We’ve all grown accustomed to fitness trackers and smartwatches that dish out data such as steps, distance, heart rate, sleep and keep tabs on activities. Such wearables are a dime a dozen. However, there’s a new breed of devices that aim to take fitness tracking further by monitoring an often neglected part of your exercise regime – recovery.
The wearables typically do this by tracking HRV (heart rate variability). This a measure of the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. The higher the value the better. It should not be confused with your heart rate, which is simply a measure of the number of times your heart beats. There, you want to aim for a low number.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Professional athletes have known about the importance of sleep and time not spent training, but some of the rest of us are just catching on. Your body needs time-outs in order to restore energy and allow muscles to repair themselves and grow.
Two great options if you’re looking for a wearable for insights into your recovery are Biostrap and Whoop. Both track similar metrics and primarily use HRV to do so. The first is on the second generation, the second on the third. What exactly is the difference between them? Read on to find out.
Biostrap vs Whoop: Design and hardware
Both Biostrap and Whoop come in the form of a fitness band made of plastic-like material that attaches to a strap. They are designed designed to work when worn on an athlete’s wrist, although Whoop can also be used on the forearm or triceps.
The core unit on Biostrap measures 91 x 91 x 91cm while the one on Whoop is slightly larger, but thinner. The one important difference between them is that Biostrap also comes with an optional shoe pod. This attaches to your sneakers and is used for activity tracking. You do not need it, though, for recovery monitoring.
The devices are meant to be worn around the clock, so both come with decent water-resistance. Biostrap has a 5 ATM rating, Whoop 3 ATM. Neither of them has a display or buttons, so you will need to use the accompanying smartphone app in order to view the statistics and insights.
Also, there are no vibrations for notifications or anything of that sort. The goal here is to keep things simple in order to minimize distractions and preserve battery life. But don’t let that fool you. These are two very advanced wearables.
In terms of sensors, a 3-axis accelerometer can be found on both devices, along with a gyroscope and heart rate monitor. On Biostrap the heart rate monitor works trough red photodiode LEDs, on Whoop with green ones. Both have the ability to track HRV, while the red photodiodes allow Biostrap to also track blood oxygen.
Battery life is not that great on either of these two. You’ll need to charge Biostrap every other day. Whoop is slightly better with its battery life up to 5 days. The third generation Whoop extends this from 40 hours of its predecessor.
Here’s a run-down of the specs.
|Biostrap 2||Whoop 3|
|Size||Wrist pod: 91 x 91 x 91mm; 120-200mm circumference of the band
Shoe pod: 35 x 23 x 15mm
|2.54 x 4.445 x 0.635 cm|
|Material||Silicone band, plastic pod||Plastic pod|
|Battery life||Wrist pod: around 2 days
Foot pod: up to 3 days
|Water resistance||Wrist pod: 5 ATM
Foot pod: splashproof
|Weight||Wrist pod: 23 grams
Foot pod: 8 grams
|Sensors||Wrist pod: Red+Infrared PPG, 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope
Foot pod: 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope
|3-Axis Accelerometer, gyroscope, Green Photodiode LEDs, On/Off Wrist Detection via Capacitive Touch Sensor|
|Colors||Black, blue, white band (all enclosed)||Arctic, Carbide, Onyx, Reef, Denim bands.|
Wristband + Shoe Pod $250
|Monthly membership starts at $30. Band is free with membership. 6, 12, or 18-month plan|
Biostrap vs Whoop: Activity tracking
As mentioned, Biostrap comes in the form of a wristband and an optional foot pod. You can wear both but there’s little point. The shoe pod is only important when it comes to activity classification. You can also use it instead of the wristband when running – useful if you also wear a sports watch.
As you go about your day or sleep, the Biostrap wristband collects all the necessary data. This includes info on steps, active calories, sleep, heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation. You get the raw data, as well as an Activity, Recovery and Sleep score on a daily basis on a scale up to 100.
The numbers you’ll focus on most often are the Recovery score and Sleep score. Glancing at each of these in the morning tells you everything you need to know as to your readiness for exercise. Tap on each of these for more detailed insights. The sleep stats are very detailed, and in our review we found the tracker is excellent at picking up those afternoon naps.
