- Why track your calorie intake?
- The top 3 food-tracking apps
- Why and how to track macros
- The top 3 macro-tracking apps
[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ow do you keep your workouts and diets in check? We discuss the reasons and best apps for food logging and how they can help you measure your fitness progress.
I am a big believer in tracking fitness progress. Doing so not only keeps you motivated, but it can also help you make sense of what is working and what is not. Knowing the specifics can help you set realistic goals, monitor your progress and maintain your motivation.
Since diet is the most important part of reaching your fitness goals whether you want to lose weight or gain muscle, monitoring what you eat is a must. So tracking your macros along with calorie counting is vital to achieving the shape you desire.
Why Track Your Calorie Intake?
Different fitness goals come with different energy needs. To lose weight, you have to be in a caloric deficit. Meaning that you have to eat fewer calories than your body burns each day. On the other hand, if you’re aiming to fill up those muscle tees with real muscles, you have to aim for a caloric surplus.
So unless you have a sixth sense of automagical calorie detection, you’ll need to start tracking your calories to ensure that deficit or surplus. This will ensure that you reach your daily goals and hitting your overall targets.
Besides this obvious reason, recording all those snacks and meals you’re having in a day can also reveal some unexpected surprises about your eating habits. Tracking your calories will help to identify your bad habits that may be standing in between you and your weight loss goals.
A research review published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association looked at 22 research studies that investigated the relationship between weight loss and food monitoring. Reviewers consistently found a positive association between successful weight loss and tracking food intake.
Is Tracking Your Calories Enough?
Unfortunately, when people embark on a diet, it is common for them to only monitor calories. But the answer here is actually a big no-no, as calories are not everything. Solely focusing on calories can leave people feeling hungry, lacking energy, and being irritable. Monitoring macronutrients allows you to counteract these side effects.
What Do We Mean By Tracking Your Macros?
Counting macros means tracking the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that you consume on a particular day. On one hand, this helps you to focus on food composition and overall healthfulness rather than just low-calorie foods.
On the other hand, your ideal macros ratio will vary based on your specific fitness goals and/or diets you follow. Hence, following precisely what you eat and tracking your macros will help to reach those fitness goals more efficiently.
Why Track Macros?
While counting calories gives an overview of your total energy intake, not all calories are equal. Eating 400 calories of nutrition-full veggies vs a tiny piece of chocolate that’s also 400 calories, will have different effects on your body.
The former one will provide you with enough nutrition, but the latter one will only give you that immediate gratification that cheat meals usually come with. Which means that you might have a smile on your face for half an hour or so, but will get hungry again very soon.
Tracking macros will help with this and prevent the feeling of hunger, low energy levels, and crankiness that diets can cause via making sure that you eat the right nutrients.
Looking at specific fitness goals again, tracking macros is especially important to those who want to build muscles. When you train, the muscle tissue gets damaged and needs to be rebuilt through protein synthesis. This process is the basis of building muscle, therefore, it is vital that you’re getting the right amount of protein.
Along similar lines, a study revealed that with increased muscle synthesis, fat loss is also accelerated. This means that if you’re not getting enough protein, you will struggle to build muscles no matter how hard you train. Tracking macros will ensure you meet the correct amounts.
Finally, your macros will also provide a closer look at how your diet works. This allows you to get more specific about the root causes of things like abundant fat or lack of muscle, and tailor your diet to your goals.
How To Track Calories & Macros
Carrying a pencil and paper journal and having to look up the calories and macros of everything you eat can be very tedious and time-consuming.
Luckily, there is an app for everything including food logging. So all you really need to do is download one of these apps and input all the data it needs. From then onwards, you can sit back, relax and let your phone do the math for you.
Here are The Top 4 Calorie & Macro Tracking Apps That Will Take Control Over Your Diet
The phenomenally successful MyFitnessPal works on the same general principals as most calorie counting apps. You sign up, set all your basic personal data, choose a fitness goal and get a recommendation for daily calorie intake and macros ratio. Now of course if you don’t agree with the recommendations, you can always change these.
Once everything is set, let’s start logging. You can either search for what you’ve had in MyFitnessPal’s database of more than 5 million drinks & foods or scan the product’s barcode. Scanning the barcode is always safer, as it guarantees a perfect match.
After the logging is complete, go back to the home screen to see how many calories you’ve got left for the day. And to check how you’re doing on the macros end, go to ‘Nutrition’. Here you’ll see a pie chart presenting your actual intake, and underneath the chart see your actual intake vs your goal.
