To achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s essential to understand the role of calories. Calories represent the energy we consume through food and drink and the amount of energy our body uses during physical activity. Our calorie intake and expenditure can significantly impact our overall health and wellbeing.

Calories play a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight. Consuming more calories than we burn through daily activities can contribute to weight gain, while burning more calories than we consume can lead to weight loss. Additionally, the type and quality of calories we consume can have a significant impact on our health.

Physical activity, including trail running, is an effective way to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. Trail running is a high-intensity activity that can help you burn a significant number of calories, making it an excellent addition to any fitness routine. However,

Updated 19/01/24

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.

In this article, we will take a look at the answers to the following questions while stressing that it is not all about the calories:

  • 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 in general burns. On average, each mile burns 80-140 calories. I tend to work it out as 100 calories per mile.

Many factors can influence the number of calories you burn while running, including:

  • Bodyweight: The more you weigh, the more calories you burn during exercise.
  • Gender: Typically, men burn more calories than women when performing the same exercise.
  • Age: As you age, your metabolism slows down, and you burn fewer calories during exercise.
  • Intensity: The higher the intensity of your running, the more calories you will burn.
  • Speed: Running faster burns more calories than jogging at a slower pace.
  • Effort: Running up hills or against the wind requires more effort and burns more calories.
  • Terrain: Running on hilly or rugged terrain burns more calories than running on flat terrain.

It’s essential to consider these factors to have a more accurate estimation of your calorie expenditure during trail running, so you can adjust your workout regimen accordingly to achieve your fitness and weight loss goals more efficiently.

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
  • 5 miles – 400-700 calories
  • 10 miles – 800-1400 calories
  • 20 miles – 1,600 – 2,800 calories
  • Ultramarathon distance – 50 miles – 4000-7000 calorieshow 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.

The Science of Trail Running and Calorie Burn

It’s no secret that running can burn a significant number of calories. However, when it comes to trail running, the number of calories burned can vary due to the different set of challenges it presents in comparison to regular road running.

To better understand the science behind trail running and calorie burn, it’s important to consider the factors unique to this form of running. Running on uneven terrain and navigating through natural obstacles such as rocks and tree roots requires greater effort, causing your body to burn more calories than it would during a flat road run.

Terrain TypeAverage Calories Burned per Hour (Based on a 150-pound Person)
Flat Pavement540
Flat Trail630
Hilly Trail900
Mountain Trail1,200

The Impact of Terrain on Calorie Burn

The type of terrain you run on can create a considerable difference in the number of calories that you burn. While both trail running and road running can provide an effective workout, research indicates that trail running generally burns more calories than road running.

Running TypeAverage Calories Burned per Hour
Trail Running600-750 calories
Road Running500-700 calories

The table above clearly shows that trail running burns more calories per hour on average. This difference is because running on an uneven surface naturally activates more muscles in your body, creating a higher energy expenditure and, thus, burning more calories during your workout.

The role of elevation in calorie burn during trail running

Elevation plays a significant role in calorie burn during trail running. Running uphill requires more effort, which means your muscles work harder and burn more calories. Running downhill also burns calories but not as much as uphill.

According to a study by the American Council on Exercise, running uphill can burn up to 10% more calories compared to running on flat terrain. This is because of the increased intensity that activates more muscles and requires more oxygen.

Trail running with varying elevations also offers additional benefits for your fitness. It strengthens your leg muscles and improves endurance, making it easier to run longer distances. It also enhances cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

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 have 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.