Most of us rely on tech and various apps to help us make the changes we need to achieve a healthy weight. However an over reliance on these tools might lull one into a false sense of security and lead to frustration as results do not materialise as expected.
According to research by Which, the accuracy of some personal fitness trackers and smart devices can vary as much as 66%! Meaning you may have burned only 170kcal when it is claiming you have burned 500kcal! Some gym equipment can by just as inaccurate – overstating distances or energy used by significant amounts. If you are deciding how much to eat based on the readings provided by these devices you may find that you are not getting the results you expected.
Have you ever looked at your gym timetable and seen a class advertised as burning 400kcal (or more)? Or perhaps you enter an activity tracking app and the app tells you that the activity is worth so many kcals…Actually it is impossible for a gym timetable to accurately estimate how many calories you will burn as a result of participating in a class – this is because the number of calories you use will very much depend on your current fitness, your height, your weight and how much effort you put in and your technique – you can do exactly the same class on two different days and burn up to 50% more calories with improved technique and effort.
Do you reward yourself with food/drink after a tough work out? Or perhaps you are more disciplined, you look at your app and eat back only the calories burned because you have “earned” it? The problem you will encounter with this approach is that the calories logged as eaten are based on – you guessed it – inaccurate estimates of the actual energy contained in the foods in question. Food manufacturers are allowed a tolerance of up to 20% in the accuracy of the calories listed on their packaging and while the inaccuracy could vary both ways – i.e. a serving claiming to be 300kcal could be 240kcal or 360kcal – you can imagine where the manufacturer would rather error fall… You could therefore already be eating 20% more calories than you thought you were – combine that with an app that overestimated your calorie burn and you can easily cancel out all your effort!
Calorie counting is a good starting point and can be very helpful when trying to understand portion sizes and activity levels. A couple of things to consider – You need to understand your personal calorie requirements – please ignore the recommendations on food packaging and get your BMR measured.
Your personal requirements are unique to you and will change as your circumstances change so you should monitor these on a regular basis.
Understand your PAL (Physical Activity Levels). This is important as it factors into whether or not we are over or under eating (neither of which is good in the long term). For those looking to reduce weight, it is very easy to overestimate how much energy used in day to day activity or even in exercise activity. A good health coach can assist you to assess this more objectively and refine over time.
For optimal health, not all calories are equal; and, focusing on calories without thinking about the nutrients these calories are providing is unlikely result in a strong body that can maintain an ideal weight or indeed achieves the health benefits of reducing weight. Eating a variety of foods that provide all the macros – Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats; and, ensuring these are of the quality that provide essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) our bodies need – is fundamental to remaining healthy (or regaining health) and managing weight in a sustainable manner.
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