Insights From The Bodybugg

Calories matter. They determine the direction of your weight trend over time. You can lose weight and wreck your lipids due to the quality of your calories or you can gain fat with great health markers if you eat too many calories from good food. This used to be a bone to pick with most in the paleo community (which I find myself part of. Generally. Most of the time.), as some individuals were convinced we could ignore the laws of physics like we ignore evolutionary biology as it applies to humans (to paraphrase Robb Wolf). Fortunately, people are coming around. Even Dr. Eades is apt to point out that such a diet ultimately reduces caloric consumption which helps people lose weight. Is that the only thing at work? Hardly, as supported by my link above, but calories drive the direction of composition change and health markers generally improve with improved body composition.

Now, you might remember my ripping of resting metabolic rate measurements as nothing but noise for most people. The qualifier was that most people don’t know what they’re eating on a regular basis so having a resting metabolic rate number is generally noise. I know how much I eat regularly and, as much as I hate tracking calories, am willing to do it to check how my dietary quantity matches my output. Enter the Bodybugg.The bodybugg is a device you wear on the back of your arm that purports to measure caloric output. You can read the long version by Lyle Mcdonald but the main gist of how it measures this is:

…(by using) 5 different sensors which measure acceleration, temperature, steps, galvanic skin response and heat flux.  It plugs all of those into an algorithm and calculates how many calories you’re burning on a minute to minute basis.  Some of that algorithm is based on your height, weight, age, gender, etc. that you plug into the system…

5 sensors? That’s as many razors as guys use to shave their face! Sign me up! The point is that it’s a pretty accurate device and, if you know how much you’re eating, you’ll be in good shape if you aim to change you body composition. Let’s look at my numbers:

Saturday October 2nd 2010

Total Calories Burned: 2983

Steps: 14496

Activity: 3:21 including an hour long hike on a trail near our house, walking all over an outdoor mall trying to find my wife shoes for our wedding.

Notes: Day 1 is always a bit screwy because the bugg needs time to adjust; it had my first 8 hours of the day as having burned 650-ish calories (I put it on when I woke up). The next day the same time period, all spent sleeping, had me burning something like 850+ calories.

Sunday October 3rd 2010

Total Calories Burned: 2822

Steps: 8473

Activity: 2:17

Notes: Much easier day spent visiting friends, shopping, etc. I did have a workout, but you start to find that a hard weight workout doesn’t burn many calories by its lonesome. We’re after the hormonal response and some glycogen burn, but you don’t burn many calories lifting, as was evidenced by the bugg on this day.

Monday October 4th 2010

Total Calories Burned: 3191

Steps: 14800

Activity: 3:16

Had a quick grip workout today that wouldn’t have burned many calories. The fact that I’m on my feet all day training clients is enough to ramp up my expenditure.

Tuesday October 5th 2010

Total Calories Burned: 3156

Steps: 14343

Activity: 3:19

Trained 6 hours of clients, went to class (basically sitting on my ass from 1 to 4pm), came home, went out to dinner with a friend to celebrate my engagement, drank wine, ate pizza and gelato…great times.

Wednesday October 6th 2010

Total Calories Burned: 3319

Steps: 12754

Activity: 2:51

A long day of training (~8 hours of client time) with a short nap and pseudo workout (support work for grip and body). The big question is how many calories I’ll burn tomorrow, as I have to move my usual Friday workout up due to an extra full workday (15 clients on Friday).

Thursday October 7th 2010

Total Calories Burned: 3479

Steps: 14280

Activity: 4:59

Today’s workout included trap bar deadlift, weighted chins, grip work, and farmer’s walk. The calories burned seems in line with this effort and (as I type this) my sleeping caloric output from the first 6 hours of the morning is greater than it’s been all week. In other words, I’m burning more calories at rest after this workout…not thousands mind you but enough for the numbers to change.

Friday October 8th 2010

Total Calories Burned: 3153

Steps: 10384

Activity: 2:34

Of interest on this day was that my morning caloric burn was way higher than it had been all week. Normally I’m lucky to see an equal amount of 100 calories burned per hours of the morning (i.e. having burned 716cal at 7am) but this day I was way ahead of the curve. In fact, by noon I had burned over 1500 calories!


  • Calories/day: 3158
  • Steps/day: 12790
  • Activity/day: 3:23

So what can I take home from this? Well, I need to up my calories as I was generally eating too few. I’ve noticed that both not as hungry but have more cravings lately (this makes sense to some I’m sure) and this is likely why. Also, I’ve learned things like calorie calculators are pretty accurate, especially if you account for the variation (14%, in the case of the calculator on Casey Butt’s website). His calculator had me at 2898 for moderate activity and 3225. I guess my job counts as “high” activity even though I do not think of it as such. Lesson learned. I get to eat more. Awesome!

The bugg is good to dial things in, but I think that you get about a week of use out of it, as your patterns shouldn’t alter drastically. If you lose a ton of weight you’d need to use the bugg again but I can’t think of a reason to ever need the device, especially since I know how dialed in the calorie calculators are. Of course, my food habits keep me around this body weight but having some data has certainly shined some light on my needs. If you can get your hands on one, give it a try for a week and see if you can’t learn a thing or two.

3 thoughts on “Insights From The Bodybugg

  1. word, dawg. I can relate to it’s accuracy. I really wish I could get my hands on one currently as I am walking everywhere. I rarely use my car anymore. Problem is my habitual diet is higher in carbs, therefore getting enough food (some days upwards of 3500-4000 kcals) can often be a challenge when you love potatoes and rice so much.

    This is where sugary cereal comes in to save the day.

  2. There are two factors involved in caloric expenditure that rarely get discussed. One is the adequacy and balance of nutrients required for energy release, body building, and tissue repair. The other is the microbial configuration in the gut and it’s impact on heat regulation and energy absorption.

    When the nutrient configuration of food is out of balance, chemical reactions required for making hormones and other biochemicals are curtailed because chemical reactions cannot proceed to completion due to the shortage of one or more reactants. For example, in the animal world it has been observed that cows eat less forage if pasture plants have a high brix value. In humans, it’s commonly reported that food cravings that drive overeating subside on a high-fat/low-carb regimen.

    The other matter, gut microbial activity, affects both energy apportionment and nutrient availability. It’s estimated that the digestive tract hosts about 2 kilograms of microbes that feed on fat, fiber, and sugar. The little critters need minerals and amino acids to multiply efficiently. It’s also estimated that feces consists of about 50 percent dead gut microbes. During fasting that percentage drops dramatically for obvious reasons. Heat generated by gut microbes contributes to temperature regulation. I calculate daily caloric expenditure of gut microbes to lie between 200 and 300 calories for average weight individuals.

    Now, I don’t pretend to know anything about biochemical pathways. But to me it makes logical sense to explain differences in measured energy expenditure in terms of nutrient adequacy and gut microbial activity.

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