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Calorie Confusion II

Old 08-07-14, 07:41 AM
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Calorie Confusion II

I started a thread about what I assumed where inconsistencies in calories estimation. Several astute folks pointed out it was probably the difference in using a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and not using one. They're correct, so I here is my morning commute once without HRM and once with. Both were done at similar efforts (speeds) and conditions.

First No HRM


Next with HRM


If I did this round trip, 5 days a week, 52 weeks per year, and was perfect eating my exercise calories I'd weigh 18.5 lbs more in one year than if I'd used the HRM number.

The ride with the HRM was a zone 3 ride for me. On this ride I didn't warm up, just went hard from driveway to driveway. On my longer weekend rides where I do a proper warm up I've noticed my HR stays lower at this level of effort. Of course I don't have a power meter so it's very subjective, using perceived effort and speed.
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Old 08-07-14, 08:20 AM
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So now the question becomes which you should use when you have a power meter.
MyFitnessPal will use calories as determined by the HRM and not(!) the kJ number from the power meter. Training Peaks, before they caved to sync with MFP, used kJ as reported by the power meter..

I went calorie neutral on Tues according to MyFitnessPal yet had the growling stomach on Wednesday. The delta between the kJ number and calories reported by Garmin was 700 which is 70% of the total calorie reported by the HRM method. I can't see me sustaining a 5,000 calorie deficit per week and being able to function as normal... whatever normal may be right @chasm54

And to answer the question that may be brought up - yes, I tried the 'use kilojoule' setting in MFP. That reported a number that was 2.4 times the kJ reported by Garmin. All that does is use the conversion of factor of calories to kcal of 4.184

I'm giving this the @black walnut #EpicFail

#<rant>
The "good" thing about Garmin Connect is it now syncs data with MFP. Too bad it uses the incorrect metrics and(!) you have to use the worthless as hind teets on a boar hog Modern UI.
#<\rant>
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Old 08-07-14, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by bbeasley
If I did this round trip, 5 days a week, 52 weeks per year, and was perfect eating my exercise calories I'd weigh 18.5 lbs more in one year than if I'd used the HRM number.
Even better: both of the numbers you've posted look slightly high based on what I've seen from my power meter. If you don't have a power meter, you might want to consider using 30-35 calories burned/mile as an approximation. For your 5.3-mile ride, that would mean a range of 159-186 calories burned. If you're working hard, go with the higher number. Just cruising along? Use the lower one.
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Old 08-07-14, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by IBOHUNT
So now the question becomes which you should use when you have a power meter.
kJ of work reported by power meter = calories burned

If you've been riding regularly for a long time and have good fitness, your body may be more efficient than this. If you believe that is the case, multiply kJ by 0.95 or 0.90 (depending on how pessimistic you are) to get calories burned.

FWIW, Strava seems to multiply kJ by about 1.11 (for me, anyway) to compute number of calories burned.
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Old 08-07-14, 09:59 AM
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Well IMHO the HRM has no idea the persons fitness level, when I started exercising in May I was walking, the HRM would have assigned me the same caloric value to 120BPM then as it does now if I walk on a rainy day.I have ridden some 900 miles and walked a whole bunch too, the 120BPM then and the 120BPM now are surely not an equal amount of caloric output ??

I rode 1:48 today, covered 25 miles, did a set of zone5/Zone4 intervals, 2on, 2 off for a total of 12 minutes, then rode zone 2-3 the rest of the ride.


Calculator ap gives me 973 cals based on the average speed, I used the "tops" hand position because I have a hybrid with a flat bar.
Wahoo using the HRM gave me 1495 calories, Cyclemeter gave me 1583, Strava gave me 1342.

IMHO they are all wrong probably....they gave me far too many calories for that effort probably.

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Old 08-07-14, 10:05 AM
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I think if you go by the no HRM guesstimate and eat back all your exercise calories you will gain rather than lose weight regardless of your goals. If your goal is to lose you might just not lose, if your goal is to maintain you will gain, if your goal is to slowly gain you will gain faster, not like anyone tries to gain and ride a bike.....

IBOHUNT you are a funny guy

On the other hand it seems to be good advice to use the best numbers you have access to and only eat back some of your exercise calories. I have succeeded quite a few times to ride lots and still have a 7k calorie deficit by the end of the week. I know Willbird and others that do so much more regularly than I. I guess I like to eat too much and do eat too much.
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Old 08-07-14, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel
kJ of work reported by power meter = calories burned

If you've been riding regularly for a long time and have good fitness, your body may be more efficient than this. If you believe that is the case, multiply kJ by 0.95 or 0.90 (depending on how pessimistic you are) to get calories burned.

