So I think we all know that when a machine at the gym has a “calories burned” calculator, it’s not 100% accurate.
But let me be the mean lady who’s going to burst your bubble and tell you exactly how WRONG it really is! To cut to the chase: usually about 20% off! And that’s not an underestimate, the way you may have been hoping. 😉 It OVERestimates by 20%.
Now, why is that? Well, it’s because there’s no way the “calories burned” calculator is going to be able to consider all the factors about you that would make it more accurate.
This is even truer for those counters that don’t ask for your age and weight ahead of time. Because as you get older, you unfortunately burn less calories for the same amounts of exercise. And of course if the counter isn’t considering your weight and size, then it’s not considering how a bigger person is going to burn more calories.
So for the sake of this post I’m assuming that the counter DOES ask you these questions, but it’s still 20% off. (If only the machine was 20% off, I would like to buy some new equipment for my home gym 😉)
Why is it still SO inaccurate?
Well, for one thing, I don’t know of any counters that take your body composition (how much muscle vs. how much fat) into account.
And the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn, because your metabolism is higher! Let’s say, for example, there are two women running on the treadmill, who both weigh 140 lb. Except, one of them weighs 140 lb and has 30% body fat, while the other weighs 140 lb and has 20% body fat.
Now, because they only put their weight into the machine, the “calories burned” counter is going to show the same amount. But in reality, the woman with less body fat is going to burn more calories because of her increased metabolism from muscle. (But also, keep in mind that the taller you are, the more calories you burn due to increased body size. So whoever is the taller of the two women, or has the bigger body frame, might burn the most calories.)
…which brings us to our next factor: the woman with less body fat is likely (not necessarily of course) the one who has been going to the gym more.
So the more in shape you are…you unfortunately burn LESS calories doing the same amount of exercise. In a way, that might even out the two women a little bit, because you have to keep increasing the intensity of your exercise or else you’re going to burn less calories as your body gets used to doing the same thing over and over.
If you’re not using the machine efficiently!! Like if you’re bending over the handle on the treadmill to put your face in the fan…I know you’ve done this if you’ve ever used the treadmill, don’t lie! 😉 Or if you’re using the railing on a stair stepper, that will reduce the calorie burn drastically, unfortunately. Because you’re resting a lot more when you do that.
So even if you think, hey, I’m putting in my age and my weight, so the “calories burned” calculator can’t be too OFF, right? Nope! I’m sorry!!
In fact, there was a study done at Stanford calculating the accuracy of the machines, and the best one was off by 27%…the worst was off by 93%!! 93%, how does that even happen? Hopefully if yours was off by that much, you would realize it was just wishful thinking. 😉
So after my spiel here, you’re probably hoping that I have a SOLUTION to actually tell you how many calories you’ve burned.
Unfortunately the best solution I can give you is using a fitness tracker, because those know your heart rate so they know how much you’re actually working. That gets rid of the whole “overestimating your calories based on how fit you are” issue.
The calories burned calculator on your fitness tracker is going to be a lot more accurate than the one on machines, but it still isn’t going to be quite perfect. And while it does kind of stink that there’s no way to get a totally accurate reading of calories burned during exercise, you can do two things.
- Just try and get the amount on the machine higher or the amount on your fitness tracker HIGHER, even if it’s not quite “right,” so that it’s just another metric that you’re doing better!
And also keep in mind that your diet — the amount of calories you take in — is going to be way more instrumental for losing weight.
I mean, burning 500 calories at the gym would be a fantastic intense workout, but think about how easily you cancel that out with food again!!
But lucky for you, you can still join the 21 Day Portion Fix, where you get hundreds of recipes and will know exactly what portion sizes you should be eating, and exactly how many calories you’re taking in.
No guesswork and no inaccuracy! Because I know that’s usually the issue for most people when trying to lose weight: underestimating their calories consumed.