Fitbits are awesome. That is why people buy millions of these gadgets every year. In 2022 alone, Fitbit lovers bought approximately 9.2 million units. Numbers don’t lie.
Sadly, despite being immensely popular and renowned for their quality, Fitbits aren’t impervious to technical issues. I’ve used quite a few Fitbits over the years and encountered numerous problems, from data syncing failure to flickering display. But the most common is the inaccurate estimation of the calories I burn daily.
Numerous aspects often lead to accuracy issues in Fitbits, including heart rate variability. But the good news is that you can adjust inaccurate data and use numerous hacks to make your fitness tracker more accurate. Read on to learn more.
How Does Fitbit Calculate Calorie Burn?
Fitbit uses proprietary algorithms to estimate calorie burn based on the user’s personal data, tracked activity, and physiological responses tracked by the device sensors. Here are the key factors involved:
|Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)||Fitbit calculates your BMR based on your age, height, weight, and gender to estimate the calories your body burns at rest for vital functions each day.|
|Active Minutes||The accelerometer tracks your minutes of activity at various intensity levels to estimate active calorie burn. More intense exercise burns more calories.|
|Heart Rate||Increased heart rate corresponds to higher calorie burn, so the optical HR sensor data improves burn estimates.|
|Steps||Step counts are factored in, with stride length calibrations for distance traveled. More steps burn more calories.|
|Workouts||For tracked exercises like runs, swims, bike rides, etc., Fitbit uses specific exertion calculations tailored to the workout type for calorie burn estimates.|
|Sleep & Other Metrics||Resting calories burned while sleeping are estimated from sleep stage data. Other metrics like hourly activity also refine the numbers.|
|Personal Stats||Age, height, weight, and gender drive metabolic equations that are personalized for each user’s calorie needs.|
|Continuous Updating||The algorithms continue to calibrate and improve accuracy of calorie burn estimates the more you use your Fitbit.|
Can You Adjust Calories Burned on Fitbit?
Yes. Although Fitbits don’t always measure burned calories accurately, you can make adjustments whenever necessary. That is what I love about Fitbit- you can edit anything you like, from the type of workout and start/ end times to calories burned and distance covered.
I had a Fitbit 2 a few years ago. Whenever I needed to adjust burned calories for a specific activity, I’d do it via the Fitbit app. Here are the steps I followed:
- Open the Fitbit app
- Click the “Today” tab
- Tap “Exercise days”
- Select the exercise I’d like to edit
- Find calories burned
- Adjust accordingly
However, the process may vary depending on the model you’re using. Some Fitbits allow wearers to adjust calories burned from account settings. So, if the previous steps don’t work, try the following:
- Open your Fitbit app
- Click the “Today” tab
- Find “Settings” and tap it
- Navigate to “Calorie Adjustment”
- Make the required changes
If all that doesn’t work, you may be out of luck. From what I’ve gathered from the Fitbit Community forum, some Fitbits don’t have this option.
Fitbit Not Showing Calories Burned – The Fix
If your Fitbit doesn’t show calories burned, first, check if your Fitbit app (Google Android or Apple iOS) is up to date. According to one Fitbit moderator who was responding to a similar complaint, an older version of the app was often plagued by this issue. Here’s how you can update your Fitbit app without hassle:
- Go to the official app store where you downloaded your Fitbit app
- Do a quick search for Fitbit and click on it
- Check if you see an “Update” option and tap it
Suppose you have the latest version installed. In that case, if you can’t see calories burned, log out from your Fitbit app and restart your smartphone. Then, log in and check if the issue is resolved.
How To Disable Calorie Estimation on Fitbit
Most Fitbits have a “calorie estimation” setting. As the name suggests, the feature primarily estimates the number of calories you burn in a day. But there’s one major problem. Calorie estimation can mess up your Fitbit’s accuracy. According to numerous complaints, whenever this setting is disabled, Fitbits records a higher calorie count, even when the wearer has remained sedentary throughout the day.
If you are experiencing a similar problem, disable calorie estimation by following these steps:
- Open your Fitbit app
- Locate the gear symbol on your symbol and click it
- Tap “Settings”
- Navigate to “Preferences”
- Disable the calorie estimation setting
How Do I Make My Fitbit Calorie Burn More Accurate?
No fitness tracker can be 100% accurate. But your Fitbit shouldn’t be so inaccurate that it’s noticeable. While you’re sedentary, its margin of error should be around 8%. But the accuracy may dip a little when you are active. If your gadget is often off the mark by a larger margin, use the following hacks to improve its accuracy:
1. Start Wearing Your Fitbit on the Non-dominant Hand
Since approximately 90% of people are right-handed, the chances are high that you mostly use your hand. If that is the case, you should wear your Fitbit on the non-dominant hand, which is the left one. And if you are one of those rare gems who use their left hand, your gadget should be on the right one.
