Burn Calories and Build Muscle with Rucking: A Beginner’s Guide 

 July 1, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Are you looking for a new and effective way to burn calories and build muscle? Introducing rucking—a low-cost, full-body workout that is growing in popularity. Rucking is a form of exercise that uses a weighted backpack to increase the intensity of your walks or hikes, combining strength training and cardiovascular exercise. 

Rucking on flat terrain for an hour burns approximately 506 calories, while walking the same distance for the same amount of time burns only 238 calories. However, the actual number of calories burned may vary depending on the terrain, speed, and weight carried.

It's no surprise that rucking, with its low impact and high calorie consumption, is fast becoming the most popular exercise for those seeking a leaner body and a fitter lifestyle. In today’s post, we’re going to dig into rucking and give you a beginner’s guide to maximizing your efforts and getting the best results possible. Let’s get started!

Calculating Calories Burned During Exercise

Calculating calories burned during exercise is a way for athletes to know how much energy they have expended. Different exercises, such as rucking, naturally burn more or less calories. For example, an hour of rucking can burn between 360 and 600 calories, depending on the intensity with which the exercise is performed and the amount of weight in the rucking backpack. Calculating calorie expenditure can help you determine what intensity you should maintain for each exercise and how many calories you need to consume throughout the day to maintain a healthy diet.

There are different methods of calculating burned calories based on body weight, heart rate, and other factors. Some people even use fitness trackers that measure their steps walked and calories burned. Knowing exactly how many calories are burned is important to track progress and achieve goals efficiently.

It is also important to remember these calories should not only be tracked but also understood. There are always two sides to exercise and nutrition. One side believes it is about eating fewer “empty” calories or fewer kilojoules and burning more, and the other side sees it as an educational opportunity to make sure a person knows how much energy they are using through physical activity in order to develop a healthier lifestyle that works best for them.

While it's important to keep track of calorie intake, there's much more to a healthy lifestyle than just counting calories consumed and calories burned. To ensure you reach your goals safely and efficiently, it is important to know the metabolic intensity associated with your specific form of exercise. We can utilize this important knowledge by taking an in-depth look at measuring metabolic intensity.

Measuring Metabolic Intensity

Measuring metabolic intensity is an essential step in accurately calculating the amount of calories burned during exercise. There are a range of intensity levels, from very low to very high, and each has its pros and cons. Understanding the basics of metabolic intensity will allow you to adjust your exercise program accordingly and maximize your calorie burning potential.

An important factor to consider when measuring metabolic intensity is the duration of activity. In general, longer activities of moderate intensity, such as rucking, result in more caloric burn benefits compared to short intense activities. Some experts believe that this is due to the body’s ability to use calories continuously over a longer period of time, while others argue that this results in more total work and therefore more total calories expended. This debate is still ongoing and there are proponents of both viewpoints.

Clearly, metabolic intensity must be taken into account when determining calorie expenditure during a rucking session. Low-intensity activities, such as walking, burn fewer calories than higher intensity activities, such as running or jogging. So to maximize calorie expenditure, individual rucking sessions should include some periods of higher intensity. Moreover, a longer period of time is often associated with higher calorie consumption as the body continuously burns stored energy sources over a longer period of time.

Finally, there are many tools available today to help you measure the various intensity levels of your physical activity: fitness trackers like Fitbit and Garmin, heart rate monitors (HRMs), such as Polar devices, and even simple smartphone apps can all be useful here. Using these tools can help individuals accurately measure their metabolic intensity during a rucking session and plan their workouts accordingly to burn maximum calories and promote muscle building.

Now that we have discussed how metabolism affects calorie expenditure, let us take a look at other significant factors, such as the equation for total daily energy expenditure, which can help optimize the calories burned through rucking exercises!

Using the Equation for Total Daily Energy Expenditure

Before you can make informed decisions about the amount of calories burned during a rucking activity, it is important to know the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) equations. TDEE equations are used to estimate the number of calories an individual needs to consume based on their activity level, body composition, and other factors. This equation is a great tool for those who want to increase their burned calories while rucking as it takes into account several components of an individual’s lifestyle and adjusts intake accordingly.

The use of TDEE equations can be controversial as they too involve considerable estimation and variation. For instance, lifestyle estimates based on self-reported data such as daily steps, intensity of physical activity, types of food eaten, etc. may be unreliable. Ultimately, each individual should try to find their own "sweet spot" when it comes to calorie intake and how much they should ruck for optimal results.

