Updated: Dec 30, 2019
This is a walkthrough on how to get set up and begin using the food tracking app MyFitnessPal. This is a free app and can be found in the App store or Playstore. You will need your calorie goal ready beforehand. Deciding on macronutrient goals is more nuanced and beyond the scope of this article.
Disclaimer: this article does not constitute as medical advice. If you have a medical condition that can interact with diet you should speak with your dietitian or appropriately qualified nutrition professional before making any changes.
If you aren't sure of your calorie intake goal I'd recommend the following options:
- Using the 1990 revision of the Mifflin & St. Jeor equation for a rough projection on maintenance calories, followed by the application of either a calorie deficit or surplus if appropriate.
- Recruiting the help of a professional who is qualified and experienced in the field of nutrition.
I do not recommend using MyFitnessPal's calorie recommendations that appear when you set a goal weight and rate of loss/ gain at as these are of questionable accuracy.
Firstly, download and open the app. On the bottom toolbar tap 'More' to bring up this page, then head to 'Goals'. From here tap 'Calorie, carbs, protein and fat goals'.
Once here we can tap the calorie field to edit it to suit our calorie goal. Set the calorie goal first as the app with then auto-adjust the macro fields to suit. Once the calorie field is set tap a macro field (carbs, protein or fats) to edit the percentage. You can drag the percentage dials up or down to see the amount of each macro nutrient this equates to in grams. Note: the free version of MFP only allows for 5% bracket changes in macronutrients.
This can present some issues when aiming for specific macronutrient goals in grams. Tell your coach if you are using the free version so that macro targets can be adjusted to suit this % bracketing. General fat loss, body recomp. or muscle gain folks will likely not need the paid version of MFP and can and still track effectively with this limitation. When you are happy that the macro percentages reflect your goals in grams hit the check mark and head back a page.
If you would like to add more detailed nutrient goals head to 'Additional nutrient goals'. Here you can adjust some of the defaults given for types of dietary fat, sodium, fibre and more which can be useful.
Working with a nutrition coach can be useful to bring attention to areas of the diet that may be overlooked when only considering macronutrients such as saturated fat, unsaturated fat, sodium and fibre intakes.
The vitamin and mineral intake suggestions will be automatically set to the national RDIs which are generalised to be appropriate minimums for most people.
Once these are set tap the checkmark and head back. You're now ready to go to your 'Diary' page and begin tracking foods.
I would advise against connecting a fitbit or smartwatch to MFP as this will lead to incoming data being added to the app which will edit the daily calorie intake figure we just set up. When you or your coach calculated your calorie figure your active calorie burn from workouts and steps was accounted for within that daily calorie goal. Syncing MFP with an activity logging device will distort the figure being aimed for and has the potential to reduce the planned effectiveness of your calorie deficit, surplus or body recomp. The calorie burn estimates given by fitness trackers are also largely inaccurate. I suggest keeping food logging separate from activity/ training logging.
Check out the next article how to log food intake.