Actual Calorie Burn

mhwitt74
mhwitt74 Posts: 159 Member
edited April 2017 in Fitness and Exercise
I know this has been discussed a hundred times but I am curious as to what others do. So I use 3 ways to track calorie burn. First is the UA Record app, The second is the treadmill counter and the third is MFP. It would seem to me that the treadmill which factors in heart rate, distance and incline would be the most reliable. It always gives a higher number than the other 2. Which makes sense because the other are just distance and time. What do you guys think? Also wondering if others use UA Record.

Replies

  • TimothyFish
    TimothyFish Posts: 4,925 Member
    A treadmill should be able to calculate your calorie burn based on your weight, the distance and the incline. The only reason to include heart rate in that calculation is to provide some adjustment based on how efficient your body is at using calories. Depending on how they use that number, it could throw their calculation way off. So the other two may be more correct than the reading from the treadmill.
  • wpg2mpls
    wpg2mpls Posts: 17 Member
    It's impossible to get a totally accurate reading of your calories burned in a workout, similar to how it is impossible to know exactly how many calories you are ingesting. If there was, this whole weight loss thing would be so much easier.

    I assume you want to have a good estimate so that you can eat back the calories that you burn, so what I would do is start by assuming that the lowest projection is correct and only eat back that amount, or whatever portion you intend to eat. If you are happy with the results after a few weeks of doing this, keep using it. If you are losing too fast and have less energy throughout the day and your workouts then assume that then choose a higher estimate and try that one for while. If you are losing too slowly, or even gaining, then you know all of the estimates are too high. Since it is impossible to know for sure (at least without the aid of some very fancy and expensive equipment) you are going to have to be OK with a little trial and error. Personally, as a rule of thumb I have found that machines often give a higher readout than other measurement methods, even when adjusting for heart rate so I generally assume that they are fairly inaccurate. I am at a point now where I know how much I can eat with the amount of exercise that I do in general so I don't worry too much about exact counts.

  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,970 Member
    mhwitt74 wrote: »
    I know this has been discussed a hundred times but I am curious as to what others do.
    wpg2mpls wrote: »
    It's impossible to get a totally accurate reading of your calories burned in a workout, similar to how it is impossible to know exactly how many calories you are ingesting. If there was, this whole weight loss thing would be so much easier.

    I use pedals (on my bike) that have strain gauges, motion sensors, and thermometers, to measure the torque vector and angular velocity I put in. With those two things (and knowing how long my crank arms are), you can calculate power, which is the rate at which work is being done. 1 watt = 1 Joule / second, and 1 Joule basically = 1 calorie on a bike. There's a very small range of how efficient people are at turning stored fats and carbs into forward motion on a bike; with this method you can't be off by more than 5 % and assuming 1 = 1 puts me in the middle of that range.
    mhwitt74 wrote: »
    So I use 3 ways to track calorie burn. First is the UA Record app, The second is the treadmill counter and the third is MFP. It would seem to me that the treadmill which factors in heart rate, distance and incline would be the most reliable. It always gives a higher number than the other 2. Which makes sense because the other are just distance and time. What do you guys think? Also wondering if others use UA Record.

    In my experience, HR data just confuses things. It makes computers over-estimate calories. If you know what you weigh, know how "far" you walked, and know the incline, then you know how much physical work you've done, and there's a specific amount of energy that's required to do it. Your HR might be high because you're working really hard, or it might be high because you've had a lot of coffee.
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,811 Member
    HR isn't that good an indicator of calorie burn, wouldn't be surprised in your treadmill just uses weight and distance and the HR is purely informational.

    I use different methods for different exercise:
    Outdoor bike - Garmin or Strava apps, convenient if not accurate.
    Indoor bikes - Power meter.
    Rowing machine - machine readout (uses power) corrected for weight.
    Strength Training - MFP (as good a guess as any!)
    Walking - Phone app for convenience, formula to get closer to the truth if required.
    Various bits and pieces of cardio - Used to use a calibrated HRM but since that broke just going by perceived exertion and experience.
  • jeepinshawn
    jeepinshawn Posts: 642 Member
    I have found treadmills to be really inaccurate as far as distance and speed go, so I wouldn't trust them. I think that for running heart rate is a fairly important indicator of how hard you are working and how many calories you are burning. I trust my garmin vivofit HR calorie burns, they are much more conservative then my fitbit charge was, and based on weight loss over time they appear to be more accurate.

    "In my experience, HR data just confuses things. It makes computers over-estimate calories. If you know what you weigh, know how "far" you walked, and know the incline, then you know how much physical work you've done, and there's a specific amount of energy that's required to do it. Your HR might be high because you're working really hard, or it might be high because you've had a lot of coffee."

    I don't think that is a very accurate view actually. If your in very poor shape or very good shape, your calorie burn will be much different per mile. As your body becomes more efficient it uses much less calories just walking around, because your in better shape.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,970 Member
    @jeepinshawn You can burn less energy per mile with better running form, because you'll be wasting less energy on things that don't move you forward. And obviously you can burn less energy per mile by losing weight. I don't think it's true that you'll burn significantly fewer calories per mile just by being in good shape, though. On a bike you need more fitness to be able to burn more calories in an hour, and I suspect that's true for running, too.

    Things that have nothing to do with exercise can have a big effect on your heart rate. Heat, stress, caffeine and other drugs, hydration status, etc. A heart rate monitor just knows how fast your heart is beating, it doesn't know why.

    Here is a test I performed recently, and here is another. Both showed the HRMs to estimate 30 to 40 % too many calories on a bike.
  • MeanderingMammal
    MeanderingMammal Posts: 7,866 Member
    I don't think that is a very accurate view actually. If your in very poor shape or very good shape, your calorie burn will be much different per mile. As your body becomes more efficient it uses much less calories just walking around, because your in better shape.

    Key factors are body mass and distance, HR is a tertiary data source. When you lose weight you burn less because you're lighter, rather than anything else. The effect of efficiency is negligible compared to mass.

    To be candid, my VivoSmart HR would significantly overestimate calorie expenditure, particularly on a treadmill. I now have a ForeRunner 735XT and the calorie expenditure from that is predominantly driven by the GPS, with some HR corroboration. It's much more realistic.