Another point of contention is whether it's better to measure calorie expenditure at each individual rucking session or whether using the TDEE equation is more beneficial in the long run. Proponents of individual measurements argue that by focusing on only one particular activity, they can track their progress more accurately and have less stress when they have to determine their calorie needs every day. However, proponents of the TDEE equation believe that this approach provides a much better overall view because it takes into account all the activities spread throughout the day, which cannot always be accounted for when tracking just one session.

Regardless of the method you choose, it is generally accepted that calculating your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and your TDEE can give you a good indication of how many calories you should be consuming each day to achieve an optimal balance between burning calories and building muscle by rucking. However, to ensure you get the most out of your workout, you should also consider your diet—and we'll go into this in more detail in the next section.

Diet and Nutrition for Rucking Calories

Diet and nutrition are an important factor when burning calories and building muscle with rucking. Proper nutrition not only helps fuel the body for exercise but can also help optimize results achieved during workouts. While it is not advisable to drastically change your diet just because you are starting a new exercise program, it is advisable to proceed with caution.

In combination with the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) equation, ruckers should maintain their current calorie intake or slightly increase their calorie consumption. Too high a calorie intake can lead to an increase in fat rather than muscle mass, whereas too little carbohydrate, protein, or other macronutrients can affect your progress.

Ideally, ruckers should aim to improve their existing diet by replacing processed foods with healthier options such as complex carbohydrates and lean proteins. In this way, they will provide their bodies with sufficient energy without risking possible weight gain due to excessive calorie intake. Eating unsaturated fats and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables also helps boost performance by providing essential vitamins and trace elements and reducing inflammation. It is important to watch portion sizes so as not to overeat and still consume adequate amounts of food, especially protein.

Over time and with practice, the diet can be further adjusted depending on activity levels and goals for muscle gain or fat loss. However, for beginners, a consistent diet of healthy meals combined with regular exercise should, over time, produce the desired results through rucking.

With regard to certain adjustments to the daily diet, it’s also important to familiarize oneself with the macronutrient balance, i.e. the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats consumed per day. Knowing this ratio is crucial for optimizing muscle growth and energy expenditure while minimizing unwanted fat gain from excess calories. In our next section, you will learn what an optimal macronutrient ratio looks like for ruckers starting their fitness journey and get some helpful tips on how to make the most of your nutrition plan.

Key Takeaway

To successfully burn calories and build muscle through rucking, it is important that you eat right to fuel the body and optimize results. A radical change in diet is not advisable. Ruckers should try to improve their current diet by eating more complex carbohydrates and lean proteins while maintaining or slightly increasing their normal calorie intake.

The consumption of unsaturated fats, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and conscious portion sizes will help to increase efficiency while avoiding weight gain due to excess calories. A balanced macronutrient ratio (the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats per day) is key to optimizing muscle growth and minimizing fat gain from excess calories to achieve the desired results in the long term.

Macronutrient Balance

When it comes to diet and nutrition for rucking calories, macronutrient balance is an important consideration. Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats—the three main classes of nutrients in our diet that provide energy to our bodies. Each macronutrient provides a different number of calories per gram: proteins provide four, carbohydrates provide four, and fats provide nine. This means that if we are not aware of the balance of macronutrients we are consuming, it can impact how many calories we actually consume and how many we use for fuel while rucking.

The debate about what macronutrient balance to aim for is a recurring one among fitness experts. Some argue that a high-fat diet is most beneficial for providing energy during strenuous exercise like rucking, while others advocate a more balanced ratio of fat, protein, and carbohydrates to fuel our bodies efficiently.

The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Our individual needs may vary depending on our goals and the level of activity we associate with rucking. For instance, if our primary goal is to build muscle mass, we may need to focus more on increasing our protein intake, particularly lean sources such as fish and beans, rather than high-fat products like cheese and avocados. On the other hand, if burning fat is our main goal, we should reduce carbohydrate intake and favor foods with healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil.

Regardless of which macronutrient ratio you choose, finding the right balance of macronutrients will result in an optimal source of energy while you burn calories through rucking. Once you have found the right ratio for your specific goals, you’ll have the best chance of maximizing the energy from your diet when you are out on the trails or roads!

A well-thought-out meal plan can be instrumental in achieving our weight loss goal and muscle building if we combine it with physical activity like rucking. As we move on to the next section on physical activity to burn calories through rucking, we should keep in mind that incorporating some basic nutrition principles into our meal planning can help us achieve better results when we do rucking.

Physical Activity for Rucking Calories

The transition between macronutrient balance and physical activity should include the acknowledgment that while proper nutrition is essential for both building muscle and burning calories, physical activity plays an equally important role in achieving these goals. For starters, it is impossible to build muscle or burn calories without expending energy—and that requires physical activity. In addition, regular physical activity helps individuals develop greater muscular strength and endurance on their ruck march and increases the amount of calories they can potentially burn.

