Hi everybody. This is Christa Rucker from team Alexfergus. In this 3-part blog post series I'm going to take you through my experience with both the Biostrap and Fitbit.
Our team member David has already written an excellent review of both the regular Biostrap and its upgraded version the Biostrap EVO. In this blog post series, however, I dig deeper into the specific biometric measurements of the Biostrap and compare it to the Fitbit.
This 3-part series is made up of the following topics:
(If you're interested in the Biostrap, code ALEX saves 10% if you buy the product HERE.)
To be clear about my intentions with this review series: I wore both the Fitbit and Biostrap side-by-side on each arm during a month+ long period. Wearing both products side-by-side allows me to better review these products and compare the outcomes.
Are you ready for the review? Let's go:
I rely on both these trackers for a deeper awareness of my physiology. They are designed to collect and analyze distinctly different data.
I trust what they tell me. Both these trackers have provided me with valuable insights and key information that alerts me to the impact my choices have on my health.
When you need trusted advice, there are two types of advisors you can turn to for help.
You've got the Fitbit-type friend, a generalist, renaissance (wo)man, next-door neighbor, life-of-the-party, and training partner.
They celebrate every small win throughout your day and add some good-natured ribbing to prod you into following through on your goals.
If you weren't joined at the wrist, you'd be joined at the hip because they're always available to lend a hand with anything and everything.
If your Fitbit-type friend is ever not around for a little while (while recharging), they seem so happy to see you again, bordering on unabashed flirtation.
Sometimes it takes a page out of Joey's playbook from the show Friends with this one-liner, "How you doin'?" on its digital display. That pick-up line works on me every time. It never fails; I always pick it up and put it on, blushing the whole time.
(My Fitbit is the Charge 2. My dad's Charge 4 has a smiley face instead, which is almost as good.)
They know you better than you know yourself and remember all the important details of your life. They give you a heads up when needed and present you with the big-picture perspective to help you live a well-balanced life.
Then, there's the Biostrap-type, a world-renown specialist with algorithms to analyze the critical details of the most weighty health concerns.
(Code ALEX saves you 10% on the Biostrap website!)
They provide an unparalleled depth of insight and new revelations in select areas. They evaluate every millisecond of gloriously unadulterated raw data points and unabridged analysis.
They drill down to illuminate the root causes enabling you to perceive the magnitude of what's been undermining your best efforts.
They raise your awareness of things that weren't even on your radar, earth-shattering revelations that you wouldn't have believed before beholding the irrefutable, seismographic, early-warning evidence.
They give you the dawn of realization that you have a leak in your boat that has kept you up a creek without a paddle fighting the current and at times struggling to keep your head above water.
Biostrap-type specialists give you the hard-to-swallow truth, which means for the first time ever, you've got a real shot at saving yourself and building a better life.
My Fitbit reminds me of shimmering, opalescent, aurora-borealis lights embellishing the night sky.
When my husband, Mark, gave it to me for Christmas in 2016, it had a plum-colored silicone band.
In 2019, that one was replaced with this metal mesh magnetic band from a third-party vendor that is a perfect upgrade because it lets my skin breathe, it's quick and easy to take on and off for charging, and the fit can be adjusted precisely.
My dad agreed to swap trackers for me to try his out for a week for this article. He noticed the third-party's metal mesh band is a significant improvement for breathability and liked being able to adjust the size slightly for different tasks like yardwork over the original silicone band.
It's festive and comfy like a back-yard pool party where guests are chilling and chatting in breezy, cozy, pool-side hammocks on either side of a big black barbeque grill.
Now, on the other hand, the right one, to be exact...
Biostrap looks like meticulously sculpted ripples of sand in a peaceful Zen garden.
When Alex Fergus gave this Biostrap to me in December of 2020 for the purpose of detailed biometrics analysis for conducting before and after experiments for product reviews, I started wearing both helpful devices daily.
It took about a week to get used to something on my dominant-hand side and being mindful of its higher-profile so that I wouldn't accidentally bump it.
I much prefer its metal-peg post and notch-tuck closure design to the traditional belt-buckle design of most watches and trackers.
It's single-handedly easy to take on and off. Plus, the end of the strap is tucked on the inside, so it doesn't catch on most things, except when I sweep my long hair out of the way of my pillow, it snags and often pulls out a couple of strands.
The third tightest setting has been a perfect fit for me. Compared to my first two Fitbit straps, where I vacillated between adjacent options. Biostrap's band has stretched over the past four months. At first, that setting was on the tight side, but it has gradually loosened 1/16"/1–2mm.
