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FAQ - Syncing, logging food & exercise, calorie adjustments, activity levels, accuracy

heybalesheybales Posts: 16,971Member Member Posts: 16,971Member Member
Perhaps for all new inquiries that come in, we can just point to this thread for someone to read first, until the moderators see perhaps a good idea to sticky it for easier access.
These are either facts on the way things work, or my personal recommendation for settings.

First section I'm just going to lay out the basics of how and brief why.
Second section I'll get into more details as to why for those curious.

Section One - The Basics

How do I set up a sync between MFP and Fitbit?
Best place seems to be your MFP web account first, as it seems to cut down on syncing issues later.
MFP - Apps - Fitbit Tracker - Connect - follow process described (instructions on logging will be covered further below).

You may still have syncing issues, usually seen as Fitbit stats not coming to MFP (steps, daily calorie burn, weight, BF%), but sometimes MFP stats not going to Fitbit (meal totals, workouts, weight). Usually effects those using the apps more.

One method for getting around syncing issue, is unsync accounts totally from web accounts, and start process above again. Close your mobile apps, stop them from actually running, for this process.
MFP - Apps - Your Apps section - Fitbit Tracker - Disconnect
Fitbit - View Settings - Settings - Applications section - Revoke Access
Start initial sync as instructed above.

Do I log all my exercise in MFP per instructions MFP gave?
Don't need to at all. That is merely so you use MFP more, and more usage is more ad dollars.

Fact is for the non-HR devices any step based exercise (walking, running, gym classes, ect) will have a pretty good estimate for calorie burn from Fitbit (if stride length is correct), unless the walking/running is at good incline for good amount of time, because it assumes flat. You would need to log non-step based workouts though (swimming, rowing, biking, elliptical, stair climber, resistance training with weights or machines), because the steps seen are not related to the calorie burn at all.

For the HR devices any cardio is going to be decent enough estimate. Though here again, lifting should be manually logged as it's not aerobic steady-state, and calorie burn will be inflated using HRM formula. Manually logged in database as - Weights on Fitbit, Strength Training on MFP.

So for what should be manually logged, it can be logged in MFP or Fitbit. Fitbit's database uses a better method of calculating calorie burn, and for some non-step based exercises has more intensity options, more about that below. It also prevents the need for an extra sync from MFP to Fitbit, before updated daily burn is synced back to MFP.
If you want friends to see your workout, just make a wall post about it, with more details than you'd normally get. The Fitbit Activity diary has better view and options anyway compared to MFP.

Where do I log my food?
Only on MFP. It will sync over as meal blocks of total calorie and macro stats to Fitbit for display there.

Why doesn't my MFP Exercise Diary - Fitbit calorie adjustment equal my workout calorie burn?
Because that MFP figure is not exercise.
That figure is the difference between Fitbit's total daily burn which includes your exercise, and what MFP thought you'd burn with no exercise.
Any difference includes exercise and daily activities. You could have no exercise and big positive adjustment from being very active. You could have big exercise and no positive adjustment from being very inactive that day outside of exercise.
You can see this fact by clicking on the "i" for more info on that Fitbit calorie adjustment line.

You should enable Negative Calorie adjustment too for sick or lazy days.
MFP - Settings - Diary Settings - Calorie Adjustments - Enable Negative Adjustments.

The reason it's put under exercise is so MFP correctly increases your eating goal, so the same deficit is maintained. You do more, you eat more, same deficit. MFP is merely correcting it's estimate of daily burn, which is based on your selection of activity level, and if you selected wrong, you get big adjustments, and then deficit is taken.

What activity level on MFP should I select?
It's usually better to select an activity level closer to reality so the adjustments are smaller, and you can plan your day better without big surprises too late to do anything about, more on this below. Bigger deficit is NOT better, just an unneeded stress on body. Stressed out body loses muscle mass along with fat mass - not good. Or it adapts so you don't burn as much - not good.

How do I link in my other accounts for exercise, MapMyRide or Walk, or Digifit?
You could link them to MFP and get the minor wall posting about the workout, then they will sync over to Fitbit and replace the calorie burn there.
Or if able, can sync them to Fitbit directly. Then you make a wall post about the workout for friends to see with more details.
Just confirm time zones are correct between accounts.

Am I doubling up on calories by manually logging a workout, what about the activity record from the device?
No you are not - hence the reason for the start and duration time - so Fitbit can replace whatever it came up with for calories.

The activity record from the device button press is merely to allow viewing those stats for that block of time, you can manually make an activity record too for same purpose. Not logging those calories, merely viewing what Fitbit came up with already.
If you know you'll manually log a workout to input more accurate calorie burn, the activity record does make it easier to see when the start time was, and figure out duration, and allow seeing the Fitbit stats for that time, rather than buried in the daily stats.

