Fitness, healthy living

How to Use the My Fitness Pal App to Achieve Your Goals

This app is a must-download for everyone who has fitness goals this year. I use it with all of my clients because let’s face it, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. Your diet (diet meaning what you eat in a day not an extreme fad you hopped on) directly affects how your body functions throughout the day, and I want your body to function optimally. My workouts can be tough, but they usually only account for 30 minutes to one hour of your day. What you choose to do and eat in the other 23+ hours of the day will affect your success. So, go to your app store and download the My Fitness Pal app to keep track of your calories!

MFP

I have used this app since I started personal training almost 10 years ago in college, and it is my favorite because there are so many food options. After downloading, create an account and enter your goals. The app will give you an automatic calorie goal based on your weight loss goal, but I always adjust this for my clients.

Logging Food, Water, and Exercise

Hit the big blue + button on the bottom of the screen to start tracking food, water and exercise. To track food, choose which meal you are tracking. Then, you can search for a food by typing it in or scanning a bar code. Before you enter it into your “food diary,” be sure the serving size reflects what you ate. Hold yourself accountable and be true to serving size. You might even try weighing or measuring out your food at first until you get the hang of what a serving size should look like. You will see the total calories you have consumed in the day at the top of the page, but also see individual calorie counts for meals. This helps if you are trying to eat a big breakfast and less at night, or to see if you snacks accounted for a significant portion of your meal. If you are like me and eat weird…like four meals a day, you can add another “meal.” In my app, I have a spot for breakfast, lunch 1, lunch 2, dinner and snacks.

To log water, hit that blue + button and enter ounces of water. This can be easy to keep track of if you use a big, reusable water bottle and know you want to fill it X times a day. A rule of thumb for water is to consume half your body weight in ounces. If I weight 150 pounds, then I should drink 75 ounces of water a day. If I am working out or it is hot out and  I am sweating a lot, I aim to drink even more than that.

To log exercise, click the + and choose cardio. You can enter in any type of cardio exercise, circuit training or strength training this way. You can also add custom exercises. Generally, I do not make my clients add strength exercises individually as the app does because it does not show up in their calorie count and is tedious. Plus, they track workouts in my fitness app and I don’t need them double counting. If you first choose cardio then search strength training, you will get a calorie count for the exercises, which is my preferred method to keep track of workouts in the MFP app (ie. 30 minutes of strength training burns 113 calories). When you add exercise, the MFP app lets you eat those calories back to stay under your goal, which is why you will see your exercise calories subtracted at the top of the page. To lose weight, you want a calorie deficit, so exercising would be a good way to stay under your calorie goal.

Accountability

For my clients, I use this app as a way to spy on their food choices and help them choose better, while also keeping them accountable. For me to see your diary, first click More>Settings>Diary Settings>Diary Sharing>Friends Only. Then add me as a friend, clicking More>Friends>Add Friends>Email or MyFitnessPal Username>Search me “amberlaunstein” and send request. After these steps, I will be able to see your diary. You can also see my diary, which I update every so often and you can get meal ideas.

Checking Yourself

When I look at your diary, I am looking at more than just calories and if you were under or over your goal, but even more importantly..the source of your calories and making sure you are making good choices. Although I realize your diet will not be perfect every day (trust me, mine is not either!), I look for trends in your week.

You can monitor your macronutrient breakdown, as well. In the coming weeks, I will be discussing carbs, fats, and proteins and giving a percentage of your daily intake each macronutrient category can be. To see a pie chart of your daily intake, click More>Nutrition>Macros. You can also adjust your goals for these macronutrients by clicking More>Goals>Calorie, Carbs, Protein and Fat Goals.

Keeping Track

The first couple times using the app may seem tedious. I mean, you are literally tracking every single thing you eat and drink, down to the handful of strawberries you grab. After using the app, recently added foods appear first and make it easy to log. Oftentimes I eat dinner and package leftovers up for lunch tomorrow. When I do this, I can copy dinner from yesterday to lunch for today to easily log. You can also enter in your own recipes by simply copying and pasting the recipe from online or adding your own ingredients. I do this to keep my favorite dinner recipes on hand and faster to log. I encourage my clients to log their foods every day, especially during a challenge or when they are working on a very specific goal. However, you can also use the app as a checkpoint every other week. Usually I will pick a random day and enter all my food to see about what I am eating to “check myself.” If I am way out of my goal range, I might take another couple days to log my food and make sure I get myself back on track. The point here is to use the app to your advantage as you learn serving sizes and about how many calories you are consuming daily to get the most success from your fitness program.

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