Friday, January 30, 2015

Repost - Product Review: MyFitnessPal App (iPhone/iPad)

Ages ago, I posted about the MyFitnessPal ap.  Given my current goals to get back on track with my weight, I've found myself using it again. 

So, I thought I'd pull this old post out of the vault.


In my weight loss journey, there are a few tools I've come to rely on to help me along the way.  And by tools, I don't just mean gym equipment.  (If you've read this blog at all, you know I'll always tell you working out alone won't give you the body you want.)

So - time for me to hit you over the head with truth. 

Yes, you have to consider what you're eating to be healthy, too.

Now don't get all uppity with me:

I don't care.  Being healthy is not just about working out.  Your body is a high tech machine, right?  As such, you have to put things in your body that keep it fully functioning.  Even if you're not "counting calories", you should be generally aware of how well you're keeping your machine running.

And that's why today, I'm going to talk about the iPhone/iPad app called "MyFitnessPal".  (It may be available for other devices, too, but I will just speak to how I use it, which is on Apple products).

Before I get too far, the app icon looks like this:

Aw, so cute, right? 

Ok, ok.  Back to business.

What is MyFitnessPal?  Simply put, it is a powerful tool that can be used to help anyone track their daily food intake and what it is doing for their body.  Overweight folks can use it for weight loss, active folks can use it as a tool to ensure they are consuming enough calories to fuel the workouts, and health conscious people can use it as a way to see what nutritional benefits they get out of their daily diet.  There's also an entire social network thing as well as other features too.

I personally downloaded the program a few years back to use it as a weight loss tool.  However, as I have grown, the program has become much more than that for me. This review will walk through that evolution.

The Beginning - Calorie Counting & Weight Loss

When I first downloaded this app, I looked to MyFitnessPal to help me track my daily caloric intake and lose weight.  I saw that I could put in my current weight and my goal weight, and it would help me establish a caloric base line to achieve that goal in a healthy manner over time.  (Note: you should always work with your doctor to ensure the diet you follow is correct for you.  Also, all images below are from Google, and not from my actual app.)

In the early stages, I would enter my weight each morning, enter the food I would eat at each meal, and then review each week how I was doing towards my weight loss goal.  It was pretty fun to watch the chart drop as I lost weight.

Not long after I started using the program, I learned that I could eat MORE if I worked out MORE.  Hmmm... novel concept, right?  I also figured out that the program was pretty accurate in determining how many calories I burned doing a workout based on my current weight.  So, I started plugging those in whenever I could.

And this pretty much summarizes my first year or so of use on the MyFitnessPal app.  I ate, I worked out, and I lost weight.  Eventually, I learned how to "eyeball" my food intake, and didn't really need to rely on the app to track my calories each day.  At that point, I started to use the app for an entirely different reason.

The Second Year - Eating What I Burn

After pretty much nailing healthy eating habits and portion sizes, entering my daily dietary intake became tedious.  I didn't do it every day anymore, since I didn't really need to.  HOWEVER, this was also when I started bike commuting on a regular basis, as well as training for my first half marathon.

Since my personal health had evolved, the way I used MyFitnessPal evolved as well.  I began to learn that riding my bike or running for 2-2.5 hours in a day made me REALLY hungry.  I wouldn't realize how hungry I was on the day of the activity, and would spend the entire next day being so hungry I wanted to gnaw my arm off for sustenance.

This is when MyFitnessPal became my tool to make sure I was eating enough in a day.  So, any day where I knew I did a lot of activity (and maybe not enough eating), I would plug in all the details and see where I landed.  Let's just say, I had lots of reasons to eat dessert on those days.

The Third Year and Beyond - Dining Out & General Nutrition

As the years go on with MyFitnessPal, I find I still use it for a few things on a regular basis.  On my more active days, I utilize the above features (IE tracking calories burned in a workout and ensuring I eat what I need to keep my body happy). 

But, I also use it for an entirely different reason now - it's become my tool to guide me in making nutritional food choices.

One of the best features of the program is the fact that there are TONS of foods in the library.  This becomes hugely helpful when eating out.  For example, sometimes I find an item on a menu at a restaurant that sounds good, only to look it up and find out it's like 5 billion calories and 100 grams of fat.  Or, sometimes I am surprised to find out that a menu item is extremely healthy, and I can also have an appetizer along with it. 

Another way I use it now is to spot check the quality of my diet.  The app has really cool summary charts and graphs that will show you how well you're doing towards eating all the vitamins you need, and where you get the bulk of your calories (carbs/fat/protein).  As I work towards transitioning to a plant based diet and continue to train heavily for running and strength, this tool ensures I am putting the right things into my body to keep it happy.

Fair warning here... the calories/fat/whatever aren't always 100% accurate and you may find some mistakes (especially in the dining out category).  However, if you treat the app as a guidance tool instead of the bible, you'll still have success in your dietary choices.

Your Q&A

I'm guessing by now, you're saying "sounds great, but how much does this cost"?  When I downloaded the app a few years back, it was free.  Hopefully when you decide to give it a try, it will still be free.  If not, it is definitely worth a few bucks.  Trust me on that one.

And at this point, I think I've covered the entire app... so floor's open.  If you have any other questions, ask away below.  I'll do my best to respond (although, not to tech support issues... that one is all up to the app designers).

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