Workouts must be started in the Biostrap app manually as there are no buttons. You can pair the smartphone app to an external heart rate monitor when exercising, and it makes lots of sense to do so as it will stream heart rate and HRV data in real-time. You’ll get a richer summery of your workout including info on heart rate zones.
A recent software update has also enabled the Connected GPS feature. This means when working out outdoors, Biostrap can tap into your smartphone’s satellite signal for more precise tracking with metrics such as distance, altitude, pace and a map of the activity.
A particularly interesting aspect of Biostrap is its ability to automatically detect, track and analyze any repetitious exercise. A library of those you can use in the gym can be downloaded, plus you can train the band and shoe pad to recognize individual exercises.
A key differentiator of Whoop is that its sensors collect data on heart rate, HRV, electro-dermal activity, ambient temperature and 3D acceleration 100 times per second, 24 hours a day! This is perhaps the most important reason professional athletes choose this wearable. The high sampling rate allows it to dish out statistics with great accuracy.
In comparison, Biostrap samples data once every 5-10 minutes, depending on setting. This increases to once every 2 minutes if you subscribe to Sleep Cloud which runs at $9.49 per month. The first month is free so you can decide for yourself if it’s for you.
Just like on Biostrap, the physiological markers from Whoop are used to asses an athletes readiness to perform each day. What you don’t get is info on Pulse Ox. Which means Whoop uses a combination of your resting heart rate, HRV and hours/quality of sleep to determine how recovered you are. Heart rate, the ambient temperature and movement patterns are used to determine your sleep efficiency.
In terms of activity tracking, Whoop has the ability to automatically recognize when you are working out. The other option is to start a workout manually from the smartphone app. The third generation introduces something called Strain Coach. To help you optimize the way you train, this lets you know real-time exertion level assessments and recommendations based on your body’s recovery. Put more simply, it will tell you if you should push harder or are overdoing it.
There’s also a Sleep Coach that helps you get more quality kip time. For example, it can tell you how much you need to sleep if you want to “peak” tomorrow.
|Biostrap 2||Whoop 3|
|Stress & recovery||Yes||Yes|
|Data sampling||Once every 5-10 minutes depending on setting. Subscribe to Sleep Lab cloud platform to increase this to every 2 minutes.||100 times per second (HR, HRV, electro-dermal activity, ambient temperature and 3D acceleration).|
|Other||Automatic tracking of reps and sets in gym||Strain Coach, Sleep Coach|
Biostrap vs Whoop: Price
A major difference between Biostrap and Whoop is in price. Biostrap comes in at $175 for just the band which is all you need to monitor recovery. If you want to go beyond that, the price with the shoe pod runs to $250. There’s a third-tier option, too, that comes in at $320. This one includes a heart rate chest strap to be used when exercising.
Whoop has adopted a different model. Previously you needed to pay $500 to purchase the fitness band. Now, this is included free with membership. But there’s a monthly fee of $30 for a six month option. The 12 and 18 month subscriptions can reduce this down to $18.
Biostrap vs Whoop: Bottom line
Biostrap and Whoop are not your run-of-the-mill wearables. Instead of predominantly focusing on tracking activity, they let you know how well you are recovering.
The metrics are similar and consist of your daily activity, recovery and sleep score. The idea is that by pitting your activity against recovery, you’ll know whether you should push hard that day or take it easy. Each of these metrics goes into much detail, there are insights and recommendations, graphical representations and you can see how you stack up against others.
The major difference is the sampling frequency. Whoop samples data 100 times per second while Biostrap does this every few minutes. This means you should get far greater accuracy with Whoop. What also works in Whoop’s favor is the 5 day battery life versus the 2 of its competitor. Biostrap, on the other hand, adds additional biometric data in the form of blood oxygen.
Finally there’s the price difference. The massive amount of data and longer battery life on Whoop Strap requires a monthly subscription of $30 for 6 months, with no extra cost for the device itself. A $175 investment gets you a Biostrap with no further investment needed (unless you want to purchase add-ons).
Another option worth considering is the Polar Ignite or Vantage series. These wearables provide much of the same recovery statistics, but also come with a proper smartwatch experience and much richer fitness tracking data.
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