I go for daily walks, even if it rains. With the silicone surrounding the electronics on Biostrap's top and sides, I don't have to worry about it getting wet or hold my hand over it the way I've always done with Fitbit. My strap doesn't even have a pinhole on the side. Its only opening is in the center of its underside that houses the sensors, battery, and memory.
My one challenge is that I can't wear Biostrap 24 hours in a row on that third notch because then I develop irritation and itching under the silicone band.
This was also an issue with my two silicone Fitbit bands, to a lesser degree. If memory serves me right, those were narrower, textured, and the rigid plastic bookending the digital display splayed out wider creating a greater gap before the straps touched my skin.
My silicone-sensitivity symptoms were circumvented by keeping it on the charging base during my 9-hour workday and wearing it the other 15 hours during sleep and exercise.
As the strap has loosened and my skin has toughened up, it is no longer an issue. I can wear it 24/7 now, kind of like gradually building up callouses instead of getting blisters from doing too much too soon, (says the woman with a blister turning to a callous on my hand from doing yardwork without work gloves this week.)
Biostrap feels like staying on the top floor of a pristinely clean hotel in a room with an ocean view and an elegant, feng shui, minimalist design in a slow-paced, quiet environment with room service where you may get a bit of irritation and itching from too much fun in the sun in too short a time.
Have you ever seen such beautiful trackers?
Fitbit is like a family member who always picks up the phone after a couple of rings. (I appreciate that about my husband, parents, and sister.)
You can always instantly communicate with it whenever you want. You just lift your wrist to look at it. This wakes the tracker's digital display. You're greeted with the time, date, and number of steps. You can also double-tap the screen to turn it on.
Since I've had my Fitbit for four years, part of this experiment included parting with it for the final fortnight to see what I would miss most about it.
I intentionally gave it to my folks for safekeeping, so I wouldn't be tempted to use it. Many a day, these past two weeks, I've been sorely tempted to drive over there and retrieve it.
Thankfully, Mark takes our car during the day for going to work and the gym, and I work afternoons and late into the evening from home, which made it an effective strategy to boost my willpower to go without it. Hmmm... I should give my folks my dark chocolate stash.
I missed it even more than expected. I'm so spoiled by its digital display.
In the section below, I'll describe the different options that Fitbit gives you, telling you what info can be found in each of the screens that you can rotate through:
(Many Biostrap features can be read up in THIS article - I'll also expand on them in the second and third installments of this blog post series!)
You can single tap to scroll through that whole first category: time/date, steps, current heart rate, miles, calories burned, elevation climbed compared to flights of stairs, minutes of exercise, and the number of hours where you took at least 250 steps, which is customizable.
Pressing the side button takes you to the second menu: current heart rate, and tapping the screen again shows your resting heart rate. I use this to track the impact of stressors in real-time, so see how long it takes my heart rate to return to baseline.
Another press takes you to the third category to track an activity: run, weights, treadmill, workout, elliptical, bike, or interval. Personally, I rarely ever use this since our gym temporarily closed for the pandemic last March of 2020. I've never been back, partly because I had a wicked frozen shoulder, yet I still pay my monthly dues because I have good intentions of returning. It's embarrassing but true.
Holding the button in lets you start a timer tracking the duration of activities like lifting weights that may not be automatically detected otherwise. It always did a fine job of automatically picking up my Zumba classes pre-pandemic and labelling them "aerobic workout" without me pre-selecting any activity.
My husband, Mark, has a Fitbit Ionic that has additional options like hiking. He always selects that when we go hiking at state parks together. I never even select anything. Mine is automatically logged as a long walk.
My Fitbit Charge 2 and my dad's Charge 4 both have 5 different single-color, simple-animation celebrations when I reach my customizable daily-steps goal, which is usually set at 10,000. Mark's Ionic has one multi-color animation. He likes the variety on mine better.
When we reach that milestone on our walks, we often show each other the achievement celebration animation. Even when walking alone, it's a powerful psychological boost to have that acknowledgement.
If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, did you really reach your daily steps goal? The Fitbit celebration says, "I hear your 10K steps. I see your accomplishment. I'm happy for you!" Coincidently, I haven't hit my daily goal during these past couple of weeks without it, which may not be a coincidence.
A fourth press of the side button takes us to the stopwatch screen in the fourth menu that measures tenths of a second, seconds, and minutes during the first 9 minutes, and then shows minutes and seconds after that.
I have missed this feature terribly since I use it a minimum of 15 times a week. I start the stopwatch at the beginning of my three breaks during the workday.
Since my shift times rotate by a couple of hours from week to week and my scheduled break times vary from day to day. Plus, I'm often starting a break at an odd time between customers, Fitbit's stopwatch helps my schedule adherence.
