The word calorie is mentioned often in the ever-changing world of nutrition and fad diets. Counting calories sends a shiver down the spine of anyone who enjoys burgers, beer and the occasional sweets.
Engaging in Central Oregon’s active lifestyle, such as hiking Smith Rock or riding a bicycle up McKenzie Pass, can be misery when lugging extra weight around.
How can that be fixed? Learning nutrition and how to do weight management is key. Calorie counting is often the first step.
Well, there’s an app for that.
Pulse spent a week testing four mobile apps designed to help track calories, the goal being to lose, gain or maintain weight.
After researching the best reviewed, and lists of most popular by downloads, Pulse selected MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, My Plate and Fat Secret — and downloaded each onto an iPhone. An age, height, current weight and weight goal (lose, gain or maintain) were entered into each program.
We’ve listed the pros and cons we discovered by using each app.
When using a calorie counter app to manage your weight, consider the accuracy of logging food, exercise and your own height, weight and age.
One app’s definition of moderate activity may not be the same as the other’s.
Blindly jumping behind the 2,400 calories per day that Fat Secret suggested, for example, will satisfy your sweet tooth, but it won’t help your weight-loss goals. •
A pro about MyFitnessPal is that after using it for some time, the food you frequently consume (as a creature of habit) is readily available to tap and log in your food diary for the day. Logging your own recipes is easy, as pointed out by the high approval rating for the ease of use in a study by Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management. There is also a quick-add method to log calories.
You can enter water consumption and exercise information into this app, too.
A con: The list of exercises is fairly narrow. Working out with a barbell or doing any form of power lifting is hard to calculate. MyFitnessPal doesn’t recognize those activities as exercise. A tip to track that, however, is to record the calories burned using the heart-rate monitor under “Strength Conditioning” on the app. To more easily track other exercises, MyFitnessPal syncs well with a fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit, if you have one.
This app was confusing to navigate. Trying to understand all of the graphs and charts when it was first downloaded took some close attention. Several app store reviews echoed that frustration.
Give it time — and go ahead and purchase this app for $40 a year if you want the premium version to really delve in to the advertisement-free program (or don’t) — and you’ll find that logging food is simple. It has an expansive food database and barcode scanner that are very helpful.
This app made me question the accuracy of its daily calorie goal. For a 25-year-old, 5-foot-6 woman weighing 155 pounds who is “moderately active,” it suggested 1,565 calories. No pale ale or sweet potato fry was going to be logged into that food diary.
Simplicity at its finest. My experience with this app was ridiculously easy. The different fields of food log, goals, updates and settings are easy to manipulate. Food logging is tap-and-go — if you can find the food, however. Some items from Market of Choice and Trader Joe’s either weren’t found or offered calorie counts different from other apps, even with the barcode scanner. If you like simplicity, though, this is great for basic use.
After you set up this app with your personal information, the home screen is filled with a newsfeed of user-submitted meal recipes that are accompanied with a picture. The pictures are not the ones you would find in Sunset Magazine, however, you might be tempted to use a few of the simple dinner recipes.
Trying to set more specific goals — like carb or protein intake — was a task and a half. Personalizing anything past the initial setup was difficult and for this reason (besides the name), this app failed to make it past the week of trial. It also offered an unrealistic calorie goal of 2,400 calories per day. While that might allow for an extra finger of peanut butter on a bad day, it won’t result in losing weight.