How many calories am I actually burning on the elliptical?

I’m trying to make a habit of putting my HR monitor on for the majority of the workouts I do. I always do for long runs and the occasional bike ride just to see how hard I actually worked and what kind of effect things like heat or elevation play on my HR and pace, but for the rest I just didn’t bother. I wore my HR monitor to a spin class that I taught a couple of weeks ago and I can officially say, I sweat my ass off in that class and work super hard (the puddle of sweat was my first clue).

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Yesterday was a strength day at the gym, which for me typically includes a 10-30 minute super easy warm-up on the stationary bike or elliptical. I wore my HR monitor mostly to see what my HR is at when I lift weights but I was curious what the calorie output was for the elliptical based on my HR and not the machine’s number. At the start of my workout I did 30 minutes of easy elliptical, as seen in the graph below.

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If I were using the elliptical as a cardio workout I would go hard and most likely do intervals or a level higher than say, 7, but on strength days the cardio portion is simply for warm-up, to catch the latest sports highlights, and to wake up before I have to lift heavy things. Once I finished the 30 minutes of elliptical, the machine said I had burned 303 calories.


Woah, right? Not a whole lot of effort for 300+ calories! That’s because it wasn’t 300 calories, it was just under 260 calories! Not a HUGE difference, but certainly note worthy… or ‘blog-worthy.’ 😉 To put that in nerd stats, the elliptical over-estimated my calorie burn by 17%!


Crazysauce. I did a few nutrition presentations a couple of months ago and one thing I highlighted was to monitor ACTUAL calorie burn if you’re looking to lose weight. Most cardio machines are off with their caloric output number, especially if you don’t input age and weight before starting! You can hate this post.. I think I know how I would react if someone told me I wasn’t working as hard as I thought at the gym.


After my elliptical warm-up I hit the weights for 45 minutes. If you take a look at my HR chart, there was clearly one move that really spiked my heart rate… weights squats to press! That’s those three big spikes near the end of my workout! I used just 10lb dumbbells and bend into a squat, lower than 90 degrees, returning to standing and finishing with a shoulder press. The squat to press should be one fluid movement. They are so tough but AWESOME. I did 3 sets of 12 reps.

It’s Wednesday. I don’t have a WIAW post for you because I forgot to take photos of my food and I was in meetings all day yesterday and thought it would be weird if I took photos of my plate. #bloggerproblems I will however show you one thing I ate yesterday… QUEST BARS. These are all the rage in the fitness and nutrition world right now because their main ingredients are protein and fiber. I have to admit they were baller.


I’m stoked to wear my heart rate monitor for other workouts just out of pure curiosity. I workout for fun and health benefits and not to see how many calories I can burn but it’s so neat to actually see numerical graphs for how hard I’m working!

Do you wear your HR monitor for all workouts or only certain ones?

Have you ever tried a Quest Bar?

How often do you strength train per week?


  1. That is so interesting!! I need to get a HR monitor I think this kind of stuff would totally nerd me out! And I haven’t gotten on board the quest bar train yet…where do you buy them? Just regular grocery stores? I normally strength train at least twice a week and I try to do three times if I can!

  2. I wear my HRM for every run but not for anything else.
    I have been tempted to wear it once while sleeping just to see what my true resting heart rate is.

  3. ! Quest bars are awesome, my fav are the smores and cookie dough ones, mint chocolate chip are pretty good too. Some people swear by the cookies and cream but I actually didn’t like that flavor much at all (it’s my fav ice cream flavor, so maybe it’s just because I’d rather it be ice cream than protien bar 😛 )

  4. Great post!!! Whenever I am on the treadmill I do look at calories burnt but you’re right, I never enter my weight or age haha just jump on. What kind of heart rate monitor do you use, and would you recommend it? When doing cardio do you switch between elliptical and treadmill or do you prefer one over the other any why? I much prefer the treadmill or trail running to an elliptical.

    I strength train 3-4 times a week usually 🙂

    Have you tried the white chocolate raspberry Quest bars?? MY FAV!!!! And I am impatiently awaiting on my box of chocolate mint to ship to work.

    1. I use the Garmin HR monitor because it synchs with my Garmin watch. I prefer the road, trails, and treadmill, but when I am looking to loosen up my legs with no impact, I do the elliptical. I haven’t tried the white chocolate – that sounds good!

  5. I haven’t worn my HRM in ages because the battery is dead and I always forget to get a replacement. I agree its interesting. I always know that machines overestimate the calorie burn and honestly I don’t even look at that.

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