Fitness Fact or Fiction: Calorie Counters
Do Calorie Counters Really Work?
The short answer is no, yes, they do, don’t…well, sort of. I’ll explain.
A cardio machine would need to know the users, sex, weight, their percentage of body fat, fitness level, and max heart in order to get a true reading of calorie expenditure. While the heart rate counters do a fairly good job of accurately reading BPM (most are within 5%) the same is not true for the calories burned reading.
Some recent research suggests that cardiovascular machine onboard calorie counters can be in error by up to 42% – telling the user they’ve burned far more than they truly have.
Most cardiovascular machines default to a standard built in calorie per minute burn rate. In other words, a 215 pound, 35 year old man, who is a triathlete, with 8% bodyfat, and a 57 year old woman that weighs 137 pounds with 26% bodyfat, will both be told they’ve burned the same number of calories if they walked on a treadmill, used an elliptical or rode a bike at the same resistance, cadence and duration. Obviously that isn’t true.
Ironically the more fit you become, the more efficient your body becomes and you fewer calories you burn!
But this shouldn’t concern you. What matters most is whether or not you’re improving or burning more calories. For instance, if you ran on a treadmill at your last workout and it displayed a calorie burn of 355 calories in 45 minutes, and at the next it displayed 375 calories in the same amount of time, well then you’ve burned 20 more calories and have improved!
If you think that your wrist worn fitness tracker and mobile app is better – it’s apparently not. According to a 2017 Stanford University School of Medicine study, these popular devices score very poorly, with the most accurate reading in error of 27% and the worst by a whopping 93%! But again, accuracy won’t matter if you use the same one repeatedly.
It doesn’t matter if you’re tracking calories on a machine or your wrist, the accuracy of the calorie burn isn’t important. What is important is that you strive for and are making progress.
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