Fitbit's stopwatch helps me easily gauge the break time remaining far more accurately than trying to recall that if I went to break at 3:42 this time, I need to be back to work by 3:57 sharp.
It's much easier to view the running stopwatch and see it's at 12 minutes and counting. It alerts me that I better wrap up unloading the dishwasher quickly to stay on track for my 15-minute break.
Trying to make do in a pinch during the last two weeks without it, I've been lugging around my cellphone and using that stopwatch feature which has often made me a minute late clocking back in because I forget the time it took to pull up that app.
Plus, I have to toggle between screens to see the countdown rather than glance at my wrist. If that's not a legit champagne problem, I don't know what is.
Surprisingly, the Charge 4 does not have all the same screens. I strongly prefer having all these options in the extensive Charge 2 display menus at my fingertips.
The fifth button press is the relaxation guided breathing selection of either 2 or 5 minutes. I used to use this feature many times a day when I had a stressful office job.
Mostly, I would use it on the 5-minute drive home during my lunch hour to destress.
If there had recently been an especially stressful situation that was distracting me from the task at hand, I would put on the 2-minute guided breathing to anchor my attention to the present.
For the first moment, it seems to track your current heart rate with an animated graph. It doesn't specify what (if anything) it's tracking. After that baseline reading, there is a heart inside an expanding and contracting circle with the word inhale or exhale on the display screen to guide your breathing visually.
Typically, I wasn't looking at the screen while busy serving a customer, driving, or laying in the dark trying to relax before falling asleep. It has a briefly paced vibration to guide the rate of breathing, so there's no need to watch the visual cues.
It is a subtle sensory cue to bring awareness to the present when our mind is tempted to ruminate on the past or compose witty comebacks to a past difficult conversation that we would hypothetically give in a world where anything goes.
The sixth press of the button shows the alarm time. This screen automatically pops up with the vibrating alarm goes off, allowing you to press the button to stop the alarm.
Over the years, it has been one of my favorite features, waking me up gently for work in contrast to the blaring alarm that made my heart start racing first thing.
During my days of the 8 to 5 daily grind, I used that wake-up alarm for years. Luckily, I work afternoons and evenings now, so I usually wake up naturally before the alarm.
The final seventh screen is for incoming notifications. My husband's Fitbit Ionic actually shows more details about the text message or call received. My Fitbit Charge 2 device just alerts me that I've received one. As an introvert, I silence this feature as well as my phone's notifications 23 hours of the day. I like it like that.
Last but not least, I press the button to find my way in the dark from our bed to the master bathroom in the middle of the night. We have a motion sensor night light in the bathroom, but this helps me to never stub my toe on the footboard of the bed since we keep our room pitch black during the night.
During the past fortnight without it, sure's shootin', I veered off course in the dark and careened into my dresser with a thud. Thankfully, no toes were harmed in the mishap.
The only downside to this ever-ready flashlight? When my husband rolls over during the night, it activates his Ionic display, which is bright and flashy.
Without a display to tap or menu button to press, my Biostrap is a bit more like the family member who screens all their calls and shortly thereafter texts or emails you back. (Hey, it's doing better than me with my 23 hours of paused notifications. Introverts, go ahead and change your phone settings before reading on. You know you want to.)
Biostrap & Fitbit: better together
When you run over to your neighbor's to borrow a stick of butter, you expect they will answer the door within three minutes. That's how it is downloading data from Fitbit when I wake up. It's a piece of cake!
When you go to your favorite local restaurant once a week, you expect to get a table in 30 minutes. That's what it's like waiting for Fitbit to charge once a week. It has gone 8 or 9 days without a charge and emails you a notification when the battery is getting low. I charge it while I'm in the shower, and it's ready when I'm out.
When you have an appointment with a specialist, the check-in process may take around 12 minutes. Biostrap uploads and analyzes my sleep stats each morning in that timespan.
I start Biostrap first. Once the tracker data is uploaded, instead of waiting on the number-crunching to extract my biometrics, multi-task by uploading my Fitbit data to my phone and log my fasting blood sugar.
By then, Biostrap is almost done analyzing my sleep info for me. It adds a few minutes to the total upload time by alternating apps, but it seems to half the actual wait time on the Biostrap app by switching gears.
Trust me. It's worth the wait.
When you go to the gym for a 90-minute workout session daily, that's akin to the time it takes for Biostrap to get a full charge daily. If it's at zero power, then it may take twice as long to charge.
