Last Updated on November 3, 2017 by Michael Brockbank
MyFitnessPal is a great tool to use for those who want to monitor food intake to lose weight. It helps by giving you a visual of where you stand in terms of calories and other nutritional information. However, there are a few important aspects to keep in mind when using MyFitnessPal. It’s a good app, but it’s not an instant fix for weight loss.
Using MyFitnessPal to Be Healthy
I’ve used the MyFitnessPal app for more than two years. In fact, I am currently on a 625-day streak of adding something to my record. It’s an excellent tool even in its free version.
Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. But, it’s not entirely the fault of the system itself. In fact, it’s often human error that causes issues in MyFitnessPal. Sometimes it’s even the fault of the companies which produce food.
Here are some of the most important things you need to be aware of when using the MyFitnessPal app.
1. Weight Loss Starts With Effort
First and foremost, MyFitnessPal is nothing more than a tool to help you find healthier practices. There’s no magic app that will miraculously cause you to lose weight without putting in the effort yourself.
For this tool to work well, you need to use it every day and record every item you consume. Even if it’s a small miniature-sized chocolate bar. It’s all relevant to slimming down the waist. Every cup of water, every side of ranch, it’s all vital to success.
Using MyFitnessPal is how I discovered I was consuming more than three-times the amount of sodium the average person should eat. It was quite a shocking revelation to see the numbers go red in the app.
2. Incorrect Values In Some Items
Sometimes you’ll come across nutritional information that is incorrect when using the app. This is because of two very important factors: a) the manufacturer often changes the recipes of products, and b) sometimes users input the wrong number when adding food to the system.
A very large portion of the database in MyFitnessPal is user-controlled. This means nutritional values you add are often seen by others eating the same foods. Luckily, MyFitnessPal gives you the ability to change values for your specific meal or add your own version of the product.
I’ve had to change a lot of things in MyFitnessPal to register the correct nutritional value for my region. That’s also because I am a bit anal when it comes to numbers and statistics. I thrive on accurate data, so I modify my food accordingly. You may not be so strict, so it probably won’t matter much to you.
3. Rough Estimates of Calorie Burn When Exercising
When entering exercises in MyFitnessPal, keep in mind the calorie burn the system shows is only a rough average estimate. For example, someone who walks for 15 minutes at 3 MPH who weighs 300 pounds will burn calories faster than someone who weighs 190.
The more active you are, the more you can eat without gaining weight. MyFitnessPal will offset this amount by giving you “Net Calories.” Keeping the net calories in the green is where you want to be for your specific goals.
Personally, I have a Fitbit connected to MyFitnessPal. This gives a more accurate portrayal of what exercise does in terms of adjusting the food intake. However, you might find formulas online that will help give an accurate estimate of calorie burn if you don’t have something like a Fitbit or other fitness watch or wearable tool.
4. Free Versus Premium Upgrade
The free version of the app works exceptionally well. In fact, I haven’t thought about buying the premium version in the three years I’ve used it. It’s not because I don’t see value in the system, but because I really don’t need much more than what I have available.
Mostly, this is because I am a poor. I don’t make enough to buy into some of the extra services a lot of apps have. Maybe one day I’ll be able to throw money for subscription-based economics. But for now, I only skate by on the free version.
If you’re really into nutritional data regarding your health, it’s probably worth the investment. However, I suggest using the free version for a bit first so you get a feel for what MyFitnessPal can offer. If you’re just going to be a casual user, you probably wouldn’t need to pay for the premium service.
One reason to use MyFitnessPal is the social aspect. Not only does the app let you connect to Facebook, but it also has a myriad of support for various other fitness apps as well as social engagement. You can build friendships, post to Facebook from MyFitnessPal and encourage others by sharing your own experiences.
It’s all about connecting with others and forming networks. Sometimes strangers are the best motivators, and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals will help you stay on track. Of course, you need to put in the effort to maintain those relationships just as you would with any other real-life friend.
