New Feature: Calorie Ranges Based on Fitness Tracking

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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.


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NOMOREDJ 10/19/2020
I was able to change this option back and forth today (10-19-2020) for anyone wondering.

BKWERM 12/5/2019
The most recent update to this blog says: "UPDATE 7/15/13: All members can now switch between either calorie calculation option at any time."

However, later in the blog, it states that once you switch, you can't switch back. Could you please clarify? I was thinking about switching temporarily to see if not counting my exercise will bump start my weight loss again. Report
I've had this account for awhile, previous to the new system. I have my apple watch synced in but when I go to change my activity level it doesn't give me the option for the "I have a fitness device connected to my account". Currently my activity level is set as sedentary for my apple watch to calculate my activity since I'm a nurse and I typically walk 10,000-14,000 steps per day and do quite a bit of heavy lifting and in a code, some cardio. Report
I have lost 80 pounds since 2009 on your old program. I took a long break and I wish to continue. I would program my daily food a week in advance, this wood give me time to have the food necessary for the coming week, also to have vit and other food that have every day ie coffee and tea on my daily menu without recording it. Is it possible that I can do this Thank You Report
I changed my nutrition goals to accommodate the Keto diet but now I would like to change them back to SparkPeople's recommended goals. How can I do this or can someone tell me what the goals for fats, carbs, and protein are. Thank you Report
I would like to see an option for the Keto diet. Keto worked for me,I lost 70 pounds in 6 months. Report
SP isn't perfect, but it's mighty good for a really comprehensive free site. If I ate at in the calorie level my activity level suggests, I'd be gaining weight for sure instead of losing. There isn't any perfect one size fits all, but the guidelines are helpful, and it's nice to know SP thinks I could eat that many calories if I wanted to. Report
Your site is very ineffective...and it's been around a while. You need to hire a decent IT/Software developer. Report
This has been said many times, but apparently isn't being fixed or updated. I do not think that my calorie allotment should increase just from my steps from my Fitbit. I haven't logged or done any other workout, just walking, which 30 minutes straight is the only consistency in my walking on a daily basis. BY THE WAY, YOU CAN CHANGE IT BACK, I JUST DID IT!! Is there a way to have it set so that it only tracks actual workouts or only pulls the active levels from your Fitbit? For some, the motivation to exercise is necessary, but it needs to be appropriately tracked and appropriately adjusted. I changed mine back to standard and will have to mentally know how much I can and cannot eat if I exercise. Thank you for listening. Report
I wear a "Nuband" fitness tracker. I can not synch my device to record my steps, miles or distance on my sparkpeople page. Is there any other way I can accurately record my miles, because with the walking system on the program here is do not do me any good. Report
Spark People needs to refine this feature for activity tracker users such as Fitbit. I like that when I exercise, as in working out, that my calorie count is increased to account for that. It's a good motivator for either a treat for myself in the evening if I've done good, or to help cover increased appetite due to calorie expenditure as my body could use a bit more. HOWEVER, I wound up turning this feature off because when Spark People adjusts for the "All Day Activity," which could have been a big day shopping or something that wasn't a deliberate workout on my part, it bumps my calorie range to a level that is much too high for weight loss for me. Spark People should have an option to only increase the calorie goals for deliberately tracked workouts on the Fitbit. Thank you in advance for considering this input!!! Report
I don't know if this will be seen or not but I am confused as to where I can get credit for exercise. I am 87, do not understand a lot of what goes on here. I do come on every day and look for new people to greet. I read all the nutrition articles, but since my daughter does the cooking I have no regular eating plan. However we both are cutting out all sugars that we can, I have lost which is great since I am in a power chair and need to lift myself up to get out, that means the less I weigh the easier it is on my shoulders, one is especially sore.
Now my question is how do I get credit for exercise. I have started exercising in my reliner. Last 3 days (I just started this) I have worked on most muscles for 20 minutes. I would love to get points for that. Since I have no food estimate I am lost at what or how I can be credited. Thanks for any help. I do love Spark and let people know about it. A faithful participant, Betty Inglima Report
Where is the column tracking sugar in foods eaten? My last program had that and it IS an important stat. Sugar is the single biggest food source that is blocking peoples progress, and the reports and logging do not clearly report or reflect this in an easy to see format. . . why? Report
I totally agree with Watchoverme. My calorie range used to be between 1200 and 1500 and most days I managed to eat within that range, but sometimes I would be below. NOW my calorie range is between 1600 and 2000. For one I am not hungry enough to eat that much. For 2, eating that much will be sabotaging weight loss for me. And no weight loss = sliding back into depression.