FWIW, Strava seems to multiply kJ by about 1.11 (for me, anyway) to compute number of calories burned.
Yeah, I get the entire kJ = real calories. What's disturbing to me is that MFP wants to ignore the fact that I can give them real numbers. Just another thing I need to track when we live in the golden age of these computer things. #EpicFail on MFP's part.
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Old 08-07-14, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Willbird
Well IMHO the HRM has no idea the persons fitness level, when I started exercising in May I was walking, the HRM would have assigned me the same caloric value to 120BPM then as it does now if I walk on a rainy day.I have ridden some 900 miles and walked a whole bunch too, the 120BPM then and the 120BPM now are surely not an equal amount of caloric output ??

I rode 1:48 today, covered 25 miles, did a set of zone5/Zone4 intervals, 2on, 2 off for a total of 12 minutes, then rode zone 2-3 the rest of the ride.


Calculator ap gives me 973 cals based on the average speed, I used the "tops" hand position because I have a hybrid with a flat bar.
Wahoo using the HRM gave me 1495 calories, Cyclemeter gave me 1583, Strava gave me 1342.

IMHO they are all wrong probably....they gave me far too many calories for that effort probably.

Bill
Not all HRM are equal. Accuracy depends on first good data such as age, weight, height, and gender and also the quality of the algorithm used to compute or extrapolate calories from heart rate. With fitness imporovements you get faster while doing the same amount of work.
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Old 08-07-14, 09:05 PM
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I'd throw out there that not all HR monitor are even close.
Mid tempo ride tonight for 2 hrs and it says I burned 964 calories. That's an @black walnut #EpicFail .
Really? 37.5 miles with 1654' gain in 1:54 and only 964 calories..... pfffffffft.
Yeah, that's watch your dog run away for a week flat but sheeeesh; only two doughnuts worth? Don't think so Tim.
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Old 08-07-14, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by IBOHUNT
I'd throw out there that not all HR monitor are even close.
Which HRM are you using?
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Old 08-08-14, 12:06 AM
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Originally Posted by IBOHUNT
I'd throw out there that not all HR monitor are even close.
Mid tempo ride tonight for 2 hrs and it says I burned 964 calories. That's an @black walnut #EpicFail .
Really? 37.5 miles with 1654' gain in 1:54 and only 964 calories..... pfffffffft.
Yeah, that's watch your dog run away for a week flat but sheeeesh; only two doughnuts worth? Don't think so Tim.
Did you have the powermeter on? What does it say?

FWIW, 25 kcal per mile doesn't seem ridiculously low to me, it's what I use to estimate my calorie burn, and it's usually lower than what Garmin tells me.
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Old 08-08-14, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by cvskates
Which HRM are you using?
Data is from Garmin connect and a Garmin HRM


Originally Posted by chasm54
Did you have the powermeter on? What does it say?

FWIW, 25 kcal per mile doesn't seem ridiculously low to me, it's what I use to estimate my calorie burn, and it's usually lower than what Garmin tells me.
kJ reported was 1,274
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Old 08-08-14, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by IBOHUNT
Really? 37.5 miles with 1654' gain in 1:54 and only 964 calories..... pfffffffft.
Yeah, that's watch your dog run away for a week flat but sheeeesh; only two doughnuts worth? Don't think so Tim.
Down right mountainous This is flat:
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Old 08-08-14, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by IBOHUNT




kJ reported was 1,274
Then that's pretty conclusive evidence the HRM was wrong, isn't it? Unusual, I've usually found garmins to overstate calorie burn - though the Edge 500 seemed much more realistic than earlier versions.

I don't know much about the algorithms they use. It may be, of course, that now you are pretty fit (this translates as "now you're an animal") you put out far more power for a given HR than they expect from their typical user, so they underestimate your output.
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Old 08-08-14, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by bbeasley
Down right mountainous This is flat:
Should make you go out and do Hill top grocery climb segment repeats till you hit 5,000'
That take a double metric?
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Old 08-08-14, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54
Then that's pretty conclusive evidence the HRM was wrong, isn't it? Unusual, I've usually found garmins to overstate calorie burn - though the Edge 500 seemed much more realistic than earlier versions.

I don't know much about the algorithms they use. It may be, of course, that now you are pretty fit (this translates as "now you're an animal") you put out far more power for a given HR than they expect from their typical user, so they underestimate your output.
Yep - I'm just stating the obvious that for some folk the HRM data *could* be wrong as a 50 mile ride that only has 300' gain Frustrates me that MFP won't use kJ when it's readily available.

