App Review: MyFitnessPal

First of all, this post is not intended to be a run of the mill, diet and nutrition post. I am sure I will say this many times on this blog, but I really dislike the current trend of people/businesses in the fitness industry who claim to have the one answer, the one diet that will fit you/everyone (usually laden with overused, replicated diet plans and supplements). Yes, this is a business market, but it is also directly correlated to peoples mental and physical health. Therefore advice given should have a far superior lean on good science, rather than the current domination of good marketing, branding and psychological tools.

I believe there is an increasing problem when people recognise that a change in their dietary life is needed, and want a one-stop shop for the magic diet, magic training routine and protocol to get you in shape, right off the shelf. Categorically, I believe that this is impossible.

It is, however, entirely possible that someone can offer you some principals grounded in good science to build your diet from, and a good nutritionist/PT will work with you individually to get you to where you want to be. But, this is a lonely journey and must be accomplished widely on your own, so you should take responsibility for your progress, for your actions and your choices.

Diet is a mixture of the sciences and it is a real minefield; What type of diet do you follow? How do you portion meals? What times should you eat? Should you implement intermittent fasting? Are Carbs bad? Are the new trends or the old philosophies right? The list not only goes on, but the answer is all of them can work.

I recently listened to a podcast with Dr Andy Galpin and this was not only very informative, but also so refreshing to hear someone openly speak on the complexities of diet, the various nuances and how it is imperative to approach diet and training in a logical manner. I recommend everyone listens to this.

The purpose of this blog is to talk about MyFitnessPal (MFP). I have tried multiple times to use this app in the past and have failed to do so, but now i have tangible goals (also seemingly necessary to successful application of diet) I have found it easier to use. I have some pro’s and con’s which I breakdown below:

Pro’s:

  • Food Diary – You can portion out your daily intake into meals, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks and Water intake.
  • Goal Setting – You can set your goal weight, goal addition/loss of weight per week and you can determine your calories or macro distribution. After completion of each diary day, the app will give an estimate on your weight over a 5 week period should every day follow a similar protocol.
  • Meal Tracking – I personally find it useful to prepare my lunchtime meals on a Sunday evening, you can program and build into the apps your “Meals” and “Recipes”, that will give you a calorie and macro breakdown for each of your meals based on your portion.
  • A database of foods – One of my favourite parts of the app, probably its USP (Unique Selling Point) is the bar scanner. You purchase a product and scan it into the app, it will then tell you the macro’s/calorie breakdown and you can add it to your diary. If like me, you eat similar foods regularly, MFP will also cache your frequently used foods for faster adding. If not, every food scanned and added to your diary will be searchable again.
  • Weight Tracking – At your leisure you can update your current weight, and you can see a graph of your loss or gain over a variable period of time.
  • Self-Honesty – I think one of the huge things that I experienced in the past and during this current weight cut is being honest. A handful of nuts here, or an extra bit of bread or chicken or whatever it is, and you trick yourself to not think that it is meaningful at the time, but the app allows you to weigh and portion properly so you can keep yourself honest. (not sure this is right, want to add more to this)
  • Meal Planning – In order to keep myself in check, I like to plan my meals in a week or so advance. This allows me to reference what I have left to eat for the day, to stop myself from overeating.
  • Friends List – You can add friends, and share diaries. Therefore you can check up on your friends and vice versa, to either keep them adding to their diary or ensure that they are sticking to their own goals.
  • Step Count – An integration into your inbuilt Android/iPhone step counter, or you can add supported external devices you have.

Con’s:

  • Instagram type promotion – One of my problems with the fitness industry is the unrealistic imagery that is framed or photo-shopped to ensure the model looks at their optimal peak, leading people to believe that something potentially digitally altered is attainable. When you update your weight you are encouraged to add a photo, whilst this could be beneficial to you to see your own progress, the app will prompt you to share it socially.
  • Annoying ads – The free app has adverts, and like most services now the adverts are annoying at times.
  • Varying relevancy to blogs – The home page of the app offers a blog roll, including nutrition and fitness related posts. Some of these are typical “fitness industry” type articles, lacking in good science citations and based in this semi-motivational, upper hierarchy tone which isnt helpful. Of course, there are useful ones too.
  • Expensive Premium service – As always with free apps, there are services that are locked down to Premium customers: ad free app, deeper diagnostics of progress and some further tracking capabilities. You can sign up to a 1 month free trial you then pay $9.99 a month which for me, is a crazy price.
  • Tendency to crash – The app at times, does have a tendency to crash and can be sluggish when you’re entering in lots of data, or planning days in advance.

Feel free to comment, or send me any thoughts to either @The5thRoundMMA or @HarryPowellMMA over on Twitter.

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