Are you still soared from last week’s training? Despite overtraining being a well-known condition among hardcore athletes, very few people know about its equally damaging brother: under-resting.
I remember the first time I ran a 5K back in 2010. Once the joy of finishing passed, what stuck with me was how tired I felt.
My legs felt like jelly, yet I still went out jogging the next morning. I couldn’t understand then how I was becoming weaker every time I jogged without being fully-rested.
Fortunately, technology has progressed so fast that today’s wearable trackers monitor your heart rate, oxygen intake, and exertion level while you jog to your favorite album or wash your clothes.
Whether you are competing against world-class athletes or your own personal record, having a good recovery tracker on your wrist makes all the difference in the world.
And just to help you pick the best one, we pitted two of the best against each other.
Keep reading below to see who wins in this epic battle of Fitbit vs Whoop for your workout recovery.
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- 3 best wearables to analyze, train and improve your HRV
- Guide to understanding and using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) on your Apple Watch
Key components of recovery metrics for fitness
Before we start, let’s clear out some definitions.
Performance and recovery are two different but deeply-related concepts.
For example, some mornings you might feel full of energy yet underperform; other days, you might set a personal best right after a finishing long day at the office.
Don’t worry if it feels random at first.
After all, it’s not your body’s job to measure its recovery to the T.
However, you do away with the guesswork and see what’s going on under the hood by using a fitness tracker equipped to measure these metrics.
1. Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
While Heart Rate (HR) measures how often your heart is beating, HRV measures the time between each beat.
HRV is dictated by how well both sides of your nervous system, sympathetic and parasympathetic, are working together.
- If your nervous system is balanced, your high HRV allows you to perform at your best.
- However, if your HRV is low, it means one side of your nervous system is working overtime sending more signals and resources than the other.
In other words, HRV tells how close you are to completing your recovery.
So, whether you are fatigued, stressed-out, or ill, wait until your HRV goes back to normal before getting back in the saddle.
2. Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
Measuring your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) under a variety of conditions — while watching TV, driving to work, shopping for groceries, or right after waking up — gives your tracker a useful baseline to measure your recovery.
Eventually, your tracker builds a complete picture of your cardiac activity and how your training cycles influence your heart rate.
So, for example, if your normal RHR is 60 BPM but your tracker is reading 66 BPM, you know that your body hasn’t finished recovering yet — when rested, your normal RHR shouldn’t vary for more than 1-3 beats.
Sleep is one of the quickest recovery tools you have.
A good night’s sleep regulates hormone levels, promotes healing, slows your breathing, and gives your heart a much-needed break.
And since sleep is an invaluable resource, you want to know as much about yours as possible.
A good recovery tracker gives you unprecedented amounts of information about your sleeping patterns, respiratory rate, circadian rhythm, blood oxygen levels, and even how much time you spend on each sleeping stage.
All of this information comes in handy if you have sleeping issues that want to discuss with your sleep medicine specialist.
4. Respiratory rate
Your breathing pattern is dictated by many factors — such as age, health, and stress levels — and tied to your recovery.
Even small changes in your respiratory rate (like 1-3 breathes per minute) increases or reduces the speed of your recovery.
That’s why tracking your respiratory rate on a 24-7 basis gives you the information you need to complete the puzzle and speed up your recovery.
Fitbit’s robust health monitoring sensors
The Fitbit Sense, in particular, is fully-equipped to monitor your biometrics and workout performance. Among other things, many Fitbits can:
- Take electrocardiogram (ECG) readings — only applies to the Fitbit Sense.
- Use heart rate tech and an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor to calculate your daily stress score. Again, only applies to the Fitbit Sense
- Track heart rate variability and (HRV) and resting heart rate (RHR).
- Use Alexa’s voice technology to set alarms, set reminders, and check the latest weather reports.
- Measure all stages of your sleep.
- Monitor respiration rate and oxygen saturation.
- Track women’s menstrual cycle, monitor the changes in their body, recognize irregularities, and understand how their cycle relates to their recovery and everyday activities.
- Count calories, steps, and floors climbed so you won’t have to.
Both the Fitbit Sense and Fitbit’s Versa 3 gather tons of data. And most Fitbit models gather some of this data.
However, access to this information is only available to users with Fitbit Premium accounts.
The other challenge is although the Fitbit collects a lot of PPG data, it is not very focussed on the aspects of ‘Recovery’. If you are looking to pursue a training program and target specific heart rate zones, Fitbit is there with you but if you are looking to get deeper insights around your body’s recovery, Fitbit does have too much to offer.
Whoop recovery monitoring for athletes
Every athlete understands that working out is only half the battle.
Luckily, the Whoop strap is designed to help you win the battle for recovery. Whoop does this by:
- Using three basic metrics to track and display your progress: strain, sleep, and recovery.