I've tried to muck about with my weight setting in Garmin Connect to get the numbers close; gave up on that faster than I gave up crits...

Last 7 days, with 40% of the time in Z1 and Z2, shows how bad the discrepancy is for me

9,673 kJ
6,400 calories

On a ride in July the delta was huge; 1/4 doughnut shy of a days worth of BMR (1660)

AP 238
IF 0.84
TSS 312

3,771 kJ
2,250 calories


In summary, I can't trust HR data for calories and MFP/Training Peaks has me frustrated
"animal" - you sir are a funny man. That would get you a couple pints on me if we were at the bar.
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Old 08-08-14, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut
I think if you go by the no HRM guesstimate and eat back all your exercise calories you will gain rather than lose weight regardless of your goals. If your goal is to lose you might just not lose, if your goal is to maintain you will gain, if your goal is to slowly gain you will gain faster, not like anyone tries to gain and ride a bike.....

IBOHUNT you are a funny guy

On the other hand it seems to be good advice to use the best numbers you have access to and only eat back some of your exercise calories. I have succeeded quite a few times to ride lots and still have a 7k calorie deficit by the end of the week. I know Willbird and others that do so much more regularly than I. I guess I like to eat too much and do eat too much.
I use a Garmin 500, the calorie estimates are almost exactly 1/2 with a heart rate monitor then w/o same route almost exactly the same speed, temp even.

I consider the 1/2 estimate as "optimistic". Why eat back any of the calories? Consume what you need to ride if the ride is long enough. What you can get away with for recovery.

Most people have roughly an hour of glycogen at a reasonable exertion stored in their livers. This is trainable as well. I can tell if my blood sugar is sagging as my speed drops at similar perceived effort.

My commute yesterday listed as 4,400 calories w/o heart monitor, so figure somewhat less then 2k...

I ate what it took to get me up that last bear of a hill... 110ft in .6 of a mile, there's one hill on the ride that's worse, but it's after a long flatish section.
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Old 08-08-14, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by IBOHUNT
Frustrates me that MFP won't use kJ when it's readily available.
If you want to track exercise-related data, you should use an exercise-oriented website (read: Strava). MFP is more about tracking food... at least the last time I looked at it.

Last 7 days, with 40% of the time in Z1 and Z2, shows how bad the discrepancy is for me

9,673 kJ
6,400 calories
As long as you're trying to lose weight, it looks like somebody is doing you a favor by under-reporting calories burned
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Old 08-08-14, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Null66
I use a Garmin 500, the calorie estimates are almost exactly 1/2 with a heart rate monitor then w/o same route almost exactly the same speed, temp even.

I consider the 1/2 estimate as "optimistic". Why eat back any of the calories? Consume what you need to ride if the ride is long enough. What you can get away with for recovery.

Most people have roughly an hour of glycogen at a reasonable exertion stored in their livers. This is trainable as well. I can tell if my blood sugar is sagging as my speed drops at similar perceived effort.

My commute yesterday listed as 4,400 calories w/o heart monitor, so figure somewhat less then 2k...

I ate what it took to get me up that last bear of a hill... 110ft in .6 of a mile, there's one hill on the ride that's worse, but it's after a long flatish section.
I walk around "in" a calorie burn meter all day, that being "me"....but I have never tried to back figure my riding to see if I could quantify anything.

I have MFP set to 2lbs a week and I have 120 minutes of workout a week entered in. I started a 7 day rolling average weight July so I have daily data, I burned 15.8 lbs of human fat as fuel in July. MFP should be given credit for 8.6 lbs of that probably, lets wash the 20 minutes a day exercise because I'm not sure if it even figures that IN when setting a calorie goal. So maybe 7.2 lbs of fat as fuel.....25,200 calories

I rode 520 miles in July......48 calories to the mile for a Hybrid bike with 700x35c tires and a rider with an average weight of 257lbs for that time frame....not out of the realm of belief :-).

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Old 08-08-14, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by IBOHUNT
Should make you go out and do Hill top grocery climb segment repeats till you hit 5,000'
That take a double metric?
Unfortunately the Hilltop road is a very dangerous piece of Highway. I have recently been doing "hill" repeats on a local bridge. 20 one way climbs up the bridge = 1,000'. Of course the problem is for each climb you coast down the other side before climbing again. That and I have to ride in the debri field on the shoulder. It's tough living in the flats.
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Old 08-08-14, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by IBOHUNT
Yep - I'm just stating the obvious that for some folk the HRM data *could* be wrong as a 50 mile ride that only has 300' gain Frustrates me that MFP won't use kJ when it's readily available.

