Strava over-estimates Calories

Does anyone else notice that the calorie info on Strava is a huge overestimate from the amount of calories you actually burn?  Sometimes the estimated calories burned on Strava after I upload my ride is 2 to even over 3 times what I actually burned.  What algorithm is used and why is there such a discrepancy?  

Today alone I did a ride where I only burned 1,500 kcal according to my Garmin computer (which is actually really about 800 additional calories burned over my basal rate.)  Strava states I burned 3,100 kcal.  My Garmin 810 with all of my personal info, HR data, VO2 Max, FTP, etc I know is much more accurate.  

How could Strava possibly calculate anyone who rides for only 45 miles stayed in Z2 70% of the time, Z3 15%, and Z4 for only 1% could possibly burn over 3,000 calories?  I know it is not accurate, but there are people who do depend on this as their only means of calculating calories burned.  Without a HR monitor it exaggerates even more.  It would have indicated that I burned well over 4,000 calories, when I actually burned less than 1,000. 

BTW, when the ride is uploaded on GarminConnect, the calories info is the same as that on my bike computer.

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75 comments
  • I've been riding a ~35lb (loaded up) hybrid bike (closer to mountain bike than road bike) for a few years now, and I just went on my first real ride on my new road bike (~25lb, so ~10lb lighter)- 35.1 miles in 2h34m moving time (2h48m total) with a reported average speed of 13.7mph.

    When I first submitted the activity, it assumed I was riding my old hybrid, and it claimed 2067 calories. My Fitbit Surge that I used to record the ride says 1845 calories, so pretty similar, especially considering that I don't think my Fitbit has any idea what kind of bike I'm riding or how much weight it adds.

    But then I added my road bike and edited the activity to attach my road bike to it instead, and it dropped the calories all the way down to 963. What is going on?

    edit: here's the ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/945490708

    May be worth noting that I can consistently toggle the calories between the two numbers just by editing the activity to toggle between my two bikes.

  • Another runner here - Strava is over estimating my calorie burn by around 30% when compared to a variety of online calculators and also the Moves app. Definitely an outlier. 

    Is it possible to hack the app by giving myself a weight that would compensate for this error?

  • I just did a 20km ride.  Runtastic cycling estimated ~ 330 cal burned, strava estimated ... ~ 817!  The heart rate monitoring looks accurate, the time, distance, elevation gain all accurate.  Calories ... different story.

    I love the stats on Strava, but not if there are going to be totally off. I will switch apps for now because the calorie count is very useful feature when training.  Also, I am paying premium, but will have to cancel and pay for Runtastic instead unless everything works.

    Fix please!

  • Yep, agree. Sucks that Strava is way overstated on calorie counts. I dropped 12 pounds for my first half marathon this May 7th by using Polar Flow calorie counts synced to Myfitnesspal. 30% off is the difference between achieving your weight loss goals and failing completely.

    Strava, your fitness and freshness, social component, pace, and heart rate analysis is my favourite out of polar, mapmyrun, nike+ run club, and runtastic. You showed me, based on a recent 5K race result, what my lactate threshold pace was so I set a higher goal for my first half marathon than I would have based on my Polar Running Index chart. I beat the Polar prediction by 5 minutes with a 1:38:14 finish versus 1:43:30.

    Why keep this distorted calorie counter in place when obesity is the number one health issue in the USA and Canada?

    Your training programs from Macmillan fitness also are so disconnected from the Strava app. No feedback or proper integration to the app. They're not dynamic based on training missed or benchmarks completed. Mapmyrun, and Nike+ plus Run Club are examples to aspire to. The Polar training program is good also but is purely based on heart rate and time. It doesn't adapt as you go or as you achieve or miss training but have worked for me since I stuck to the plan 100%.

    Overall, I think Strava is great. Fix these gaps and become the Facebook of running apps! Cheers, Blair.

  • Another runner chiming in to say (again) that Strava is massively overstating calories burnt. Please fix this or at least provide users the ability to manually adjust. This is a massive pain when it comes to MFP / LoseIt integration.

  • +1 for getting somebody to look at the calories burned during cycling. I'm trying to lose weight using myfitness + strava and currently its letting me eat around 3000-3500 calories a day if I do any kind of  hard cycling... needless to say I'm not losing too much weight...

  • I recommend taking 30% off the calories Strava gives you as being pretty close to the actual burn. That's the case for running anyway. Not sure about cycling / other. 

  • Not to sound like a broken record, but I also have noticed Strava way overestimating running calories burned. I still think it's crazy that they ignore HR data.

  • To Strava Support:

    Why are you not addressing this issue?

    1. It is clear multiple people have the same issue

    2. You have clear data points and support

    3. 30-40% over optimistic calorie recording seems about the norm feedback.

    We need an answer.

    For those of us accurately measuring our calorie intake, your calorie usage inputs are totally undermining the process. 

