For most of us, life already requires a balancing act: we have family, friends, work, working out, and hopefully some downtime in between.
Add keeping track of your food and exercise to the equation, and it may seem impossible.
Within the past few years, new smart phone apps have been popping up left and right in an effort to help you manage your weight easier on the go.
One of the most popular apps, MyFitnessPal is a website that helps people count their calories by entering it into an online diary, as well as keep track of their exercise. It’s for anyone with a busy life, looking to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy weight.
It can be tailored to fit the needs of anyone with specific and/or doctor/dietitian-recommended requirements. The free application is available for Blackberry, Android, Windows, and the iPhone.
MyFitnessPal Review: Key Features1
MyFitnessPal’s community aspect basically consists of a forum, where other fellow users of the app are free to exchange tips and advice, as well as to create relationships through sharing personal experiences or struggles.
2. Exercise Tracker
MyFitnessPal has more than 350 exercise stored in its database, and it shows how much each person burns during each activity, based on their specific height, weight, and gender. It includes most cardio and strength training workouts, as well as yoga and Pilates.
3. Calorie Counter
The app’s calorie counter is basically an online diary of each MyFitnessPal member’s intake. The counter allows members to set daily goals, and the app can add multiple foods at once. It also automatically stores food and meals that members eat often, which makes them easy to find when they eat them again and need to log them.
MyFitnessPal Review: Pros
The app allows members to log food from anywhere and has a food database of 3,282,000 different kinds of foods to choose from (customized recipes can be added to the database), and all changes made via phone are also made on the website.
2. Instant Feedback
One study of obese and diabetic people revealed that the use of self-monitoring of calories (going in and out), through “an electronic tracking program” or an iPhone app like MyFitnessPal, is effective in losing weight healthfully. It claimed that the digital calorie diaries are more effective than traditional self-reporting, because they give people direct feedback, and provides them with information about what is healthy for them specifically.2
MyFitnessPal is not a one-size-fits-all app. Personal diet profiles can be changed to fit a person’s specific needs, whether they are on a strict diet or have certain recommendations from their doctor or dietitian. The program calculates caloric need based on height, weight, gender, and lifestyle.
MyFitnessPal Review: Cons
1. Inconsistent Updating
While MyFitnessPal allows people to scan the barcode of a food product to go into their digital diary (and record all nutritional information), sometimes the scanner will not find the product, and needs constant updating. Additionally, the program does not let members edit certain amounts of consumed food. For example, if you wanted to record you drank less than 8 oz. of wine, the program will not let you edit that.
2. Mobile Dependability
Yes, MyFitnessPal works on the go, but if there is no wireless signal, it is impossible to log on to even record anything in the app. In certain situations, people are not always in areas with wireless signals, and will not be able to record in the diary when they want to.
3. Health Drawback
Some may argue that just counting calories is not the best or healthiest way to lose weight and to maintain a healthy life. While basic science does say a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, there are other factors at play. In other words, the fewer calories you eat, the more weight you’ll lose.
But there are several reasons why food choices should be based on other aspects – not just calories. Calorie counting seems to be the most straightforward and easiest way to reach weight loss and/or health goals, but different types of food effect the body in various ways. Some foods produce hormonal affects that store fat, release sugar, or build muscle. Two separate diets consisting of the same amount of calories, but with different variations of fat, protein, and carbs, may have a much different satiety affect.
That’s why it’s important to focus on other parts of food, and not just the calories that come with it, in order to develop a proper eating plan.3
Under a more extreme light, calorie counting can sometimes be detrimental to a person’s mental health. In fact, it is a typical fixation for people with eating disorders, and can make people make increasingly unnecessarily restricted food choices.4
Take these tips into account and decide if MyFitnessPal is the right choice for you. Let us know if you try it out, and please share with us how or how it did not help you to fulfill your personal weight loss and/or healthy lifestyle goals.
- MyFitnessPal.com. ↩
- Anton SD, Leblanc E, Allen HR, et al. Use of a computerized tracking system to monitor and provide feedback on dietary goals for calorie-restricted diets: the POUNDS LOST study. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2012;6(5):1216-25. ↩
- Kovacs, J. The Dos and Donts of Counting Calories. WebMD. ↩
- Counting Calories. ↩
A couple other feathers worth mentioning
It will also import your workouts from fitness tracking apps like runkeeper which is a plus cutting out that manual workout entry.
