The SparkPeople Blog

New Feature: Calorie Ranges Based on Fitness Tracking

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/9/2013 5:00 PM   :  205 comments   :  53,054 Views

See More: announcements,
UPDATE 7/15/13: All members can now switch between either calorie calculation option at any time. Here is a link that will help you determine which option is right for you and how to tell which setting is currently active for you.

UPDATE 7/15/13: Today we launched this change as optional for all new and existing members. You can switch between either calorie option at any time using your Account Preferences page. We'll update this blog with more information on those details in the coming days. But for those asking, YES, it is now optional!

UPDATE 7/12/13: We hear you! We are currently working on changes to make this new feature OPTIONAL for all current and future members. With this change (coming soon), ALL members will have the option to turn this feature on or off at any time! Stay tuned. We will update everyone as soon as that goes into effect.


This morning (7/10/13), we launched a much-requested change to  your Fitness and Nutrition Trackers that may interest a large percentage of our members, especially those with active jobs or lifestyles—and people currently in weight-maintenance mode. 
 
Until now, our Fitness and Nutrition Trackers didn't really communicate with each other. Your daily calorie range assumed you were generally sedentary, and even if you tracked exercise, your Nutrition Tracker didn't take all of those calories burned into account when creating your calorie range. SparkPeople believes so much in the power of even small amounts of consistent exercise that we decided to do more to integrate fitness into our calorie equation. Now we have updated how the Trackers "talk" to one another so that your calorie range will automatically adjust (increase) on the days that you track exercise (calories burned)—IF you adjust your settings to allow for this communication (details on that below).

If you don't want this change, there's nothing you need to do. If you are interested in learning more or putting this new feature into action, keep reading. (Note that all new members who create SparkPeople accounts after today (7/10/13) will be in this program by default and cannot switch out of it.
 
For existing members, switching to this new method of tracking is completely optional. However, if you do make the switch, you will not be able to switch back later. Here's how to do it. (We suggest that you read through this post thoroughly to understand how it works before editing your settings.)

From your Start Page, click on the "Account/Email Preferences" link in the top left corner.  

Scroll midway down the page until you see the box labeled "Make Your Calorie Goal Based On Fitness Tracking." Click the orange button that says "Switch to Our New Calorie Calculation."



When the page asks you if you are sure, click "Yes I Am Sure."



The next page asks you to tell us what your daily activity level is like. Please note that this is NOT asking whether or how much you exercise, but how you spend the bulk of your days. This will help us create a daily calorie range that is more accurate for you before we factor exercise into the equation. T
 
If you have an activity tracking device (such as the Fitbit or the BodyMedia armband) synced with your SparkPeople account, select that option for optimal accuracy. Note: While these devices track all calories burned in a day, including your basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn even while sitting still), they only report activity-related calories burned (walking, exercising, etc.) to SparkPeople.
 
Click "Save Your Changes."
 
This will return you to your Start Page, and you may notice that your daily calorie goal has changed. (These changes will show up on your Nutrition Tracker as well.) For some people, the calorie goal will be lower than normal since it's no longer assuming that you exercise. For others, the calorie range may be higher, especially if you selected that you have a very active job.  
 
Now, when you track your fitness (or sync your fitness device) during the day, you'll see your calorie range change to compensate for the calories you have burned. It will increase as you burn additional calories by working out. If you don't work out, then simply eat within the daily calorie range you see on your account. Note that if your workouts vary day to day, your calorie range will vary along with them. The program is set up to allow you to eat more on days that you exercise but still reach your weight-loss or weight-management goals.

So is this change right for you? We want to lay out both sides so you can make the best decision.
 
This Approach May Be Better For...
  • This approach should provide a more accurate calorie range for people who are completely sedentary (and do not exercise at all), people who have very active jobs, people who are in "weight maintenance" mode, and people who exercise at high levels.
  • This approach is designed to give a more accurate calorie range for people using fitness tracking devices that are synced with SparkPeople. Now your recommended calorie range is based on exactly how active you really are according to your device.
  • You'll know exactly how much you can eat on days that you exercise and on days that you don't—no more guessing. This is especially true for people who have occasional "very active" days, such as endurance athletes who do one very long workout session per week.
  • Some people may find this approach to be motivational—a reason to commit to exercise and to track your workouts on the Fitness Tracker. In our experience, we often see that people who are doing even small amounts of consistent exercise are more likely to feel better and see more positive improvements.
  • For people who exercise, this approach will allow you to eat more calories--at least on the days you work out. A lot of people feel better and perform better when their daily caloric deficit isn't so large.
 
