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What our Members Want to Know About WHOOP

By Allison Lynch

What our Members Want to Know About WHOOP

Your Top WHOOP Questions Answered.

We recently polled the WHOOP community to see what questions you wanted answered about your recovery, strain, and sleep data, and we were flooded with responses! At WHOOP, we seek to keep our members informed about the latest technology in the app and how they can apply their data to real-life training and performance goals. Below, we’ve selected the top 15 questions we feel would be most helpful to our members. As always, feel free to message us on social media or contact one of our Membership Services representatives to better understand how to optimize performance on WHOOP.

HRV & Recovery

1. What does it mean if both heart rate variability (HRV) and resting heart rate (RHR) are decreasing over time? - @gavinkerr95 Without knowing your full physiological profile, WHOOP can’t make a completely accurate assessment. However, according to WHOOP VP of Performance Science Kristen Holmes, if you're a high-level athlete this could be an indicator of “parasympathetic saturation.” In other words, your body is actually recovering well over time as your fitness increases (hence the lower RHR), despite a lower HRV. When it comes time to taper and lay off the training, you may see your HRV increase as you prepare for a race, competition, etc. 2. How does stress correlate with HRV? - @wbrookes8 Stress can have a huge impact on HRV. While stress is the body’s natural response to various external and internal influences and is not always a bad thing, chronic stress or severe anxiety can negatively impact the body’s autonomic nervous system. Studies show that negative emotional states can impact heart rate and heart rate variability, which in turn can affect your cardiovascular health and immune system. 3. How is my recovery so high when I still feel so sore? - @valerie_bedrock One philosophy of WHOOP is focusing on your body’s physiological data, rather than focusing on how you feel. Oftentimes we feel tired, sore, or unmotivated. However, our internal physiology might be telling a different story. According to WHOOP VP of Performance Science Kristen Holmes, HRV (the leading component of WHOOP recovery) is affected by the presence of inflammation, not necessarily soreness. If your body is managing inflammation well, HRV will not be as profoundly influenced. If you’ve endured a tough weightlifting session and are still sore, your body's working overtime to repair, recover, and get stronger. This leads to muscle growth, fat loss, improved cardiovascular health, and overall healthier bodies. Make sure you are allowing time for the body to heal and repair before stressing it all over again, or your body will not be able to recover as quickly the next time. 4. How come my recoveries have been low despite getting good sleep? - @sweets2318 WHOOP recovery is based on 3 metrics: sleep performance, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability. While you may be getting good sleep, what do your other metrics look like compared to your baseline? Getting enough sleep and getting quality sleep are always important and will aid in your recovery, but there may be other factors at play keeping your body from fully recovering the next day.  

Respiratory Rate

5. How much of a jump in respiratory rate from night to night is concerning? - @cdissins This depends on how much variability is normal for you. The more static your respiratory rate is, the smaller a jump you would need to determine that something meaningful happened. Most people vary by less than 1 rpm from night to night, so seeing an increase of 2 or 3 is typically meaningful. Going 3 rpm above normal could be cause for concern. WHOOP VP of Data Science Emily Capodilupo has written about the concerns associated with elevated respiratory rate amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

6. Does respiratory rate data help identify other illnesses, apart from Covid? e.g. worsening asthma? - @craigiboywonder While there is a link between respiratory rate and COVID-19, WHOOP cannot conclusively prove that you have contracted the disease, along with other illnesses. Please ensure you are getting formally tested for a diagnosis if you believe you are suffering from this disease and need care. What WHOOP can do is tell you when you've deviated from your baseline, which is critical when monitoring your health, and may help you pick up on symptoms or illness before it gets worse. It is true that changes in respiratory rate have been proven to correlate to other behaviors or physiological interruptions. Examples include:

  • Air travel
  • Transitioning from low altitude to high altitude
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Fever

WHOOP Strain

7. Is higher strain always better for any fitness goal? (losing weight vs gaining strength, etc.) - @shak_inabow As a simple rule, more cardiovascular strain will result in more calories burned, therefore it may be helpful in managing food intake and weight loss. However, higher strain is not always the goal if you are trying to improve fitness. If you are consistently exerting high strain days and not allowing room for recovery, you will not make the same fitness gains if you were to take a day of active rest. The goal with WHOOP strain is to balance it with your recovery days, so you know when to rest and when to push. This is why WHOOP developed the Strain Coach. 8. How does daily strain take "heavy lifting" sessions into account? - @cncoachday WHOOP measures strain based on cardiovascular output and time spent in various heart rate zones. Therefore, if you’re doing a strength-based workout with minimal reps and periods of rest (such as Olympic weightlifting), you will have a lower strain if your heart rate is not elevated for extended periods of time. Many WHOOP members have wondered how their data will reflect a strenuous strength session, so here’s the breakdown:

  • Increasing weight and adding new strength exercises to your routine will likely cause soreness and muscle fatigue, otherwise known as delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS). This microtrauma from eccentric lengthening of the muscle fibers typically causes a reduction of HRV the following morning, especially if your body is not used to this kind of stressor.
  • Fatigued muscles often result in a higher strain the next day, because your body is working harder to recover as it responds to disturbances of your homeostatic state.

In order to read true muscle breakdown following a workout, you’d need additional tools such as an EMG or blood test. 9. Why do I already have day strain when I wake up? - @issywatson Your WHOOP cycle begins when you fall asleep, then resets the next time you fall asleep (some other wearables operate on a fixed 24 hour cycle, which isn’t an accurate portrayal of your body’s routine). Therefore, you’ll wake up with a relatively low strain, since your body is still using energy and burning calories while you’re asleep. 10. How does Strain Coach produce it's recommendations? - @brobal Strain Coach gives you an exertion level recommendation based on your recovery (a daily metric for how ready your body is to take on strain) and strain you’ve already accumulated. Strain Coach is personalized to your baseline, and constantly adjusts to your daily output. When you start an activity, it shows your strain building in real time towards the suggested goal. You can also see how many calories you’re burning and which heart rate zone you're operating in.

WHOOP Product & App

11. Is WHOOP only for intense athletes? Would it be beneficial for a person who doesn't workout? - @sam_werner5 WHOOP is for anyone looking to make improvements in their daily performance, whether they are an athlete, a doctor, a parent, a business owner, or more. Monitoring your health via data insights is critical if you want to stay aware, prevent illness and overtraining, and customize your lifestyle behaviors to optimize performance. 12. What makes WHOOP a better choice than other wearables like Apple Watch or Oura Ring? - @decker_saquan

  • Overall Accuracy: WHOOP is currently the only wearable that has validated respiratory rate from a 3rd party, verifying its accuracy. This study also said WHOOP was “excellent” when compared to the gold-standard of sleep tracking.
  • Hardware: Unlike the Apple Watch, WHOOP keeps a low profile so as not to distract you with notifications and alerts. We intentionally do not have a watch face, so you can go about your day as WHOOP collects 24/7 data in the background.
  • Membership: WHOOP is a membership, which means you get the latest and greatest technology as soon as it's available as long as you are an active member. No need to buy a new device each time it is released; you can upgrade for free. Additionally, we are constantly adding new features to the app. In the last 4 months we have added respiratory rate, annual performance assessments, monthly performance assessments, and the WHOOP Journal, to name a few.
  • HRV Sampling & Patented Algorithm: WHOOP HRV has also been validated within the same sleep study proving its accuracy. Unlike Apple, which pulls raw HRV numbers at random times during the day, WHOOP pulls HRV consistently every night during the last cycle of your deep sleep. This ensures a controlled reading that limits external influences. HRV fluctuates throughout the day based on many factors, so Apple’s reading is not meaningful over time. Additionally, WHOOP HRV is a patented, proprietary algorithm, which means no one else on the market uses it or has access to it.
  • Community: WHOOP offers the ability to create and join teams in the app, while neither Oura or Apple provide this. We also have an affiliate program and work with trainers, coaches, gyms, nutritionists, chiropractors, and more.

WHOOP Journal

13. What is the best way to record the impact of food on performance and recovery? - @nolanbillstrom The WHOOP Journal is the best way to record how your diet may be affecting your performance and recovery. By conducting your own self-study, you can infer which behaviors are impacting your data, including selections such as meat-based diet, plant-based diet, paleo diet, supplements, and more. At the end of the month, your monthly performance assessment will show you a summary of how these behaviors affected things like RHR, HRV, and sleep.

14. Is there a WHOOP Journal activity that has improved recovery in individuals more than others? - @markfox96 WHOOP has not conducted a larger study analyzing behaviors logged in the WHOOP Journal, however it is important to understand that your choices are personalized to you. What works for someone may not work for someone else. Also, you’ll need to have enough yes or no responses filled out in your WHOOP Journal for the monthly performance assessment to provide meaningful data. Only a few responses won’t tell you what is clearly working for you, and what’s not. The more you fill it out, the more clearly you will see what’s working!