Dietitian Review on the WHOOP band

What is a WHOOP Band?

A type of wearable fitness tracker, WHOOP has gained popularity for being able to focus on optimising performance and recovery for those into their fitness, as well as athletes. It monitors key metrics to help the wearer make informed decisions on their training intensity and recovery, as well as overall well-being, which is meant to go beyond other fitness trackers available on the market. The WHOOP band is said to be one of the most accurate fitness trackers on the market, especially for heart rate.

Today we will look at the features of WHOOP Band, what are the benefits and drawbacks and if it is worth investing into. Specifically, we are looking at the WHOOP 4.0 generation.

Pros:

– Strain tracking: A unique feature in measuring strain levels. The ‘strain tracking’ represents the stress the body endures during exercise, which helps the wearer to optimise their training levels and appropriate recovery. The WHOOP 4.0 uses pulse oximetry, which helps to reach deeper into vessels and track blood oxygen saturation, using LED. This allows accurate measurement of heart rate tracking and cardiovascular strain.

– Automatic detection of exercise: unlike other fitness trackers, WHOOP measures the heart rate 1000 times per second, which allows the tracker to understand when you are exercising. It can detect over 80 types of exercise, given they are done for more than 15 minutes at a certain intensity.

– Detailed WHOOP App: The dedicated app that contains all of the information recorded by the WHOOP is kept on the app. The home screen offers detailed metrics, including recovery score, heart rate variability, calories burnt, day strain, activities, health monitor and battery life. There are many features available on the app, along with being able to WHOOP teams, to join teams with other users, which some members may find encouraging.

– Recovery monitoring:  Other health and lifestyle factors are also analysed, including heart rate variability, sleep quality and duration and tracking of daily activity. This information helps the wearer understand where it is better to push themselves during exercise and where to prioritise rest, day to day.

– Sleep tracking:  There is a strong emphasis on tracking sleep, which we know is very closely linked to performance and overall health. This is provided with detailed sleep performance data. It can let the wearer know exactly how much sleep to have in the night, based on their level of activity and sleep debt they may have had that day. There is a skin conductance sensor, which measures changes in how the skin conducts electricity. This helps to understand better when you fall asleep and differences in sleep cycles.

– Stress monitoring feature: This allows real time information on how stressed the wearer is, based on changes to their heart rate and heart rate variability, compared to their baseline. Depending on stress score, the WHOOP app then recommends breathing sessions.

– Long battery life: The WHOOP 4 battery life should last around 5 days. You can also charge the WHOOP without taking the strap off your wrist, which can be very convenient for wearers – instead of removing the watch, a small battery pack can be attached onto the strap to charge.

– Water resistant: The sensor and battery pack are all water-resistant at the depth of 1 meter for 2 hours, meaning it can be kept on during showering and general swimming.

– Subscriptions service:  There is a subscription model that provides ongoing access on a persons health insights, as well as connecting users to a community of like-minded health enthusiasts.

The sensors on WHOOP collect data 100 times per second, as long as the strap is worn. Compared to other fitness trackers, which only collect heart rate data during workouts, or general heart rate every few minutes.

This extra data collected by WHOOP help it to detect small changes to the bodies response to exercise and rest, through the day and night.

The skin temperature sensors also can detect changes in certain conditions such as when you may have a high temperature or at certain parts of the menstruation cycle. This helps predict the onset of these events, which is unique to WHOOP.

Drawbacks:

– Cost: Not only is the WHOOP band an initial cost of around £44, there is also a subscription software required which is around £144 per year, to access the full range of features that it offers.

– Display: There is no display or buttons on the WHOOP. The minimalistic display may be good for some people, but compared to smartwatches, it lacks showing real-time information on the device itself.

– Lacking certain features: The features on the WHOOP band cater well for athletes, though it lacks some general fitness features including GPS tracking and selecting different workout modes, that other trackers offer.

– Strain tracking reliability: Some have noticed the strain tracking feature is best used for cardio workouts, compared to HIIT style or Olympic lifting, so may not be as reliable for all types of athletes. This is because endurance training like swimming or cycling leaves the heart rate elevated for a longer time, making it easier for the device to capture heart rate. Whereas some HIIT exercises are short in the 10-15 minute range, which do not allow extended heart rates over a period of time. This may lead to inaccurate strain data collection.

– Stress monitoring accuracy: Although it may be helpful to some to see their levels of stress, the WHOOP cannot tell the difference between good or bad stress, or mental or physical stress, as it measures only the activation of the nervous system. This may not be ideal for those who are showing a healthy level of stress during and after a workout – everyone may respond different to stress overall.

– No support for chest straps: Unfortunately, the WHOOP does not allow support for third party chest straps, which would otherwise allow further accurate heart rate monitoring.

Compared to the Apple Watch and Fitbit, the WHOOP band is not a smart watch. The latter focuses mainly on optimising performance rather than having general features offered by the Apple Watch and Fitbit. WHOOP is said to have better sleep performance analysis compared to other fitness trackers.

Is the WHOOP Band worth it?

Overall, there are many benefits of including WHOOP as a tool to help improve training, sleep patterns and stress levels. WHOOP can add real value on certain insights to the body’s reaction to lifestyle factors, which can be helpful for self-improvement.

If you are deciding if it’s worth investing in, it depends on your needs and goals. If you want to prioritise the optimisation of your performance from exercise, have detailed recovery insights and accurate sleep analysis, the WHOOP may be for you. It’s emphasis on strain and recovery is a fairly unique way to improve health outcomes, which some may find very beneficial.

But if you seek a versatile every day smart watch with added fitness tracking benefits, something such as the Apple Watch or Fitbit may suit you better.

If you are looking to improve your sports and exercise performance, get in touch with us today to book in with our sports dietitians!