That Tracking App May Be Overly Optimistic

I decided to go old-school on my journaling with this current weight-loss push and go back to pen and paper, which is the method I used for years and years. It’s the method that was available back when I started losing weight the first time. Hell, smart phones hadn’t even been invented when I was losing those 200 pounds, it was pen and paper or nothing. No apps, no FitBits, just honesty and a little booklet in my purse.

I realized almost immediately once I started my paper journal this weekend that MyFitnessPal, bless their hearts, were over-counting the calorie burn I was getting with my workouts. That’s the app I’ve been using over the last year or so. Uh…that may explain why I wasn’t getting the results I thought I was, right there! Using pen and paper and the Calories Per Minute calcs I’ve been accustomed to with the program I like best, I’m back on track. My numbers may come down a bit for exercise burn, but I feel it’s a more accurate picture.

Here’s an example: Yesterday I went for a bike ride, as I mentioned. Probably around 13 miles out and back, took me about an hour and 15 minutes (including stops at traffic lights). I estimate that calorie burn as about 525 using my calorie burn rate of 7 cals/minute (“medium intensity” physical activity). Pretty good, and probably pretty accurate, because while biking is great for your legs, they aren’t bearing any weight when you’re doing it. Biking is a seated exercise, always keep that in mind! MyFitnessPal, for the same workout, at a “moderate” pace, estimated 953 calories burned. NO. WAY. Even for “light” bicycling, MyFitnessPal says 714 calories. Still too high. If I’d been using MyFitnessPal and trusting their numbers, I might have thought I could go crazy and eat anything I wanted. That’s no good.

I’m going to stick with my booklet and pen for now. Technology can be great, but I like having a solid foundation in understanding how these numbers work and are created independent of an app.

Also, for those who want to argue it – I know how my body works, and I know that 525 is a lot closer to reality for me than 900+ for an hour and a quarter of biking. I have 13+ years of weight math that tells me the lower number is more accurate. Besides, wouldn’t you rather underestimate your exercise burn than overestimate it?

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3 Responses to “That Tracking App May Be Overly Optimistic”

  1. Figgy Says:

    My nutritionists at Kaiser advise not to count exercise towards daily calorie intake. They suggest setting a daily goal and seeing how that works. For example, I currently aim for 1300 calories intake with maximum 1500. (I’m only 5’4″, and 54 years old.) I try to average 10,000 steps a day walking, and something a little more strenuous on the weekends. When I stick to my plan, I lose about 1 pound most weeks. I still have about 25 pounds to lose, and I’m breaking it up into 5 lb. increments.

    • Laina Says:

      There are a lot of different theories on using, or not using, exercise calories. I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that they should be calculated correctly!

  2. Donna Says:

    Is it possible to calibrate the app to your metabolism? If not, invent one that does and make your fortune 🙂


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