If you log workout with an existing activity record, it does NOT replace the calorie burn in the record, just the daily stats. If you create activity record manually after logging workout, calorie burn is whatever you entered, though the other stats will be shown for steps & distance.

How do I adjust my stride length for more accurate calorie burn?
Treadmill is best so you can have set pace and known distance. For running you want average running pace, not the sprinting pace, not the recovery pace. For walking you want purposeful pace, not high exercise level, not slowest shopping level. You want between so the device can adjust as needed both directions. So if normal exercise walking pace is 3.8 mph, and store strolling is 1 mph, then 2.4 is average to use for test.

1) Set pace, and walk/run normal stride until 0.4 miles is displayed.
2) Now count every right foot impact until 0.5 miles is displayed.
3) Double the foot count for total steps.
4) 528 ft / Steps = decimal feet.inches per step stride length.
5) Feet is used in MFP setting under View Settings - Settings - Stride Length.
6) take 0.inches x 12 = decimal inches to use in that setting.
(for example 2.85 becomes 2 ft., and 0.85 x 12 = 10.2 in.)

How accurate can this device be?
Decently accurate, if you recognize the limitations. The devices will actually under-estimate usually, because of the following:
All non-moving time is assigned sleeping calorie burn (BMR), but when awake you actually burn more (RMR).
When standing not moving you burn more.
When digesting/processing food you burn more, about 10% of calories eaten.
All that is unaccounted for in your daily burn.

Moving calorie burn is based on steps, so accurate stride length is important.
Even the HR formulas are likely to be off, likely inflated though, as assumptions are made for several key stats.

But 1 hr of exercise how many times a week is what % of your total weekly time and calorie burn? Usually it's less than 5% of both, so even a 30% difference in that 1 hr of exercise is minor compared to the weekly total time and calories.
The activity tracker is great for the other 23 hrs of the day. It may be great, or need adjustment, for that other 1 hr.
edited March 2015
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Replies

  • DonPendergraftDonPendergraft Posts: 540Member Member Posts: 540Member Member
    Thank you for this!
  • retirehappyretirehappy Posts: 4,817Member Member Posts: 4,817Member Member
    Bumping so I can follow this. It should be a sticky in here.
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,971Member Member Posts: 16,971Member Member
    Hey hey - made it as sticky!

    Drat, now I wish I'd made some other changes. Oh well.
  • leooftheyearleooftheyear Posts: 429Member Member Posts: 429Member Member
    I have been logging my classes on MPF Core Class (Les Mills CXWORX), its a strength training class using a mix of weights, body weigh and resistance bands and Les Mills Body Combat which is essentially an MMA class, given the fitbix flex is pretty good a step based activity, should i not be logging my Body Combat class in MFP and let Fitbit take care of it?
  • taylorsm88taylorsm88 Posts: 3Member Member Posts: 3Member Member
    OK, maybe this was answered and I overlooked it, but I have a questioned related to exercise being reflected in MFP.

    For example, I went for a brisk walk today for about 30 minutes. Fitbit recognized this as 30 active minutes. Therefore showing more calorie burn than if I had just walked casually.

    Does MFP take these active minutes into account when making adjustments or does it just take the step count from Fitbit?

    Should I log my brisk walk into MFP? If I do log it as 30 minutes of brisk walk, does that double dip into calories burned?
  • sandishmilysandishmily Posts: 5Member Member Posts: 5Member Member
    I have a charge hr and log all activities through it, i don't log any activities on MFP, yet i still get double logs on all my activities on fitbit. When i try to delete one of the duplicated logs both get deleted. Any suggestions?
  • retirehappyretirehappy Posts: 4,817Member Member Posts: 4,817Member Member
    I log food only in MFP, I let my Charge HR do all the calorie burn data. Works fine for me. I do get the synching issue from time to time but it usually works itself out over night so far.

    Glad to see this FAQ as a sticky I had emailed the owners of the group about doing that. Heybales did a great job and I am thankful for it.
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,971Member Member Posts: 16,971Member Member
    I have been logging my classes on MPF Core Class (Les Mills CXWORX), its a strength training class using a mix of weights, body weigh and resistance bands and Les Mills Body Combat which is essentially an MMA class, given the fitbix flex is pretty good a step based activity, should i not be logging my Body Combat class in MFP and let Fitbit take care of it?

    That's not step based based activity.

