MyFitnessPal can be a great app that can help you track your diet and exercise to determine optimal caloric and nutrient intake to help achieve weight and body composition goals. However, it isn’t fool proof and may not be for everyone, if not used correctly it can more than likely hinder your goal.
We are told be many sources now that we don’t need to track calories and instead place emphasis to build better lifestyles and nutritional habits with eating good quality food. This is certainly true and sound advice, many people can certainly achieve their goal by doing this.
Do calories matter?
Now a lot of “gurus”, diet books and diet plans say calories don’t matter, but whatever plan they give you they are trying to get you into a calorie deficit of some sort even if they claim calories don’t matter. No matter what you are told by many in the industry in diet books etc. the answer is if you want to lose weight you must expend more calories than you consume.
To lose or gain weigh a fundamental principle of nutrition and metabolism, is that body weight change is associated with an imbalance between the energy content of food eaten and energy expended by the body to maintain life and to perform physical work.
This does not mean you must count calories, or calorie counting works for everyone.
Calorie counting can work for some and may not work for others, many people have had fantastic success with calorie counting and it has not worked for others. Same as some people have had some great success using habit based methods alone while it hasn’t worked for some.
Your individual circumstances, goals, temperament and mentality will determine whether it works best for you.
Below I have given some of the pros and cons of using MyFitnessPal.
1. Can help you become more mindful of what you’re eating-
Gives you an idea (if used correctly) of how much you have eaten during the day, or how many calories are in a certain food or drink. People notoriously underestimate how much they eat.
2. Immediate feedback-
Gives you immediate feedback so you can adjust your food/drink intake accordingly for your individual circumstances and goals.
3. Can give you something to stick to and goals and targets to achieve-
For people who like routines and targets, having to log food and activity each day can help them stick to their plan and provide a framework and structure.
4. Self-awareness of calories and macros in food/drink consumed-
Now you can see how many calories in food and drink consumed as well as how much protein, carbs and fats. From here you can adjust your targets. Be wary though some of the nutrient data entered are incomplete or incorrect.
5. Can be a useful tool to help change habits/lifestyle-
You don’t have to use it forever. You can use it to try and improve habits, see how many calories are in certain foods and drinks, then change your habits and routines accordingly.
6. Can be more specific/optimal/advanced-
For more advance dieters this can allow you to hit specific calorie and macro targets to help achieve best body composition or nutrient targets for sporting goals.
This can be anything from weighing inaccuracies, wrong portion sizes, consciously or subconsciously not entering food and drink consumed.
People may think they have entered correctly but have actually put in wrong measuring weights, entered wrong brands, forgot about the food they have been picking at when making dinner, eating the kids left overs, those extra glasses of wine/beer/capriccios etc. Sauces, condiments and little extras. Those bits of chocolate (do they count?🤔...) the calories in alcohol on nights out, the days you can’t be arsed tracking (probably because you know it has been a bad day. I could go on…
This is very common, people notoriously underestimate how much they have ate and drank and overestimate how many calories they have burned through physical activity.
If you are not losing weight on 1000 calories a day even if that what has come up on My fitness pal, I can guarantee you have been misreporting your intake
2. Some people may find it time consuming/too much of a hassle-
Some may find it a pain in the arse having to log every day or plan their intake. People can end up forgetting what they have. What tends then to happen is point 1.
3. Can encourage obsession-
I have seen and been there. End up getting so focused on the numbers, ending up a bit neurotic about the diet and numbers and sometimes not relying on common sense and intuition. Social situations become daunting as you don’t want to mess up the calorie and macro targets, unless you are competing or going for a photo shoot chill the ***** out.
4. Trying to hit calories even if you are full-
You have eaten good wholesome food all day you feel full and not really needing anymore to eat but you still have say 300 calories left, so you think I will have a bar of chocolate just because I have those 300 calories left. This brings me on to the next point.
5. May stop relying on intuitive eating-
Intuitive eating is the idea you should eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full stop eating when you start feeling. Some may rely on the app and just the numbers instead of listening to your bodies hunger signals.
6. Incorrect calories/macros not always available-
Be careful, the calories can sometimes be wrong on the app or macros not available.
Again by far the biggest mistake people make when using Mfitnesspal.
Jamie Miller- Personal Trainer
UK Fitness Personal Training
FITNESS, NUTRITION & PERSONAL TRAINING