  • Noticed the same issue with running and it's disappointing it's not been addressed, looks like i'll go back using google fit on it's own until this is fixed

  • Noticing the same issues, I feel strava calories burnt is over by around 40% on every ride. This is really bad for me personally as I am riding as a way to lose weight, and having it sync up to MFP hugely distorting my calorie daily goals is counterproductive.

    If the strava team could find a way to put a multiplier in the settings to allow a user to change the calculation themselves or something along those lines, would be amazing for me personally.

  • I think even Garmin over estimates calories burned by a big margin and that's with power & heart rate. I find Garmin & Strava to be kinda similar although the longer the ride the higher Strava seems to be above Garmin? I wonder if each riders efficiency (or lack thereof) has a lot to do with the big range of discrepancies. If people replaced all the calories that either estimates they certainly won't lose weight! Also need to allow for daily base metabolic burn & other activities, and proportional to time for these vs ride. I have tracked all these and intake & weight over a few weeks and for me I now only work on 60% of what Garmin says but maybe I'm just more efficient?

  • One more for the list. Slow 8mile run. Strava reckons I burned 30% more calories than 2 other apps I had running at the same time. So for calorie burn I'll go with Fitbit. If Strava doesn't do something I'll bin it.

  • Please fix thile calories burnt for my case as well. https://www.strava.com/activities/1055916415/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1498526987 for the same segment of the ride my calories burnt shws almost double that of my brother...1500 vs 838

  • I realised that Strava grossly over-estimates calories after calculating my own consumption (using the same values and formulas as John Vance, pretty much from the same authorative sources). Strava is about 30% high, making it useless for weight management.

    I cancelled my premium subscription months ago because so many fundamental parts of Strava are broken. This is just the same. I suggest other people cancel their subscriptions -- you won't miss it.

    Strava likely inflated calorie consumption to attract users. Now, if they corrected their formula, there'd be a huge backlash. Better to put one's head in the sand.

    The only thing you can do in the meantime is set your weight to true weight multiplied by 0.78, as suggested by John.

  • I thought I should keep this train rolling. I am new to Strava and have found that it grossly overestimated my calories compared to both a wrist HRM and chest HRM. I even connected it to a HRM via Bluetooth but that didn't seem to make any difference. There is a lot I like about Strava but I genuinely don't know that I'll keep using it because of this.

  • I logged a request for them to change this at:

    https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us

    Please do likewise and maybe it gets fixed.

  • Thanks Richard.

    I also logged a request and in addition sent a tweet to @StravaSupport. I encourage others to do the same.

  • Are folks finding that the .78 multiplier for weight actually helps get a more accurate calorie count? Mine seems grossly over estimated. The Nike App and Apple Watch app both had my morning 5k at around 290 and the Strava was well over 400. Too bad b/c all of the other aspects of the app are really nice. 

  • I also have a question on Strava changing the calories associated with an activity depending on the activity type. This AM I did a hike up a local mountain using Strava on my Apple Watch. Since the app on the watch has only run or bike, I started a run. 3.4km and 800m elevation gain resulted in 577 calories burned. After editing the activity to a hike, the caliries dropped to 245 calories. I don't get it. Same distance and work, two different results!
    Now which is right? On top of that, they have both ended up in MFP.
    Jenn

  • This is POINTLESS - they don't respond. 

  • Hi Elle, the survey is locked. Mind making it public so people can fill it out?

    Thanks!

  • That survey is limited to the owners. You've set the permissions wrong, please correct.

  • I clicked on the survey link but got this error:

    You need permission

    This form can only be viewed by users in the owner's organization.

    Try contacting the owner of the form if you think this is a mistake. Learn More.

  • Sorry all - the survey form is open now.

  • When I finish my ride Strava shows, say 1600 kCal, but when I edit the name, bike and add photos the number changes to 1200kCal. It happens each time and always the number goes down.

    Does anybody have similar issue?

  • On my garmin  shows x calories, however when imported to strava it showns x / 1/2 

    1000 on garmin = 500 or 550 on strava

    any idea why this is happening and more importantly do do you fix this? 

  • I’ve been wondering about this. It’s a while since I did A level physics but I can’t see how calories can be calculated without power data. On a bike surely gears are going to affect calorie output? Climbing up a hill in a big gear must use more calories than doing it at the same speed in a smaller gear? Can someone clarify the science/maths?

  • Power output is independent of gearing, 300w at a high cadence uses the same calories as 300w at low cadence and you will be going at the same speed but in a different gear. So it is reasonable to estimate power from speed and incline. What you can't account for without a power meter is wind speed/direction or aerodynamics so there are some errors that will creep in there.

    However, I have a power meter, and strava still consistently adds 10% onto my calories compared to both outdoor (stages power meter) and inside (tacx smart trainer) than what is reported by Garmin and Zwift.

    That's just weird.

    P.s. in the first paragraph I've ignored that there are certain cadences that are actually slightly more efficient than others - but differences with a "normal" range are negligible.

  • why would my garmin at the end of a ride tell that i have burnt 1000 calories and when the import into strava is done strava tells me it is +_  500 calories?

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