I must warn you, this article might come across as a bit of a rant against Myfitnesspal.
It has been instrumental in helping many people keep track of their diets (including me). But, I believe its imperfections have also contributed to the downfall of many unaware newbies seeking to get their bodies in order.
Let me explain.
Get Rid of Myfitnesspal’s Suggested Goals
The most important area to begin is knowing where you should start in the first place. While a useful tool, and you can’t beat the price (free), Myfitnesspal’s suggested intake is awful.
Their calorie recommendations are much too low for someone who is lifting weights. Then, the calculated protein intake is inadequate for building (or even maintaining) muscle or strength. Check out the results generated for me when I followed their guided setup:
Despite lifting heavy weights 4 x a week, it suggested 1280 calories a day for me to lose 1lb a week. In reality, I lose 1lb a week at 1800 calories (despite being relatively sedentary). That’s 520 calories less than what I could be eating to reach my goals.
The recommended protein intake by Myfitnesspal is 64g, which is 40grams less than what I have found is ideal for my body. If I didn’t know any better and followed their guidelines, I would likely:
- lose muscle.
- lose strength and perform poorly in the gym.
- have problems with hunger and bingeing.
- have mood swings, bouts of dizziness, and feel unwell in general.
For a more accurate calculator, I would suggest the one from iifym.com. I covered in a short video how to use the IIFYM calculator to assess what calories and macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat) you should eat to achieve your goals here:
Beware: Calorie Adjustments & Tracking Exercise Can Hurt You
Eating back calories “earned” through exercise is one of the main places people go wrong with tracking on Myfitnesspal. If you decide to track your workouts or have linked a device such as a fitbit to your account, the total calories you have burned over the course of the activity (which are often incorrect) will be added to your calories for the day.
This can become a big issue, especially if trying to lose fat.
Machines are notorious for overestimating calories burned, and no two people will burn calories the same. Your gender, age, height, body fat %, fitness level and other factors all determine how many calories you will burn during an activity.
To have the most control over your diet, I would suggest not tracking your exercise through Myfitnesspal, and turn “off” calorie adjustments.
You can do this by going to Settings > Diary Settings > scroll down to “Calorie Adjustments” and make sure that “Enable Negative Adjustments” is unchecked (this option will only be applicable if you have a device linked).
Use Charts & Reports For A Bigger Picture
A really useful feature of Myfitnesspal is the ability to view charts and reports of various measurements over the course of 7 days, 30 days, 90 days, 180 days, and even up to a year. Having this big picture view of your progress is tremendously helpful in a getting a realistic assessment of how you are doing.
Maybe your weight has stayed the same for a couple of weeks, but you have lost 10lbs over the course of 30 days. If you were to just assess the past 2 weeks, it might seem you have stalled and aren’t really getting anywhere. Once you refer to your charts, it’s plain to see there is a downward trend.
Weight-loss is not linear by any means, so I consider this a very useful tool to refer to every once in a while, especially when you could use a reminder of how far you’ve come already.
Another way this could be used is to make sure you are getting enough of certain vitamins & minerals, or even enough protein on average to support your efforts in the gym.
During my fitness journey, I have subscribed to many forums to learn and discuss fitness and nutrition. If I were to recommend a few to someone, Myfitnesspal would not be one of them.
While you can occasionally find accurate advice, it is a community riddled with misinformation. A common complaint across other forums is that those who attempt to correct the misguided suggestions on Myfitnesspal’s forums are often met with legions of irrational defenders.
There is lack of mod involvement to correct this. I even know of someone who received a ban for lively, yet civil, discussions on losing fat according to what is known by science, because it was “offensive” to members who disagreed.
As you can see in the screenshot I took of a redditor’s opinion on the matter, the forum also encourages many superficial, unrelated topics of discussion. It’s unfortunate there are not more topics that actually serve to educate and eliminate much of the dietary dogma that is common among the average dieter.
Friends Add to Your Success
People who add friends lose 2.3x more weight! – Myfitnesspal
Few things are as inspiring as having a network of people to support you. The social media aspect of Myfitnesspal offers others the ability to “like” and comment on your new achievements, be notified when you reach a new high streak of consecutive logging days, complete your food diary, or be privy to your personal highlights (or setbacks).
It’s fulfilling to know others care about your journey, and wonderful when you inspire others with your own progress.
Short on friends who use Myfitnesspal? Feel free to add me, barbellbunnyj!
I also invite you to share your screename in the comments so that I and others who use MFP may add you 🙂
Myfitnesspal is far from perfect and has some significant flaws. Despite that, it is a highly useful free tool. If you are aware of its shortcomings, it is more than adequate to meet your goals. So,
- replace their suggested intake with more accurate calories.
- avoid eating back calories “earned” through exercise.
- take the forums with a grain of salt.
- add some friends to tag along for the ride.
You are likely to profit much more than if you had not!
I hope this article has been useful to you. Please let me know in the comments below if it has, or even if it hasn’t!