Serious flaw with My Fitness Pal

I've used this app for a while for weight maintenance and loss. I exercise a fair amount (cyclist, former triathlete) so getting to goal for a day often involves 500-1,200 calories of burn. I've noticed as a long time user that weight loss is always a lot slower than projected. And I've figured out why:
- the vast majority of calorie burn estimates on this app for all forms of exercise are gross calorie burn estimates instead of net.

And aince the app already includes base calorie burn when it estimates ave calorie in take, it over estimates or double counts.

In had adjusted this for cycling already since in just new if I ride for two hours even at 20 mph...I'm not burning 2,500 calories...

But recently I've incorporated a lot of walking in to hit goals. And even walking is vastly river estimated by over 50% (walking will get you .3 x weight per mile and the app estimates much higher and closer to gross).

Just putting this out there. If exercise is a part of your plan, you will have to research net calorie burn (a good cycling est is something like Ave Watts x Time (hours) x 3.6) and get an accurate estimate of what your doing.

Otherwise you may end up frustrated if you are apparently hitting your goals but weight loss is a lot slower than projected.
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Replies

  • jhanleybrown
    jhanleybrown Posts: 239 Member
    Sorry for the auto correct typos!
  • jjpptt2
    jjpptt2 Posts: 5,601 Member
    edited September 2019
    How did you figure this out?

    While I don't disagree that the estimates aren't always accurate, I've never assumed them to be accurate so it's never been an issue for me. All the numbers are estimates, and so I log and monitor and adjust as needed.

    Interestingly enough, MPFs numbers have always been pretty close to my garmin numbers, which have always been pretty close to generally accepted numbers (when applicable), and my progress has been pretty much dead on as predicted.

    In most cases, the biggest reason people see *significantly* inflated numbers is because of the intensity modifier. What is vigorous or fast or... ?
  • jhanleybrown
    jhanleybrown Posts: 239 Member
    I'm not talking about MFP is that's irrelevant. I'm talking just about the exercise estimates. I put in very sedentary as my base since my job is sedentary. But i exercise a lot. And every calorie burn estimate on this app significantly over estimates calories burned. I've researched every major category I do typically and the app is if significantly...often it appears to estimate gross calories...and sometimes its just wildly high.
  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 32,180 Member
    I'm not talking about MFP is that's irrelevant. I'm talking just about the exercise estimates. I put in very sedentary as my base since my job is sedentary. But i exercise a lot. And every calorie burn estimate on this app significantly over estimates calories burned. I've researched every major category I do typically and the app is if significantly...often it appears to estimate gross calories...and sometimes its just wildly high.

    Read that link I put in my other post.

    There are varying methods of calculation(s.)


    And for some people the numbers on this site work, so you'll have to do the same thing we all did and run your own experiment and adjust based on your results.
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 25,571 Member
    I use "Walking, 3.0 mph, mod. pace, walking dog" and find it accurate for me.

    "Weight training, free weights" was indeed too much, but I've switched to "Strength training (weight lifting, weight training)" and that is accurate for me.

    We have a lot of cyclers here who are data geeks, and I imagine some will be along to address this. What is the exact entry you are using?
  • jhanleybrown
    jhanleybrown Posts: 239 Member
    Every major category is high. So just a word of caution to those where exercise is a big part of your plan.

    This app will tell me I expend 2,100 calories for a two hour ride at 16-20 mph. But I know my ave watts which is the most accurate way convert to calories and I'm actually expending closer to 1,200 calories.

    Walking will tell me I'm burning just under 100 calories per mile...but in truth its closer to 50-60 calories per mile. (100 is closer to the gross calories...not net)

    Swimming....similarly off. We are not talking 10% here...

    The calories IN do seem to be accurate.

    So just be forewarned if exercise is a big part of what you are doing...you need to get accurate est for the exercise and adjust all calories out manually as they are all high.

    The more exercise is part if your program....the bigger the impact. If you are mostly losing weight through diet and exercising little to some...then probably don't sweat it (pun intended... :) ).


  • jjpptt2
    jjpptt2 Posts: 5,601 Member
    edited September 2019
    This app will tell me I expend 2,100 calories for a two hour ride at 16-20 mph. But I know my ave watts which is the most accurate way convert to calories and I'm actually expending closer to 1,200 calories.

    2 hours @ 16-20mph = 32-40 miles. Did you really cover that much distance?

    Because if I chose moderate vs very fast cycling, the calorie burn estimate drops significant and becomes much more reasonable for me.
  • jhanleybrown
    jhanleybrown Posts: 239 Member
    Uh...yeah...

    ?????

  • steveko89
    steveko89 Posts: 2,177 Member
    I got tired of the lack of data integrity between estimates and HR monitor output and switched to a TDEE spreadsheet I found on reddit to find my specific average TDEE and add/subtract from there to get to my target.
  • jhanleybrown
    jhanleybrown Posts: 239 Member
    Not sure what you are implying but whatever. Pretty sure I can get ave soloed from a cyclometer and Mike age from a map...

    To those who exercise a lot as part of your program:
    - you can't use calorie estimates on this app...they are all *really* high.

  • jhanleybrown
    jhanleybrown Posts: 239 Member
    Ave speed and mileage. So sorry about auto correct.
  • jjpptt2
    jjpptt2 Posts: 5,601 Member
    edited September 2019
    Uh...yeah...

    ?????

    Great, 20mph for 2 hours isn't easy.

    I'm guessing you aren't in the average, which is what most of these estimates are based on/targeted to.
  • jjpptt2
    jjpptt2 Posts: 5,601 Member
    Ave speed and mileage. So sorry about auto correct.

    You can go back and edit your post for autocorrect/type-os. Just FYI.
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    I've used this app for a while for weight maintenance and loss. I exercise a fair amount (cyclist, former triathlete) so getting to goal for a day often involves 500-1,200 calories of burn. I've noticed as a long time user that weight loss is always a lot slower than projected. And I've figured out why:
    - the vast majority of calorie burn estimates on this app for all forms of exercise are gross calorie burn estimates instead of net.

    And aince the app already includes base calorie burn when it estimates ave calorie in take, it over estimates or double counts.

    In had adjusted this for cycling already since in just new if I ride for two hours even at 20 mph...I'm not burning 2,500 calories...

    But recently I've incorporated a lot of walking in to hit goals. And even walking is vastly river estimated by over 50% (walking will get you .3 x weight per mile and the app estimates much higher and closer to gross).

    Just putting this out there. If exercise is a part of your plan, you will have to research net calorie burn (a good cycling est is something like Ave Watts x Time (hours) x 3.6) and get an accurate estimate of what your doing.

    Otherwise you may end up frustrated if you are apparently hitting your goals but weight loss is a lot slower than projected.


    How long is awhile? I would suspect there is a problem with my numbers in 3 weeks and I could confirm it in 6 weeks.

    Many people come through here with food logging discrepancies. They use liquid measuring cups to weigh solid food which can be wildly inaccurate. They also trust the food database too much which has many errors because it is crowd sourced.

  • jhanleybrown
    jhanleybrown Posts: 239 Member
    Yes...I own 5 bikes. But averaging 17-18/if the ride is flattish is not particularly fast for the average cyclist.

    But you are missing the point...its all exercise estimates. Even walking is over estimated by over 50%. Most estimates are using gross, not net calories.

    Clearly you love this app. (And I like it too
    ..) But just a word of caution:

    The calories expended estimates for exercise are either gross calories or just grossly over stated in every exercise I've used.

    If you are just using this to track calories in...no biggie...that seems to be very accurate.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 40,735 Member
    I never used the database for estimating energy expenditure.