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How does WHOOP calculate calories burned?

This article explains how WHOOP calculates your calories burned and the different ways your body can break down calories. 

For an even more in-depth analysis of how WHOOP calculates and tracks your calorie activity, visit our locker post: The Science of Calorie Tracking. 

How WHOOP calculates your calories burned 

Step 1. We estimate your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) using customary formulas based on user height, weight, and gender (this information is set in your user profile information). 

Step 2. As your HR (Heart Rate) rises, we add this uptick to your BMR estimate. 

NOTEFor HR above a certain threshold the formula transitions to a WHOOP proprietary formula: Calories Burned = BMR + function (Heart Rate). 


The three ways your body burns calories 

Your body burns calories in the following ways:

By Staying alive (Basal Metabolic Rate) 

  • The number of calories your body needs to burn on a daily basis to maintain the basic functions of your life - such as blinking, heart beat, growing your hair/nails - is referred to as Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR. 
  • Your BMR depends largely on your individual age and size.
  • Women tend to have lower BMRs than men, simply because on average, women tend to be smaller in stature than men. 

By Digesting Food 

  • Believe it or not, if you want to digest the food you've eaten, your body will need to burn calories - to digest, absorb, and then dispose of food (known as thermic effect of food). 
  • Some food requires more caloric processing than others. Ex: high fiber brown rice has higher thermic effect than white rice. 

By Doing Things (Active Burn) 

  • Beyond the basics of staying alive, any additional activity can increase the rate of caloric consumption above the BMR - aka burn more calories. 
  • This means that the more activities you do, the more calories you will burn.
  • So while you can't exponentially change your BMR in a few days, by adding external activities such as an hour long hike or a 20 minute jog around your block can increase your daily caloric consumption by 250-550 calories (on average).
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