i agree with MYFITASS when she said " STOP CHANGING MY GOALS!!!!!!!!!! THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING. I HAVE NOT OPTED FOR SPARK PEOPLE TO ASSESS / CHANGE MY GOALS BASED ON MY FITNESS. THIS IS SO ANNOYING! - 8/3/2015 12:42:04 PM" -- i too DO NOT LIKE this nonsense. If I set a range and goals for myself why does the site feel to automatically change them for me and throw me off balance??? Even when I set it to not recalculate, it still does that, which is very annoying. The site is causing folks to be SEDENTARY and gain weight by constantly recalculating and clicking at a mouse rather than to set their options and then use their time working out or doing other stuff as opposed to sitting at the computer working on this web site ... don't get folks to be more sedentary sparkpeople. stop the sparking and helps folks get off their asses Report
i'm currently using this method but want to be sure its working for me as I have alot of weight to lose but want to make sure i'm eating enough for the exercising I do. I exercise 3-4 times a week for about an hour, moderate to high intensity cardio 3-4 times a week and bodyweight strength training 2 times a week. My activity level outside of exercise is sedentry to moderatley active. i want to know if my activity level and exercise level is enough to be considered active enough to still lose weight whilst following the synced calorie and exercise tracking. Report
What I want to know is if my diet and weight loss goals are part of the way my calorie range is figured and if those goals are affected by eating more on the days I exercise. I want to be able to track my calories burned vs. need to burn to reach my weight loss goals. Report
After all this time I was happy with fitness tracker and Nutrition was separate. I can put time doing chores in and it is not real exercise in my opinion for me. I have no way to keep on changing my calories daily after over 4 years.
There has to be a way. I do not want a new account having almost 1700 log ins. That was my goal to keep me here daily to log everything I eat. I am Diabetic type 2 keeping my A1c this way has been good till the change. My Dr says 2,000 calories for me is not the right way to go but so far I cannot go back to the original program. Pat in Maine. Report
I'm not changing, because I think we should be able to choose our calorie range like before. It was predictable, and encouraged people to eat healthy as a routine. Now, you've got people getting confused, and a lot of people are going to be eating back all of their calories and not losing weight at all! Bad idea! Report
I joined Spark back in 2007 and when I put the number of calories I expected to burn in for the week in my fitness tracker it adjusted my calories for each day of the entire week based on that. It worked perfectly. Now when I do this, my calories don't increase for the days or week at all. So something changed within the site without me having to even switch formats. It seems I have to make the switch to see any changes to my calorie range for my workout days. After making the change to the new format, I have a different range for days I work out verses days I don't and the variance is HUGE. I lost weight just fine the old way and could calorie cycle within the high and low of same range I was given for each day of that week. I'd eat on the higher end when I did workout and on the low end when I didn't. Now my non workout days have a low end of 1200 an my work out days have a low end of 1850. That's ridiculous. My high ends of both are 1550-2200. The way the site used to work, that would have been my daily range for every day of the week. Why not just say that? 1200 calories is just crazy low. I don't like this change at all. If you had just taught people how to use the site the way it was before, you wouldn't have had to make this change. Now people will be looking at calorie ranges that are way too low for anyone who actually does anything more than sit on their couch all day. Report
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. Report
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. Report
does not sound like it is for me...... Report
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.

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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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? Report
JOKROFALLTRADES has made a valid point. This is not a complete upgrade, ie. food groups. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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! Report
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? Report
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. Report
At first I was surprised by the new SparkPeople design, but after looking through everything, I absolutely love it!!!
Excellent job! Report
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! Report
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! Report
When it asks how active I am during the day, there is not to option to sync to my Fitbit. Help! Report
Woohoo for making it swapable at any time now! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
You can go back

UPDATE 7/15/13: All members can now switch between either calorie calculation option at any time
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. Report
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? Report
How can I track sugars in my food? We eat way too much sugar and it is in everything. Report
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? Report
7/29 - First time user. How to I add food items not listed and calories? Thanks for your help! Mercy Report