While you shouldn’t really be equating running to calories as it’s not an exact science, it is useful to know how much energy you are burning when running. There are two ways to look at this. 1. How much do I need to put back in to ensure I have enough energy for the output 2. How much do I need to eat to maintain a healthy weight? We take a look at the popular question of how many calories does running burn.

Updated 28/08/23

Hands up if you run for cake, or to just indulge in the odd treat. I have to be honest, while I run because I love it – the treats it allows me to have are one of my motivations. But beyond that there are so many reasons to run other than just the amount of calories it burns. We take a look at the answers to the following questions:


  • How many calories does running burn?
  • Does running faster burn more?
  • How can you calculate how many calories you are burning?
  • Does running help you lose weight?
  • How do you calculate your BMR?
  • Does trail running burn more than road running?


how many calories does running burn

How Many Calories Does Running Burn?

Let’s start with how much energy running burns. On average, each mile burns 80-140 calories. I tend to work it out as 100 calories per mile. 3,500 calories equals a pound of fat. If I run 35 miles per week and consume an average of about 1,500-1,800 calories per day, I will lose a pound of weight. Note – this works for me – it may not work for everyone – it depends on weight, height, lifestyle, and a number of other factors.

Someone once told me that losing weight makes you faster to the tune of approximately 2 seconds per mile for each pound lost. I did actually test the theory. I lost 9 pounds and I got quicker. I was training properly with my coach, working on my core strength and I was in my 3rd year of running. I wasn’t sure if it was the weight loss that helped me to a PB until I ran another marathon with similar training half a stone heavier and didn’t PB. Still, it is not the bee-all and end-all. You can never be really sure how much part the weight played, nor should you make it your main focus of running.

Does running help you lose weight?

There are many scientific studies on whether running will help you lose weight. You can do the math though, Unless there are underlying health reasons that you don’t lose weight, generally if you are exercising regularly, and not overeating, you should lose weight. The trick is not to think that if you run 20 miles and Strava says you have burned 2000 calories, don’t put them all back in again. There are so many factors to consider that will vary how many calories you do actually burn including:

  • How much you weigh
  • Your metabolism – different metabolic speeds will vary the amount of calories you burn
  • How fast you run – time on feet might make a huge difference – a 12 minute mile will burn more than a 7 minute mile
  • How far you run
  • When and what you eat

3,500 calories = 1 pound of fat! remember this. Consuming your recommended calorie allowance daily and running 35 miles per week as an average should mean you lose a pound a week. Remember though that muscle is heavier than fat. If you are new to exercise, or introducing something new into your training, you may build muscle which may be heavier. Also don’t expect overnight miracles – it takes a while for your body to adapt and your efforts of a few weeks may not be seen for a further couple of weeks.

How Many Calories is Your Run Burning?

Bear in mind, all of this is based on the average person burning between 80-140 calories per mile. I have always calculated it as 100 calories per mile personally based on my height, weight etc. So how many calories does running burn when calculated over the average run distance?

  • 1 mile is 80-140 calories – why bother? It’s hardly worth lacing up your daps! You only just about deserve a packet of Walkers Square Crisps. Get back out there and make it worth it 😉
  • 5 miles – 400-700 calories – that’s a decent piece of cake by our reckoning.
  • 10 miles – 800-1400 calories – Now you’re talking!
  • 20 miles – 1,600 – 2,800 calories – Why aren’t we doing this every weekend?
  • Ultramarathon distance – 50 miles – 4000-7000 calories – just going to drop my favourite every race stat below!

how many calories does running burn


You may also find that when you are fairly new to the sport running 25-30 miles a week burns more than when your body gets used to this – your metabolism adapts to your exercise habits so while you may lose weight initially – this may not always be the case. Remember, you don’t have to consume all the calories you eat – just saying.

Calculating Your BMR

There are many ways to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Here are two of the most common methods:

The Harris-Benedict Equation

The Harris-Benedict equation is a formula that estimates your BMR based on your age, sex, weight, and height. The formula is as follows:

Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

For example, a 30-year-old woman who weighs 150 pounds and is 5 feet 5 inches tall would have a BMR of about 1430 calories per day.

The Mifflin-St Jeor Equation

The Mifflin-St Jeor equation is a more accurate way to calculate your BMR than the Harris-Benedict equation. It takes into account your body fat percentage as well as your age, sex, weight, and height. The formula is as follows:

Men: BMR = 10 * weight in kilograms + 6.25 * height in centimeters – 5 * age in years + 5
Women: BMR = 10 * weight in kilograms + 6.25 * height in centimeters – 5 * age in years – 161

For example, a 30-year-old woman who weighs 68 kilograms (150 pounds) and is 165 centimeters (65 inches) tall would have a BMR of about 1360 calories per day.

