How does Garmin calculate calories?


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Page last updated: 27/09/2022

How does Garmin calculate calories?

In this guide, we will talk about how Garmin calculates calories, important terms related to calories, what are resting calories, how can you improve calories burned and some additional things you may want to consider when talking about calories.

How does Garmin calculate calories?

You may be wondering, how Garmin calculates calories and it is a very interesting question for those who are on a weight loss journey or for those who would like to maintain their weight. First, we need to grasp the concept of active calories which are the calories that we burn throughout the day only while we are doing physical activities such as walking or walking out- In contrast, we have resting calories which are the calories we burn through vital processes such as breathing or digestion or even while watching TV. 

However, we find that your Garmin device is responsible for calculating active calories based on the activity level, type of activity, your age, height, weight, gender and heart rate. We can also mention how obsessed people can be with how many calories they have burned throughout the day since this may mean they are losing weight but it is not that simple.

If you have one of the Vivoactive series watches, depending on what accessories you are using with your watch, the burned calories will be calculated in the following order:

  • Firstbeat: uses your heart rate user profile data. This is an algorithm which is considered to be one of the most accurate when calculating calories. The calculations from Firstbeat uses user-inputted data such as height and weight.  
  • Fitness Equipment: which calculates calories using ANT+ enabled fitness equipment. It can evaluate the time between heartbeats to determine metabolic equivalent, which is used to determine actual work expenditure. 
  • Speed, Distance and User Profile: which is calculated using speed, distance and user profile such as your weight, height age, etc. this would be considered the most basic method to determine calorie count and it is only used when there is no heart rate monitor or strap enabled. 

Finally,  a lot has been said about counting calories through wearable devices from several brands such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Misfit, Garmin, and many others, but more studies are still needed when considering how accurate is one device when compared to the other, especially when considering that some devices do underestimate or overestimate calorie count.

Important terms

Here are some of the most important terms and concepts when talking about calories. For instance, we have activity calories which represent the total of active and resting calories that are calculated from the recorded activities throughout the day. The start getting recorded as soon as you start the timer for the activity to the moment you stop the timer. 

Moreover, another important term would be calories consumed which correspond to the calories we get from food intake. If you have your Garmin linked with account, you can track this information and see your calories consumed on Garmin Connect.

Finally, we have calories remaining and net calories. The first term refers to how many daily calories you are above or below your calories goal meaning calorie goal – Net Calories= Calories remaining. However, net calories refer to all the calories consumed and then subtracting the active calories burned so you can get the net calorie total for the day. 

How does Garmin calculate calories?

What are resting calories?

I remember when I started counting calories to lose weight. I got obsessed with the numbers and always wanted to burn more and more through exercise so I thought the more I exercised the more calories I would see on the counter. However, we not only burn calories while we are exercising but also when we are not doing anything at all and even when we sleep. Surprised? Well, those are resting calories and as the term states, those are the calories we burn while we rest. 

Moreover, resting calories are also known to be related to the Resting Metabolic Rate. Resting calories consist of min calories which are required to support the basic physiological needs as well as your age, weight, height and gender. 

Finally, some Garmin devices have optical heart rate sensors which use your heart rate score and your VO2 Max estimate to determine your calorie measurement. 

How can I improve calories burned?

Many of you may have thought like me at some point, meaning, the more you exercise, the more calories burned you will see across the screen and yes, it may partly be true. However, your calories burned will also vary depending on your heart rate data, your user profile info. And the type of activity. It is probably not the same to go for a walk for 30 minutes at a steady pace than going to a spinning class for the same 30 minutes. 

But says that we are burning the number of calories shown in our device? Especially when we are not doing much. Well, Garmin devices can calculate both active and resting calories to show you the total calories burned daily. To ensure that calorie burn is as accurate as possible, here are some tips from Garmin Support:

  • Review your heart rate data to ensure it is being recorded accurately. This means troubleshooting your device if the heart rate sensor on your watch is not recording the information appropriately, etc. 
  • Ensure that the information on your profile is accurate. This means adding the required information such as your age, height, weight, etc. 
  • If you have a vivoactive HR, vivoactive 3, vivoactive 3 Music, and vivoactive 3 Music (Verizon) device then, there is a one-time calibration that can be performed by walking or running outside and to do it, from the watch face swipe to view the ‘My Day’ widget. Select the ‘!’ icon that will indicate that calories need to be calibrated. Follow the instructions that will appear on the screen and that would be all. 

Why is this blog about How does Garmin calculate calories important?

As we have discussed how Garmin calculates calories, we can conclude that your Garmin device is responsible for calculating active calories based on the activity level, type of activity, your age, height, weight, gender and heart rate. We can also mention how obsessed people can be with how many calories they have burned throughout the day since this may mean they are losing weight but it is not that simple.

However, consider that some devices have a different type of technology that allows calorie count in a different way and some cases even the most accurate option. Finally, even knowing how many calories you have burned throughout your day, it is not as important if you don’t make sense of the data and analyze it through a different perspective. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How does Garmin calculate calories

Is Garmin calorie count accurate?

Garmin calorie count is considered fairly accurate but sometimes, it may reflect an incorrect calorie count. There are many factors to consider that could be affecting the calorie count. How does my watch calculate calories?

Does Garmin double count calories?

Garmin estimates the calories (326kcals) but, somewhere between Garmin and MFP, another 46 kcals are added in for your steps.

How does my watch calculate calories?

If you have an Apple Watch, know that it uses your personal info such as your weight, height, gender and age to calculate how many calories you burn and more. If you would like to update your personal information, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and tap the ‘My Watch’ tab. Then, tap Health and then the Health Profile.

How many calories do I burn in a day?

The number of calories burned in a day will depend on your weight, age, height, etc. For instance, someone with a calorie need of 3.000 per day to maintain their current weight can lose weight if they eat 2.500 calories per day. As an alternative, you can eat the same amount of calories but exercise more to burn the calories. 

Is Fitbit or Garmin more accurate?

It seems that depending on the activity, you can consider Fitbit or Garmin to be more accurate. If you’re into pool sessions, Garmin tends to be more reliable accuracy-wise for longer sessions, more metrics, swimming-focused features. No Fitbits offer open water swim tracking either if that’s something you’re after. 


What is Used to Calculate Calories on My Vivoactive Series Watch?