How many carbs do you burn when you burn calories?

When it comes to weight loss and dieting, carbohydrates and calories are two of the most important things to consider. Many people want to know exactly how many carbs they are burning when they burn calories through exercise or daily activities. Understanding the relationship between calories and carbohydrates can help you make informed decisions about your diet and reach your health and fitness goals more effectively.

Quick Answers

– The number of carbs burned depends on the total calories burned and the types of exercise or activity.
– On average, 1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories of energy.
– For moderate exercise, you may burn 30-40% of calories from carbs. For higher intensity exercise, you may burn 50-60% or more from carbs.
– So if you burn 300 calories through exercise, you may burn 90-180 calories from carbs (22-45 grams of carbs).
– The more intense the activity, the higher percentage of calories burned will come from carbs.

How Many Calories Are in Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients that provide energy for the body, along with fat and protein. The amount of energy in food is measured in calories. When it comes to carbs, here is the calorie breakdown:

– 1 gram of carbohydrates contains approximately 4 calories of energy.
– 1 gram of protein also provides 4 calories.
– 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories, more than double that of carbs and protein.

This means if you eat a food containing 15 grams of carbohydrates, you are consuming approximately 60 calories just from the carb content (15 x 4 = 60).

So in order to determine how many carbs you burn through exercise, you first need to know your total calorie burn and then calculate the percentage of calories that likely came from carbs.

Calories Burned from Carbs During Exercise

The percentage of energy that comes from carbs versus fat during exercise depends on the intensity and duration of the activity. Here are some general guidelines:

– For lower intensity exercise like walking or casual cycling, about 30-40% of the calories burned come from carbohydrates. The other 60-70% comes from fat.

– For moderate intensity exercise like jogging or swimming, about 40-50% of calories burned come from carbs.

– For high intensity exercise like running, hockey, football, or circuit training, at least 50-60% of burned calories come from carbs.

– For very high intensity exercise lasting over an hour, like marathon running, triathlons, and competitive cycling, 60-65% or more of the energy expenditure can come from carbs.

How This Looks in Calories

Let’s say you burned 300 calories through a 30 minute jog. At a moderate intensity, approximately 45% of those calories may have come from carbs.

– 45% of 300 calories is 135 calories.
– Since 1 gram of carbs equals 4 calories, 135 calories would equate to about 34 grams of carbohydrates burned (135/4 = 33.75g rounded up).

Here is a more specific breakdown:

Activity Calories Burned % Calories from Carbs Calories from Carbs Grams of Carbs
30 min walk (moderate pace) 120 35% 42 10g
30 min jog (6mph) 300 45% 135 34g
1 hour swim 500 50% 250 63g
60 min cycling class 600 55% 330 83g

As you can see from the examples, a higher calorie burn leads to more total carbs utilized, but the percentage of calories from carbs also increases with more intense activities.

Factors That Influence Carb Burn

While the intensity of activity primarily determines the percentage of energy from carbs during exercise, several other factors play a role as well:

Duration of exercise – Short burst activities rely more on stored carbs, while fat is burned progressively over longer durations. A 60 minute run will tap into fat stores more than a 15 minute run.

Fitness level – Well trained athletes tend to burn a greater percentage of calories from fat at a given intensity compared to untrained individuals. Fitness improves the ability to oxidize fat during exercise.

Individual differences – Genetics, diet, carb intake, muscle fiber type, and other factors create variability between individuals in fuel utilization during exercise.

Type of exercise – Some activities like sprinting rely predominantly on quick energy from carbs. Others like yoga and pilates burn more calories from fat.

Training status – Carb loading in the days before endurance events shifts the balance of energy expenditure towards carbs.

So while we can provide general estimates for how many grams of carbs are burned per calorie, the specifics can vary based on the factors above. Tracking calories burned while also monitoring carb intake can help you narrow in on your individual numbers.

How Many Calories Do You Need to Burn to Lose Weight?

Now that we’ve covered how to estimate the carbs burned through exercise, how many total calories should you aim to burn each day to lose weight? Here are some general guidelines:

– To lose 1 pound per week, you need a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories. Over 7 days, a 500 calorie daily deficit adds up to 1 pound.

