Calories Elite Athletes Burn During Summer Sports

Learn how many calories top athletes might burn playing these summer games.

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By Rose Hayes

When you’re an elite athlete with gold medal dreams, calories burned during your workout are critical information. If you’re tuning into the games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this summer, you also might be curious about how many calories those world-class athletes could be burning. 


Here are the health benefits, plus calories burned during popular summer sports.

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Soccer burns about 1,000 calories

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, bringing together super fans of all backgrounds and ages, while offering a number of health benefits for athletes.


“Soccer includes both aerobic and anaerobic training, so pro players use incredible amounts of energy,” says Doug Cutter, MD a sports medicine doctor at HCA Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, Virginia.


Aerobic training includes repetitive, cardio activities like long-distance running that use up lots of oxygen over a long period of time. Anaerobic training involves short-bursts of energy that really work your muscles like sprinting.


Calories burned: 1021 calories in 90 minutes.

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Beach volleyball torches about 800 calories

Beach volleyball burns so many calories because professional athletes jump about 300 times per match, adding up to an intense workout.


“It’s a jumping sport, which exercises the lower back and extremities,” says Dr. Cutter. “Running in the sand also really works the hamstrings and glutes.”


Plus, champions get a bonus health benefit: playing on the beach lets them soak up the sunshine vitamin—better known as vitamin D—which helps the body absorb calcium for bone strength.


Calories burned: 816 calories per 90 minutes.

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Burn about 700 calories with tennis

Tennis is a game of both strategy and athleticism that keeps players on their toes. Pro athletes must sprint, start, stop and react to balls that fly towards them at speeds up to 125 miles per hour in some professional men’s competitions.


In fact, top players might change their direction five times during a 10-second point play. Tennis teaches agility, improves reflex speed and scorches calories.


There’s also a social benefit to tennis, adds Cutter. These pros can continue playing even into old age and the social nature of tennis will support their mental health, he explains.


Calories burned: 714 calories during a 90-minute session.

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Rowing can burn around 1200 calories

For professional athletes, rowing competitions are fierce. Long boats slice through the water and tear past each other at speeds up to 20 miles per hour, working-out professional rowers’ calves, glutes, lats and quadriceps. Meanwhile, the coxswain sits at the front of the boat, plans the crew’s next move and pushes teammates to “row harder!”


“It’s a very vigorous sport for athletes,” says Cutter. “It’s cross-training at its best because you’re using all the muscle groups. There are not many sports where there’s that much resistance on both the lower and upper extremities at the same time.”


Calories burned: 1225 calories for 90 minutes of rigorous rowing.

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Cycling burns over 1000 calories

Over the last decade, cycling, or biking, has surged in popularity among elite athletes. This competitive sport can really scorch calories, especially if done at a vigorous pace.


“Cyclists burn so many calories because of the resistance they’re working against—they’re going uphill, then downhill, pushing against the wind. It uses up a lot of energy,” says Cutter. 


So how many calories can professional cyclists expect to burn?


Calories burned: Around 1021 calories in a high-intensity session.


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