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Hiking calories and BMR

ceiswynceiswyn Posts: 1,852Member Member Posts: 1,852Member Member
What with one thing and another, I'm currently doing a lot of 14+ mile hikes, which takes a significant amount of time. I've read that the calorie estimates for hiking actually include BMR, which becomes a source of significant inaccuracy over time. As such, I have a few questions:

- Is this also true of tools other than MFP, such as https://caloriesburnedhq.com/calories-burned-hiking/ ?
- Is there a good way of accounting for this error (eg 'figure out roughly what your BMR burn would have been over that period and subtract it')
- Am I overthinking this, given quite how many different sources of error there are likely to be when calculating calorie burn for long hikes?

Replies

  • middlehaitchmiddlehaitch Posts: 7,873Member Member Posts: 7,873Member Member
    Not overthinking at all.

    What I have done in the past is subtract my NEAT, as that is my MFP base, then add in my calorie burn.

    Got to add, I don’t know if it should have been just BMR, but the numbers worked for me the way I did it.

    I just ran a 1hr hike through the link and it gave me 238 cals, that looked high. I minused my NEAT and got 178 that sounds closer to what I would have expected.

    Cheers, h.
  • scorpio516scorpio516 Posts: 928Member Member Posts: 928Member Member
    I just ran a 1hr hike through the link and it gave me 238 cals, that looked high.

    That looks ok, if not low to me.
    I burn 57 kcal/mile walking. My last big hike I was going about 3 mph, so 171 kcal/hr if I was just walking, not climbing 500-1500 feet per mile 😁
  • SuzySunshine99SuzySunshine99 Posts: 994Member Member Posts: 994Member Member
    I've given up trying to calculate hiking calories. There are so many factors besides distance and time, like elevation change, difficulty of terrain, and weight of a backpack. I've never used an activity tracker-type device for an estimate, though. I'm curious as to how accurate something like that would be for hiking.
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Posts: 8,948Member Member Posts: 8,948Member Member
    ceiswyn wrote: »
    - Am I overthinking this, given quite how many different sources of error there are likely to be when calculating calorie burn for long hikes?

    I don't know whether you'll get to the right answer, but thinking about how things (that matter to you) work is always worthwhile.

    I've also given up trying to reasonably estimate hiking calories. I know how for walking on flat pavement. No idea once you throw everything else into the mix.
  • cmriversidecmriverside Posts: 28,198Member Member Posts: 28,198Member Member
    Yeah, I used to worry about the micro details too.

    Then one day - ack. I just stopped.

    The difference is small. Maybe a hundred calories. I figure even with my food scale I'm making at least that many in errors daily.

    After 11 years in Maintenance, I truly don't even care - even if it was possible to know.

    I just use a flat number for exercise. 300 calories per hour for moderate hilly walks.
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Posts: 8,948Member Member Posts: 8,948Member Member
    I've given up trying to calculate hiking calories. There are so many factors besides distance and time, like elevation change, difficulty of terrain, and weight of a backpack. I've never used an activity tracker-type device for an estimate, though. I'm curious as to how accurate something like that would be for hiking.

    Not very, in my experience. Here are links to some hikes I've done recently, from Garmin's top of the line from the previous generation. I weigh about 240 lbs, which is 80 kCal per mile on the sidewalk; GPS isn't good at distance in the woods. Forgotten is 13 miles, my Garmin says 16. I believe these include BMR calories.

    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3866173895
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3891949932
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3913459693
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3937398728
  • lalalacroixlalalacroix Posts: 714Member Member Posts: 714Member Member
    So I hike a lot as well and the calorie burn can be over 1,000 calories. I spent a couple of months trying to accurately calculate the calories.

    Finally I think someone on one of my posts recommended the Omni hiking calculator (Google search). It adds in distance, elevation gain, weight of hiker and weight of pack. For me this calculator was right on track. I ate all the exercise calories and lost weight right on track.

    Fwiw, I burn many more calories hiking than walking. Maybe it's because I'm hiking in mountains with elevation gain. But it's a decent difference and was totally worth finding an accurate calculator.

  • MikePTYMikePTY Posts: 2,591Member, Premium Member Posts: 2,591Member, Premium Member
    All MFP calorie estimates (and smart watch and most online calculator estimates) are for gross calories burned, not net calories burned. It's a calculation of how many calories your body burns while you are doing that activity. But if you weren't doing that activity, you would still burn calories. Not just your BMR, but your daily activity level as well. Let's say MFP estimates that you burn 75 calories an hour existing at your current stats and activity level. Your "NET" exercise calorie per hour would be 225, since it would be 300-75. For shorter, more intensive exercise, this doesn't matter as much, but for something like hiking that you are doing for many hours, I can see how it would add up.

    My advice would be that if you want to account for it, eat back 75% of your hiking exercise calories. This should be pretty close to deducting your normal activity so you are only eating back the net amount, rather than the gross. You can see how that works for you and experiment with it a bit.

