Do You Need a Calorie Monitor In Your Life?

Listen up, calorie counting fanatics. You don’t need to explain your obsession to us. We understand that itch to count, to feel in control, to make victory a game of numbers. We know how good it feels to know that that decadent cheesecake isn’t going to ruin your mojo or stop you from achieving your goals.

Monitoring metrics about health are all the rage at the moment – just check out our blog article on fitness trackers for proof. But have you ever wondered about the accuracy of calorie counting on machines and fitness watches?

We decided to investigate and give you the scoop on whether calorie monitors really worth it and if they actually deliver on their promise.

Are Calorie Monitors on Machines Accurate?

calorie monitor

In order to accurately determine calories burnt, the data needs to consider metabolic rate, calorie expenditure and VO2 max, which indicates aerobic capacity. Machines do not always take into account your unique body fat percentage, height and gender when calculating calories.

A 2010 experiment done by the University of California found that different machines overestimate calorie burning by different amounts. When University of San Francisco physiologist Joseph Smith visited the Human Performance Center, he discovered that treadmills overestimate calorie burn by about 13 percent, stair climbers by 12 percent, stationary bikes by 7 percent, and the elliptical trainer by 42 percent.

Why does this over-estimation happen? Machines do not consider how muscle fibre composition, exercise technique and fitness level impact your results. Everyone has a unique amount of calories they need to ingest to maintain their body weight (your resting metabolic rate or RMR). Treadmill and other cardio machines automatically include an estimated RMR within their calorie estimates. If you don’t have the exact physique that the machine uses for its calculations, the machine will over-inflate how many calories you’ve burned.

How About Watch Calorie Monitors?

Watch calorie monitors are similar to machine calorie monitors. Most fitness watches claim to track heart rate. However, they might be using pace to calculate calorie burn.

Despite this, most fitness watches are fairly accurate, with error ratings ranging from 9.3 percent to 23.5 percent depending on which model you choose. Some of the most accurate fitness watches include the BodyMedia FIT and Jawbone UP2. You can check out more useful and accurate fitness apps in our blog post about best fitness apps.

Putting It All Together: Calorie Monitor Tips

So if you’re a recovering calorie-holic, it might be time to rethink your exercise strategy. Why not use calories burned as a way to gauge how hard you’re working instead?

To avoid calorie obsession, try calculating calories on a weekly estimated level, rather than a strict daily basis. It also helps to focus on the vast health benefits that exercise brings, such as improving your cardio and core strength, flexibility and endurance. After all, working out is ultimately about health and fun, right?