I don’t just share my data for the sake of others. When using MyFitnessPal, I am also keeping track of data and notes for myself. I like to go back and look at the progress I’ve made and develop strategies to improve myself. Sharing on the system is as much for me as it is for anyone else.
6. Everyone’s Physiology is Different
An important factor to remember is that everyone’s physiology is different. Although humans have a similar genetic makeup, we are all vastly separate. What works well for one person may not do so for another. You see this all the time with people who are allergic to penicillin while others have no reaction at all.
While using MyFitnessPal, it’s OK to base dietary and exercise routines from others. Just keep in mind that you may have an adverse effect. Case in point, some people can’t eat certain foods on the Paleo diet because they are allergic to nuts. Does this mean they should give up? No. Modify the routine to fit personal needs.
That’s one of the beautiful things about using this app. You can record food intake to give yourself data when looking for trends when you get sick or suffer from diarrhea by overeating. It gives you a platform to spot allergies and how you feel on certain days when you eat specific foods.
Think of it as doing a case study on yourself. It will help you avoid all kinds of physical problems.
7. Set Goals that Are Right for You
Another excellent aspect of MyFitnessPal is being able to set personal goals. You can set weight loss, calorie intake and even nutritional objectives. Here is where the premium account shines. You get access to more tools to help you meet your needs and more.
I only have two primary goals: to weigh 180 pounds and keep my calories in the green. I’ll be on what I call a “Net 600” calorie goal starting Monday. This is when I only consume 600 calories worth of food offset by exercise and fitness. It’s possible to eat more than 1,000 as long as I add in some kind of exercise to the day.
When setting up your goals, stick to something that is perfect for your needs. Remember my point from earlier, everyone’s physiology is different. What works for your friend might not be the best solution for yourself.
I spent a lot of time analyzing results to create realistic goals. Take time for yourself and develop a strategy based on what you want to accomplish.
8. Explore Menus and Recipes
While you could simply use the barcode scanner when using MyFitnessPal to track food, take advantage of the menu and recipe creators. You can add materials to a dish and the app will show you an accurate portrayal of nutrition. This is an excellent tool if you like to cook the same dish throughout the month.
Building your own recipes and menus also helps you maintain goals and records. Personally, I find it a bit fun as I like to cook and develop my own recipes. Plus, it gives you a kind of cook book that will keep track of your masterpieces without losing notebooks or paper cards.
Keeping your recipes on hand in the app also makes recording your foods much quicker. Instead of adding each component one-by-one, you can add the one food item and all of the information is ported into your tracking.
9. Make Use of the Blog
One thing I liked when I first started using MyFitnessPal was the basic blog that is provided. This gives you a platform to voice your opinions, experiences and share information just like you would if you had your own website. I only added a few pages to my blog because I started to focus more on CrossingColorado.com.
The blog is more for yourself than it is for an audience. In fact, that’s originally what blogs were meant for: it’s a web-log of data and information. You can go back and quickly look up information you created whether you’re looking for facts or inspiration.
Blogs also work great as public journals or diaries. While you may not want to share information that is too personal, discussing feelings and what-not can help others while giving you an outlet to vent. It helps quite a bit when you just need to blow off some steam.
Be mindful though. Anything you share on the Internet will stay on the Internet forever.
10. Don’t Get Discouraged
Using MyFitnessPal is nothing more than a tool to help you succeed at achieving health. However, a lot of people will get discourage in themselves and abandon the process. In reality, this has very little to do with the app and more to do with motivation and effort.
Sure, there were days when my calorie numbers were deep in the red, which is negative by the way. But the next day I made up for it and finished off the week still losing three pounds.
Health and fitness isn’t going to be something you can achieve overnight. It’s going to take commitment from yourself, especially if you decide to vastly alter your dietary needs. If your calorie intake goes red one day, just make sure the next day is better.
It’s All About Effort
Just like any other tool for fitness and weight loss, success is linked to effort. If you don’t think something is going to work for you, it most likely will not. Using MyFitnessPal is just the first step to a healthier body. It’s up to you to put in the effort and build a strategy specific to your own needs.