Michal Ozogán Smart devices, fitness apps, bikepacking, ultra racing
Michal Ozogán

Calories counting in Endomondo and other fitness apps

Calories counting in Endomondo and other fitness apps

Can you rely on calorie counting that fitness apps show us? The answer is quite simple – you can’t because every human being is unique. The body of each person behaves slightly differently and we should be glad. However, there is no need to stop looking at calories in apps. They might only be estimated but they can give you a better view on what impact do your activities have on you.

Every app has it own calculation system of burned calories and I will focus primarily on Endomondo. If you are using a different app, you could just check their manual.

There are two main formulas which are being used for calorie counting — exercises without data about heart rate and those with them. In both cases very important basic information about you is used — age, height, weight and gender. Forget about protecting your privacy (yeah, tough to say). For best results, you should fill in all the data and update it regularly. Weight mostly. I don’t think that many people are going to change their gender. (maybe in Thailand)

Workout without heart rate

If you weren’t using a chest strap during your workout, burned calories are counted based on the type of sport, distance (respectively speed) and time (for calculation of that, this document is used). Try to fill in the type of a workout as accurate as you can. For example, the difference between road and mountain cycling is really big.

There can be a big difference between Endomondo’s calculation and reality. It could be in weight training — someone is training really hard and someone else is resting or chatting most of the time. It could also be during running or cycling — when there’s bad weather, high mountains or something else that can affect your performance. What does all this mean?

Let’s say you are going to climb up a one thousand metre high hill. It’s really not easy. You’re slow and you have to release a lot of energy. Endomondo can’t count through this properly without having your heart rate in. It just thinks you’re slow. And if you’re going downhill, the app thinks you are training really hard. So according to Endomondo you burn more calories while you’re going downhill.

And how to change all this? How make it more accurate? Use a gadget to track you heart rate.

Workout with heart rate monitoring

Heart rate is the way how to get more accurate number of calories burnt. If you’re going through a hard track, Endomondo will notice it and count it properly. Of course it’s not one hundred percent. You can have high heart rate because you’re ill or you can be just afraid in dark place (as I was in Slovak mountains — bears, lots of bears, I didn’t seen any, but still…) And also your fitness device could be inaccurate.

And how big of a difference can there be between ‘with’ and ‘without’ heart rate tracking? As example I have my rides from home to work and from work to home.

In the morning it’s simple, it’s just one long downward hill and only six kilometres. Without heart rate tracking, I burned 163kcal and with it, it was 160kcal. It this case the difference is minimal. But the situation is totally different when I was riding up the hill.

Withou heart rate tracking I burned 160kcal  — this is nonsense. I worked harder and longer. When I tried it again with my chest strap, the result was — 295kcal. Almost twice as much!

So what now? Do I have to wear a chest strap all the time?

If you want the most accurate results you will have to. But as I said earlier, the burned calories are only approximate. Accuracy can be improved by choosing the right type of sport. For example, if you’re riding in high hills, it’s better to log your activity as MTB – even if you are cycling on a road bike. And, unfortunately, Endomondo doesn’t have any activities like running up hills.

Strava has a better way of counting for cycling, where is counted in.


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