I’ve been a myfitnesspal (MFP) user for a couple of years now, previously I used an app on my windows phone to track my food and exercise log as a calorie counter; so I’ve been logging off and on for about 5 years. The process and habit of logging I think has been key for me to keep my weight
I’ve been pretty consistent about counting my calorie intake for the past 18 months or so, there have been a few lapses while camping, weekends, or just needing to “take a break”. If I go long periods without tracking it, I have a tendency to start cheating on my portions or dismissing that handful of nuts I just ate. Logging also gives me a much better visual understanding of what a portion looks like.
MyFitnessPal has a website, iPhone and iPad app to keep track of everything. They also offer a large community for support, information and encouragement.
MyFitnessPal account setup
The setup of your account is pretty simple, just enter your stats (age, height, weight) and what your goal is (drop weight, maintain or gain weight). It will give you suggested calorie intakes along with guidelines for your macro nutrients. From there, you can tweak and modify things as you see fit. I’d suggest double checking the results they spit out with a few other BMR/RMR Calculators.
MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter
Daily entry of your exercise and food is pretty easy. They have a large database of foods already in the system and easy access to your most commonly entered items. For the most part, I tend to eat a lot of the same things (especially for breakfast). You can also create your own “meals”, which are just a collection of individual ingredients and can easily be dropped into a meal. I have one setup for a yogurt and oatmeal bowl that I eat for an afternoon snack frequently. The barcode scanner on the iPhone and iPad app also helps enter your data, but always double check the actual label to their database. I think most of the calorie counting apps use the same crowdsourced nutrition database, and I have found lots of errors.
It’s only going to be as accurate as what you input. One of the more difficult items to tackle is eating out. To get the most accurate measurements, I try to deconstruct the meal and enter ingredients individually. If I eat a cheeseburger, I will enter the ground beef (normally selecting a 85/15 lean beef, because honestly that is probably what the restaurant used), bun, cheese and any condiments by itself.
One complaint with the food database, and this isn’t really their fault, but I wish it was a bit more curated. Sometimes finding what you are after can be hard with the variations. Using ground beef as an example, there are probably a hundred entries, that could probably be scaled back to just 10 or 20 if they got rid of all the duplicate entries.
Tracking your Exercise
Depending on the type of exercise you do, the accuracy of their database is pretty questionable. I think most calorie counter apps and gym machines over estimate calories burned. What I have come up with is a base of 12 calories burned per minute as a 10 effort level (going all out). From there, I have to use my best judgement on what my perceived exertion level was for that exercise. For the most part, a easy run is about 80 calories per mile or so. This usually matches up with my heart rate monitor on my garmin. The one huge are of concern I’ve seen is on the eliptical at the gym, those machines seem to really be generous (there is no way I am burning 15 calories a minute at a medium level of intensity). Again, you will have to make the best judgment there. A heart rate monitor will really help take a lot of the guesswork out of this.
Tracking your progress
MyFitnessPal allows your to track your progress in a couple of different ways. You can go by weight or measurements. I personally just go by weight, not too interested at this point in my measurements. You can update your progress as frequently as you’d like. I typically weigh myself daily (just for my own curiosity) but only look at weekly progress (will be the topic of a future post).
The community aspect of MFP is something that is a bit unique from other calorie counting apps I have come across. You can connect with other friends or people with similar goals and become friends through the app. This can be more appealing to others I think. For me, it’s not a big motivator. I have in the past friended a few people, but have noticed like in real life, they tend to lose their enthusiasm for the app/site after a few weeks.
Their forum is very active and can be a good place to find some feedback and general tips. Again, it’s all peer to peer so there is also a lot of bullshit (IMO) in the forums.
There are a lot of options for calorie counting apps out there. The quality of the app is not what is going to make or break my goals. It’s the decisions I make on a day to day basis. What I want is a tool that is simple, works consistently and allows me to quickly track what I want to track. MyFitnessPal does just that for me.