie burn.
You can also estimate your calorie burn from running based on body size. Harvard Health provides calories burned during various exercises for 30 minutes at 125 pounds, 155 pounds, and 185 pounds. Running a 12-minute mile for 30 minutes will burn the following calories:
|Calories burned in 30 minutes
What’s Your Fitness Level?
Another variable for how many calories you burn is your fitness level. People who are used to exercising may burn calories more efficiently compared to people just starting an exercise program. We often assume the more you exercise, the more calories you burn. That may be true to a certain extent, but some research suggests we can adapt metabolically to increased physical activity. In other words, it’s like the body gets more efficient at burning energy for exercise.
A 2016 study analyzed data looking at physical activity and total energy expenditure. Researchers found instead of total energy output linearly with physical activity, there is an adaptation that mutes an exact linear response in calories burned during exercise. Unfortunately, this caveat makes it hard to exactly measure calorie burn from exercise especially longer durations of running. At certain points, the body acclimates and increases efficiency. At what point everyone does this can vary. Therefore, just calculating you need to run X more miles to burn X more calories per week doesn’t always work that way in the body as it does in a math calculation.
Body fat and lean mass percentage also can factor into calorie burn. However, this information is hard to translate to applicable use. In general, someone with higher lean muscle mass can burn more calories at a given exercise intensity.
Interval vs. Steady-State Calorie BurnDo you burn more calories when you do speed workouts or intervals compared to easy runs? The answer to this question, again, is not so easy to dissect.
Intuitively, you may think the faster you run, the more energy you are burning. Some evidence also suggests calorie burn after exercise from interval workouts remains elevated hours afterward.
However, the number of calories you burn during exercise from interval work compared to an easy run may not be so different.
A 2017 study analyzed the calorie burn of interval running compared to steady state running. Researchers had study participants do either a steady state run for 30 minutes or a 30-minute interval run composed of running 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy.
Calorie expenditure was monitored on the treadmill via mobile gas analyzer. Researchers found there was no significant difference in calorie burns between exercise intensities. However, this, of course, doesn’t mean there aren’t other training benefits for altering your running intensity just that the calorie burn alone during exercise did not differ significantly.
Other research studies have shown doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can increase metabolism after exercise. Therefore, altering your running intensity may not differ significantly when you are exercising but may provide metabolic advantage afterward.
Are Calorie Counts on Treadmills Accurate?
If you are running on a treadmill, you will notice there is an estimated calorie burn on the equipment. Are these calorie burns accurate? ACE Fitness suggests they are probably not that accurate. Some equipment manufacturers do extensive research on the algorithms used to calculate calorie burns, but others do not.
In general, if a treadmill is a higher end and relatively new, the calorie burn estimate may be somewhat accurate but not exact. Another factor for the treadmill calorie counters is what information you put in. If you just start the treadmill automatically without putting any of your personal information like weight, age, etc., there is no way to know if the calories burn is applicable to you.
Conclusion: How many calories can you burn running?Based on body size, age, lean mass, and other genetic factors, you can estimate how many calories you burn during running. Studies have found that on average most people burn about 100 calories per mile. This, of course, can vary slightly, but it is a general rule of thumb. As your body increases in fitness or if you increase your running miles, the calorie burn increase is not directly linear.
Some research has shown the body can increase efficiency as fitness increases, which can slow calorie burn. Therefore, the calorie burn you have when you first start a running program may be different as your body acclimates and changes in body size.