    The steps seen and calorie burn estimated from pace have no relation to strength training. You could do 50 squats in 2 min and 2 steps are seen. You think you'll get a big calorie burn for 2 steps in 2 min type pace, that is anywhere near what you burned doing 50 squats?
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,971Member Member Posts: 16,971Member Member
    taylorsm88 wrote: »
    OK, maybe this was answered and I overlooked it, but I have a questioned related to exercise being reflected in MFP.

    For example, I went for a brisk walk today for about 30 minutes. Fitbit recognized this as 30 active minutes. Therefore showing more calorie burn than if I had just walked casually.

    Does MFP take these active minutes into account when making adjustments or does it just take the step count from Fitbit?

    Should I log my brisk walk into MFP? If I do log it as 30 minutes of brisk walk, does that double dip into calories burned?

    Yes, you missed it, reread the question headers.
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,971Member Member Posts: 16,971Member Member
    fairleee wrote: »
    I've just got my Surge, and I've synced it today with MFP. Today, I went to the gym, and did a spin class (which I tracked on my surge), hit the treadmill (which I tracked as a general 'workout' on my surge), and then did some weight/bodyweight exercises (which I tracked as 'weights'). I used the logs that Surge created to then create exercises on MFP with accurate calorie burn info (so, a 45 minute spin class burned 540 calories, 25 minutes of weights burned 160 etc.). However, when I then synced MFP with my Fitbit, it duplicated all those activities into my exercise log on Fitbit, and manually added the calories burned onto my calorie-burned log (so I jumped from about 2200 calories burned to over 3000 calories burned) - basically, each exercise was duplicated, and as a result it manually adjusted my calories burned figure on Fitbit by adding on the duplicated calories.

    So, my question is, what is the best workaround for this? I don't mind where I track the exercises I do, as long as I am tracking them, but clearly I can't track them with both Fitbit and MFP, because it creates duplicates. I'd prefer to track with Fitbit, because that way I have more usable data - I can track the time spent on each exercise more accurately, track my heart rate patterns over the exercise duration etc. Would it therefore make sense to continue using my Surge to track the exercises as I do them, then not log the exercises into MFP, but simply rely on the Fitbit adjusted calorie figure to adjust my daily calories burned figure in MFP?

    Reread the first half of the FAQ for question that says activity record, it's in there what happened.

    Edit - which half.
    edited March 2015
  • njpatentdadnjpatentdad Posts: 5Member Posts: 5Member
    Thanks for the post heybales. I was a little confused on how to record a particular workout even though all the info is in the original post. I will set out my question and answer in case its helpful.

    I logged a workout on the Fitbit Charge HR while using an elliptical that took into account my weight, age, HR (had chest strap too). Periodically, I compared HRs and they corresponded very well each time. At the end of the workout the machine reported about 1100 calorie burn while the fitbit app reported about 649.

    From heybales helpful post, I concluded that elliptical is not step based and so is given to inaccuracy. Since the machine manufactures account for machine resistance, had HR, weight and age, it should be much more accurate.

    So how to switch the 649 for the 1100?
    The trick is to make sure the data entered is a switch and not an addition. In the fitbit app you can enter the time started and duration. That information is reported for the workout I recorded and so the manual entry I made with the machine reported 1100 calories had the same time stamp information and fitbit could do the swap, make the adjustments and report it out to MFP. I dont recall ever seeing timestamp info in MFP so I could not figure how I would have edited there. All that was in my exercise log there was the daily adjustment and not a workout.

    Thanks.
  • glassyoglassyo Posts: 3,913Member Member Posts: 3,913Member Member
    I dont recall ever seeing timestamp info in MFP so I could not figure how I would have edited there. All that was in my exercise log there was the daily adjustment and not a workout.

    Thanks.

    I've been entering exercise on mfp because of the syncing problems but all you have to do is add an exercise in mfp and it asks you straight out what time you started and how many minutes you went.

    In case you ever need to log it on mfp. :)
  • dabnidabni Posts: 1Member Member Posts: 1Member Member
    heybales wrote: »
    Perhaps for all new inquiries that come in, we can just point to this thread for someone to read first, until the moderators see perhaps a good idea to sticky it for easier access.
    These are either facts on the way things work, or my personal recommendation for settings.

    First section I'm just going to lay out the basics of how and brief why.
    Second section I'll get into more details as to why for those curious.

    Section One - The Basics

    How do I set up a sync between MFP and Fitbit?
    Best place seems to be your MFP web account first, as it seems to cut down on syncing issues later.
    MFP - Apps - Fitbit Tracker - Connect - follow process described (instructions on logging will be covered further below).