This Approach May Not Be Good For...
  • This approach could be "triggering" for individuals who may struggle with disordered eating or exercise tendencies. For those people, we do not recommend this approach (nor do we advocate tracking calories eaten or burned in general).
  • This approach means your calorie range will change somewhat (or substantially) day to day or throughout the day based on how much you exercised and when you tracked that exercise. You will not know how many calories you could eat each day until you track your fitness for that day. Some people may find an inconsistent calorie range difficult to adhere to, but others might like the variety.
  • This approach will affect both the lower and upper end of your daily calorie range. Before exercise, your range might be 1,200-1,500 calories for the day. After working out and burning 300 calories, for example, both numbers would increase (your range would change to 1,500-1,800 calories). If you ate at what was previously the lower end of your range, your tracker and nutrition reports will show that you actually "under-ate" calories for the day.
  • For many people, exercise is an opportunity to increase your daily caloric deficit (calories in vs. calories out) for better weight-loss. Eating back all of the calories you burn could affect your results. You may need to experiment a little to find the "sweet spot" in your adjusted range that still works for you. Our experts do not necessarily advocate the approach or philosophy of eating back every calorie you burn if your goal is weight loss; but eating in the middle of your exercise-adjusted range, however, is still a good, balanced approach.
TIPS for People Considering or Switching to This Approach
  • Pre-Plan. You may want to log your planned exercise earlier in the day to better know what your daily calorie range will be—even if you don't plan to work out until later in the day. If you normally log your food and fitness for previous days, that tactic will not work as well with this new approach and may end up showing that you under-ate.
     
  • Try a Test. Once you switch to the new approach, you cannot switch back. New members (after 7/9/13) will not have an option to use the old method. If you're simply curious about how it works, you could consider opening a new account under a different username just to test it out. If you like it, go back to using your old account and switch your settings using the steps above.
     
  • Syncing Activity Trackers. If you switch to this approach and then later purchase and sync an activity tracker (such as the Fitbit), your program settings will automatically adjust to calculate your daily calorie range based on the reports it receives from your synced device—not from any fitness tracking you do. Related, you should not track additional fitness activities or calories burned if you have a synced fitness device as this will affect your daily calorie range and make it inaccurate.
     
  • Food & Fitness Tracker App Users. If you make the switch to the new system, your app should update as well to reflect this setting.
 
We realize that some members will be very excited about this change and others may not be interested. That's why it's optional for all of our existing members to choose the approach that is right for them. Note that at this time, if you do make the switch, you cannot switch back to the old method.
 
We welcome your feedback and questions in the comments below and will do our best to update this post to answer additional questions as they arise.

PLEASE READ THE UPDATES AT THE TOP OF THIS BLOG FOR THE MOST UP-TO-DATE AND ACCURATE INFORMATION. THANK YOU!


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Comments

  • 205
    I appreciate this new option and have been using it. Unfortunately, it really needs to adjust all numbers, ie. fat and carbs and not just calories. The fact that it doesn't mind boggles me since this is a large part of what SP has to offer. - 7/7/2014   12:37:58 PM
  • RCJGRAVES
    204
    There is no "I have a fitness device connected to my account" option on my page. Just "Sedentary", "Lightly active", and "Active." I feel it's over-calculating my BMR calories burned because of this. - 6/14/2014   11:26:27 PM
  • 203
    does not sound like it is for me...... - 6/4/2014   8:43:46 PM
  • SARAHBYNOE
    202
    Jogging is very beneficial. It's good for your legs and your feet. Time and health are two precious assets that we don't recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.

    - 3/28/2014   10:55:35 AM
  • 201
    I want to use the Loseit food and exercise tracker, can that synch with the SparkPeople Trackers. They just seem easier for me to use and I was losing weight with the Li tracker whereas I'm not with SP. - 3/23/2014   5:00:27 PM
  • 200
    I would like it better if you could change back if you don't like it. I am wary of trying it out because you CAN'T change back. - 2/27/2014   5:45:39 PM
  • 199
    I like it!

    The only thing that could improve it would be to adjust carbs & fats for the higher ranges when burning more and needing to eat more.

