Using My Fitness Pal
The key to success on My Fitness Pal is consistent tracking. The more you track, the more likely you are to reach your goals. As you track you’ll gain a better understanding of meal sizes and the amount of calories in certain foods which will lead to you making better choices. It can feel like a pain to start with as cooking will take you longer because you’re messing around with food quantities, but it does get easier and, unless you’re preparing for a physique competition or photoshoot, you don’t need to be exact. In fact I recommend you aren’t due to the inaccuracy of food labelling and measurement of foods, and individual differences in digestion. It’d not be worth the extra time and if you have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude it could create an unhealthy obsession and/or a relapse if you don’t do everything perfectly. Depending on your goals and lifestyle choices, I will have given you a calorie goal, a calorie, protein and fiber goal, a calorie, macros and fiber goal, or a plan controlling everything. Unless you’re in the last category I’ve more than likely given you a margin of error so you can go over or under your calories by a certain amount without issue. My Fitness Pal is your tool for logging foods which will help you track the necessary variables. Here are a few tips to make help you out:
1. Start with the basics
Insert your target number of calories. You can then insert you target macros if you have them, if you only have a calorie goal I can tell you what to set for macros. Once these are done you can add foods into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. If you then click the nutrition tab at the bottom you can access an overview of your current calorie and macros intake. This is an example:
This example shows a client with a calorie, fiber and protein goal. This client has near enough hit their protein target (4g or 16kcals under), carbs are 25g or 100kcals over and fats are 13g or 117kcals under. This gives an overall calorie intake of around 2,400kcals.
2. Learn to eye portions sizes
Once you’ve been tracking for a couple of weeks, you should have an idea of the calories and macros in some meals and also have an idea of how it looks on a plate. If you’re confident you can then make this meal without weighing everything and just log it as you normally do. It’s best to measure every so often so you don’t accidentally increase or decrease the amount of food over time.
3. Save your favourite meals
You can save regular meals within My Fitness Pal and quick add them to save more time. A lot of the time I actually add all of my food in the evening for the next day and have entire day’s worth of food saved as one meal (for example saved in breakfast but containing all foods for that day). This helps me plan when I’m eating what and doesn’t stress me out at the end of the day when I need to make up macros. That way isn’t for everyone – you need to figure out what suits you best.
4. Barcode and Restaurant logging
Simply put, you can scan the barcode of your food packaging which instantly logs the food into your daily meal plan. You can also access many meals served in restaurants via the search tab which means you can go out for a meal and still know how to hit your daily calories and macros.
5. Compare foods
It’s important for you to have a better understanding around nutrition and the impact of certain foods. Therefore it’s worth playing with My Fitness Pal and just comparing foods.
Here I’ve compared basmati rice, fusilli pasta and porridge oats. The calories are slightly different but it’s worth noting how each 100g looks. I have 100g oats on most days and it fills me up like a full meal, 100g of fusilli on the other hand is so much smaller than you expect and will provide much less satiety. My Fitness pal also tells me that oats has 12g of fiber compared to 3g from fusilli and that basmati rice has the lowest amount of fat with only 0.7g per 100g. Depending in on where you are in your training and nutrition these things may not mean much, but learning the differences in foods will help you become more successful in adhering to your targets and reaching your goals.