  • ceiswynceiswyn Posts: 1,852Member Member Posts: 1,852Member Member
    Thankyou all for your thoughtful responses! I know the only way to be 'sure' is to suck it and see - I'm just a bit impatient, I guess ;)

    I might try using the Omni calculator for a bit, purely because I'm more comfortable with its lower estimates...
  • poisonessepoisonesse Posts: 284Member Member Posts: 284Member Member
    I just use walking the dog instead of hiking for my hikes. Normal "hiking" rates seemed way too high, regular walking was too low... and since I hike with my dogs on leash, I just go with "walking with dog" for my calcs, and they seem to work for me.
  • SuzySunshine99SuzySunshine99 Posts: 994Member Member Posts: 994Member Member
    I've given up trying to calculate hiking calories. There are so many factors besides distance and time, like elevation change, difficulty of terrain, and weight of a backpack. I've never used an activity tracker-type device for an estimate, though. I'm curious as to how accurate something like that would be for hiking.

    Not very, in my experience. Here are links to some hikes I've done recently, from Garmin's top of the line from the previous generation. I weigh about 240 lbs, which is 80 kCal per mile on the sidewalk; GPS isn't good at distance in the woods. Forgotten is 13 miles, my Garmin says 16. I believe these include BMR calories.

    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3866173895
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3891949932
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3913459693
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3937398728

    I was going to ask you how many calories you think you burned on your Enchantments adventure. 8,700, huh? I hope you ate 3 pizzas when you got back.
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Posts: 8,948Member Member Posts: 8,948Member Member
    I've given up trying to calculate hiking calories. There are so many factors besides distance and time, like elevation change, difficulty of terrain, and weight of a backpack. I've never used an activity tracker-type device for an estimate, though. I'm curious as to how accurate something like that would be for hiking.

    Not very, in my experience. Here are links to some hikes I've done recently, from Garmin's top of the line from the previous generation. I weigh about 240 lbs, which is 80 kCal per mile on the sidewalk; GPS isn't good at distance in the woods. Forgotten is 13 miles, my Garmin says 16. I believe these include BMR calories.

    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3866173895
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3891949932
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3913459693
    https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3937398728

    I was going to ask you how many calories you think you burned on your Enchantments adventure. 8,700, huh? I hope you ate 3 pizzas when you got back.

    I don't even have an idea! I wish I knew how to ballpark it. Especially since I have tentative plans to go back next weekend and do a peak we didn't have time for.

    I don't even remember what I ate the day it ended. I remember napping in my car for a couple hours before I drove home and stopping to float in a lake on the way home.

    Summer is so fleeting here, and the rainy season is miserable. Have to get while the getting's good!
  • whmscllwhmscll Posts: 2,033Member Member Posts: 2,033Member Member
    So I hike a lot as well and the calorie burn can be over 1,000 calories. I spent a couple of months trying to accurately calculate the calories.

    Finally I think someone on one of my posts recommended the Omni hiking calculator (Google search). It adds in distance, elevation gain, weight of hiker and weight of pack. For me this calculator was right on track. I ate all the exercise calories and lost weight right on track.

    Fwiw, I burn many more calories hiking than walking. Maybe it's because I'm hiking in mountains with elevation gain. But it's a decent difference and was totally worth finding an accurate calculator.

    I like and use Omni, too.
  • sijomialsijomial Posts: 15,038Member Member Posts: 15,038Member Member
    ceiswyn wrote: »
    - Am I overthinking this, given quite how many different sources of error there are likely to be when calculating calorie burn for long hikes?

    If you want to extend the thinking a bit more then the difference between net and gross exercise calories isn't your BMR - unless you are exercising for a time period as an alternative to lying in bed in a fasted state for the same amount of time.
    For me my BMR is around 1550 but my non-exercise day maintenance calories are around 2400 so I simply subtract 100cals/hr from gross calorie estimates.

    Except if I know those gross cal estimates are actually poor estimates! :)
    Strava for my non-sporting cycling on a hybrid significantly under-estimates my power output so its gross cal estimates are actually close to true net calories.

    Luckily for the majority of my exercise I can get net calorie accurate estimates but in the end there's a balance of how much effort to put in to making estimates "reasonable", which is perfectly good enough for purpose, and convenience. Accurate is nice but not a necessity.
  • jjpptt2jjpptt2 Posts: 4,592Member Member Posts: 4,592Member Member
    It's not hard to manually subtract out BMR from total calorie burn estimates. In that sense, no I don't think you're over thinking it at all.

    For me, the bigger variance comes with all the other factors - pack weight, elevation, grade, terrain, etc etc. Hiking is sooo difficult to estimate...

    Fortunately, it's such a slow calorie burning activity (for lack of a better word), fueling for/during a hike has A LOT more room for error than do many other activities.
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