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Home » Cycling » The Fix For The Over-calculation of Calories in Strava, Endomondo, Garmin Connect… And Just How Far Off Are the Apps On Your Calorie Count? It’s A Lot.

The Fix For The Over-calculation of Calories in Strava, Endomondo, Garmin Connect… And Just How Far Off Are the Apps On Your Calorie Count? It’s A Lot.

August 2020

I rode Tuesday night, our normal group ride night.  The main event was 28 miles of pure awesome.  It wasn’t terribly fast, but it was quick and I absolutely got the blood pumping.

Strava kicked back, once the ride uploaded, that I’d burned 846 calories over those 28 miles.  The average speed was 21.5-mph.  Max speed was just a shade under 35-mph.  Estimated average power was 218 watts.  My average heart rate was 136 bpm, max was 167, leading out the group at the first sprint sign above 30-mph for more than a half-mile.

I rode again Wednesday night.  Nothing special, just a little bit of an active recovery ride with my buddy, Chuck to burn off the stiffness from Tuesday night.  It’s been a long month and 2/3’s since my last day off and I’m really starting to feel it.  Thankfully I’ve got a couple of days off coming up.  God knows what I’ll write about (oh ye of little faith, I’m already working on those posts!).  Anyway, 22 miles, 17-mph average, 114 watts… and 1,236 calories.  Now how it God’s green earth do I burn 400 more calories on a shorter ride using 100 fewer watts over six fewer miles?!

Another ride Thursday, another 28 miles, but this one is a lot harder… more up.  A bit more than double that of Tuesday night.  I scored a new PR on that route, a 21.9-mph average.  My average power was 240 watts.  I was a happy man… another 12 achievements in 15 segments on Strava (that’s pretty good), including three cups and another on a warm-up climb.  Average heart rate was 142 bpm with a max of 166.  880 calories burned.

That same ride last week?  235 watts, 21.6-mph average… 1,859 calories burned.

What’s missing is the heart rate.  A heart rate monitor evens out the calorie burn and fixes the algorithm.  I’d bet a power meter would do about the same.  The point is, if you’re not using a heart rate monitor or power meter (or both), you’re burning less than half the calories your app says.  I knew it was bad.  I didn’t know it was that bad.


Ride hard, my friends.  And know, if you’re not using a heart rate monitor, you’re actually burning about half the calories your app says you are.  If you eat according to your Strava or Endomondo calorie burn, don’t be surprised when you put on weight.

One good thing I did learn about all of this, my Garmin is set to 190 for my max heart rate.  I’ve bumped my head against 170 quite often but I can’t do much better.  I thought there was something wrong with me till I learned you get your max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220… or, for me, 170.  It made everything make sense.


  1. Sheree says:

    Bad news for many ☹️

  2. unironedman says:

    Calorie counters on your wrist are useless. The scales (and the full length mirror) don’t lie. I guess that’s why we dodge ’em so often 😉

    • bgddyjim says:

      I think they can be a tool, but the scale is the ultimate judge. I’m not a particular fan of the mirror. I have a tendency to see myself as fat when others don’t. My eyes don’t work well.

      • unironedman says:

        As a tradesman, I think you instinctively know that tools are there to do a job. If you had a level that wasn’t showing level, you’d chuck it out. So calorie data that is out by that much is worse than useless. It’s a stopped clock that tells the time correctly twice a day… if you also have a watch that works!

        So yep, it’s the scales for me. The mirror might give you a clue if you’re toned or not. But too much mirror-gazing isn’t healthy either…

        As for eyesight; hitting fifty and having to get reading glasses was an eye-opener. As you can see, age hasn’t withered my razor-sharp wit… 😉

      • bgddyjim says:

        I should have been more clear… my eyesight is fantastic (I do need readers, though)… the problem is in my brain’s interpretation of what the eyes are seeing. I simply see myself as fat when I’m not. This happens to anorexic people as well. We see them as skeletons, they see themselves as “toned”. That same thing happens to me, but I hate puking so bulimia is out and I DEFINITELY like food too much so no chance for anorexia… I’ve had to learn to not trust my eyes in that regard.

      • unironedman says:

        My long vision is great too. It’s those little muscles that squeeze your eye to focus that lose their tone… but I hear ya. I generally avoid mirrors these days.

      • bgddyjim says:

        We’re too old for that $#!+, my friend.

      • unironedman says:

        We are indeed!

  3. joliesattic says:

    I wondered about that but never tested it.

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