Using a BMR Calculator

There are many online BMR calculators that can make the calculation easier. Just enter your age, sex, weight, and height into the calculator and it will give you an estimate of your BMR.

It is important to note that these formulas are just estimates. Your actual BMR may vary depending on your individual factors, such as your muscle mass, body fat percentage, and activity level.

Once you know your BMR, you can use it to calculate your total daily calorie needs. Your total daily calorie needs are the amount of calories you need to consume in order to maintain your current weight. To calculate your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by an activity factor. The activity factor is a number that reflects how active you are. For example, if you are sedentary, the activity factor is 1.2. If you are moderately active, the activity factor is 1.5. And if you are very active, the activity factor is 1.7.

For example, a 30-year-old woman who weighs 150 pounds and is 5 feet 5 inches tall has a BMR of about 1430 calories per day. If she is sedentary, her total daily calorie needs would be 1430 x 1.2 = 1716 calories per day.

Knowing your BMR can be helpful for weight loss or weight gain. If you are trying to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit, which means eating fewer calories than you burn. You can do this by reducing your calorie intake or increasing your physical activity. If you are trying to gain weight, you need to create a calorie surplus, which means eating more calories than you burn. You can do this by increasing your calorie intake or decreasing your physical activity.

It is important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting any weight loss or weight gain plan. They can help you create a plan that is safe and effective for you.

Does Trail Running Burn More Calories Than Road Running?

The good news is that trail running almost always burns more calories than road running. This is due to the undulating terrain and elevation. Muddy trails, rocky paths, uneven paths… You are using different muscles and almost certainly working harder. There is a school of thought that 10-11 miles of trail running is equivalent to a road half. Time on feet is greater on the trails. It takes longer to cover the same distance on the trails than it does on the roads. The longer you are out there, the more calories you are burning.

I tested this theory with some recent runs. 18 miles on a road run which took 2 hours and 42 minutes burned (according to Garmin) 1720 calories. 18 miles off-road which took 3 hours and 2 minutes burned 1843 calories. So the difference in this instance was approximately a mile’s worth of calories. Now, once again, we do say this with caution as this is probably not scientifically exact and I just a rough guide based on my own personal metrics.

Ensuring you Fuel Before a Run

If you are training for an ultra, or undertaking a long training run, it becomes about more than how many calories you burn and how much you can eat after. You need to consider your pre-run fuelling and post-run fuelling. If you are going to burn in the region of 2000-5000 calories, you need to make sure you are not running fasted, and that you are taking on enough to allow you to run this distance safely without feeling faint, hitting a wall or running into trouble.

Fuelling beforehand with a good breakfast of something like porridge and a banana and taking snacks or gels with you, is crucial to ensuring that you are going to have enough energy to complete your run safely.

When You Can’t Run

The trouble is, sometimes we can’t run and then we have to watch what we eat. This is especially true when tapering, recovering after an ultra marathon or during a period of injury. don’t just carry on regardless though worrying about gaining weight – you have to do what your body needs you to do. Just be mindful of what you are consuming and don’t fret – a couple of weeks resting is not going to make you gain half a stone. It’s easy to become too obsessed with counting the calories and watching what you eat or trying to grind out extra miles when you shouldn’t to justify that heavy night you had. There are other options if you can’t run due to injury – you can try cycling. 20 miles of cycling will burn the equivalent of 8-10 miles of running and is far less impactful on the legs.


how many calories does running burn

How Much Cake Can I Eat?

This time we are actually referring to how much cake you can eat.

If you are choosing a cake in a cafe, or eating homemade cake, you are hardly likely to be able to determine the calories in it. You can only really tell the calorie content if you have the original packet. Do not fear – we have taken care of it with this! Want to know how many calories are in your favourite cake – check out this page:

Please bear in mind that all of the information in this article is based on our own experiences and not medical advice. While we do like cake, we do advise everything in moderation. A healthy nutritious diet is required, especially if you are working your body hard. You need to fuel properly and repair the muscles after exercise. If you do want to enjoy the occasional treat, however, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Eating plenty of fruit and veg, carb loading when necessary, and replacing those lost nutrients with the correct foods, at the right time is very important. Ending every run with cake, while this sounds good, isn’t the best way to become a finely tuned athlete. You also need to ensure that you are fuelling enough before you run. Equally don’t start calorie counting and getting obsessed with how much you are burning. It is important to fuel properly and give your body what it needs.