Comparing Activity Tracking Wearables: Oura, WHOOP, and Biostrap | Drink HRW

Home / Blog

Biohacking & Device Reviews

Comparing Activity Tracking Wearables: Oura, WHOOP, and Biostrap

Comparing Activity Tracking Wearables: Oura, WHOOP, and Biostrap

I’ve been fond of wearables that track your active calories, or steps, for a few years now, and have experimented with a couple before the OURA ring (FitBit and Apple watch) and stopped wearing them for the same issue that occurred with the BioStrap – chaffing.

However, I didn’t stop looking, which is why I turned to the OURA ring, and have no qualms about subjecting myself to 30-day discomfort to analyze the benefits for others. I believe these types of wearable technologies are powerful tools to contribute to Small Victories, particularly in watching your activity and moving a bit more. This small lifestyle change can lead to weight
loss and a healthier metabolism, and, in some cases, may be the needed “push” for some to get their health back on track.

Comparing Activity Tracking Wearables

I set out to monitor three popular wearables within the “biohacking” community – OURA, WHOOP and Biostrap, and one curiosity hit me in the first few day of testing these three wearable technologies. Namely, I noticed a very high calorie burn recorded by WHOOP while driving. WHOOP reminds me of the first “smart phone” I had that came out before the first iPhone. The step counter routinely recorded bumps when driving, thinking I was walking. This lead me to test the calorie counting for numerous activities, from “no activity” such as laying down, to driving, to various exercises.

I have to presume that WHOOP is counting active calories, not my total calories for the day, as for several days, WHOOP recorded fewer burned calories than my resting metabolic rate, tracked in the “sleep” portion of this review. On many other days, the “total calories” tracked by WHOOP should be significantly higher, due to my activity, with the total calories burned roughly in line with my resting metabolic rate. RMR’s aren’t universally accurate, but they are reasonably accurate. Here are 4 calculations of my RMR, based on the weight I entered at day 1 with WHOOP, with my height of 5’11 and my weight at 227 lbs:

Omni RMR Calculator =2362

Global RPH RMR Calculator =1991 based on “moderate activity”

Body Building RMR Calculator = 1989

Active BMR Calculator = 2144

Calculator.net BMR Calculator = 3080


Taking an average of the 5 results, my RMR is 2313.20 calories. Removing the outlier from calculator.net provided the result of 2121.50 calories. For 3 days, WHOOP had me below 2000 calories and for 8 additional days, at 2300 or less (including one at 2303 calories). This would mean that for 11 days, or over 1/3 of the days tracked, I was around or below my RMR. So, either the activity tracking is completely underrepresenting my RMR and based on exercise data that does not seem to be true, or the WHOOP is tracking arm movement, etc., as whole-body movement.

Pros and Cons of Oura, WHOOP, and Biostrap

Pros

WHOOP provides heart rate (HR) avg/max.


Cons


OURA’s “suggested” activity level is typically far lower than I would ever restrict myself to on a day where I work out.


Activity Data


NO ACTIVITY, recorded “ACTIVE CALORIES”

 

ACTIVITY OURA BIOSTRAP WHOOP
1 HOUR LAYING DOWN 2 calories 1 calorie 89 calories
1 HOUR LAYING DOWN 5 calories 3 calories 98 calories
1 HOUR LAYING DOWN 3 calories 12 calories 104 calories
1 HOUR TYPING ON LAPTOP 12 calories 6 calories 95 calories
1 HOUR TYPING ON LAPTOP 10 calories 5 calories 96 calories
1 HOUR TYPING ON LAPTOP 3 calories 2 calories 153 calories



Oura and Biostrap are both consistent in that they counted “low” if not consistent in the
deviation from their average reading, i.e., statistically, WHOOP is much more consistent, but
wholly inaccurate. The final lien shows potential flaws in WHOOP, in which an additional 50–60
calories were “burned” over the other inactive periods. Perhaps, at certain times during the day, WHOOP mistakes inactive times for active times, adding up to large totals. This could also happen during sleep, as I have noted large differences in “calories burned” upon waking in the morning. In fact, I do tend to move in my sleep, and have noted as much as 1200 calories burned upon waking! This is after approximately 7–8 hours in bed. If this was simply tallying up my RMR throughout the night then my sleep accounts for a significantly higher rate of calorie burn, according to WHOOP, than my waking and active hours!

"Driving” Recorded Active Calories

ACTIVITY OURA BIOSTRAP WHOOP
Driving, 33 minutes 14 calories 11 calories 51 calories
Driving, 36 minutes 23 calories 8 calories 56 calories
Driving, 43 minutes 29 calories 16 calories 69 calories


I tried to replicate the issue I found during driving for 10 hours, and could not; however, there was a key difference. In the 10-hour drive it was on a windy bumpy highway and included many stretches of two-lane highway, where my speed increased and decreased, often suddenly. On the 3 “control” drives, I was going back and forth from a supplier of mine, with only mild differences due to traffic lights changing.