It could last two or three days without charging. Since I use it to take an average of two comprehensive pulse reports before bed, I use 8–10% of the battery a night and another 20-30% during a typical day with 2–3 Comprehensive Pulse Report scans.
They both do what they are designed to do 97 to 98 percent of the time. Where am I getting that figure? It's just the ratio of successful overnight recordings in contrast to partially or completely unsuccessful recordings.
I've had Biostrap for four months now. There were two nights when I thought it was recording. For some unknown reason, it didn't. There was also one night, the last night of a 3-day battery drain, to get the tracker to sync with my new phone when it couldn't get a recording for known, anticipated reasons.
I've had Fitbit for 4 years now. Once every 30-45 days it will only give me basic sleep data about my times of being awake or asleep, without any breakdown of REM or deep sleep.
It is only a partial shortcoming because when I received it in December of 2016, it only ever provided that basic sleep data as the way it was designed to work.
The sleep stages tracking was a free Fitbit upgrade that I automatically received when the app updated some time in 2017 or 2018. That has been so valuable to me.
I still remember how I felt the first time I saw this enhancement. It was akin to the jubilation I felt when I first received it for Christmas.
There are comments online questioning the ability of trackers like Fitbit to detect something as nuanced as REM sleep which I consider a vitally important brain state.
REM times in Fitbit mostly match up with my memory of when I woke up from dreams in the middle of the night or in the morning. It doesn't have to be 100% accurate for me to benefit from that feature which seems to be 85% or more accurate.
Biostrap does not distinguish between REM and deep sleep. It lumps those two together somehow into "deep sleep" and tracks that in contrast to light sleep to measure the overall quality.
To me, Fitbit provides a key distinction worth monitoring since REM that is either too low or too high is a red flag alerting a person to common adverse brain conditions.
There was a time when mine was routinely far too low. By changing careers, I reduced my stress and improved my REM sleep by 70%.
Admittedly, while working at my last office job, I actually broke down and cried one Saturday over my chronically abysmal REM sleep, which may have been a symptom of chronically abysmal REM sleep which I knew was the time when our brain processes emotions each night so that we don't break down and cry during the day which only made me cry more knowing what I knew, ya know?
REM tracking was definitely missed these past couple of weeks, no doubt. Though perhaps not as acutely as anticipated because my newfound ability to consistently get good REM made me assume it was fairly favorable.
All that to say, even during technical difficulties when I don't get sleep-stages data from Fitbit that 2.5% of the time, it is still performing as well as it did when it was brand new before that software update enhancement.
It always gives me at least basic sleep data about the length of time slept and any awakenings during the night. The 97.5% of the time when it shows me my sleep stages, I really appreciate it!
If I nap, it catches that too automatically. Fitbit and Biostrap both err on the side of assuming you are probably sleeping if you lay down in bed.
If need be, Fitbit gives me the option to create a new sleep segment to add to my log. There have only been a few times I needed to add sleep. Mostly, it was only if I made a mistake while trying to edit out extra sleep it gave me when I was laying in bed awake.
That error on my part only happened in the beginning. Now that I have learned to watch the date carefully while editing, it hasn't happened in years.
After all this time, I just now discovered the valuable asset of how to add or delete sleep data in Biostrap!
It's easy as pie. Silly me, I was looking in the wrong spot while all the while it was right under my nose at the very bottom of Biostrap's nightly sleep report in red letters saying "edit." It's even more user-friendly than Fitbit's way of correcting it.
If it were a snake it would have bit me. I can't believe I've got five months of sleep data from before I found this helpful feature. There's no going back now to tweak those times of tossing and turning.
As a former insomniac who had to edit my sleep data daily for it to be accurate since both devices usually count laying in bed as sleep, I think it is a valuable tool. I used to edit it almost daily with Fitbit from December 2016 through July 2020. Amazingly, I sleep well most nights now.
It's a toss-up on which one does a better job recognizing wakefully striving to sleep unsuccessfully. They go back and forth picking up on it, but Fitbit wins that challenge more often than not.
Both devices are reliable and perform consistently well 97 to 98% of the time.
Fitbit worked with my previous Stylo LG 2 cell phone just fine. When I got Biostrap in December of 2020, that phone struggled mightily to download the sleep data.
It would tell me it was downloading the past 8 hours worth of data and give me a projected time of completion as 3 days which typically only ended up being 5–7 hours most days if I kept waking up my phone to encourage pairing and uploading.
I was able to do some 5-minute recordings in those early days, even before my husband, Mark, gave me a Samsung Galaxy S20 5G for Christmas in 2020.
