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I'm following a calorie count + elliptical routine for about two weeks now. My average calorie deficit should be about 500, but I don't see ~1 kg weight loss I expected. I'm very accurate at measuring my food intake, so the problem must be the elliptical.

I'm using Torneo Stella C-507M. I'm 25 years old, 1.90 meters height, currently at 125 kg. I use mid-to-high settings with slowly varying programs for about 30-60 minutes, and the calorie burn it shows is correspondingly about 430-760. I usually don't use the handles, but occasionally I do when doing the harder parts if my legs are getting cramped. Is it likely that the machine is overestimating my calorie burn? How do I correct it so that I could get on the track?

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The short answer is yes, it's overestimating your calorie burn. But it's unlikely the sole reason that you're having trouble losing weight.

Most exercise machines overestimate calorie burn, and ellipticals are among the worst offenders. Studies have shown that they can overestimate calorie burn by as much as 40%. A more reasonable expectation for someone of your weight might be 100 calories burned per 10 minutes (assuming a moderate pace).

Because it's difficult to precisely know how many calories you burn throughout the day (BMR and exercise machines are not 100% accurate), it may be a good idea to give yourself wiggle room when it comes to your calorie intake. These calculations have a lot more room for error at body weights approaching 135kg and higher, especially if you have a high body-fat ratio.

Try to aim for a calorie deficit of 1000 instead of 500, and estimate 300 calories burned for 30 minutes on the elliptical. If this is too difficult and/or you lose more than 1kg per week, you can adjust it.

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  • I agree with Tony, though I think his estimate is a little high. 600 calories/hour is a fairly high rate of effort; I think most people would be closer to 400-500 cal/hour for a moderate effort. – Eric Gunnerson Oct 19 '14 at 3:47
  • @EricGunnerson I used one of those calculators that takes existing weight into account. This person is relatively tall/large, so they burn more calories than the average person during exercise. Either way, if your calorie deficit is so small that it's within the margin of error of your calculations, then it's not large enough to be effective. – TonyArra Oct 19 '14 at 5:25
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Well, as TonyArra says, these machines always overstimate the amount of calories burnt.

Also, you have to take in account that if you start your workout with the elliptical, this is, you don't do muscle workout first, you won't start burning fat until the first 30 min. So if you workout for 60min, you will burn fat for 30min.

So you will be really burning around 200 calories from fat.

Edit - Calories meassurement

First you should calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This tells you how much calories do you burn just doing normal life (these values are just an aproximation). But this is a dificult value to meassure, as you need to be in a dark room, after sleeping for 8 hours, etc... So you can measure your resting metabolic rate (RMR) which will tell you almost the same and it's easier to meassure. You can use one of these 2 equations for male:

Harris-Benedict: (13.75*weight(kg))+(5*size(cm))-(6.75*age)+66

Mufflin:(10*weight(kg))+(6.25*size(cm))-(5*age)+5

After this, you should apply the activity factor, which indicates your daiary activity value (not exercise):

  • 1.2-1.3 for very light (bed rest)
  • 1.5-1.6 for light (office work/watch tv)
  • 1.6-1.7 for moderate (some activity during day)
  • 1.9-2.1 for heavy (labor type work)

Then do: Diary activity cost = RMR * Activity factor

And finally we apply the phisical activity factor in Mets:

  • high impact aerobics: 7
  • low impact aerobics: 5
  • high intensity cycling: 12
  • low intensity cycling: 3
  • high intensity walking: 6.5
  • low intensity walking: 2.5
  • high intensity running: 18
  • low intensity running: 7
  • circuit-type training: 8
  • intense free weight lifting: 6
  • moderate machine training: 3

Then do: Diary exercise cost = Weight(kg)*duration of exercise(hours)*Mets

Finally: Total exercise cost = Diary activity cost*Diary exercise cost

This will give you an aproximation of the amount of calories that you burn in a day.

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  • When he does or doesn't start burning fat is entirely dependent upon other factors such as his diet. If he's in ketosis he'd be burning fat when he swiped his membership card at the gym counter. – Eric Oct 20 '14 at 15:43
  • Well @Eric Kaufman, your are right, but I have considered he isn't in a ketogenic diet. Considering he is on a normal diet, I won't explain how the body manages the energy, as this is a large and complex proccess, but it doesn't start to burn fat until the first 30min. The body first uses ATP as energy, then the glucose, and after 30min starts burning fat, considering he is doing cardio/aerobic workout. But you have to consider that when burning fat, the body still needs the glucose to perform the oxidative process, if not, it will use muscle aminoacids with it's correspondant muscle loose. – masmic Oct 20 '14 at 16:03
  • Does it matter? Conservation of energy applies either way – Alexei Averchenko Oct 21 '14 at 16:02
  • Well @Alexei Averchenko I'll update the post to show a way that could be more accurate meassuring burned calories than watchin it on the elliptica – masmic Oct 22 '14 at 7:15
  • Thanks, but what about "not burning fat" until 30 minutes of the exercise? I'm skeptical, isn't the total calorie deficit the only thing that really matters? – Alexei Averchenko Oct 23 '14 at 13:47

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