When it comes to physical activity for rucking calories, there are two specific factors to consider: intensity and duration. On the one hand, high-intensity activities, such as interval training, burn more calories in a shorter time than low-intensity exercises, such as walking. However, many find it difficult to maintain high intensity over a longer period of time. Low-intensity activities can be sustained for longer periods of time but do not result in as much calorie expenditure as high-intensity exercise over the same period of time. In other words, to burn as many calories as possible while rucking, you need to determine the right mix of intensity and duration based on your personal fitness level and goals.

For example, a beginner who wants to lose weight could start incorporating walking/jogging intervals into their routine to achieve a higher intensity of exercise with rest periods built in. Advanced ruckers may opt for a series of sprints mixed with heavy exercises such as squats or lunges to increase both muscular strength and metabolic rate during the training session.

No matter what your fitness goal is with rucking, optimizing intensity and duration is crucial to getting the maximum benefit from any workout -both in terms of calorie burn and muscle gain. Keeping these two elements in mind when creating a ruck plan can help ensure long-term success and help you reach your goals. From here, it is advisable to spend some time thinking about what fitness goals are reasonable given these calorie burning parameters while also looking for ways to achieve these goals safely and effectively.

Fitness Goals for Rucking Calories

When it comes to achieving fitness goals through rucking, I have found through my own personal experience that although the possibilities are limitless, it is important to have realistic and achievable expectations. Physical fitness is a long-term endeavor that requires developing sustainable habits over time. Considering my own fitness level, exercise routine, and weight, I understood that my goals should be tailored to my unique needs and circumstances as a rucker.

For people who want to lose weight through rucking, experts stress the importance of steady progression for long-term success. It is generally accepted that creating a calorie deficit is beneficial for efficient weight loss. However, there is an ongoing debate about the optimal approach to utilizing calories burned during rucking. Some experts recommend reducing calorie intake to create a deficit, while others advocate increasing physical activity to burn more calories.

Those who choose to reduce their calorie intake to achieve their physical fitness goals suggest that this method may lead to quicker results but also emphasize that sustainability requires moderation and balance. On the other hand, those who encourage burning more calories through physical activity, such as rucking, suggest that this may be a more enjoyable and accessible approach. With the right progression and support, caloric excess energy expenditure (CEEE), also referred to as “burning off” exercise energy output (EO), could be an effective approach to improve energy balance and ultimately reduce weight gain.

Therefore, developing a personalized plan based on individual needs and circumstances will help those who want to burn calories for physical fitness have a successful experience with rucking. For many, it will be about finding a balance between reducing calorie intake and increasing calorie expenditure through physical activity such as rucking. With commitment and consistency, these helpful tips can help achieve desired goals within a reasonable time frame without sacrificing sustainability or enjoyment of physical activity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What intensity of rucking is needed to burn the most calories?

The intensity of rucking needed to burn the most calories depends on your fitness level. If you are relatively new to exercise, it is important to start with short trips and light weight to avoid injury. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your rucking can lead to burning more calories.

As you progress, you can increase the speed and weight of your ruck to achieve a higher intensity workout. This will help you burn more calories and strengthen your muscles. Maintain proper form and posture throughout your sessions to ensure safety and effectiveness. With consistent exercise, you can increase the intensity to reach your fitness goals.

How does rucking compare to other cardio activities in terms of calorie burning?

Rucking is one of the most effective ways to burn calories compared to other cardio activities. It uses nearly every muscle in your body, requires a lot of energy and stability, and does this in a low-impact way that allows for long duration workouts. In comparison to running or biking, studies have shown that rucking can burn 30%-50% more calories per hour due to its difficult terrain.

Rucking also increases heart rate more quickly than traditional cardio activities and keeps it elevated for longer periods of time due to the intensity of the activity. This means more sustained calorie burning without the risk of injury associated with high-impact activities. As such, rucking is one of the best ways to burn calories quickly and safely.

Can you do additional activities to increase the number of calories burned from rucking?

Yes, there are a number of additional activities that can increase the calories burned from rucking. Firstly, adding some weighted plates to the backpack or rucksack can boost resistance and increase calorie expenditure. In addition, interval training with an alternation of fast and slow ruck can further boost calorie burning.

Finally, exercises such as squats, lunges, and push-ups can further raise the intensity of the workout and increase calorie burn. All of these activities can help burn more calories when you are rucking than if you keep a steady pace the whole time.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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