    You may still have syncing issues, usually seen as Fitbit stats not coming to MFP (steps, daily calorie burn, weight, BF%), but sometimes MFP stats not going to Fitbit (meal totals, workouts, weight). Usually effects those using the apps more.

    One method for getting around syncing issue, is unsync accounts totally from web accounts, and start process above again. Close your mobile apps, stop them from actually running, for this process.
    MFP - Apps - Your Apps section - Fitbit Tracker - Disconnect
    Fitbit - View Settings - Settings - Applications section - Revoke Access
    Start initial sync as instructed above.

    Do I log all my exercise in MFP per instructions MFP gave?
    Don't need to at all. That is merely so you use MFP more, and more usage is more ad dollars.

    Fact is for the non-HR devices any step based exercise (walking, running, gym classes, ect) will have a pretty good estimate for calorie burn from Fitbit (if stride length is correct), unless the walking/running is at good incline for good amount of time, because it assumes flat. You would need to log non-step based workouts though (swimming, rowing, biking, elliptical, stair climber, resistance training with weights or machines), because the steps seen are not related to the calorie burn at all.

    For the HR devices any cardio is going to be decent enough estimate. Though here again, lifting should be manually logged as it's not aerobic steady-state, and calorie burn will be inflated using HRM formula. Manually logged in database as - Weights on Fitbit, Strength Training on MFP.

    So for what should be manually logged, it can be logged in MFP or Fitbit. Fitbit's database uses a better method of calculating calorie burn, and for some non-step based exercises has more intensity options, more about that below. It also prevents the need for an extra sync from MFP to Fitbit, before updated daily burn is synced back to MFP.
    If you want friends to see your workout, just make a wall post about it, with more details than you'd normally get. The Fitbit Activity diary has better view and options anyway compared to MFP.

    Where do I log my food?
    Only on MFP. It will sync over as meal blocks of total calorie and macro stats to Fitbit for display there.

    Why doesn't my MFP Exercise Diary - Fitbit calorie adjustment equal my workout calorie burn?
    Because that MFP figure is not exercise.
    That figure is the difference between Fitbit's total daily burn which includes your exercise, and what MFP thought you'd burn with no exercise.
    Any difference includes exercise and daily activities. You could have no exercise and big positive adjustment from being very active. You could have big exercise and no positive adjustment from being very inactive that day outside of exercise.
    You can see this fact by clicking on the "i" for more info on that Fitbit calorie adjustment line.

    You should enable Negative Calorie adjustment too for sick or lazy days.
    MFP - Settings - Diary Settings - Calorie Adjustments - Enable Negative Adjustments.

    The reason it's put under exercise is so MFP correctly increases your eating goal, so the same deficit is maintained. You do more, you eat more, same deficit. MFP is merely correcting it's estimate of daily burn, which is based on your selection of activity level, and if you selected wrong, you get big adjustments, and then deficit is taken.

    What activity level on MFP should I select?
    It's usually better to select an activity level closer to reality so the adjustments are smaller, and you can plan your day better without big surprises too late to do anything about, more on this below. Bigger deficit is NOT better, just an unneeded stress on body. Stressed out body loses muscle mass along with fat mass - not good. Or it adapts so you don't burn as much - not good.

    How do I link in my other accounts for exercise, MapMyRide or Walk, or Digifit?
    You could link them to MFP and get the minor wall posting about the workout, then they will sync over to Fitbit and replace the calorie burn there.
    Or if able, can sync them to Fitbit directly. Then you make a wall post about the workout for friends to see with more details.
    Just confirm time zones are correct between accounts.

    Am I doubling up on calories by manually logging a workout, what about the activity record from the device?
    No you are not - hence the reason for the start and duration time - so Fitbit can replace whatever it came up with for calories.

    The activity record from the device button press is merely to allow viewing those stats for that block of time, you can manually make an activity record too for same purpose. Not logging those calories, merely viewing what Fitbit came up with already.
    If you know you'll manually log a workout to input more accurate calorie burn, the activity record does make it easier to see when the start time was, and figure out duration, and allow seeing the Fitbit stats for that time, rather than buried in the daily stats.

    If you log workout with an existing activity record, it does NOT replace the calorie burn in the record, just the daily stats. If you create activity record manually after logging workout, calorie burn is whatever you entered, though the other stats will be shown for steps & distance.

    How do I adjust my stride length for more accurate calorie burn?
    Treadmill is best so you can have set pace and known distance. For running you want average running pace, not the sprinting pace, not the recovery pace. For walking you want purposeful pace, not high exercise level, not slowest shopping level. You want between so the device can adjust as needed both directions. So if normal exercise walking pace is 3.8 mph, and store strolling is 1 mph, then 2.4 is average to use for test.

