Tracking is the key to a productive fitness regime.
Wondering if you should have that extra hamburger? Debating about that last cookie? Can't figure out why you aren't making gains in the gym? Confused as to why you haven't lost that extra weight?
Then you should probably start by tracking your nutrition (i.e. macros, calories, etc.) and overload progression (gains in the gym). What better way to do that than with a convenient and informative application that can be found right on your smartphone (and nowadays who doesn't have their smartphone with them?)
Tracking is everything. Most people don't realize how many calories they have eaten in a day, let alone what kind of calories each individual piece of food consists of. Even worse, many people who do track end up significantly underestimating their calories, because they tend to self-estimate instead of using credible sources.
Keeping a food log can be a serious reality check.
That's why you need an app. It has made tracking easier then ever.
In addition, these apps can track more then just your food, letting you see your progress and dedication.
What could be more motivational than that?
I'm an intermittent faster (you can read more on that here), but since I've started working on my overall physique instead of just weight loss, I've found getting the appropriate amount of calories and protein is essential in changing my body composition. This was something I never considered previous to lifting.
Muscle takes more effort than just showing up to the gym.
I'm guessing you, too, have been told to "write everything down" with respect to monitoring your nutrition; but in the cellular technology era, the apps can provide you with incredible information and convenience that will help you dominate your health and fitness goals more accurately and sustainably. However, keep in mind that no matter what you choose to do, the most important thing is to keep yourself accountable.
Moral of the story? No matter what your goal (i.e. weight loss, muscle gain, transformation) you can find significant benefit from utilizing a nutrition and/or workout app, especially considering they free and convenient. No excuses.
If you aren't already familiar, most of these apps have a pre-generated food database, where it saves entries and estimates of calories, macros, and sometimes micronutrients of some of the most commonly consumed foods. For example, if you ate a chicken sandwich at McDonalds, you could simply search their database for " McDonald's Chicken Sandwich" and it will you give a pre-filled entry complete with all of the calories and macros, without even having to manually find calories in the burger, cheese, etc... In addition, the apps help give you an estimate of what your daily caloric limit should be based on your weight loss goals and physique.
A generic search isn't the only way to log the food on the app. I would suggest that the easiest and most accurate method is using a bar code. If you are making anything packaged from the store, this is almost always the most reliable way to track your food. To achieve this, you simply turn on the scanner and hold your phone over the item's bar code. Then, all of the calories and nutrient content will be automatically added to your food journal. Worst case scenario? You can manually enter your food if you need to (a.k.a the traditional way).
Doesn't get much easier then that does it?
I could ramble all day about the mechanics of the apps, or I could list you a few with pictures and let you see for yourself.
Below are a list of the best calorie and nutrition apps to help you kickstart your goals.
Best Overall App for Weekly Monitoring: Lose It!
The positives: If you are more interested at seeing where you are at during the week and not just the day - then I recommend the Lose It! app. Not only does it have a great interface and easy to follow tabs where the macros are, but it also blatantly advertises your weekly calorie budget in the first step, which is nice for people who calorie cycle, carb cycle, or do prolonged periods of fasting. Body weight isn't gained in a day, contrary to popular belief. Rather, it's an increase in calories over time... don't forget that.
The negatives: There are dominating ads on the lower front of the page. This looks cluttered and unappealing. Premium gives you a lot of useful statistical information, but costs 29.99/yr.
You can find more information about the Lose It App HERE.
Best Interface: LifeSum
The positives: I love the interface for the LifeSum app. It is simple, uncluttered and gives me a beautiful and concise overview of my daily calorie budget and macro count. Even without purchasing the premium package, there are no annoying adds or blogging advertisements on the front page. Not to mention that the aesthetics of the app are so pleasing that I actually switched from MyFitnessPal to LifeSum for this reason.
The negatives: There is really no weekly calorie budget as it is primarily based on days. I didn't find much benefit for going premium except for getting information on micronutrients (i.e. fiber, vitamins, etc..) which is usually part of the basic package on other apps. From the initial glance, the Lose It app presents a better premium package then LifeSum. However, most of us won't find premium necessary on either platform, unless you are competing. Just understand that if you want a detailed report of your daily consumption, you are going to pay for it. The current rate I would need to pay to see my micronutrients as of February 2017 is 2.99 a month for the annual subscription (if I were to buy all 12 months at once).
You can find more information about LifeSum HERE
Best Online Community: MyFitnessPal
The positives: The MyFitnessPal app has been around for ages. Since its inception in 2005, its popularity has soured to over 80 million users, and for good reason. The amount of pre-entered food is exceptional, making logging easy no matter what you are eating or where you are eating it. You can also get micronutrients included in the free package; however, the best feature is the online community and support, which is phenomenal. Not to mention, the forums are beneficial and extremely interactive.
The negatives: Their interface and dashboard is cluttered and sometimes difficult to follow. I found the advertised blog posts on the app site to not be beneficial and somewhat elementary. Despite its excellent features, I find it's design to be poor.
You can find more about MyFitnessPal HERE.
Great App Compatibility: LiveStrong MyPlate
The positive: An entirely different appearance than the first three apps mentioned, Livestrong is one of the most recognized fitness apps in existence. It's greatest benefit; however, is that MyPlate worked better with Apple's Health Programs than any of the other apps combined. It connects seamlessly; making this a huge benefit for Apple Watch users. The app also has great progress charts and mini workouts built right in, and no annoying ads or blogs taking up valuable space.
The negatives: I'm really not sure. I have used LiveStrong MyPlate the least of the 4 mentioned apps in this blog. Therefore, it wouldn't be fair to mention any negative as of yet.
Who knows, I may even switch to this app in the future!
You can find out more information about LiveStrong MyPlate HERE.
My Absolute Favorite Workout Only App: STRONG
The positives: I absolutely couldn't resist throwing the Strong app in the mix! It does not track nutrition, but it tracks your workouts in great detail. Where it is most beneficial is tracking weight lifting statistics. If you are trying to build muscle and a lean physique... this app, in combination with any of the 4 above will definitely increase your chances of success and increase your productivity in the gym.
As you can see from the images to the right, you can easily track your exercise, weight lifted and corresponding reps. It will automatically generate a page for history, charts, and personal records, along with the corresponding date. It's fantastic to refer to and analyze your progress. Best of all, combine it with your diet and find out what works best for you!
The negatives: Only available from the App Store(only iPhone users can take advantage of it). Check back later Android fans!
Find more information about the Strong App Here
Remember these are all tools to help you succeed in living a better life. I'm not claiming everyone should track their food, but I highly recommend you try it if you haven't. Give these apps a try and see which one is best to help you have success in the kitchen and in the gym.
What apps do you utilize and why?