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How Does Garmin Calculate Calories Burned? (Quick Answer)


Few smartwatch brands keep their promise of giving you the best value for your money. And Garmin seems to be doing so from just about any imaginable front possible. But how does Garmin calculate calories burned in the first place?

Garmin calculates calories based on your age, weight, height, gender, type of activity, level of activity, and heart rate. Interestingly, smartwatches in the Vivoactive series use Firstbeat, fitness equipment, and personal information to estimate resting and active calories.

The calorie counter in Garmin is a tremendous technology that can help with your weight loss journey. And even if you’re just trying to keep in shape, you’ll find the calorie estimate just as important.

Garmin’s Active Vs Resting Calories: How They Compare

To understand how Garmin calculates calories burned, you first need to know about active vs resting calories.

Active Calories

Active calories are the calories your body burns when you indulge in physical activities. The exercise could be as moderate as walking or as intense as HIIT workouts.

As someone who’s more active for the most part of the day, I’m able to burn more calories than I do when resting. The more intense my workouts, the more physical strength I gain and become healthier.

For Garmin, 2 hours of physical workouts such as running, cycling, or lifting weights can put your body in a state where it burns up to 2,000 calories within that specific period. 

Undoubtedly, the need for energy increases quite significantly as you continue to make your body more active.

Resting Calories

Resting calories, sometimes referred to as basal metabolic rate, are calories your body burns when you’re not actively engaged in physical activities.

For example, someone who’s not active for two hours can burn up to 200 calorie watching TV or breathing. And while that isn’t a lot compared to the active calories burned, it still goes a long way to get your body in good shape.

Resting calories are important for blood circulation, operating the nervous system, keeping the body warm, and breathing among others.

How Exactly Does Garmin Calculate Calories Burned?

Garmin watches, in conjunction with Firstbeat Analytics, will help you determine the number of calories your body burns throughout the day.

In action, Garmin watches calculate calories burned based on your age, weight, height, level of activity, type of workout, and heart rate.

I’ve used fitness apps and smartwatches during intense workouts. And I can tell you that the harder the workout gets, the higher the heart rate and the more calories the body burns in the process.

If you’re in the business of seriously wanting to lose weight or just to keep your current weight in check, you just might find the Garmin watches quite helpful.

You can check the calories stats on the Garmin Connect app or right from your Garmin watch.

Best Garmin Watches for Counting Calories

Garmin is one of the brands that designs some of the best smartwatches and fitness trackers that count calorie burned.

The following are handpicked examples you can use:

1. Garmin Vivofit 2 Activity Tracker

Garmin Vivofit 2 is an activity tracker that can draw power from connected GPS to track the distance, time, and active calories.

Equipped with a reminder to move function, Vivofit 2 will challenge you to scale up your workout routine, so you can keep your health and fitness in check.

Garmin Vivofit 2 is also the type of watch to go for if you are the kind of person that spends most of their time behind a desk and wants to stretch from time to time.

One thing that stands out about this model is the battery life. You do get a runtime of up to one year before you need to replace the battery. 

Click to Buy Garmin Vivofit 2

2. Garmin Fenix 6X Pro

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro features all the sensors needed to keep track daily workouts, which in return provides the calories burned.

The watch can connect to third-party apps like the Firstbeat to track the number of calories burnt, taken in and out. It will also connect to a piece of equipment like the ANT+ to give the number of calories burned.

One thing I love about the Fenix 6X Pro is the automatic tracking.

The inclusion of automatic workout detection means you don’t have to log workouts to start tracking. The watch does it for you. After your workout, the watch will provide you with different stats and metrics for your performance.

And there’s more.

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro can even monitor your hydration, track sleep, and check your respiration.

In testing while in the smartwatch mode, Fenix 6X Pro registers a runtime of up to 21 days on a single charge. But the runtime per charge is significantly lower in GPS mode, often about 10 to 15 hours give or take.

Click to Buy Fenix 6X Pro

3. Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin Forerunner 45 only weighs about 36g, making it one of the lightest smartwatches hat feel comfortable on the wrist.

Garmin plays by the book with Forerunner 45, giving it the right set of features that make it worth the asking price.

For example, the watch can count the steps you take and the distance and pace you cover as you ride your bike. And if you need a Garmin watch that can calculate VO2 Max, the Forerunner 45 is a good pick for the bucks.

The watch will take stats from moderate and intense workouts and then use the data to calculate calories burned throughout the day. 

Forerunner 45 can also connect to compatible apps to collect data on calorie intake or consumption. Also, the watch features Garmin Coach, an additional technology that helps to keep you active so that you can burn more calories.

