Garmin Connect vs. Strava - Calorie Count Discrepancy?
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  1. #1
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    Garmin Connect vs. Strava - Calorie Count Discrepancy?

    For some time now I've been using my Garmin Edge 500 to review my ride data, a family member suggested I join Strava so that we could each follow each other and review our rides.

    I noticed that Strava greatly reduced the calories used up during a ride from that ones posted by my GPS.

    For example, a 45 mile ride this past weekend read: 3,100 calories on Garmin Connect, but only 1,958 on Strava - WTF?

    I'm interested in the calorie number so I know how many calories to consume during my ride (trying some stuff out) but now I'm confused as to which system to believe.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    zRainRyder
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    I don't know either...I have a ride calculation showing, along with mph, distance etc. on my Garmin 500. It may show 2,000 cal expended and then when uploaded to strava, it will show 1400 for example. Why the big disparity. The elevations and distances seem reasonably accurate... the calorie tracking seem to be way off... why???

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    Calorie estimates from anything other than a power meter are for light comic relief only.

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    With a Garmin 500, you need either a HR monitor or a powermeter registering for it to get even semi-accurate calorie amounts. With just a plain 500, the calorie amounts are WAY over exaggerated.

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    I have a HR monitor as I got the kit (computer, hr monitor and cadance meter) so I would have thought the calories read would be a bit more accurate on the Garmin.

    For what it's worth, the stationary bikes at my local gym read about 500 calories per hour while doing a good workout which is similar to what Strava calculates.

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    If you ride at around threshold, you'll probably be in the 600 to 800 calorie range. So if you are reading a lot more than that, then something is wrong.

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    Thanks - looking at the details for my last ride I had an Avg HR of 89 % of Max and the calories being consumed for a 1 hour period are within the ranges you listed above.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightfend View Post
    If you ride at around threshold, you'll probably be in the 600 to 800 calorie range. So if you are reading a lot more than that, then something is wrong.
    That makes no sense. Without knowing the OP's power at "threshold," you can't possibly guess as to the caloric expenditure. Also, as most of us use the term, a ride of more than about an hour at a sustained intensity is necessarily below threshold, anyway. The hourly caloric expenditure range you suggest implies riding at approximately 165-225 watts (on the "for convenience only" assumption that 1 kJ out of the bike requires 1 calorie into the rider).

    As Alex already said, a power meter is at least something to work with, but anything else is just a guess. Really, not informative for purposes of figuring out "what to eat on the bike" in the least. In any event, for any even remotely normal person, any ride that requires eating on the bike almost certainly involves burning more calories than one can consume.

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    Okay, I'm assuming the OP is an average cyclist, with average body weight. In that regard, yeah, I think he will be around the 600 to 800/hour mark if he does a hard ride. Why would you assume threshold has to mean 1 hour? You can have 20 minute thresholds and 2 hour thresholds. It is simply the fastest you can go for that duration of time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arai_speed View Post
    Thanks - looking at the details for my last ride I had an Avg HR of 89 % of Max and the calories being consumed for a 1 hour period are within the ranges you listed above.
    Unless that ride was less than an hour, that seems really high to me (and either way, implies you were riding pretty hard). Could your maximum heart rate actually be higher than whatever number you're using?

    Not that 600-800 calories/hour are implausible numbers for a lot of people.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for replies - I actually posted the question because a while back I bonked on this particular ride so since then I've been a bit more aware of how much I need to take in.

    As such I've been trying to find a balance of eating just enough to keep going but not to the point that I feel sick (which for me is a very narrow margin). So I started looking at the calories (aka "guess") to see how much I was burning during the ride to try and gauge my intake but when I uploaded my ride to Strava I was taken aback by the difference.

    So it seems like w/out a power meter I'm just fooling myself?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Undecided View Post
    Unless that ride was less than an hour, that seems really high to me (and either way, implies you were riding pretty hard). Could your maximum heart rate actually be higher than whatever number you're using?

    Not that 600-800 calories/hour are implausible numbers for a lot of people.
    I posted above w/out seeing this. The ride in question was 4 hours long and had an elevation gain of 5,223 ft.

    Avg HR: 164 bpm
    Max HR: 185 bpm

    If I switch the view to % of Max I get:

    Avg HR: 89 % of Max
    Max HR: 100 % of Max

  14. #14
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    Well, taking in food during the ride is a whole other matter. You definitely won't be able to eat as much as you burn. For me, I find I can go the first 1 1/2 to 2 hours without eating anything, then after that, I usually eat about 250 calories an hour.

