Microwaves make food preparation so quick and easy, it almost seems like magic. That technology can be easy to take for granted — as well as the electrical current that makes microwave cooking possible.
If you had to sweat it out to generate all the electricity that your microwave needs, you might gain a whole new appreciation for the energy it takes to make that magic happen. Let’s take a look at just how much human power it would take to put food on the table.
Microwave vs Oven Energy Use Comparison
We already checked out how much exercise it would take to power your oven — it would take the average man 1,235 hours of running at 6 mph to bake a cake for 30 minutes — but ovens are major appliances. A typical oven will draw about 2,500 watts when operating at high heat.
Even the most heavy-duty microwave ovens draw about half as much electricity, with most models clocking in between between 600 and 1,200 watts. Considering that you also use the microwave for a fraction of the time you would use an oven, microwaves are far more energy-efficient.
For our example, we’ll use the current top selling microwave on Amazon, which falls right in the middle of the average wattage range at 900 watts.
How Many Calories have to be Burned to Microwave a Frozen Burrito?
Unfortunately, you can’t just hook a couple of electrodes to your biceps and start producing electricity while you pump iron. But it is possible to understand human energy production as a function of calorie consumption, and that will tell us just how much effort it would take to heat up that plate of post-workout nachos.
Our calculations are based on METs, or metabolic equivalents. A person at rest is producing one MET, whereas a person who is mountain biking is producing 8.5 METs, according to the Compendium of Physical Activities.
This metabolic energy is what gobbles up the calories, and we can compare the rate of our calorie burn to a unit of measurement called the watt second. One watt second is equal to the amount of energy it takes to sustain one watt of electricity for one second.
One calorie is equal to 4.1868 watt seconds, so to power our 900-watt microwave,
900 watts ÷ 4.1868 watt seconds = 214.96 calories
You’ll have to burn just under 215 calories for every second of microwave cooking. So treat yourself — go for the frozen burrito.
How Much Weightlifting Would It Take to Microwave a Frozen Burrito?
To calculate calorie burn from METs, you need to know the weight of the person performing the activity. We’ll use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s averages: 88.76 kg for men and 76.43 kg for women.
Your frozen burrito cooks for one and a half minutes on each side, which means you’ll need to keep the microwave whirring for 180 seconds. At 214.96 calories per second, that’s a 38,692.8 calorie goal. Get lifting!
Weight resistance training with vigorous effort generates 6 METs. To find out how many calories a person can burn per hour with this activity, just multiply the METs by the weight of the weightlifter:
- 6 METs x 88.76 kg = 532.56 calories per hour for men
- 6 METs x 76.43 kg = 458.58 calories per hour for women
At those rates, the average man will need to lift weights for 72 hours and 39 minutes to burn all 38,692.8 calories, and the average woman will need to keep at it for 84 hours and 22 minutes. Compared to the guy who had to run for 51 days to bake a cake, that’s a pretty light workout!
Check out our other explorations into how much you’d have to exercise to power your appliances.