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running calories: strava vs MFP

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I recently synced up my Strava account to automatically enter my exercise into my MFP exercise diary. I'm noticing that strava gives significantly higher burns than MFP.

For example, this morning I ran 7.6 km with an average pace of 6:46 min:sec/km (lots of hills!) and a total time of 52 minutes. Converting this to mph give me 5.5.

Strava says I burned 608 calories. But MFP says that a run of 6 mph would burn 572, and a run of 5.2 mph would burn 515. I went with the latter, to be safe.

Is anyone else using Strava? Do you trust their calorie estimates? Is MFP better at it, and if so, why?

Replies

  • FatFreeFrolicking
    FatFreeFrolicking Posts: 4,252 Member
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    Neither are accurate. MFP significantly overestimates calories burned and anything that doesn't have a chest strap monitoring your heart rate 24/7 won't be accurate either.

    You need a heart rate monitor to get the most accurate number of calories burned.
  • walleymama
    walleymama Posts: 174 Member
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    That may be, but using MFP for exercise has worked great for me over the last year, so clearly it isn't too great an overestimate.

    I just assumed Strava (and other such apps) would be more accurate since they are measuring distance accurately and supposedly include elevation (though I sometimes think those numbers don't make sense given what I know of the terrain around here).

    Anyways, I guess I'll just stick with MFP since I know those numbers work for me.
  • 970Mikaela1
    970Mikaela1 Posts: 2,013 Member
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    Mfp and my heart rate monitor are nearly identical. close enough I quit wearing the hrm.
  • _Josee_
    _Josee_ Posts: 625 Member
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    MFP and my HRM (Garmin lastest watch model who is supposed to be a really smart watch) numbers are very close. Strava is WAY WAY WAY higher.

    I would be comfortable using the MFP number.
  • simplydelish2
    simplydelish2 Posts: 726 Member
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    Neither are accurate. MFP significantly overestimates calories burned and anything that doesn't have a chest strap monitoring your heart rate 24/7 won't be accurate either.

    You need a heart rate monitor to get the most accurate number of calories burned.

    I find that compared to an HRM, MFP overestimates by about 40-50%. I don't know anything about your fitness tracker...but I certainly wouldn't rely on MFP to be accurate!
  • litsy3
    litsy3 Posts: 783 Member
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    It is probably true that the MFP figures for other types of exercise are a bit generous. But I think running is okay. I'm afraid I don't have the source any more, but I used a calculator on another website based on the same data which explained that it was from empirical research done on a large sample of actual runners at particular paces (which is why you can only pick some specific paces, not just enter exactly the pace you ran). So I think it's likely to be reasonably reliable. In any case, eating back all my running cals as estimated by MFP is working for me.
  • FatFreeFrolicking
    FatFreeFrolicking Posts: 4,252 Member
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    Neither are accurate. MFP significantly overestimates calories burned and anything that doesn't have a chest strap monitoring your heart rate 24/7 won't be accurate either.

    You need a heart rate monitor to get the most accurate number of calories burned.

    I find that compared to an HRM, MFP overestimates by about 40-50%. I don't know anything about your fitness tracker...but I certainly wouldn't rely on MFP to be accurate!

    Agreed!

    OP: MFP tells me I burn 530 calories doing 35 minutes of vigorous bike riding. In those 35 minutes, according to my HRM, I only burned 226 calories. That means MFP overestimated how many calories I burned by over twice as much. That's a BIG difference.
  • _Josee_
    _Josee_ Posts: 625 Member
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    Neither are accurate. MFP significantly overestimates calories burned and anything that doesn't have a chest strap monitoring your heart rate 24/7 won't be accurate either.

    You need a heart rate monitor to get the most accurate number of calories burned.

    I find that compared to an HRM, MFP overestimates by about 40-50%. I don't know anything about your fitness tracker...but I certainly wouldn't rely on MFP to be accurate!

    Agreed!

    OP: MFP tells me I burn 530 calories doing 35 minutes of vigorous bike riding. In those 35 minutes, according to my HRM, I only burned 226 calories. That means MFP overestimated how many calories I burned by over twice as much. That's a BIG difference.

    Agreed for cycling and a lot of other activities.

    Running, using the good activity based on speed, is accurate for me.
  • coccodrillo72
    coccodrillo72 Posts: 94 Member
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    The most accurate estimate that I know of is based on this paper "Energy expenditure comparison between walking and running in average fitness individuals" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22446673 - Amby Burfoot wrote about it in this Runner's world article http://www.runnersworld.com/weight-loss/running-v-walking-how-many-calories-will-you-burn?page=single

    You may also notice that there is a substantial difference between total and net energy expenditure (EE). The total EE includes your basic metabolic rate, so if you are using this number to determine how many calories to eat back you should go with the net expenditure,
  • lemurcat12
    lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886 Member
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    It is probably true that the MFP figures for other types of exercise are a bit generous. But I think running is okay. I'm afraid I don't have the source any more, but I used a calculator on another website based on the same data which explained that it was from empirical research done on a large sample of actual runners at particular paces (which is why you can only pick some specific paces, not just enter exactly the pace you ran). So I think it's likely to be reasonably reliable. In any case, eating back all my running cals as estimated by MFP is working for me.

    This is my experience too. Runkeeper tends to come in a bit lower than MFP (I should wear my HRM and compare, obviously, but haven't yet), so I use Runkeeper, but MFP generally seems in the ballpark for running.

    I think MFP is way high on machine-based activities.

    I know everyone says the apps are really high for cycling, but IME my HRM is about the same--sometimes a bit lower, usually a bit higher--than MapMyRide. I'm skeptical about it anyway (there are reasons why even HRMs can be high) but I think one reason is I ride a mountain bike, although I've not adjusted for that, and am often riding against the wind or with some sort of wind interference. On the other hand, it is really flat here, so that should make my burns less. Anyway, it's all imperfect, so just keep that in mind.
  • walleymama
    walleymama Posts: 174 Member
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    Thanks everyone. I have to agree that MFP numbers seem pretty good for running. I can see that it might be off for other activities.

    For example, when I cycle, I'm on a track that is railway grade with a slight incline heading out and downhill heading back. I fly on the way home, much faster than on the way out, yet I'm barely panting compared with heading out. Yet a tracking program like Strava would likely have me burning more calories on the way back because I am going so much faster (in theory, it is supposed to track elevation but I find the numbers from my android GPS to be very unreliable for elevation).

    I will stick with the MFP estimates for running as they have worked fine for me all along this journey (I even kept a spreadsheet for the first few months of my weight loss journey and the numbers all added up very well to approx 1 lb lost for every 3500 cal deficit, so the exercise estimates couldn't have been too far off). I'll just use Strava to track my pace and distances.
  • Mr_Knight
    Mr_Knight Posts: 9,532 Member
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    For example, this morning I ran 7.6 km with an average pace of 6:46 min:sec/km (lots of hills!) and a total time of 52 minutes. Converting this to mph give me 5.5.

    Strava says I burned 608 calories. But MFP says that a run of 6 mph would burn 572, and a run of 5.2 mph would burn 515. I went with the latter, to be safe.

    7.6/1.6 * 0.65 * weight in pounds -> net calories burned

    So at 140 pounds, you're looking at about 425 calories burned.

    If you need an elevation adjustment, rule of thumb is to add 1 calorie per kilogram of bodyweight per 1 meter of elevation climb.