Tracking Nutrition With Myfitnesspal
Calorie counting used to involve a lot of messing around, through a combination of pen, paper, and calculator. You had to know imperial from metric (I still forget), and if you weren’t good at the numbers round on Countdown, you had no chance.
But those stressful days are gone as modern technology has made counting calories and figuring out fat a doddle. If you’re able to use Facebook, Instagram or, er, Tinder, read on and learn to track your nutrition in no time.
What is a Food Tracking App?
In a nutshell, food-tracking apps allow you to log all the things you eat and drink so you can keep an eye on how much energy you’re consuming (and how much junk you’re eating). If you are trying to lose weight, they can be a huge help and save a lot of time and guess work.
Trying to pack on muscle – tracking food is still important.
There are loads of food-tracking apps out there - you may have one already as a feature of your phone. Most of them are free, and some have paid upgrades if you want to access a little more information.
Tracking Food with Myfitnesspal
One of the most popular apps out there is called myfitnesspal.
Myfitnesspal is free and has a huge database containing the calorie and nutritional info of foods. It’s also very easy to use; you simply search for items, add them to your daily diary, select the serving size, and voila it’s logged.
First things first:
- Download the app here: https://www.myfitnesspal.com
- Set up a FREE account
The app will ask you for some basic information such as your weight, age, target weight, colour of your socks etc., etc. Complete this as best as you can, but don’t worry if you don’t know the exact answers (we don’t mind a little white lie now and again).
Myfitnesspal will suggest calorie, protein, fat, carb and vitamin amounts based on the information you give, for a target weight loss in lbs that you pick.
It can also account for exercise calories allowing you to ‘buy in’ additional allowances.
There are two main areas you’ll use:
- Diary: this is where you track your food on a daily basis.
- Nutrition: here you can view the breakdown of what you are eating
Adding Foods to Your Diary
Once signed up and logged in, tap the diary icon and you’ll see rows for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and exercise for today’s date.
Tap ‘add food’ below the relevant section title and it will take you to a list of previously added foods (you won’t see any if you’ve not added any yet).
At the top of the page, there’s a search bar where you can type in the name of your food and the app will go through its giant database of items and match you up.
There’s also a handy barcode icon next to the search bar. Tap it, and you can scan the back of food packaging and be taken directly to the right product. Once you’ve found the correct item, select the serving size, press the tick and it’s added to your diary.
All foods added are totted up to give you a running daily calorie total, and you’ll also be able to see how many you have remaining from the goal calories the app sets for you.
Looking at Nutrition
Being healthy is more than being a healthy weight, so understanding a little more about what’s in the food you eat can’t be a bad thing.
Again, if your goals are more alligned to muscle building than fat loss this area may also come in handy.
If you can’t see the nutrition icon at the bottom of the diary page, select ‘nutrition’ from the menu and then ‘nutrients’ from the next screen. Here you’ll see daily totals of protein, fats, carbs, and everything else in the world contained within your food. Again, you’ll see how these match up to the targets the app sets for you giving you an idea of areas you may need to work on.
These targets are not always perfect for everyone but they will serve as decent starting points.
You burn calories as well as eat them, so keeping the balance is key for weight loss. Myfitnesspal has a nifty setting to account for the calories you use up during any exercise sessions you complete and log on the app.
If you track your exercise on myfitnesspal, it will guess the number of calories burned and then give you an extra allowance for that day. So if you’re running 10 miles a day, and only eating around 1500 calories, it makes sense to replace some of these and avoid creating a huge calorie deficit that could eventually slow up your progress and leave you drained.
But you don’t have to try and replace every individual calorie you burn. If you’re doing a few gyms sessions per week then you can see these extra calories a ‘burn bonus’.
Muscle-building involves a slight calorie surplus so you may want to make sure any extra cardio isn’t putting you into a deficit.
Setting Your Own Calories
You may want to set your own calories based on the advice of a trainer or from previous experience.
Here’s how to do this yourself:
- Select ‘goals’ from the main menu
- Under ‘nutrition goals’ select ‘calorie & macronutrient goals.'
- Tap in your desired calories
Now, go to your diary and check that your goal calories have changed.
Getting Things Right
Us humanoids are inherently bad at counting calories and tracking nutrition. We often unwillingly underestimate amounts or miss things out completely.
It’s important to track everything as accurately as possible if you’re serious about getting results.
And these tools are only as good as the information put into them.
That means selecting the right items and portion sizes and not just settling for the first thing that comes up on the list. You may have to weigh the odd item but many you can work out with your eyes. And once you’ve added something to your app, it’ll be stored forever more.
And don’t forget:
- Sugar in hot drinks
- Fruit and veg (they still contain calories)
- Oil in the pan
- Juices and smoothies
- Spread & sauces
- Alcohol (sorry!)