– To lose 2 pounds per week, aim for a 1000 calorie per day deficit through diet, exercise, or a combination of both.

– The number of calories you should consume each day for weight loss depends on your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and activity level. For moderately active women, this is typically 1800-2200 calories. For men, it is 2200-2600 calories on average.

– Use a TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) calculator to get a more accurate measurement of how many calories you burn through your BMR plus daily movement. Then aim to consume 300-500 calories below your TDEE to lose weight steadily.

– A general rule of thumb is that burning an extra 500 calories through exercise, without eating those calories back, can result in about a pound of weight loss per week. Resulting in approximately 1 pound of fat loss per week.

So in summary, to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume on a daily basis. Combining a reduced calorie diet that cuts out excess food intake along with extra physical activity is the most effective strategy for safe, sustainable weight loss over time. Tracking your calories burned while also monitoring carb intake can help maximize fat loss.

How Burning Carbs Impacts Weight Loss

Since carbohydrates are the main energy source burned during exercise, does working out in a carb-depleted state increase fat and weight loss? Let’s review how burning carbs impacts weight loss:

– Burning more carbs through exercise does help promote weight and fat loss. However, the total calories burned matters more than whether they come from carbs or fat.

– Exercising in a carbohydrate depleted state (i.e. following a very low carb diet) can hinder workout performance and intensity. You may burn fewer total calories as a result.

– Low glycogen (stored carbs) during exercise signals the body to break down lean muscle tissue for fuel if inadequate calories are consumed. This can reduce metabolic rate.

– Some research shows training in a carb fasted state may stimulate greater fat mobilization. However, studies show mixed results.

– For most people, maintaining adequate carb intake while also creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise is optimal for weight control and performance.

– Very low carb diets can cause fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and loss of muscle if carbs are severely reduced for long periods. Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source.

So you can burn just as many or more total calories and fat grams through exercise while consuming a balanced diet, compared to very low carb dieting or training exclusively fasted. For sustainable, healthy weight loss, focus on the total calorie deficit while maintaining sufficient carb intake to fuel your workouts.

Tips to Maximize Fat Loss

Here are some tips to help maximize fat burning through diet and exercise:

– Calculate your calorie needs and aim for a 500-1000 deficit through diet and exercise to safely lose 1-2 lbs per week.

– Measure your macronutrients using a food tracking app to ensure you are consuming adequate protein, carbs, and fat while maintaining a calorie deficit.

– Include resistance training to build metabolically active muscle and increase your resting metabolism.

– Incorporate both steady state (walking, jogging) and high intensity interval training (sprints, HIIT workouts).

– Avoid drastic carb restriction, as carbs will improve your workout performance and recovery.

– Time high carb meals around your workouts for an energy boost.

– Prioritize nutrient dense, unprocessed carbs like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

– Stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise.

– Get adequate sleep and manage stress levels to optimize fat burning hormones.

By tracking your calorie burn from both carbs and fat during exercise, while also dialing in your nutrition, you can maximize your body’s ability to utilize fat stores and lose weight effectively.


In summary, the number of carbohydrate grams burned through exercise varies based on the total calories expended and the intensity of the activity. On average, you can estimate that between 30-60% or more of calories burned come from carbs, with higher intensities burning more carbs. Consuming adequate carbs while maintaining a calorie deficit through diet and exercise will maximize fat burning potential while preserving lean muscle mass. Tracking your calorie expenditure and macronutrient intake can help optimize your carb and calorie needs for effective fat loss.

1 thought on “How many carbs do you burn when you burn calories?”

  1. Maybe you can clarify for me since I have gotten a range of 25 grams of carbs burned by running up to 125. I run at a 6.3mph pace for 33.5 minutes. I weigh 165 The machine says I’ve burned 500 calories and that seems to line up with most website estimates. But carbs varies. One site said take 500 and divide by since 4 calories= 1 gram carbs. Other calculators bring it down to about 25. Any help would be most appreciated. I’m keeping track of calories and carbs each day and I’d like to know how much to reduce carbs on a day I run.


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