Also has a huge database of nutritional information that is as easy to lookup and add as scanning the upc symbol on a package. Even has a lot of brands like Trader Joes & others already entered in there.
Thanks for sharing
I found that my fitness pal worked for me, I lost 45 punds and went to 16.8 percent body fat in 41/2 months, I felt using this app kept me accountable for what I was eating, also I go to the gym and jog on the days I dont go to the gym, I dont log any more because Im trying to maintain at 160 pounds however I usually have a good idea of the callories, To this day there are things that I refuse to eat, Its a lifestyle change !!!
Congrats on your success, that’s awesome!
Great article and very informative. I used nutrimirror for over a year. I switcherd to MyFitnessPal recently because of it’s mobility and graphics. What other food journals have you looked at ? If I can use something better, I would jump ship easily. Using a food journal has assisted in me losing 170 Lbs. I have kept it off now for 2 years and I still use a journal. Resp. Tim
Thanks for the comment, Tim and congrats on your major body transformation. I would check out LoseIt!, for pure calorie counting / tracking, I think it’s one of the best, or the best.
With regard to the comment under the cons ‘Inconsistent Updating’, if you only consumed half an 8 oz glass of wine (as in the example), you could very easily enter “0.5” as the number of servings. I do this often for all kinds of foods (with all sorts of decimal ratios for serving size), because serving sizes rarely match the indicated amounts exactly.
I also find the barcode matching does have a hiccup now and then, but overall works very well.
This app helped me get my ‘house in order’ and continues to help keep me aware of # of calories taking in.
Also of note (and a BIG Pro), the app will integrate with Fitbit and Runtastic (among other apps) to automatically update your weight, body fat%, and exercise calories. All I ever have to enter is food consumed, everything else is synched up automagic like.
That’s great info, thanks for sharing.
My Fitness Pal is like a free and more transparent version of WeightWatchers online.
The advantage of WW is that it simplifies by counting most kinds of fruit and vegetables as zero points. The disadvantage is you have to pay monthly subs.
You can avoid the monthly subs of WW by using using My Fitness Pal, not logging the same veggies and fruit you don’t log in WW and adjust your daily calorie target by 100-200 calories to represent your daily fruit and veg intake.
Now I’m ready to cancel my WW subs…
Haven’t been following it but the Weight Watchers stock was hit pretty hard when they last announced earning because of the reasons you alluded to.
Just wanted to say I LOVE your website. Also, My Fitness Pal CAN record calories consumed if you eat/drink less than what the app has. It allows you to enter how MUCH of a serving size you’ve consumed. To use your example, if you’d like to enter that you drank 4 oz of wine, and the serving size in the app. is 8 oz, just enter that you drank .5 of a serving. Easy! 🙂
Thanks for the kind words Stefani and that’s good to know about calories consumed.
found site good when you are honest about what you eat shows up the bad days and if there are too many and the calorie counter really shows that up, but the constant inputting was hard and had trouble finding some exercises even putting in different names
love your site it’s really helpful/useful
I started with Calorie Count (CC) over 5 years ago and it has helped me a lot. I tried MyFitnessPal for a little while, tried LoseIt and finally went back to CC.
I am not saying one is better than the other, I just felt comfortable using CC as it had worked for me so I did not see why change if it worked for me.
I like the ability to scan codes, but it has its flaws as well and many times I just add Custom foods and input nutrient info. The design does not look as fancy as the others, it looks rather simple/plain.
CC even has intimate activity as exercise, I did not find that at MyFitnessPal!
The best thing I find about the app is not the calorie counting but that you can look at the daily summary % breakdown of carb/fat/protein in your diet as this is more worthwhile paying attention to for weight loss and/or muscle gain
Thanks for warning about the pitfalls of calorie counting. I used to have an app to track my calories for food and exercise. It was great for the first couple of weeks when I was learning about the calories of the food I regularly consumed. Unfortunately, I got too obsessive with tracking my calories. I got worried when a food I ate wasn’t listed or about the accuracy of the serving sizes. It got too laborious and I finally ditched the app. Now I just concentrate on eating “clean”.
Thanks everyone for your comments. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts about the article, and about everyone’s fitness goals and successes!