These metrics are all overall, but if you want more specific data, you can go premium and get feedback on your calories and macros by meal. Additionally with the premium you can also access features, like food analysis, food timestamps, weekly reports and file exports.
While MyFitnessPal arguably doesn’t have the most visually appealing design, it still does its job with its simple and clear graphs of your long-term progress. And on the other hand, what’s clearly appealing is the massive ecosystem they’ve built up with other health & fitness apps. MyFitnessPal integrates with over 50 apps, which you should take advantage of to ensure that you don’t just get a one-sided picture of your health & fitness progress.
The MyPlate Calorie Counter definitely levels up on that design side and also provides you with more features on their free version. On the basic level MyPlate works in a similar way as MyFitnessPal except one aspect.
When you sign up and set all you personal data, the app won’t ask for your fitness goal, just for your target weight. This is because MyPlate Calorie Counter is mainly deigned for weight loss goals.
Once your recommended daily intakes are set, food logging works in the exact same way. Search or scan and set the amounts you’ve had meal by meal. Then on the ‘track screen’ you can access a very clear (and a more nicely designed) breakdown of your daily intakes. You can even change the presentation of the data from bars to pie charts based on your personal preference.
In addition to the basic calorie and macro tracking features and their corresponding progress reports, MyPlate offers a couple of extra features. It also lets you track your daily water intake, has community message boards where you can turn to for advice 24/7, and also offers 8-week meal plans to kick-start your diet.
Really great features for everyone, but especially for those who’re just about to begin their dieting journey.
Gold Membership: $9.99/month
MyMacros+ is a diet tracking app that was designed, built and tested by a real fitness expert. Jason Loewy, a professional bodybuilder, had not even left college yet when he started working on MyMacros+.
The story is quite straightforwards. As an athlete, Jason really had to pay attention to his diet and calculate his macros precisely, but failed to find an app that lived up to his expectation. Hence he decided to create his own.
Today, MyMacros+ is one of the top 10 health & fitness apps on the App store and has a library of over 5 million food items. The content of the app is stored locally, which allows for tracking without Internet connection as well – something that most apps don’t allow for.
After setting up your profile and personal goals, just like other apps, MyMacros+ also provides you with some recommendations. However, the difference here is that these recommendations get a lot more precise, especially on the macros end.
Using the Macro calculator, MyMacros+ will set your target ratios based on your fitness goals. But if you want to take it a step further, you can get a monthly subscription and use their Macro Coach feature. This feature is the real deal that uses our artificial intelligence that dynamically updates your macro goals to keep you on track over time.
Another amazing thing about this app is that your nutrition targets are not limited to a single goal. It allows you to set multiple nutrition targets sets, so if you want different macro totals for different days, you get what you wanted. This is especially important for any competitive athletes or anyone who wants to calorie cycle or go hardcore and try alternate day fasting.
So all in all, if you’re looking for an app with higher precision for macros and increased flexibility, download MyMacros+ now.
Lifesum definitely wins the beauty contest and so is highly recommended to anyone who’s like me and needs some visual motivation to use an app.
On the free version, setting up your profile, getting daily calorie & macro intake recommendations and food logging work along the sam lines. However, unlike other apps, Lifesum gives a recommended range for each 3 meal of the day + snacks. This is very helpful to see your overall patterns and find out if you’re under or overeating any time of the day.
You can also add your calories burnt, your water consumption and of course get an overview of your daily intakes. And to track how your diet affects your body over time, add some more detailed body measurements data and update it periodically.
These are all great features, but the real ‘wow’ that pushed up this app onto the #1 position on our list is its personalized diet recommendations. All you need to do is fill out a simple quiz and the app will provide you with a diet plan that suits your needs, goals and lifestyle. The quiz itself is included in the free version – which is great for a starting point.
However, if you really want to get the most out of it, you can get a subscription for 3, 6 or 12 months and start your recommended plan. Each diet plan involves specific calorie & nutrition intake instructions. They come with pre-planned meals and healthy recipes with precise nutrition info.
So Lifesum is more than just a food tracking app. It is the ultimate diet coach that will guarantee that you find the right diet for yourself and most importantly you also stick with it.
3 months cost $21.99
6 months cost $29.99
12 months cost $44.99
Be Consistent But Don’t Obsess
As a final reminder, monitoring your calories and macros will help you make sense of your diet, stay on track and keep you motivated. As you learn to track your nutrition, you become a more aware eater. In this way, you’ll be closer to achieving your fitness goals.
So let’s click on that App Store icon together and fire up on of our Top 4 calorie & macro tracking apps right now!