Caloric Requirements of Superheroes

By Scott Mattison (@FoolsPizza)

The average person burns around 2000 calories a day. This approximation is found on pretty much every food wrapper when they provide your “estimated daily values”. Superheroes aren’t average people and likely need an above average caloric intake. Below are some very basic approximations to determine the number of Calories a superhero burns when using their power for 1 minute

calories
Number of Calories burned per minute by various superheroes.

If you are still reading, you are probably curious how I came up with these values. So let’s go through them based on their powers. First of all I should probably define what a Calorie is. Calories are a unit measure of energy and Calories as reported on food are actually 1000 calories (with a lower case “c”). 1 calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.

Flash & Dash

Both Flash and Dash’s caloric requirements are based on estimated VO2 maximum converted to Calories. VO2 max is the measurement of the maximum possible oxygen that may be utilized during exercise. I estimated VO2 max using ACMS running VO2 equation which provides a very rough approximation based on body weight, speed, and incline.  So to calculate VO2 max, I needed to first find the top speed of Flash and Dash.

The Flash’s top speed varies wildly in the comic books, sometimes being shown as capable of running faster than the speed of light other times he has a maximum speed around Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound, or 1029 m/s).

Dash is a bit harder to estimate as there is much less data to work from, but I based my estimation on the scene in “The Incredibles” where Dash gets caught on camera placing a tack on the teacher’s chair. The camera which is likely updating between 24 and 30 frames per second and Dash traverses the distance from the back of the room to the teachers desk and back (roughly 30 feet) within one camera frame so I estimate Dash’s top speed to be 220 m/s. This is reasonable as we never see Dash break the sound barrier in either Incredibles movie.

Wolverine

Wolverine was probably the hardest to estimate and is most likely the most incorrect of all of my approximations; however, if anything, this estimate is low. Wolverine’s primary power is a healing factor that allows him to recover from almost any injury. The speed at rate his healing factor works is a little bit of a debate, so I have to make some assumptions. I settled on the assumption that Wolverine can heal a broken bone in a minute. (This is obviously a little silly since his bones are practically unbreakable due to the Adamantium bonded to them).

The energy expended by the body due to injury is also difficult to estimate, but many sources recommend an increased intake of 400-500 Calories per day while healing from a broken bone and it takes 6 – 8 weeks for the body to repair a minor fracture. Thus it takes ~16800 Calories for the body to repair a broken bone.

Batman

Batman may not have any super powers (except maybe always having a plan somehow), but he is trained in several forms of hand to hand combat. A quick search estimates that a high intensity martial arts session may burn up to 960 Calories in 30 minutes.

Jean Grey

Jean Grey’s powers of telepathy allow her to lift objects with her mind. Lifting any object requires energy in the form of weight of the object multiplied by the height the object is lifted. When not The Phoenix, Jean Grey has demonstrated the ability to lift objects up to nearly 50 tons. Assuming she lifts this weight at a rate of 10 meters per minute (possibly a low estimate) this would required 1063 Calories of energy.

Bonus: Scott Summers aka Cyclops

This blog post was originally conceived around the idea that Cyclops’ optic blasts would require an insane amount of energy to sustain. However, during my initial research I learned that Cyclops is not actually emitting lasers from his eyes, but is instead opening an aperture to another dimension and allowing energy from that dimension to enter ours. So yeah, you learn something new every day. However, going with my original idea, what would happen if someone like Cyclops existed that could actually emit lasers from their eyes (like Superman, but not solar powered).

Cyclops’ optic blasts emit 2 Gigawatts of energy (2 * 109 Joules/second). There are 4184 Joules in a Calorie, which means that in one minute, our Cyclops equivalent would burn 28680688 Calories