Monitoring Your Protein Intake with MyFitnessPal
I highlighted in my previous post on Essential Guide to Protein For Women the importance of consuming enough protein. However, monitoring how much protein you realistically consume each day can be a tricky task.
For friends and family that need a helping hand, the app that I find myself recommending time and time again is MyFitnessPal.
MyFitnessPal is a pretty popular app. When I ‘explored’ the apple app store, MyFitnessPal was right at the top of the health and fitness section. For this reason, I kind of assumed that most people had heard of it already.
However, when I’ve recently been talking to friends about nutrition and suggesting they ‘track that on MyFitnessPal’, I’ve been met with a few blank stares.
So, for the uninitiated of you, MyFitnessPal is an online ‘Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker’.
It can be accessed through an app or an internet browser, is available for apple and android, and is free!
What does MyFitnessPal do?
MyFitnessPal essentially allows you to monitor all of you calories-in, nutrients and macros.
You simply search for the product that you have consumed and select from the results displayed for you.
There is a massive database of products, which means that you can more than likely find your exact ingredient, whether it’s a Waitrose organic chicken breast, or a specific brand of protein powder.
From this, MyFitnessPal can calculate and provide a breakdown of your calories, nutrients and macronutrients which are visible in simple tables and pie charts, put in perspective of your goals.
So, if you’ve worked out how many grams, calories, or percent of your diet should be protein, you can see how what you’re really eating compares.
Because MyFitnessPal breaks down each day by meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, supplements), it’s also easy to see whether you’re successfully spreading your protein intake over the course of the day.
MyFitnessPal has an exercise diary function that may also be useful. I know that MyFitnessPal is compatible with a number of wearable fitness trackers, but I personally haven’t used this feature.
I wouldn’t recommend using MyFitnessPal to track exercise in terms of calories burned as there are so many variables involved in calculating calorie expenditure that this is likely to be massively inaccurate and misleading. Especially if your goal is weightloss, it’s nutrition that will make the greatest impact and should be your main focus.
Who is MyFitnessPal useful for?
MyFitnessPal is great for people who simply don’t know how much of what they are consuming. For my friends and family who I think aren’t consuming enough protein or who are eating unhealthily for other reasons, I suggest MyFitnessPal to increase awareness and drive motivation for improvement.
It’s also perfect for people who already know what they need to be consuming and require something to help them stay on track. It’s ideal for tracking calories consumed and macronutrient splits. This is where it comes in handy for making sure that you reach your protein goal!
Tips for using MyFitnessPal
In order to get the most out of MyFitnessPal and to become as aware as possible about what you’re putting in your body, and to make the process as simple as possible, there are a few things that I’d recommend:
Invest in some digital scales
I have an electronic kitchen scale that I used to measure out food when I started to use MyFitnessPal.
Even now, I’m pretty terrible at estimating the weights of foods, whether it’s a handful of nuts or a fillet of fish, but I’m definitely better than I was.
Weighing foods for a few days, or even a few meals, can be really eye opening and ensures that you’re getting the most accurate results from the effort that you’re putting into tracking your macronutrients and calories.
By taking photos of meals that you are logging on MyFitnessPal, you have a visual representation of what a certain number of calories, number of grams of protein, or quantity of sugar looks like for future reference.
It’s really useful to develop the ability to estimate the weight of ingredients or the number of calories in a meal by eye.
The recipe feature on MyFitnessPal is really handy. It’s good for calculating the number of calories and the macronutrient content of dishes that would be otherwise near impossible to estimate; things like casseroles, meatloaf, pancakes, or really anything that combines multiple ingredients.
As well as providing nutritional information for your recipes that otherwise would not have a nutrition label, it’s a simple shortcut to logging frequently eaten foods.
For example, if you frequently meal prep in bulk and will be eating the same thing several days in a row, and probably again in the future, by creating a recipe you only have to input each item once.
How I use MyFitnessPal
There are lots of diet and exercise trackers available, I’m sure. But I have to admit I’m unfamiliar with them. I use MyFitnessPal because it’s simple, has the biggest database of foods available, and it’s free!
I don’t use MyFitnessPal to track what I eat every day. Occasionally I’ll monitor a few days in a row, perhaps once a month, to check whether my eating patterns are sitting where they should be.
I also track when I’m eating in a way that is out of the ordinary for me, such as when I’m on-the-go a lot and grabbing convenience food, or when I’m settling into new habits such as when starting a new job or a new training regime.
I wish that MyFitnessPal had a month-to-view calendar that highlights on which days the food diary has been completed, so that I can easily refer back without scrolling through day-by-day. (If you know that this can be done, please let me know how!)
I’d never want to be completely reliant on, or obsessed with, tracking everything that I eat. But I think MyFitnessPal provides the perfect conditions for you to increase your knowledge of what you put in your body and highlight room for improvement.
If you already use MyFitnessPal, I’d love to know how you find it useful?
If you don’t already use it, I challenge you to track what you eat for a week. Where there any surprises? Did you find any ways to improve your nutrition?