Posted by: runawaynotes | August 21, 2012

MyFitnessPal

A few weeks ago, I’ve written about my previous struggles with my weight when training for a long race. Everyone knows the story: you are burning a ton of calories (especially on the days of your long training runs) and you are constantly hungry, and then you have family and friends telling you that you’ve totally “earned” that cookie/that you need more “carbs” (which makes that huge plate of pasta totally ok)/that one more beer is only 100 calories, etc. So, even though I’ve trained for and have completed 3 half marathons over the past year and a half, I’ve never been able to lose a significant amount of weight. My solution for this training season was going to be tracking my caloric intake as well as calories burnt to see how many calories I actual need vs. how many calories I consume. Over the past month or so, I’ve tried several tools that help you keep track of your nutrition untill finally my co-worker has suggested this iPhone app, “MyFitnessPal”, that she has been using for tracking her calories. She said it was free and easy to use, so I figured I would give it a try. I’ve been hooked ever since.

So, what’s awesome about it? Well, here are a few things that made it a winner for me:

1. I can use it on my iPhone, iPad, or my home or work computer. Basically, as long as I have a piece of electronics that has a web browser and access to internet, I can keep track of my nutrition and activity. And my data automatically syncs no matter where I enter it. Both mobile and web interfaces are very user-friendly.

2. Logging your food is a snap. You enter a search term and pick from the list of available choices (including “generic” and “homemade”). Or, if none of the choices quite match, you can create your own food and save it for future references (considering the fact that I buy a lot of obscure products in Russian and Asian food stores, I used the “create your own food” feature quite a bit). Finally, you can also use a barcode scanner and the software will try to pull the closest match from its database. No typing needed!
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3. You can let the system calculate your calories burnt based on the type and the duration of exercise that you’ve entered, or you can enter the number of calories as calculated by your heart rate monitor. Usually, the two numbers are pretty close for me. So, I use HRM data for keeping track of my running, and let the system calculate calories burnt in my yoga class where I don’t wear a monitor.

4. In addition to tracking calories, MyFitnessPal also keeps track of your overall nutritional profile. It tells me what percentage of my calories comes from fat, carbs, and protein. It shows me my intake of sodium, potassium, cholesterol, major vitamins, and sugar (and how far off I am from optimal consumption). Some of that information can be pretty eye opening. For example, I did not realize that my favorite cereal has 24 grams of sugar (when my daily sugar consumption goal is 26 grams). So, now I mix it 50/50 with plain Cheerios and cut sugar content almost in half.

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5. You can add friends to your profile and your friends can view your progress. If one of your friends falls off the wagon (by not logging their information for a few days in a row), the system will suggest that you might want to give them some encouragement. My husband hates this feature 🙂

6. At the end of each day, when you finalize your food/activity log, you’ll get a message “If you ate every day like you ate today, you would weigh XXX lbs in 5 weeks”. That is a great motivational tool for me. It reminds me why I turned down that second cookie and why I pushed myself to go a little faster during my morning run.

7. The last and the most important part – after using this app for a month, I have lost 4 lbs! Just 6 more to go to reach my goal!!!

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