I use MFP and find it to be an excellent tool. Some observations and tips:
– I find that MFP tends to overestimate the calories burned during exercise. If you set your calorie intake based on the settings and then eat the additional calories ‘earned’ during exercise, then you are likely to be consuming too much if you have a fat/weight loss goal. I find it better to simply set your calorie intake goals based on your BMR, an activity multiple of “active” (if you are following Marc’s Builtlean program) and your weight loss goal (in my case, 2lb per week). You then simply consume the calorie goal it sets and ignore the additional calories earned through exercise. Setting the activity multiple to “active” assumes you are doing 3-4 strength training sessions a week as well as your HIIT and other optional low intensity cardio. By all means track the progress of your strength training or cardio – this is important for progression, but I don’t recommend eating all the calories MFP claims you have burnt.
– The food database is very extensive, but can be a bit hit and miss. If you are unsure of the nutritional value of certain foods, then you can double check at nutritiondata.com and build your own foods in My Foods. For example, there are dozens of entries for roast / rotisserie chicken in the MFP database. If you have your roast chicken a certain way each time, say a breast piece, no wing, no skin, the you can customise an entry and use it all the time. This makes entry more accurate.
– You can easily track your macronutrients via the Home button if you are using an iPad. This is very handy if you have set goals for daily protein, fat and carb intake. If for example you are a few grams short in your protein goal for a day, you can identify this and top up with some chicken breast or whey protein shake. Similarly, if fats are a bit low for the day, an easy fix might be a couple of fish oil tablets or some avocado.
– Yes, using MFP can become a bit obsessive, but if you are serious about your training goals, be it for fat loss, muscle gain or whatever, you need to know exactly what is going into your pie hole. Using an app like MFP or any of the other calorie trackers for even a few weeks will assist greatly in helping you to understand what you have been eating and what you should be eating. I don’t think you need to use a calorie tracker for ever. Depending on the individual, a few months may be enough to help educate and get you on track.
Once you learn the basics and are comfortable with your nutrition, you can ditch the calorie tracker and simply make clean, healthy living a normal part of your life, giving you more time to train hard, have fun and enjoy your family and friends.
This is a great info, Pete. Thanks for sharing.
I credit MyFitnessPal for providing, in part, the self-discipline and information for me to lose 52# and to keep them off for over a year. By eating clean, exercising frequently and vigorously, and tracking calories in MyFitnessPal, I have reduced my resting heart rate from about 80 bpm to 50 bpm at age 55, reduce my total cholesterol to about 180, reduce my blood pressure to about 120/70, and most importantly, provide my young children and me with many more happy, healthy years together. While fitness experts will continue to debate the pros and cons of counting calories, I’ll argue that doing so with the assistance of an application will make you far more aware of how, when, and what you eat. It’s that awareness that enables you, in part, to make far better choices on your plate or in your gym. It’s those better choices that will get you the results you seek.
I have used MFP for many years, I’m now 72. While I use it I lose weight, but the problem is that I get tired of inputting and I stop, so back up I go. Maybe I haven’t figured out how to input faster. “My frequent” don’t seem to have what I eat frequently and it is a short list considering that I pretty much stay within the same foods. Although it is mostly home made as I feel it is the only way I know exactly what I’m eating. I find it a pain to add to “my foods”. I only use the free app, perhaps if I paid for the premium subscription, it might be easier.
I’M following a low carb, high fat diet. I’very found MFP helpful. Sometimes I find the My Recipe section difficult to use. I have had to input several times to get it to take. Maybe it’s just me as I’m not young anymore! Also, I went to Abuelo’s and ate the Tilapia Vera Cruz lunch, but didn’t eat the rice. It wouldn’t let me say “no rice”. How do I get my point across to accurately count my carbs? I would like to see more low car recipes and articles as there are a lot of us counting carbs!
Thanks for sharing your experiences with MyFitnessPal, Constance! I share pretty similar feeling about certain functions of MFP – for example, if I modify meals when I eat out to include or exclude certain ingredients, it’s not always possible to make those changes in the app. Currently, there aren’t many options in their database to exclude the rice, etc. Getting an accurate macro count on food tracking apps can be more difficult when you order food, or eat at restaurants. It’s definitely easier when you make your meals at home, because then you can control the ingredients and quantities that you add to your dishes.
Are you hoping to see more low carb meals on BuiltLean? If so, I can definitely add that to my to-do list.
-Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor
Yes, thank you, I would
myfitness app is really annoying. it gives you constant notifications. that along makes it unbearable to have.