    1) Set pace, and walk/run normal stride until 0.4 miles is displayed.
    2) Now count every right foot impact until 0.5 miles is displayed.
    3) Double the foot count for total steps.
    4) 528 ft / Steps = decimal feet.inches per step stride length.
    5) Feet is used in MFP setting under View Settings - Settings - Stride Length.
    6) take 0.inches x 12 = decimal inches to use in that setting.
    (for example 2.85 becomes 2 ft., and 0.85 x 12 = 10.2 in.)

    How accurate can this device be?
    Decently accurate, if you recognize the limitations. The devices will actually under-estimate usually, because of the following:
    All non-moving time is assigned sleeping calorie burn (BMR), but when awake you actually burn more (RMR).
    When standing not moving you burn more.
    When digesting/processing food you burn more, about 10% of calories eaten.
    All that is unaccounted for in your daily burn.

    Moving calorie burn is based on steps, so accurate stride length is important.
    Even the HR formulas are likely to be off, likely inflated though, as assumptions are made for several key stats.

    But 1 hr of exercise how many times a week is what % of your total weekly time and calorie burn? Usually it's less than 5% of both, so even a 30% difference in that 1 hr of exercise is minor compared to the weekly total time and calories.
    The activity tracker is great for the other 23 hrs of the day. It may be great, or need adjustment, for that other 1 hr.

  • liviakaosliviakaos Posts: 2Member Member Posts: 2Member Member
    I got my Fitbit Charge 3 or so weeks ago. Last week, I started having syncing issues. Disconnected Fitbit from MFP, then Fitbit, and finally reconnected to MFP. Everything was fine until this week. Syncing issues AGAIN. I have disconnected from MFP, Fitbit, and reconnected to MFP several times. Anyone else experiencing this?
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,971Member Member Posts: 16,971Member Member
    liviakaos wrote: »
    I got my Fitbit Charge 3 or so weeks ago. Last week, I started having syncing issues. Disconnected Fitbit from MFP, then Fitbit, and finally reconnected to MFP. Everything was fine until this week. Syncing issues AGAIN. I have disconnected from MFP, Fitbit, and reconnected to MFP several times. Anyone else experiencing this?

    Several other threads on this best handled outside this FAQ sticky, which really shouldn't be bogged down with issues.
  • 44flacaflor44flacaflor Posts: 2Member Member Posts: 2Member Member
    Hi Heybales and all - THANK YOU FOR THE AMAZING SUMMARY ABOVE -- VERY HELPFUL!!!!- I am new to group and FITBIT. I just got a Fitbit Charge HR and I am just learning to navigate it so I'd love tips on a few things.
    - Is there a way to search these particular posts if I don't have time to read each one? I was trying to find an answer to my question about manual logging and "pressing the start/finish button" - WHERE IS THAT BUTTON?!?
    - I had my HR set to sensitive to sleep because I wanted good tracking since I am such a terrible sleeper...however I am wondering if anyone has thoughts on this...last night it logged me as sleeping only 3.5 hrs and restless 125 times and awake for various moments (which I don't doubt as i am a terrible sleeper) adding up to several hours overall -- that last part is the hard part to understand...I don't remember being awake for longer than 1 hr at time from 1am to 6am....I know i slept more than 3hrs because I feel more rested than days before....
    - 3rd - I am concerned about double logging or not logging properly enough - I have a sedentary office job 3-4 days a week from 6:30AM-5PM and then I am in traffic for an hour or more coming home....it is very hard to leave the family to get in a work out and as you can see above, I am not a great sleeper...but I know SOMETHING has to give so I can get more regular workouts in....also I don't belong to a gym right now and the snow only just stopped coming...I don't have a lot of time to log but I do log calories as I eat them or before so I don't forget. I was hoping my HR would take care of the rest of my "real calories burned" whether at work, running errands, exercising, or with home chores, etc....Is that not correct?
    - I have used Bodybugg (which I actually loved and hated to see it go), and Bodymedia (which IMO was not anywhere nearly as good or efficient nor did it have as good a website as Bodybug - then I received the Garmin Vivofit for Christmas and I was disappointed that it did not seem to track my miles walking right even after I calibrated my pace into it. The only issue I see with calibrating my pace for exercise here, is that I have to reset that every day so that I don't show fewer miles logged for "office" days, no? I definitely walk at a much more intense pace...about 4.0mi/hr sometimes 4.2 when I am walking my 5-6 miles. How can I make that transition for accurate accounting easy?

    Thank you.
  • tracii88tracii88 Posts: 1Member Posts: 1Member
    Thank you for this syncing post! Very helpful!
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