Martial Arts Workout Comparison:

Workout OURA BIOSTRAP WHOOP Comments
1.Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 min breaks)
25:50 min active time

Calories Burned: 297

NOT AVAILABLE
Calories Burned: 115

DID NOT RECORD
Calories Burned: 391

Workout stats:
Avg HR 150Max HR 170
40 hours fasted state
2.Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 min breaks)
25:50 min active time

Calories Burned:287 Calories Burned:512

***recorded it as a “workout”
BIG FLAW IN ALGORITHM
Calories Burned:387
Workout stats:Avg HR 149Max HR 168
64 hours fasted state

**workout was much less intense than work out 1, but felt more difficult.
3.Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 breaks)
25:50 active time

Calories Burned: 318

Calories Burned: 531

***recorded it as a “work out”
BIG FLAW IN ALGORITHM
Calories Burned:391
Work out stats:Avg HR 148Max HR 169
15 hour fasted state, day 3 of same exercise in a row, slightly fatigued. Despite this, my perceived effort and intensity was much higher.
4.Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 breaks)
25:50 active time

Calories Burned:329 Calories Burned:126
***DID NOT RECORD AS A WORKOUT
Calories Burned:287
Workout stats:Avg HR 149Max HR 165

*** Only recorded 21 min of my 28 min exercise.
15-hour fasted state after 1 recovery day
5.Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 min breaks)
25:50 min active time

Calories Burned:333 Calories Burned:118

***DID NOT RECORD AS A WORKOUT
Calories Burned:428
Avg HR 147Max HR 162

*** Only recorded 17 min of my 28 min exercise. The device recorded 227 calories, but I went off before and after.
40-hour fasted state
My output was high, but explosiveness was very low.
6.Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 min breaks)
25:50 min active time

Calories Burned:340 Calories Burned:508 calories

**recorded it as a “work out”
Calories Burned:406

Avg HR 150Max HR 170
17-hour fasted state

My output was passable, but explosiveness very low. This w/o felt much harder than usual.
7.Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 min breaks)
25:50 min active time

Calories Burned:300 Calories Burned:
113

*Did not record as a workout
Calories Burned:412

Avg HR 152
Max HR 169
40hr fasted state
My output was awful; explosiveness very low. This w/o felt much more difficult than usual. Worst performance during review phase.
8.Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 min breaks)
25:50 min active time

Calories Burned:305 Calories Burned:511

**recorded it as a “workout”
Calories Burned:360
Avg HR 144
Max HR 160
17-hour fasted state
Interestingly, this w/o my avg. and max HR was lower, but my output felt higher and my explosiveness was the best in the last week or longer.
9. Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 min breaks)
25:50 min active time

Calories Burned:329 Calories Burned:523

**recorded it as a “workout”
Calories Burned:399
Avg HR 150
Max HR 170


42hr fasted state
Very high output and performance first 4 rounds. Gassed hard.
10. Total time: 28 min

6 Rounds on heavy bag, 30 second breaks
(2:30 min breaks)
25:50 min active time

Calories Burned:311 Calories Burned:120

Calories Burned:411
Avg HR 151
Max HR 165
67-hour fasted state

One of the hardest bag workouts I have ever done; poor performance.

 

Takeaways From Martial Arts Comparison

Both BioStrap and WHOOP were incredibly uncomfortable under my gloves, with BioStrap significantly more so. During this data collection, I discovered a SIGNIFICANT flaw in BioStrap’s algorithm. Basically, if I record a workout as an “official workout,” BioStrap records the calories burned differently. For high-intensity training, the difference varied on average by a factor of 4.37!

I ran this 5x for each recording as a workout or not, just to make sure. The average of the 5 workouts that I did NOT record was 118.4 calories burned (113-126 range), and the average of the 5 work outs I DID record was 517 calories burned (508-531 range).

However, Oura and WHOOP were far more consistent.

Oura: 10 exercise average: 314.9 calories burned (range 287-340 calories)
WHOOP: 10 exercise average: 387.20 calories burned (range 287-428 calories)

Oura was the most consistent of the 3 wearable devices for this high intensity workout.


