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How to Track Calories with the Apple Watch

Posted by Melissa Holt on October 29, 2019
apple watch track calories

For those of us with an eye on our fitness, tracking calorie intake and output can be a crucial component in reaching our overall health goals. The Apple Watch can help you reach your goals in a number of ways, including serving as a handy calorie counter.

So what’s the best way to get an idea of how many calories you should consume in a day? There’s not really an easy answer to that question, because a lot of factors play into your personal caloric needs.  One option is to use a TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator, which lets you plug in your stats to get an estimate of how much you should eat to maintain your weight (or change it!).  This type of tool, while extremely handy for a quick view of estimated needs, isn’t going to be personalized to any fluctuations in your activity level, and is more of a static view of your overall needs, not a daily tracker.

If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you can actually pair your iPhone to check your stats, which you may find to be more accurate since it’s tracking your actual activity levels rather than relying on estimates that you plug into a TDEE calculator.

The Apple Watch and iPhone have become a very popular calorie counting combination, because you can track both incoming and outbound calories with the very same device you wear every day and use for tons of other applications.  This means no additional investment of anything but the time it takes to sneak a quick look at your device!

This TechJunkie tutorial will show your how you can track calories using your Apple Watch combined with your iPhone, enabling you determine goals for caloric intake, act on those goals, and measure your progress every step of the way!

How to Read the Apple Watch Calorie Tracker

When you’ve been wearing your Apple watch all day, you’ll be able to access your daily stats from the Health App on your iPhone.  Here’s how to access this information:

iphone calories

  1. On the iPhone that’s paired to your Apple Watch, open the Health app.  Make sure you’ve got all of your stats loaded.  If not, tap the “Summary” tab, tap your profile picture, then “Health Profile.”  Here, you’ll tap the edit feature, update all of your information, then tap “Done” to save everything.
  2. Tap on the “Today” tab if you’re not already there.
  3. Check the numbers for “Active Energy” (the calories you’ve burned while working out) and “Resting Energy” (the calories you’ve burned at rest). If you add those together, you’ll get a good estimate for the total number of calories you’re burning each day. For many of us, this information will fluctuate from day to day, so you can also use the calendar at the top of the screen to view this information for any previous days.

If you’d like a more comprehensive explanation for what Apple means by “Resting” or “Active,” the health app will show you a description if you tap on either of those categories.
iphone calories active resting
So for example, if I were as active every day as I was on October 25th, my Apple Watch thinks I could consume almost 2600 calories per day and still maintain my weight. Of course, if you would like to be even more accurate with these numbers, you could add up a week’s worth and divide by seven to use an average of how you performed over the course of the week.

Finally, it’s important to know that your Apple Watch is using the age, height, weight, and gender info that you’ve provided to calculate these numbers.  Setting up that information on the iPhone is important, but the Apple watch can monitor that information directly.  To make sure that information is correct, or to change it as your weight or age changes, follow these instructions:

Launch the Apple Watch app on your iPhone

  1. Tap My Watch
  2. Next, Tap on Health
  3. Then Edit
    iphone apple watch health stats
    Yeah, okay, the weight is blurred out on this example.  One of the beautiful things about the Apple Health app is that information is as private as you want it to be!

How Does the Apple Watch Track Calories?

One of the most important things to check is that the Wrist Detection setting is on.  This helps your Apple watch determine if you’re moving, how much you’re moving, and then calculate calorie usage.  To double-check that Wrist Detection is ON, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Tap “My Watch,” then tap Passcode. Make sure that Wrist Detection is on.

Next, make sure your watch is tight enough.  You’ll want the heart rate sensor to be snug against your skin, but of course, make sure you still have feeling in all of your fingers!  Make sure you don’t put your watch in Power Save Mode during your workout, either, or that will turn off the Heart Rate Monitor feature.

You’ll also want to calibrate your Apple watch.  To do this, take it and your iPhone outside on a nice clear day.  It’s important to have excellent GPS signal during the calibration process.  Open the Workout App, and choose “Outdoor Walk” as your activity.  You’ll then walk at your regular pace for 20 minutes.  This exercise will help your Apple Watch understand your pace, acceleration, stride, and thus refine the calculations of your calorie burn.

Does the Apple Watch Have a Food Tracker?

The answer is, in short:  It can, but you’ll need to get an app for that.  There are many apps available today that coordinate with not just the iPhone, but have Apple Watch functions, as well.  Apps like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt! allow users to monitor overall daily stats such as calories, nutrients, as well as “quick add” features for a meal or snack.  Your Apple Watch isn’t able to divine what you’ve eaten just from wearing it (yet!), but by inputting details regarding what you’ve eaten, the app will keep track of everything, allowing you to access the details quickly from your Apple Watch or iPhone.  Here’s what the LoseIt! app screens look like, as an example:

 

If you’re in the market for a new Apple Watch, you might find this TechJunkie post to be useful: What Is the Newest Apple Watch out Right Now [June 2019].

Do you use an Apple Watch to track calories? Please tell us about your experiences using your Apple Watch to help you achieve your diet and other goals in the comments below!

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