Focused on calories? The Truth About Fitness Trackers

The Truth About Fitness Trackers

The Not-So-Good

You get done with a workout. You check your watch/tracking device. What do you check? Our guess, the calories

We love a good fitness tracker. Most of our team has one – just don’t get us started on what brand to get – there’s not enough room here for that. But what are the calories telling you? WHY are you looking at them? 

We don’t know your exact reason for keeping tabs on how many calories you’ve burned, but let us explain the PROBLEM we typically see (there can be many pro’s which we’ll cover in another post) and why we want you to look BEYOND THE CALORIES.

1). It’s easy to be consumed by this number. We focus TOO much on it and it can lead to feeling good or bad about the hard work we just put in. People also like to compare calories burned with the person next to them – do NOT do that. There are so many individual factors that go into totally calories burned (age, gender, height, weight – just to name a few) that it’s not even possible to compare. For example, a 5’5″ 65 year old woman should NOT be burning the same calories as a 6’5″ 25 year old man during the same workout… nor should their caloric intake be the same for the day. Scroll down for more on measuring calories. 

2). We don’t focus enough on all the wayyy cooler things our body IS doing. Calories are a tiny part of a much bigger story happening inside our bodies. And there are other advantages (sometimes those even lead to increased calorie burn throughout the day, or future workouts). Some examples:

  1. Strengthening our heart muscle
  2. Improving mental health 
  3. Boosting metabolism
  4. Improved muscle strength and flexibility
  5. Lowering the risk of chronic diseases

Sure none of these words are sexy, but calories really aren’t either. Let’s stop glorifying them. Plus, this list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to advantages of exercise. 

3). Do you know how INACCURATE fitness trackers are? We’ll let you do the research on your preferred type, but it can range anywhere from 15-50% OFF of your actual calorie burn. That’s insane! 

Everyone wants a quick fix these days – and we aren’t immune to that feeling. But it is important for you, your overall health, and journey to be able to look at this info with the big picture in mind. If you are a numbers or visual person and like to stay up-to-date with your fitness tracker, we’ll dive into into GOOD and how to use them with the big picture in mind. 

Moral of the story: Calories aren’t everything. They are easy to be consumed by but let’s focus on other things our bodies are doing or improving. Calories can just be the cherry on top! 


The Good

So all that being said, why would you even use one, or what is the point of having calories visible? Proximal50 even has a class where you get this info! We obviously think it’s beneficial sometimes! 

Reasons we like them:

1). Comparison. Yup, but not to the person next to you, just yourself. Although they may not be accurate in what exactly is happening inside your body, they are consistent. 

If you are comparing your heart rate, zones, calories burned, etc from workout to workout – you can measure:

  1. Intensity! Going through the workout is great, but making sure you are doing it with a purpose is even better. Compare today’s HIIT workout with last weeks. What changes do you see? Can you work harder (more resistance, no breaks) but your heart rate stays the same – that’s you getting fitter! 
  2. Again, purpose. Are you trying to do some steady state work? It’s important to know where your heart rate is and keep it LOW. Or if you are doing a more upbeat workout – trying to keep your heart rate high, and then recover quickly. 
  3. Getting to know your body. Comparing your workouts, and noticing trends can be a great resource when trying to figure out how your body responds to various elements (time of day, the food you eat, how much sleep you got, stress). This might take months to notice, but is always beneficial! 

2). Along the lines of knowing your body: Knowing when to slow down, or progress! 

If all these numbers seem off to you (^^if you’ve been doing what we mentioned above), it’s time to re-evaluate. You may be OVER doing it, which we call over-training or you could be run down. It’s time to rest and rethink your workouts. Come talk to us if you have questions on over-training or what you can do about it. OR you might be under-training and need to progress. Go up in weight, distance, or plain ol’ intensity. 

*Over-training symptoms can make it seem like you are putting in the work. Numbers may look low or high, drop off significantly, or you don’t feel great after a workout. It happens and sometimes we just need a few days off.

3) MOTIVATION! With everything above combined – fitness trackers can provide us with the “hard evidence” we need to see after a workout. It can feel satisfying, relieving, or motivating to do it all over again tomorrow. Just don’t get too caught up in all the numbers.


Why it’s important to know how calories are measured

Have you ever wondered why the calories you’ve burned can vary SO MUCH from what you see on a machine, to your heart rate strap, to the watch your wearing? It really isn’t a simple formula – but these machines use a simple formula to give you an estimate. 

Age, weight and gender can all play a role – but so do a lot of other variables. 

To get a more accurate number you also need your:

  • Activity Level
  • Body Composition
  • Current Hydration State

You might never know the *exact* amount of calories you just burned, and THAT’S OKAY. We shouldn’t be so focused on that number anyways. 

We’ll leave you with this: Calories can be important and a useful tool. They are a small glimpse into what our bodies are doing on an everyday basis. If you feel like you are surrounded by people focusing on calories, but you’re ready to get out of that game – come visit us. We can tell you how awesome you are, not your calorie game.