    But I still think it's awesome! - 2/27/2014   4:25:35 PM
  • CHB91871
    198
    I was exercising at Health Club when I first signed up for SparkPeople. I was walking on a treadmill 30 to 50 minutes 3 or 4 times per week as well as biking about 20 minutes each time I went. Last August I started having severe problems with my right hip, have had 3 medical injections over a 3 month period. I am currently not in any pain. My Dr. will not allow me to use the treadmill at all anymore since I have a tear in the hip that could become deeply inflamed again. There is one machine he has advised I can use and some pedaling without any resistance. I am currently trying to walk around the house for 10 minutes each hour for 5 or 6 times per day. Therefore; I am uncertain whether I should change to your new plan or stay on the plan I am on. What do you advise? - 2/19/2014   1:55:54 PM
  • ZZAANNNNYY11
    197
    JOKROFALLTRADES has made a valid point. This is not a complete upgrade, ie. food groups. - 1/30/2014   1:55:31 PM
  • 196
    Oh thank you! For so long the nutrition tracker has been screaming at me for doing too much exercise, but no matter what I adjusted, my calorie range didn't change in the past. As I cycle 24 - 40 km 2-4 times a week, I was ending up in a horrible cycle of not eating enough and then bingeing. I'm about to change to the new setting now, and am excited about it! - 1/27/2014   3:22:32 AM
  • 195
    I find the new system to be nice as I am someone who trains differently on each day so it is good to know the calorie range for each day. However, the new system only updates calories and has no update for carbs, fats, proteins, etc. One would think that if you can have more calories, the other areas should also be affected. I think the new system is good, but there are more updates that will need to be made to ensure that the proper amounts are reflected for each category. Otherwise, you just have an updated calorie range, but the other areas are simply the same as if you did no exercise at all. - 1/8/2014   1:18:04 PM
  • 194
    I had been away from SP for some time, and I'm so glad to see this change now that I'm back! I was previously frustrated because my calorie deficit was too low when I exercised, and I would feel terrible. This is great! And, my SP tracker will here in a few days, so it will be even easier for me to track! - 12/27/2013   7:19:24 PM
  • DONNACHESTNUT
    193
    I have none the calorie counting was before and it worked; but I don't really want to do it that way again. I eat by food groups now. Some may think it limits my diet too much. Even as a teenager years ago my calorie intake was very low. Each time I've taken weight off my calorie consumption has to go lower in order to lose. For me your suggested calorie count is probably too high. Question - am I likely not to be able to use your system? - 11/18/2013   2:02:09 AM
  • 192
    Thank you so much for giving the option to switch back and forth. I was curious about the new tracker, but did not want to give up my old tracker in case I would not like the new one. I will try the new one now and see which ones works better for me. - 11/4/2013   4:48:14 PM
  • 191
    At first I was surprised by the new SparkPeople design, but after looking through everything, I absolutely love it!!!
    Excellent job! - 10/21/2013   5:26:31 PM
  • JESUSAMBASSADOR
    190
    I just started and have not exercised in a long time;. I used to be a personal trainer and a fitness instructor and recently (last week) received a Certification for Weight Management. I am looking forward to tracking my own weight and progress on SparkPeople, which was recommended by the instructor. I am truly excited to be part of this and to be able to visibly track everything without having to create my own forms! - 10/2/2013   5:43:08 PM
  • 189
    Thanks for doing this! I am a full time cyclist; I don't own a car and my bicycle is my only way of getting around... my round trip to work and back is 17 mi. While I've already lost 40 lbs from my original weight before I started with SparkPeople, I still have 25 lbs to go to reach my final goal. I readjusted my weight loss plan but it set my daily calorie budget too low, and I was feeling hungry all the time. This has given me an addition 300 - 350 per day so I'm hoping it will help me not feel so hungry, particularly at night before I go to bed, when I tend to get snack cravings! - 9/29/2013   2:18:29 PM
  • 188
    When it asks how active I am during the day, there is not to option to sync to my Fitbit. Help! - 9/26/2013   6:58:01 PM
  • 187
    Woohoo for making it swapable at any time now! - 9/9/2013   4:28:33 PM
  • ASLOVE
    186
    Thank you for making this optional as opposed to a required change. I am currently happy with my set up as is, however I could see as I am more saavy in calories and exercise numbers and not overwhelmed by too many options, this change could be great later. So again, thank you for the flexibility and the choices...kudos! - 8/18/2013   6:05:29 PM
  • 185
    I'm glad you made it optional and added the ability to switch. I'm sticking with what I have now because it is working. Nice to know there is another option if I run into problems with this one. - 8/16/2013   8:26:26 AM
  • 184
    The change may have been frustrating at first but they recently made it really easy to switch back and forth. Just go to the Accounts page as it said in the article and go to "How My Daily Calorie Range is Determined" and click on the bar below to change to the other type of tracker. It will either say: "Change your settings to factor daily fitness tracking into your calorie range" or it will say: "Change your settings so that fitness tracking does not factor into your calorie range" then it will ask you if you're sure. You can switch back and forth and over again. - 8/6/2013   1:49:57 AM
  • 183
    You can go back