Walk Comparison

Walk OURA BIOSTRAP WHOOP
61minute trail walk/hike4.35km Calories Burned: 400 Calories Burned: 270

*did not record as work out
Calories Burned: 239
55min minute trail walk/hike4.35km Calories Burned: 406 Calories Burned: 281

*recorded as a workout
Calories Burned: 180 calories
49min minute trail walk/hike4.35km Calories Burned: 380

**LOWER CALORIES FOR HIGHER INTENSITY
Calories Burned: 240

*Did not record as a workout


**LOWER CALORIES FOR HIGHER INTENSITY
Calories Burned: 178

**LOWER CALORIES FOR HIGHER INTENSITY
44 min minute trail walk/hike4.35km

**This is almost the exact pace at which I walk the treadmill in the winter. I record 420cal/60min, walking 6km in 60min. 308 calories plus ~10% for some hills would be expected, for ~340 calories burned.
Calories Burned: 491

**HUGE DISPARITY IN EXCESS CALORIES BURNED
Calories Burned: 230

*recorded as a workout


**LOWER CALORIES FOR HIGHER INTENSITY
Calories Burned: 279
Recorded 18:33 of the walk as a workout
Avg HR: 122 bpm
Max HR: 143 bpm
45 min minute trail walk/hike4.35km

**Almost exact pace I walk the treadmill in winter. I record 420cal/60min, walking 6km in 60min. 308 calories plus ~10% for some hills would be expected, for ~340 calories burned.
Calories Burned: 363


**HUGE DISPARITY IN CALORIES BURNED FROM PREVIOUS IDENTICAL W/O
Calories Burned: 255

*recorded as a workout


**LOWER CALORIES FOR HIGHER INTENSITY
Calories Burned: 274
Did not record any “activity” this time.
Moderate hike
Garmin tracked 9.89km
iPhone tracked 13.5km
Windy trail
1hr 59min 21 sec

Calories Burned: 1041-tracked continuously with no reception Calories Burned:Est: 596

** Biostrap screen went blank as I went to look at my data to start the work out as it was “unable to access the Internet.”
Calories Burned: 876 est. based on a number from 20min prior

**“Could not connect to server” due to no internet

Work out was recorded after:
AVG HR: 127 bpm
MAX HR: 167 bpm
Cal: 835

**only 1hr36min recorded
Moderate hike
Garmin tracked 9.89km
iPhone tracked 13.5km
Windy trail
2hr 21min 15 sec
Calories Burned: 893-tracked continuously with no reception Calories Burned:?????

I recorded this as a workout, starting 5 minutes from the hike where I still had reception. In case it didn’t work, I marked down my starting calories.

BioStrap claimed the workout burned:
719 calories

Based on my TOTAL calories once finished and back in reception, deducting my STARTING calories, it was:
515 calories.

BioStrap’s activity tracker gave an impossible reading based on my “total calories.”
Calories Burned: 878 based on # from 5 min prior, to 5 min after

**”Could not connect to server” due to no internet

Work out was recorded after:
AVG HR: 124 bpm
MAX HR: 158 bpm
Cal: 513

**only 1hr04min recorded

 

*Treadmills tend to record me burning 400+ calories on walks of similar intensity.

Takeaways From Walk Comparison

All three devices had some issues with the walking and hiking portion.

OURA defied logic in having calories burned higher for easier-paced walks of the same course, and in a virtually identical run through twice (within 60 seconds over 4.35km), it recorded a difference of 35% extra calories burned in the one walk. OURA did accurately determine the higher rate of calorie burn on my moderate-intensity hike in the run-through I did at 85% the total time, so a greater speed, than on the second run through.

BioStrap also recorded lower calories burned for higher intensities on the same course. Additionally, BioStrap was unable to connect to the Internet on a walk, making the functionality impossible to access. I had to extrapolate start and finish points, and then plan for this on my replication attempt. BioStrap gave an impossible reading in the one moderate hiking, listing the recorded workout as more than was possible given my total daily active calories. For this reason, and the others detailed above, BioStrap’s tracking cannot be trusted.

WHOOP recorded identical calories burned on my two moderate hikes, even though one of them was the same trail done in 85% of the time, a much higher pace. This is obviously a flaw. Moreover, WHOOP also had a lower calorie burned for a slightly higher intensity walk, but so did OURA and BioStrap. Perhaps my HR was abnormally low that day. WHOOP seemed to accurately portray my sped up 4.35km easy hikes, something that BioStrap and OURA struggled with. In addition, WHOOP is also the only device that tracks workouts with more information than simply calories burned, giving maximal and average heart rates. WHOOP struggled with no Internet, just like BioStrap.

This section constitutes two separate scoring criteria. Total calorie tracking throughout the day and accurately monitoring an acute bout of exercise. Here’s the order of how well the three
activity monitoring wearables performed:

Total Calorie Tracking:

1. OURA
2. BioStrap
3. WHOOP ACUTE

Exercise Tracking:
1. WHOOP
2. OURA
3.BioStrap