Click to Buy Forerunner 45

4. Garmin Vivoactive Series

Garmin Vivoactive Series features some of the best watches that you can use to calculate calories burned.

The Vivoactive 3, 4, and 4S can work with fitness equipment and Firstbeat technology to determine how much calories your body burns. They also use distance, speed, and user details to do the same thing. 

  • Fitness Equipment: The Vivoactive series are compatible with external fitness equipment such as the ANT+, which measures the period between heart rate to determine metabolic rate equivalence.
  • Firstbeat Technology: The algorithm uses the data you provide (height and weight) and your heart rate to calculate and give you a reasonable estimate of calories burned.
  • Distance, Speed, and User Details: This is the basic method of getting the calorie counts. The watches that use distance, speed, and your personal details don’t have heart rate monitors, but they still give reasonable estimate for the calorie burned. 

Click to Buy Garmin Vivoactive Watch

How Accurate is Garmin Calories Burned?

First, I need you to understand that Garmin watches only give you an estimate of calories burned.

From what I understand, no smartwatch or fitness tracker guarantees to give absolute accuracy on active and resting calories, and Garmin isn’t an exception.

As to the accuracy of the Garmin calories burned, you do get a reasonably reliable estimate provided you feed the system with the right information.

In other words, the correctness of the calories burned depend on the type of workout, the watch model, and the details you provide.

Make sure you provide Garmin with the right personal information to get an accurate estimate of the calories burned when resting and working out. 

How Can I Improve Garmin Calories?

The best way to burn more calories is to keep your body active throughout the day.

Also, countercheck to ensure that the user information you provided when setting up your Garmin Connect profile is correct for overall accuracy.

Another important thing I want you to do is to monito your heart rate to determine whether it’s accurate. If you feel like the heart rate data is biased, reset the Garmin watch. Otherwise, you won’t get an accurate estimate for the calories burned.  

Is Garmin or Fitbit More Accurate for Calories? 

Fitbit and Garmin are two of the biggest rivals in the same niche. In my eyes, these two brands play by the latest tech rules to design some of the best fitness trackers and smartwatches.

Smart as their creations are, Garmin and Fitbit hardly hit the nail on the head when it comes to estimating calories burned.

Garmin wearables tend to underestimate the number of calories burned by a couple of hundreds. A  Fitbit can also calculate calories, but the band tends to overestimate the number by a couple of hundreds.

For example, Garmin Forerunner can burn up to 540 calories at an average Heart Rate of 121 BPM during a rigorous workout. Fitbit Blaze, on the other hand, can burn up to 800 calories at an average Heart Rate of 116 BPM during intense workout.

For the same activity, we see a difference of about 260 calories. This suggests Fitbit Blaze can calculate an additional 48% calorie burned from an activity that Garmin Forerunner tracks.

This leaves us wondering which watch is providing the correct data and which one’s not.

Fortunately, these numbers are just estimates and you shouldn’t treat them as otherwise. Of course, studies show that Fitbit gives accurate estimate for calories, but still the stats are just that, estimates.

Final Thoughts

I hope this guide has helped you to understand exactly how Garmin calculates calories your body burns when working out and when resting.

Remember, the numbers you get from any Garmin watch are just but estimates. So you don’t have to overthink thing here.

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Michael Jonathan

Michael Jonathan is the brainchild of Apelo Studio. He loves talking about wearable devices, and he is passionate about helping you push your wearable device to its limits. His creativity and ability to tear electric components apart and put them back together makes him an incredible troubleshooter and blogger.

2 thoughts on “How Does Garmin Calculate Calories Burned? (Quick Answer)”

  1. Your article doesn’t even remotely answer the question “How Does Garmin Calculate Calories?” and is just an advert for Garmin watches, and the various other advertisers that litter the page.
    If you don’t know the answer, why publish the article, except to generate revenue? Oh wait, yes…

    • Hello Rob,

      On behalf of the thousands of readers that visit this blog every month, thank you for your feedback.

      I respect your opinion, I really do.

      Unfortunately, I can’t as much force anyone to read an answer that’s already right there to read.

      I had rather give an answer in one paragraph and explain everything else related to the topic, than ramble.

      And what’s the problem with monetizing my content anyways? That’s how I’m able to run this blog in the first place.

      You’ve barely read the article. You only scrolled and saw a recommendation of Garmin watches that can track calories, and that pisses you off?

      You might as well want to find an answer somewhere else rather than come here and try to look down on a platform I’ve worked so hard so build.

      I hate internet trolls, and the only reason I have approved this comment is to show everyone else who has your ilk of attitude to be more open minded and respectful rather than jealous and judgmental.

      Have a great day!

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