“Kitchen wisdom: Count your blessings but count your calories too.” –Erma Bombeck
I’ve been tracking calories for a while now.
I’ve already written a post on why I believe tracking your calorie intake is so crucial to your success. Many people have the best intentions when it comes to losing weight. They make an effort to try to eat healthier, exercise, or both. Yet sometimes, the pounds still refuse to come off. Has this ever happened to you? If this is the case, then I have good news for you. You’ve already got the hard part down, which is genuinely trying to make positive changes with regard to diet and/or exercise. The reason you haven’t seen the results you want is that your measurement system is either not up to par or non-existent. When I say measurement system, I mean a way to objectively monitor the inputs and outputs of your efforts. My personal Excel measurement system has served me well, but after recently scoring a new Samsung Galaxy SIII, my quest began for the best calorie counter app I could find.
A scale is fine for measuring your output (weight, body fat percentage, etc.).
Where most people fail is in accurately measuring their input, or the work they are putting in to get to their desired result (a lower number on the scale). This is why you need to have some kind of system for estimating your calorie deficit. Running a calorie deficit is how you lose weight. If you aren’t able to do this, then all of your good intentions and hard work will not be fruitful. In order to estimate your calorie deficit, you need to estimate your calorie input and output. As I mentioned in a previous post, I did this by tracking my calories in an Excel spreadsheet. I’d put an estimate on each meal I ate as well as an estimate on every incidence of exercise (in addition to my BMR) and made sure my weekly totals resulted in a calorie deficit. By doing this, I’ve been able to maintain what I feel is an ideal body weight for about three years now without ever deviating plus or minus more than a few pounds.
I knew the math nerd in me was good for something!
Number crunching works when it comes to losing weight! The problem is that most people probably don’t want to keep track of their calorie intake and output in a spreadsheet. They need something simpler. Fortunately, our society has evolved to the point where nearly everyone has access to the internet and most people own a smart phone. Furthermore, technology has evolved to the point where there are free websites online that can pretty much do all the work for you. Enter MyFitnessPal. I believe MyFitnessPal is the best online tool out there for monitoring your calorie intake and output. In fact, I have switched over from estimating the calorie content of my meals on my own and started using MyFitnessPal. I still maintain my spreadsheet. I just take the numbers from MyFitnessPal and enter them in so that I can keep creating my fancy stacked column charts in Excel.
Here is why I think MyFitnessPal is the best calorie counting tool out there:
• It’s very specific. MyFitnessPal will not just put a calorie count on almost any food you can think of. It will provide all kinds of other nutritional information such as carbs, protein, fat, cholesterol, etc. In fact, the reason I started using MyFitnessPal is I wanted a way to specifically monitor my carb intake.
• It’s precise (most of the time). Many of the numbers from popular chain restaurant items come directly from the nutrition info on their websites. Of course people are also able to enter their own meals and figures into the massive database of foods. This can be good and bad. Good because you will almost never not be able to find a food. Bad because you have to watch out for some of the “generic” or “homemade” entries. These numbers could be way off.
• It does a pretty good job of measuring calorie expenditure. We all know that calories in is only half the equation. You need to be able to estimate how many calories you are burning from daily activity and exercise in order to target an appropriate calorie intake for weight loss. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the calorie output measurements got very specific. MyFitnessPal gives you an estimate for calories burned from various types of exercise based on the amount of time you spend exercising. The exercise database includes various speeds of running and walking. It even had two levels of soccer (casual and competitive)!
• They get the big picture. When I say this, I mean that they get the concept of running a calorie deficit for weight loss. MyFitnessPal estimates your BMR when you sign up. It then gives you a targeted calorie intake based on this. Your calorie intake gets more wiggle room the more you exercise and a targeted amount of exercise is also recommended. From the outlay, they force you to specify a weight goal and a deadline. No messing around… all business. And they even incorporate a forum, blog, and social media into their community to help people interact with each other and support one another in reaching their goals. Pretty cool.
• Last, but most importantly, it’s SIMPLE. As I mentioned before, most people need something that takes less than five minutes a day to enter. They probably don’t care to create an elaborate spreadsheet like I did. With MyFitnessPal, it’s ridiculously easy to search for foods and exercises and to enter them into your profile for tracking. Their mobile apps offer all of the functionality of their main website so it’s just as easy to enter your info while you’re on the go or away from a PC.
I highly recommend this tool to anyone who is serious about their health.
As I mentioned, MyFitnessPal is mostly designed for those looking to lose weight. However, I do not need to lose weight and I still find it extremely valuable. I’ve never been able to accurately monitor my carb intake before and now I can very easily. So while I don’t have a weight loss goal, I believe this will help me achieve one of my own health goals of becoming fat adapted. This is why I believe it’s the best calorie counter app out there: because it does so much more than just count calories. I’ve been on it for about a month now and I’m hooked! Are any of the readers out there MyFitnessPal users? If so, I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on it. Also, feel free to connect with me on there. My user profile is agulamali. I haven’t done much with the blogging or social media features yet, but I would like to try those out soon.