The most effective way to achieve your fat loss goals is through tracking your calories/macros and the easiest way to organise, plan and track your food intake is via a food tracking app. This allows you to keep an accurate food diary which you can alter at any time of the day. It is imperative to invest in a food scale to weigh out the portions of food you have selected to eat and enter them accordingly. This will inform you of the nutritional content of the foods you are eating and how many grams of each macro you have remaining for the day.
There are many different food tracking apps available so you’re welcome to choose any app that you prefer to accurately track your food however the most common one is MyFitnessPal so we’ll go through how to use this one specifically.
What is MyFitnessPal?
MyFitnessPal is essentially an electronic food tracking system. It is free to use and is going to make tracking your food intake considerably easier. Think of MyFitnessPal as a tool to your success. If you aren’t assessing, you are guessing – meaning unless you are tracking your daily food intake, you are essentially limiting your chances of achieving your desired results. Not only that, if you track your food you are easily able to make changes to ensure continue progression when plateaus occur. In addition, people who monitor everything and adhere to a sustainable diet not only achieve their desired results, but are more likely to maintain them. There is a free version available as well as a premium version. The version you use is up to do your discretion but it is not necessary to upgrade to benefit from the app.
Getting started with MyFitnessPal
First you will need to download the app and register. Input all the information required on the registration page and then fill out your own profile. Next, you will need to input your stats. Go under ‘Settings’ at the top of the page and then click on ‘Update Diet/Fitness Profile’.
From here, click on ‘Goals’ and you will be brought to a page that displays your stats plus options to change your nutrition goals. Click on ‘Calorie & Macronutrient Goals’ to display your daily calorie intake along with your carbs, fat, and protein breakdown. Change the number of calories and then grams for each macronutrient (carbs, fat, and protein) in accordance with your personal targets.
For example: If your calorie intake is 1700 with a macro breakdown of 130g protein/160g carbs/60g fat, then you will select those numbers in the relevant fields (the free version of the app only works on percentages so just get as close as you can to your targets). Now you are ready to begin!
Entering your food intake
To begin, click on the ‘Food’ tab at the top of the page. This will show your food diary for the current day of the week, breaking it up into breakfast, lunch and dinner. We would recommend changing the meal titles to MEAL 1, MEAL 2… and so on to make it easier for you to track. You can do this by clicking on ‘Settings’ then ‘Diary settings’ and then typing into the fields under ‘Meal names’.
To begin entering your first meal, click on ‘Add food’. To search for food, type its name in the search field. Be as specific as possible and use the actual brand names where possible. Then, tap the ‘Search’ button. For greater convenience, you can search by scanning an item’s barcode (when using the phone app, you may not have access to this feature if you are using the free version). Tap on a matching search result, then adjust the ‘Number of Servings’ or ‘Serving Size’ to reflect how much of that item you’ve eaten. It is also important to consider the state of the food when weighed (ie cooked or raw) and to select this option when available. Continue on doing this until your entire meal is entered and you will now see the total value of what you had to eat.
Thousands of people access MFP on a daily basis and users are free to enter food into the database for other users to enter. However, when entering food into MFP it is important to select from ‘verified’ foods wherever possible to avoid selecting foods with incorrect nutritional information. Verified foods are easily identified through a green tick icon.
To make things easier, MFP will store the foods you select on a regular basis. Most people will cycle through similar meals – there is an option to save your favourite meals for your convenience. Alternatively, you can also select all meals and copy to the following day to save yourself time.
If you would like to enter your own recipes, we highly recommend using the recipe function! You can enter all of the raw ingredients for a recipe and how many serves it will make and then it will calculate the nutritional content per serve!
Hitting your macros
To check how close you are to reaching your macros for the day, scroll down to the bottom of your diary page or click ‘Nutrition’ and then ‘Nutrients’. This will show you how many more grams of each macro you need to eat.
Tracking your food intake should not consume your whole day. Set aside 5-10 minutes at the start of the day or 2-3 minutes before each meal – this will ensure you stay on track. You will be a food tracking pro in no time at all!
Entering your exercise
Your weekly exercise has typically already been factored into the calculation of nutrition targets. For this reason, please disconnect your activity tracker/watch from the app and please do not enter your exercise in MyFitnessPal as it will add the calories that are burned through that activity to your daily intake, which will reduce your deficit and affect your results.
Like anything new in life, it will take a little practice until you feel confident and proficient in tracking your calories and macros but the more you track your food, the easier it will become. We’ll have you tracking your food and being a pro at hitting your macros in no time!