Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Which fitness tracker gives you the best calories burned for your workout? An experiment


Remember my rant a little while ago about how you shouldn’t think of exercise and food as an equation to balance? Or my post about not using the exercise component of calorie counting apps? Well, I just wanted to add a little more to that conversation today.

I use a Garmin watch to track my runs and occasionally I’ll look at the “calories burned” out of curiosity. After a pretty fast longish interval run I noticed that the calories burned seemed rather low so I started scrolling back through and was puzzled to find a shorter easier run that supposedly resulted in a very similar caloric expenditure. That left me wondering how Garmin determined the calories burned during a run. I looked it up and it turns out that it’s related to heart rate. Sometime the heart rate monitor is wonky and (especially when it’s really cold out) will register a heart rate that would be more likely seen when I’m sitting on my butt than when I’m out booking it through speed work. That means that my Garmin (erroneously) registers minimal exertion and thinks that I’m not burning very many calories.

Today I decided to do a little experiment. I wore my Garmin, as per usual, which is synched to my Strava account. I also fired up the Nike+ Run Club app for the first time in ages and I set out on an easy(ish) 10k run. After the run, I also entered the time spent running at the closest average pace into myfitnesspal. All of these apps have my height and weight. Any guesses what the results looked like?

Garmin: 463 calories

myfitnesspal: 517 calories

Nike: 526 calories

Strava: 1371 calories!!!!

Now, I have no idea how many calories I actually used during this run, I’d wager Garmin was probably closest to the mark considering that the heart rate monitor seemed to be working properly. But Strava, what the actual hell?? Considering that Strava gets all of it’s data from my run directly from Garmin I find it amazing that it estimated I burned nearly three times as many calories as Garmin thought I did. I’m sure that if I had other apps and trackers I would have gotten slightly different results from all of them.

All this to say, if you’re exercising and tracking calories burned, you probably shouldn’t give that number too much weight. Try to think of exercise as giving you health and fitness rather than taking away calories and weight.


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Follow Friday: Fave fitness apps

I thought that I’d share my favourite fitness apps with you as my Follow Friday this week.

1. I was recently introduced to You Are Your Own Gym. While I haven’t used it a whole lot yet I think I’m in love! It’s so easy to use and there are so many options of workouts and exercises that it will keep you switching things up for a long time. I did the “novice” 30 minute workout the other evening and the next day I was sore from all of the sumo squats. I see it as a great resource for when the weather sucks or you’re too lazy to leave the house to go to the gym, you’re pressed for time, or you’re travelling. You don’t need any equipment and the app shows video demos of each exercise if you’re unsure what it is. My 30 minute workout had me quickly switching from one exercise to the next so I didn’t have time to get bored or think too much about anything which I find are the downfalls of many workouts. At $2.99 it’s a great deal!

2. Fitocracy is both an amazing website and app. It’s kind of like twitter for fitness fanatics but you can use the social media aspect as little or as much as you like. You track your workouts and earn points for each exercise (or lose points for sitting on your butt). You can follow people and they can follow you and then everyone “props” each others’ workouts and it’s a big old love fest. It’s a really great community and motivator. The app is free in the app store but you can also become a fitocracy hero by making payments (either yearly or monthly) to support the platforms and also get yourself access to new things and discounts before the non-heroes.

3. Bittimer is a great interval timer. I’ve used it for speed training in running and for doing a series of planks. It’s also handy for HIIT workouts. Very easy to set-up and they’re super helpful on twitter: @bittimerapp. Plus it’s free in the app store :)

4. Zombies, Run! is a great way to force yourself to do speed training and to make running a little more fun if it’s not really your thing. It works with your playlists so you get to listen to your own music. You go on a series of missions collecting supplies for the Abel Township after a zombies apocalypse. When zombie hoards show up youhave to run for your life (it tracks your speed using GPS). If the zombies catch you, you lose all of the supplies you had collected on that mission. It’s pretty entertaining. While the $7.99 price in the app store may seem a little steep it’s cheaper than a day pass at the gym, a movie, a meal out, etc, and lasts for way longer. It’s probably the best designed app I’ve seen.

5. Nike+ GPS is the running app that I use to track my runs. It’s easy to set-up (by location and goal: time, distance…) and tracks your distance, pace, calories burned. It shows you a monthly total of km (or miles if that’s what you’re into) run so you can compete with yourself each month.

If you know of any amazing fitness apps that I need to know about, let me know!