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    Totally agree - I'm not trying to replenish calorie per calorie but wanted to try see what my hourly caloric spend was and see if replenishing 1/3 of what I burn works.

    But it sounds like I should just listen to my body for that rather then look down the computer?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightfend View Post
    Okay, I'm assuming the OP is an average cyclist, with average body weight. In that regard, yeah, I think he will be around the 600 to 800/hour mark if he does a hard ride. Why would you assume threshold has to mean 1 hour? You can have 20 minute thresholds and 2 hour thresholds. It is simply the fastest you can go for that duration of time.
    I "assume" that in the context of a cycling coaching forum "threshold" (with no modifier) means "functional threshold power" or "something like CP60" or something else that's approximately a maximal effort of about an hour, because that's how it's used when bike racers and coaches talk (perhaps imprecisely) about training. While you're absolutely right that the word itself, in plain English, doesn't need to imply any period of time, in this usage, it does. Absent that assumption, though, your use of the term makes even less sense, doesn't it? If you don't think it suggests some particular meaning on its own, what did you intend to communicate in using it?

    TrainingPeaks | What is Threshold Power?

    How to Increase Your Threshold Power

    Joe Friel's Blog: Functional Threshold

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by arai_speed View Post
    I posted above w/out seeing this. The ride in question was 4 hours long and had an elevation gain of 5,223 ft.

    Avg HR: 164 bpm
    Max HR: 185 bpm

    If I switch the view to % of Max I get:

    Avg HR: 89 % of Max
    Max HR: 100 % of Max
    How did you determine the "max" though? Four hours at 89% of max HR sounds wrong.

  18. #18
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    Question Umm....

    Does this mean posted this topic in the wrong forum??? I'm a noob and I'm only trying to learn

    Undecided, I'm only posting the data the GPS captures.

    Last edited by arai_speed; 02-01-2012 at 02:49 PM.

  19. #19
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    Maybe the Racing/Training forum gets more discussion like this.

    Not that it really matters for your original question about calories, but I think very few people could average 89% of their maximum heart rate for four hours. That's why I asked how you determined your maximum heart rate. You must have put that 185 bpm maximum into the computer at some point, whether directly or not. Maybe it's a default based on something related to your age. Do you happen to be 35?

  20. #20
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    Ha! As a matter of fact I am 35, what does that mean for my Max HR?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by arai_speed View Post
    Ha! As a matter of fact I am 35, what does that mean for my Max HR?
    It means you have no idea what it is, because you're using a default generated by the arbitrary "formula" Max HR=220-Age. There has been much discussion on the forums about how worthless it is.

  22. #22
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    The reading I provided of Max HR was for one particular ride, if I look at Max HR for other rides it differs.

    For what its worth, I've actually looked at the Max HR for all my rides, took the average and noticed the number was very close to what the "formula" renders.

    Regardless I understand that short of a VO2 stress test these are all just estimates with some deviations.

  23. #23
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    Here is a great article which provides a breakdown of how Garmin determines calories used:

    DC Rainmaker: How calorie measurement works on Garmin fitness devices

    The Edge 500 (which is what I have) uses the First Leaf Method which provides accuracy between 7-10% and this is the best part "over time it has a weighted algorithm to note changes in your fitness level and adjust calorie burn accordingly" which I found to be true by riding the sam strech of road over and over during the last few months and noticed that with each ride my calories burned were less and less.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by arai_speed View Post
    The reading I provided of Max HR was for one particular ride, if I look at Max HR for other rides it differs.

    For what its worth, I've actually looked at the Max HR for all my rides, took the average and noticed the number was very close to what the "formula" renders.

    Regardless I understand that short of a VO2 stress test these are all just estimates with some deviations.
    So when you say that a ride was at an average HR that was X% of "Max HR," you mean it's just comparing the average from that ride to the highest rate during that particlar ride? What does that tell you?

    Your "maximum heart rate" must be at least the highest rate in any of those rides.

  25. #25
    zRainRyder
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    Strava makes its estimates based on "power". However, since I don't use a power meter, power is derived from the heart monitor. Has anyone gotten tested for their maximum threshold or use a power meter and use both the Garmin 500 and Strava? The burning question, is which estimate is more credible? (Stava's or the Garmin 500's).

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