However, there were some days with my old phone when Biostrap struggled so much that I couldn't get a pulse recording all day, like what happened when I desperately needed to get a 5-minute pulse recording on Christmas Day when my heart was in some type of dysfunctional rhythm that made me feel ill from the sudden onset around 11 AM while geocaching on a nature walk until after I fell asleep that night.
I tried repeatedly many times throughout the day but couldn't get the data to sync and upload enough to start a recording. I finally tried a recording using my husband's newer phone, but it didn't save because it kept processing indefinitely.
I held off starting the Xen experiment until January 19th because I wanted to get a Biostrap recording of my heart on those days when it is stuck in a wacky rhythm that makes me ill.
Not only did I intend to show my doctor at my yearly well-check visit in March, but I also wanted to confront those scary rhythms face-to-face to understand what I had been up against.
Those bad days have been few and far between in my 40s, maybe once every 3 months. Back in my 20s, those crazy-heart-beats days happened 2–3 times a week before I discovered my food allergies back when I also had many other symptoms affecting my whole body.
It's nothing short of a miracle to feel better at 45 now than I did at age 19 when I went to the hospital's emergency room for my crazy heartbeats and pain.
I later ran into the attending physician in the grocery store who had put the lead wires all over my chest. Instantly, I did a 180 deciding we didn't need cheese that badly.
When we returned to the States when I was 16, I was chomping at the bit to see a doctor about my heart having painful episodes.
That primary care doctor laughed in my face and put me in my place. I was set straight that it must be heartburn from stomach ulcers. I had to drink around 16 ounces of a chalky drink that made me gag so that the x-ray of my stomach would show the ulcers.
You guessed it! The x-ray report showed no ulcers. The doctor never postulated a new theory to test. As a 16-year-old with dashed hopes for help, I thought that physician was woefully unscientific and disrespectful.
I never did get a reading of one of those awful rhythm days due to my old phone not being able to communicate with Biostrap most of the time even though I was highly motivated to patiently keep trying over and over, over the course of about 11 hours.
Fitbit does not have an option to protect yourself from unwanted EMF. Biostrap has the option to put the tracker into airplane mode with a simple selection on the app.
I haven't tried it yet because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to reverse it. Apparently, there is a special way to shake the tracker to take it out of that mode so that it can sync.
Feeling responsible for things going smoothly for the experiments, I did not want to risk a monkey wrench gumming up the works by fiddling with that option and not nailing the shake-to-wake instructions and winding up with technical difficulties.
When I had technical difficulties due to Biostrap remembering my old phone and giving my new phone the cold shoulder, I was instructed by customer support to press the pinhole button on the side.
My particular Biostrap Evo doesn't have one, so we had to resort to plan B: the 3-day-battery-drain reset, which worked like a charm. After my Sensate experiment is over, just around the corner, then I will feel free to take a chance on the airplane-mode-reversal shakedown.
Biostrap already has the EMF off switch I want to be using ASAP. Hopefully, Fitbit will follow suit someday soon.
Fitbit only tracks your heart rate every few minutes throughout the day and during exercise. Using the premium paid version, you can only track your average nighttime heart rate variability (HRV) score.
Fitbit can only detect if the heart is beating too slow or too fast for a solid 5 minutes or longer. Occasionally, that would show up during exercise for me, but it wasn't able to detect all my irregular beats happening while it's beating at a normal rate like I was having for hours on those difficult days.
Thanks to Biostrap, I have been able to precisely monitor my irregular rhythms and have the data presented on helpful graphs.
I discovered there's a limit of 20 or so pulse reports for the day. After that, Biostrap would give me an error message the rest of that day when I tried to record.
Magically, at midnight, I could begin again with more recordings. This led to me staying up until midnight many a night to satisfy my insatiable curiosity that had accumulated after decades of not knowing what was up with my heart.
It was shocking to see that even on all my "normal days" when I would have guessed it was nothing but run-of-the-mill heartbeats, I was having intervals of irregular rhythms and rogue beats were popping up like weeds.
Hopefully you understand the basic differences between both devices now though! Let's, for now, conclude this blog post - I hope you continue reading when the next installments of this series arrive!
Having a Fitbit and Biostrap (code ALEX saves 10%) is like having two very different neighbors who you both really appreciate.
The Fitbit neighbor is very easygoing, not difficult to navigate, and down to earth. The Biostrap neighbor, on the other hand, likes complexity, is detailed-oriented, loves bells and whistles, and simply gives you more options.
I like both neighbors but for you, the calculus might work out differently.
For that reason, I'll be doing a much deeper dive into the benefits and downsides of both models in my second and third installment of this series!
Again, I'm treating the following topics in these 3 installments
Can't wait to tell you more about my months and year-long experience with both devices!
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