- Monitoring every aspect of your sleep, from how long you stay on each stage to how many times was your sleep disturbed.
- Giving sound advice when you should or shouldn’t work out. Uses your own data (age, sex, hormone levels, and biometrics) to determine how much sleep and rest you need to recover.
- Monitoring your heart activity around-the-clock and gives you a full breakdown of how it performs when you exercise, work, rest, sleep, etc.
- Coaching you on a weekly (or daily basis, if you prefer) on how fit and healthy you are and break down your metrics with a focus on strain, sleep, and recovery.
- Measuring your heart rate variability (HRV) to ensure your body is recovered and that both sides of your nervous system are working together.
- Using your heart rate and heart rate variability to get an accurate reading of how many calories you burn.
Whoop is so much better and advanced for tracking recovery
So far it looks like both trackers are tied, right? Well, not exactly.
If you are only looking to lose weight or track your performance progress, either one would do.
However, Whoop Strap is on another level when it comes to tracking your post-performance recovery.
Whoop puts your recovery on cruise control
Whether I’m working at the office or sharing quality time with my family, I’m always busy.
That’s why I rarely have free time to train, let alone keep track of my biometrics.
However, with my Whoop strap, I focus on my daily activities knowing it’ll give me a notification telling me exactly when I’m ready to perform.
I can also check my Whoop watch between workouts, when I wake up, or at the end of the week to monitor how fast I’m recovering and see if something is holding me back.
If you are injured or coming down with sickness, your recovery will be slow. It takes time for your body to counter the inflammation and heal before you can strain it again.
The ‘Restorative Strain’ via Whoop’s personal Strain coach actually helps you stay aware of the amount of strain that you are adding while you recover.
The Whoop band does an amazing job monitoring your injury recovery and prompting you to rest and recover.
Plus, its water resistance and durability mean I wear it even while I sleep, shower, or swim.
More isn’t always better
“But what about the Fitbit?” you may ask.
Well, both Fitbit Sense and Versa are excellent options that come with a variety of smartwatch goodies — such as an Alexa voice interface or the ability to use apps.
If I had to think of a metaphor, I’d say Fitbit is the fitness wearable version of a Swiss army knife: lots of tools, but sometimes it offers more than what you need.
Whoop, on the other hand, is like a one-trick pony that no one beats at its own game.
With Whoop I keep a hawk’s eye on my stress levels, resting heart rate, and quality of sleep with little to no effort.
That way I know exactly when I’m ready to work out again and I eliminate the risk of overtraining and injuring myself.
It took me a while to get used to Whoop because I love running so much I don’t get enough rest.
I didn’t realize I was under-resting until I developed shin pain on both my legs.
That’s when I got seriously into recovery wearables and eventually gave Whoop a try.
Now my days of overtraining are in the past, as Whoop makes sure I only work out when I am fully rested.
No more dud workouts that made me regret getting out of bed.
Thanks to Whoop’s biometric insight, every time I hit the road I know I’m making gains.
Quality is worth the price
When it comes to price, both watches are a world apart. So, while the Fitbit Sense has a $329.95 upfront cost, you get a Whoop Watch by paying the $30 monthly membership fee.
Both watches use cloud-based software, but while your Whoop watch membership costs you $30 a month ($18 a month if you pick the 18-month plan) the Fitbit Sense comes with a free Premium membership for a year which you renew at $9.99 per month (or $79.99 per year).
However, while Whoop’s membership is pricier in the longer run, it makes up for it in functionality.
Fitbit Sense – a whole lot of data but no actionable insights
Compared to the Whoop watch, the Fitbit Sense is a tracking powerhouse packed with all kinds of sensors, metrics, and features.
Indeed, the Fitbit smartwatch also includes many cool features, like Alexa voice controls and Fitbit Pay, that make your life a whole lot simpler.
In terms of health tracking, few watches come close to Fitbit Sense’s catalog of sensors and metrics.
From tracking your stress levels to measuring your temperature, quality of sleep, and blood oxygen levels, Fitbit is up there with the best of them.
The problem is that keeping pace with all this data is difficult since Fitbit lacks Whoop’s ability to use your biometrics and personal data to put your recovery in perspective.
Don’t get me wrong, the Fitbit Sense is a sophisticated health watch pushing the boundaries of what wearables can do.
And one day, all this wealth of information could help healthcare provers see the first signs of many diseases before the symptoms hit you. But we just aren’t there yet.
It’s this level of complexity that makes the Fitbit both an ideal health/fitness wearable and the wrong candidate to track your post-workout recovery.
Powerful yet single-minded, the Whoop strap gets the job done without needing too much input from you.
So, although the Fitbit comes with a ton of features that make your life easier, the Whoop watch ensures you bring your ‘A’ game each time you hit the gym or running track.
And in the end, isn’t that what a recovery-oriented fitness wearable is supposed to do?
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