Hoping to get a grasp on how my lifestyle habits were affecting my health, I found myself on the hunt for the best weight-loss apps to track calories and fitness. After trial runs with other services, something clicked with using the free mobile and desktop app MyFitnessPal. Easy to use, this online calorie counter monitored both my diet and exercise habits in one place.
When I first created a customized profile on MyFitnessPal, besides entering my age, gender, and activity level, I was also able to add how much weight I wanted to lose. Based on my profile, MyFitnessPal set a healthy time frame for me to do so and offered the number of calories I should strive to eat every day to hit the mark. Besides tracking calories, I like that MyFitnessPal looks at the larger picture and is more than just a straight calorie counter. Through charts and graphs, the app easily displays nutritional breakdowns, exercise habits, and weight-loss trends. All of this made it easy to see where I was overdoing it and where I needed to step up my game — whether that was exercising more or eating less sugar.
With over two million food entries in its database, it was easy to find the foods I was eating. Besides whole, natural ingredients, the MyFitnessPal app also includes things like prepackaged supermarket products and chain restaurant favorites. If something wasn't already in the database, it was easy to add on my own; I simply plugged in all the stats from the nutritional label, and MyFitnessPal automatically saved it in the database for future use.
For home-cooked meals, there's also an option to create (and save) a recipe by plugging in the individual ingredients. The process was a little laborious at first, but once I got the hang of it, creating new recipes felt like second nature. At the end of each day, I was given an overall nutritional snapshot of how I ate and an estimate of how long it would take to reach my weight-loss goals based on current eating habits. With these tools, it was easy to plan ahead and make conscious choices.
When it comes to workouts, over 350 forms of cardio and strength-training exercise currently exist in the database. All the basics are there like running and Spin, but you'll even find things like cooking, archery, and fishing. To log exercise, you add the amount of time you spent doing the specific activity or the number of reps. From there, MyFitnessPal supplies a general number of the calories burned and adds it to your log for the day. If you have an exact number from a heart rate monitor or other fitness tracker, there's also an easy place to plug that number into your exercise log. I found that using the app made me aware of my workout habits, and it even got me to the gym more often! When I plugged in the amount of calories I burned for the day, the number of calories I could eat bumped up, leaving me more wiggle room to eat the foods I crave.
Recently, MyFitnessPal teamed up with a number of fitness trackers like Fitbit and Mio in order to provide users with the most accurate experience possible. If you use one of these 15 trackers, you can sync your stats, workouts, and changes with MyFitnessPal for a more complete look at your health. Since I don't have a fitness tracker, I wasn't able to try out this new improvement to the site. I imagine it would have been beneficial in clearing up any of my qualms about relying on the accuracy of the app's general counts of calories burned. With that said, MyFitnessPal should probably be called MyFoodiePal, as the emphasis is definitely placed on food choices before fitness habits. Food stats seemed more exact, and when entering in reps from strength training, the app did not supply a general number for calories burned.
Overall, I've found that using MyFitnessPal has made me more aware of my diet and exercise choices and held me accountable for the goals I've set. From the first time I plugged in my meals and workouts, the app remembered my preferences, a huge time-saver when I'm on the go. I liked that I could log on via the Web and through the app, and both are streamlined and easy to navigate. And while I haven't taken full advantage of the community on the site, there's also a vibrant social dynamic. If you choose to make your profile public, friends on the site can share healthy tips or recipes and cheer you after workouts. Anyone serious about losing weight who tracks their progress consistently will benefit from this service.