You shouldn’t wear your Fitbit on your dominant hand because you will likely use it often for diverse activities like waving at people, pointing at stuff, etc. Your gadget may interpret the movement as steps, include them in your activity data, and inaccurately estimate the calories you’ve burned.
2. Don’t Wear Your Gadget Too Loosely or Too Tightly
Your Fitbit should be snug. The straps shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. If you wear your gadget too tightly, it might restrict blood flow and interfere with the heart rate signal. You don’t want that to happen because heart rate data is one of the elements that Fitbits use to estimate the calories you’ve burned, especially while exercising.
Wearing your gadget too loosely is also a bad idea. If the straps are tight enough, your Fitbit will flop around a lot. And that can interfere with its accuracy.
3. Update Your Info
Besides what I’ve mentioned, the other factor Fitbits use to estimate burned calories is your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Various aspects determine your BMR, including your height, age, sex, and weight. If any of these are inaccurate, your gadget will underestimate or overestimate your BMR, which affects the number of estimated burned calories.
So, if you are having inaccuracy issues, check if the personal info is correct. You can do that from your dashboard settings. If anything is off, change it. Then, double-check to ensure everything you’ve submitted is correct.
Fitbit Model that Have the Most Accurate Calories Burned Calculation
A 2017 personalized medicine study found Fitbit to have one of the lowest margins of error for calorie burn calculations compared to other wearables. Researchers tested seven devices including Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, and Microsoft Band. Fitbit Surge showed about 27% inaccuracy in calories burned, while some competitors had up to 93% inaccuracy, making them far less reliable.
So how does Fitbit arrive at these calorie estimates? The process involves some generalization and approximation. First, Fitbit estimates your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) using your age, gender, height and weight. This is the number of calories your body burns at rest for basic functioning. The problem here is people with the same metrics can have very different fitness levels and metabolisms, so already the estimate is generalized.
Fitbit then factors in your tracked activities like steps and heart rate, along with any workouts you log manually. Combining this data with your BMR, Fitbit makes an educated guess of calories burned. But with potential user input errors and differences between Fitbit models, accuracy varies.
Given the generalizations and areas for mistakes, Fitbit’s calorie estimates should be considered ballpark figures rather than totally precise. However, they still provide a useful guideline for fitness goals and weight loss, especially when monitored over time for trends. Just don’t treat each calorie number as absolutely accurate. Look at the broader patterns instead.
I’ve used Fitbits for many years and noticed one common issue. Sometimes, these gadgets can be wildly inaccurate at estimating burned calories. And at other times, they fail to show burned calories. But I’ve discovered various solutions for these issues, which I’ve revealed here. You’ve got them, right?
Also, don’t forget the tips for making your wearable more accurate. Simple tricks like wearing your Fitbit on the non-dominant hand and updating your info can help you curb inaccuracy issues before they manifest and give you sleepless nights.
Why is my Fitbit overestimating or underestimating calorie burn?
The main reasons Fitbit calorie burn accuracy issues occur are incorrect user stats entered, inconsistent wearing, inaccurate exercise tracking, and uncalibrated algorithms. Insufficient data means more estimation errors.
How do I correct inaccuracies in my height, weight, age, and gender?
Log into your Fitbit dashboard online, go to settings, and update your personal stats if they are incorrect. Accurate height, weight, age and gender are crucial for calorie estimation.
Should I be wearing my Fitbit all day?
Yes, wearing your Fitbit consistently ensures all your daily activity and exertion is tracked, leading to better calorie burn accuracy. Frequent removal leads to missed data.
Does calibration improve accuracy over time?
Yes, Fitbit’s formulas calibrate for you specifically the more you wear your device. Allow at least 2 weeks of consistent all-day wear for better optimization to your movements and exercise patterns.
Is there a way to manually adjust my calorie burn totals?
Unfortunately, there is no way to manually edit your calorie burn totals if they seem too high or low on a given day. You must allow the algorithms to refine accuracy over time.
Will a heart rate chest strap provide better calorie estimates?
Yes, pairing an external HR chest strap can improve tracking accuracy during intense workouts where wrist readings get erratic. This provides more consistent HR data for calorie burn.
Does entering my fitness and nutrition details improve estimates?
Logging your fitness routines and detailed food intake allows Fitbit to factor your overall activity and energy balance into its calorie calculations for improved accuracy.