I've tried to muck about with my weight setting in Garmin Connect to get the numbers close; gave up on that faster than I gave up crits...

Last 7 days, with 40% of the time in Z1 and Z2, shows how bad the discrepancy is for me

9,673 kJ
6,400 calories

On a ride in July the delta was huge; 1/4 doughnut shy of a days worth of BMR (1660)

AP 238
IF 0.84
TSS 312

3,771 kJ
2,250 calories


In summary, I can't trust HR data for calories and MFP/Training Peaks has me frustrated
"animal" - you sir are a funny man. That would get you a couple pints on me if we were at the bar.
If you need accurate calorie counts, you really need a powermeter.

FWIW, if you average 200W you're burning about 700 cal/hr. So 600 cal/hr is not an unreasonable number.
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Old 08-08-14, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by bbeasley
Unfortunately the Hilltop road is a very dangerous piece of Highway. I have recently been doing "hill" repeats on a local bridge. 20 one way climbs up the bridge = 1,000'. Of course the problem is for each climb you coast down the other side before climbing again. That and I have to ride in the debri field on the shoulder. It's tough living in the flats.
Hmm I have thought of a demonic device indeed :-). Some sort of dynamo or water pump that you can switch on and put in the same effort going DOWN the hill as to go UP it :-).....but that would probably work just as good on the flat too :-).

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Old 08-08-14, 10:40 AM
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Null66 the reason to eat back exercise calories is that APPs such as MFP work by already putting you at a deficit to achieve a specific weight loss objective that is safe, healthy and sustainable. If you don't eat at least some of your exercise calories you risk starvation and the associated problems that causes including binging. Honestly you are not able to consume what you need for the ride at the time of the ride so how else will you do it?

How long is your commute? I'm not sure exactly how many miles I have to ride to burn 2K calories but last Saturday I rode 77.7 miles in 5 hours 6 minutes with 3025 feet climb, average speed of 17.1 mph and burned 2434 calories per my Garmin 510 with HRM. I have plenty of confidence in the accuracy of my Garmin produced numbers.
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Old 08-08-14, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut
Null66 the reason to eat back exercise calories is that APPs such as MFP work by already putting you at a deficit to achieve a specific weight loss objective that is safe, healthy and sustainable. If you don't eat at least some of your exercise calories you risk starvation and the associated problems that causes including binging. Honestly you are not able to consume what you need for the ride at the time of the ride so how else will you do it?

How long is your commute? I'm not sure exactly how many miles I have to ride to burn 2K calories but last Saturday I rode 77.7 miles in 5 hours 6 minutes with 3025 feet climb, average speed of 17.1 mph and burned 2434 calories per my Garmin 510 with HRM. I have plenty of confidence in the accuracy of my Garmin produced numbers.
Just a general comment about my own situation..............
I guess I will figure that stuff out when I'm closer to my goal weight :-). I really feel GOOD about the way I feel not eating back so far, but then I no doubt am not performing at your level yet either :-). If I mind my P's and Q's I could be ready to refine diet and intake around April 2015.....and can feel what it is like to train and ride at only a SLIGHT calorie deficit every week :-). Thinking I will set it at .5 a week for the last 10-20 lbs....and adjust to actually hit that goal.

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Old 08-08-14, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel
If you want to track exercise-related data, you should use an exercise-oriented website (read: Strava). MFP is more about tracking food... at least the last time I looked at it.
The issue for me is that I *was* using a exercise oriented program (Training Peaks) which would use the number from my power meter and I logged my food there as well. Training Peaks has moved to MFP to grab the food portions so now I get the joy of uploading rides to Training Peaks and logging the food in another program where I *used* to be able to use one S/W program.


Originally Posted by sstorkel
As long as you're trying to lose weight, it looks like somebody is doing you a favor by under-reporting calories burned
I just want the truth, I can handle the truth <Jack Nicholson impression>

Originally Posted by achoo
If you need accurate calorie counts, you really need a powermeter.

FWIW, if you average 200W you're burning about 700 cal/hr. So 600 cal/hr is not an unreasonable number.
Have a power meter and yes, ~700calories/hr at 200W based on 25% metabolic efficiency is what one should use.

What I need is MFP to use the kJ number rather than the, for me at least, inaccurate HR calorie based number so that I don't have to go plug in a number or use two different programs. For a program to not use a number that is available makes about as much sense as wiping before you poop
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