    UPDATE 7/15/13: All members can now switch between either calorie calculation option at any time
    - 8/6/2013   1:15:53 AM
  • 182
    Not for sure I would like the new system. Just the fact that I cannot switch back if I don't like it, causes me to say, No thank you. Although this may well be beneficial to others I don't feel it would serve me at this time. - 7/31/2013   3:54:14 PM
  • LACYNICKS
    181
    As I cannot get the old counter chart, I am presuming that I have not been given an opportunity to opt out of the new one, which is of no help to me at all. If I can opt out of the new one, how do I do that? - 7/31/2013   8:46:40 AM
  • KARENKAERU
    180
    How can I track sugars in my food? We eat way too much sugar and it is in everything. - 7/30/2013   3:24:13 PM
  • DORISMAREK
    179
    I can not have milk products in my diet...milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese etc. How can I tell the program NOT to include these items in my daily planner? - 7/29/2013   7:43:38 PM
  • MERCYMONET
    178
    7/29 - First time user. How to I add food items not listed and calories? Thanks for your help! Mercy - 7/29/2013   11:30:22 AM
  • 177
    Please can you adjust the daily reporting graphs? When I run the report, it shows me a straight range for my calories, which equates to *TODAY'S* range. Since the range changes every day, due to activity, the graph should show the historically, accurate range, too. Otherwise, it looks like I ate below or over my calories in the history, even though it may have been right on for that day's activity level. Thank you. - 7/28/2013   11:54:43 PM
  • 176
    You can go back

    UPDATE 7/15/13: All members can now switch between either calorie calculation option at any time. - 7/28/2013   3:55:32 PM
  • NANADEDE
    175
    I do not like the new system and I hate that I can't switch back to the old way. I think it is great for people on maintenance but not for those of us who still need to loose. I think it should be your step up program and the old program should be kept in place until you reach your final goal weight. I just use the system now to count my calories and try to stay between 1200-1350. The rest of it is now of no use to me. - 7/28/2013   1:09:50 PM
  • 174
    THANK YOU FOR MAKING IT OPTIONAL FOR THOSE OF US ALREADY ON SP! - 7/28/2013   10:04:50 AM
  • 173
    OK, I tried ihe "new tracker"--I don't like it--BUT I'm stuck with it. I eat at the low end which is 1200 calories so I am cutting about 500 calories a day to lose 1# a week by cutting the calories. So, I liked the old one where on the nutritional page at the bottom it kept track of how many calories I ate and how many I had left. ------ I walk 4-6 miles a day to help me lose "more" weight--so I should lose another at least 1# a week by walking------ I was wanting a tracking that was more interacting with what I was walking but I wasn't expecting this----this is definitely MORE for the person for maintence-----at the bottom of the page now it actually says you have burned X amount of calories-you can eat this amount now!! Not if I want to lose weight by walking-the only weight I will lose will be by the calories I have cut out in the beginning before I walk!!!!!!!! Now I will have to take the calories I HAVE EATEN and subtract from 1200 to know what I have left, SO the 4-6 miles I walk a day will COUNT for something. - 7/27/2013   9:19:10 AM
  • 172
    Thank you so much for thinking about those with disordered eating (where this might not be a good option). This population seems to be overlooked and I appreciated that you have considered this. - 7/25/2013   1:26:50 PM
  • 171
    I hope you actually read these comments. Think about this, above you have listed several very valid reasons why this new system would not work for certain people--YET you have created a system that any new Spark people and those that try to switch to see if it works would have no option out of? Like anything, this method will be helpful to some people and won't work for others. I think maybe you should look at the reasons you wrote above why it won't work and make sure all people can use either system. - 7/25/2013   5:42:51 AM
  • ELLEN4WALLS
    170
    This is a great change. I'm training for a marathon and I'm always starving on the days that I have huge training runs. - 7/24/2013   8:13:26 PM
  • 169
    So how do we suggest improvements? Is there a specific method or just comment in a post like this? I'm new and I like this calorie in/calorie out feature. After tracking my nutrition for a week I've been frustrated by 2 things: I cannot edit a food after I've added it (such as the amount or meal). the time it takes to add foods to these types of programs is always what has me stop using them. the easier it is the more i use it. It would also make it easier to add to other days but be able to adjust amount or one group ingredient. The second thing is my husband and i are both on spark people. we are having fun competing with spark points but most meals we eat are the same. it would be nice to be able to copy meals from other shared tracking lists.
    - 7/24/2013   3:57:41 PM
  • TOUGHGIRL64
    168
    I've been a member for a long time but I am not getting the option to incorporate my tracked activity entries. Do I have to have the FitBit1? - 7/24/2013   3:22:14 PM
  • 167
    PLEASE don't make this mandatory. (Like the new fitness tracker) It won't work for me - I rarely make my 1200 calorie range and I've maintained my weight for almost a year. What I'm doing now is working...please don't change it by force. - 7/23/2013   8:25:33 AM
  • 166
    I would like to see an opt out optional. Opening a new spark page does not give you the whole picture. I will wait to see if it get updated again. Thanks for all your updates. - 7/23/2013   8:07:26 AM
  • 165
    I wish there would be an option on Nutriton Tracker where you can enter what supplements you take on a daily basis...nowadays many people are taking them for weight loss/health benefits. It would be a popular feature!!!!! - 7/22/2013   9:48:55 PM
  • 164
    This option is not available to me. I would like my fitness and nutrition trackers to interact, as I am lightly active in my daily life. - 7/21/2013   6:41:36 PM
  • 163
    It seemed the new features are already applied automatically into the trackers. You just choose whether to opt out of it. Think they made a typo by saying the fitness trackers 'is not' communicating with the nutrition trackers. Cos when I changed my fitness trackers it affected the nutrition trackers. So yeah, they changed it already for everyone. - 7/21/2013   3:00:53 AM
  • 162
    Thank you, thank you thank you for the update saying that it will be made optional for all members!! I have been working with a behavioral health center to get clients to track their fitness and food because the medicines that most of them have to take cause excessive weight gain and often leads to health problems such as Diabetes. I was afraid that I would have to send them elsewhere because there are also clients with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge/starvation issues. This is such a relief! - 7/20/2013   1:29:42 PM
  • MAGGIE101857
    161
    YOGAMOMOF4 - Mine also says the same! I use a Bodymedia and would like this option;not sure why we aren't seeing the option! - 7/19/2013   8:45:45 PM
  • 160
    Okay, here's some more info about the problem I'm having with this (See my post right before this one): In my preferences, I don't have a box like the one mentioned in the article above that says, "Make your calorie goal based on fitness tracking." That box doesn't exist in my preferences. Instead, I have a box that says, "How my daily calorie range is determined." Inside that box is all the confusing wording that I mentioned in my previous post. :/ - 7/19/2013   6:16:15 PM
  • 159
    I like this idea, but I can't set it to work. On my "change perferences" page, it says it says I have it set NOT to have the two trackers communicating, but the button under it ALSO says to click it if I DON'T want them to communicate. What do I push if I DO want them to communicate? it says:

    "Your Fitness Tracker is NOT communicating fitness tracked (calories burned) with your Nutrition Tracker so that your daily calorie range adjusts based on how much you exercise."
    But the button under that says:
    "Change your settings so that fitness tracking does NOT factor into your calorie range"

    ???? So it says they are NOT communicating and that fitness tracking doesn't factor into my calorie range, and then the button says I can CHANGE it so that the fitness tracking still does NOT factor into my calorie range. It would appear that clicking the button doesn't change anything!! It's not communicating, and if I click the button, I'll change it to . . . . not communicating. ???

    If I click the button, I get this:
    "Are you sure you want to change your settings so that fitness tracking does NOT factor into your calorie range? Your calorie goal will likely be lower, but it WILL INCREASE every day when you track your workouts. "

    ??Whaaa?? So, if I change my settings so that fitness tracking does NOT factor into my calorie range, my calorie goal WILL increase every day when I track my workouts??? Either that doesn't make any sense, or I am completely misunderstanding something. Can anyone help me with this???

    What I'm trying to do is make it so that my fitness tracking DOES change my calorie goal. Thanks! - 7/19/2013   3:33:58 PM
  • 158
    This is FANTASTIC. Thank you so much for doing this. Running for 45 min and not seeing my calories change was really difficult - I wasn't getting enough to eat and was crashing hard.

    One caveat - when you go into settings and click on the button (which is currently worded like the new feature is already activated) the following message above the "yes make the change" button is confusing. Just go ahead and click it, then check your start page to make sure that "today's calories in and out" has changed to reflect also your fitness. - 7/19/2013   3:07:07 PM
  • 157
    Thank you for this!! I'm a small person, and my daily recommended cals are only 1200 . . . it was very frustrating to work out and still have my recommended cals be only 1200. Now I can actually see my allotted cals go up when I work out. Awesome! - 7/19/2013   11:22:25 AM
  • 156
    This new version needs to be fixed so it adjusts other nutrients up along with calories. Fats, proteins, carbs, all need to increase when calories increase! Otherwise, the reporting features on your nutrition become useless. - 7/17/2013   8:53:04 AM

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