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How to use MyFitnessPal for weight loss

For some people, counting calories and tracking their food intake helps with weight loss. In order to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body uses. This is known as a calorie deficit.

Food tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal allow you to log everything you eat, so you know exactly how many calories you’re consuming. This method has been shown Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source to result in a higher percentage of weight loss.

Keep reading to learn more about MyFitnessPal, how it works for weight loss, and if it’s a foolproof solution.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 23-06-2024

What is MyFitnessPal?

MyFitnessPal is an application that can be downloaded to your mobile device. It enables you to record everything diet and exercise-related using an extensive database of foods which are already on it. It’s essentially an in-depth food diary that tracks your calories.

The application also provides a macronutrient (carbs, protein and fats) and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) breakdown of each food so that you can easily monitor your progress towards your goal. This element also helps to inform you about the foods you eat.

An infographic showing the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients

It’s also possible to log your exercise using a database that covers all kinds of sports - you even have the option to log your daily steps.

Setting up the application

Once you have downloaded the app onto your phone, you will be asked to customise it for your goals. Simply choose from the three options:

  • lose weight
  • maintain weight
  • gain weight
MyFitnessPal loading screen on an iPhone.

The next stage involves stating your baseline activity level without including workouts (as these are counted separately). The choices are:

  • not very active - select this if you have a mainly sedentary job
  • lightly active - select this if you spend a good part of your day on your feet
  • active - select this if you spend a good part of your day doing some physical activity
  • very active - select this if you spend most of your day doing heavy physical activity

Once you have completed the above, the following screen will ask you to provide your gender, age, and location. You will then need to fill in your height, weight, and your goal weight.

The next screen will ask you what your weekly loss (or gain) goal is. Once you have completed this and have set up your account, you will be ready to access the content.

How do I use MyFitnessPal?

MyFitnessPal automatically provides an estimate of how many calories you should be eating, based on your given height and weight measurements.

However, if you want to be more accurate, you have the option to alter this number so that it reflects you as an individual.

“I would advise you to separately calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate) using an online calculator, then subtract roughly 500. That way, you can know exactly how many calories you should be eating for sustainable weight loss to occur.” - Silvia Fonda, our registered nutritionist

Feel free to use our calorie calculator, or weight loss tool, to work out exactly how many calories you need based on your height, weight, gender, and activity levels.

Following this, you’ll now be ready to start recording your food intake. Click ‘diary’ on the blue tab at the bottom of the screen and start completing your entries.

The diary entry includes rows for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. As you scroll through the screen, you will also find a tab to add exercise and water intake. At the end of the day, remember to click the “complete diary” button.

Free vs. paid version

MyFitnessPal offers a premium version of their app, which you can either pay for monthly or annually. There is a free version for those who don’t want to pay, but some of its features are limited.

For example, if you are using the free version of this app, you will not have access to the barcode scanner. This allows you to quickly scan any packaged items without having to manually add them to the diary.

What are the alternatives to MyFitnesspal?

If you are looking for alternatives to MyFitnessPal, or are just curious about what’s out there, here are some interesting apps you may want to check out:

  • Cronometer
  • Lifesum
  • Lose it

The following table outlines some of their differences.

Cronometer Lifesum Lose it
Design Modern, uncluttered interface. Colourful and modern design. Design makes it easy to keep track of everything you eat.
Nutritional info Provides more nutritional info compared with its competitors. Has an extensive database that features millions of food items. The database is a little less varied - some foods have to be added manually.
Value for money Free to sign up and use, with paid upgrades available. A built-in barcode scanner is included in the free version. It’s completely free to set up an account and start tracking your diet.
Exercise Has an extensive library of exercises, including household activities. Doesn’t factor in exercise. Doesn’t factor in exercise.
Best feature Supports various diets, including intermittent fasting and keto. ‘Habit trackers’ can help you build lasting, healthy habits. Entirely dedicated to helping its users lose weight.

If you’re not someone who’s into carefully tracking their food intake, you might want to consider an application called See How You Eat (SHYE). This app is based on taking and uploading photos of your meals.

Rather than calorie counting, this app will help you build healthy eating habits using mindfulness and simple food journaling methods.

How do food-tracking apps help you lose weight?

Although research is fairly limited, some studies Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source have shown that food logging leads to more successful weight loss, especially when focused on calories.

Remember, logging your food on MyFitnessPal is not enough for weight loss to occur. You also have to remain in a calorie deficit, choose the right foods, and bear in mind other factors such as genetics and hormones.

Someone using their phone to log how many calories are in a meal.

MyFitnessPal is most beneficial for weight loss because it increases mindfulness when eating. By tracking your food, you begin to learn the nutritional and caloric information about what you eat - which is also helpful in the long run.

The same goes for logging exercise. It encourages you to build a regular exercise routine which will help you to form healthy habits and result in weight loss.

What are the pros and cons of using food-tracking apps?

Food-tracking apps like Myfitnesspal can be a great tool for weight loss. They make you aware of how many calories are in the foods that you eat, which helps you to stay in a calorie deficit.

They do also have some disadvantages, however. They can miscalculate how many calories you should be eating and hinder progress, for example.

You can see some pros and cons below:

An infographic displaying some pros and cons of using food-tracking apps

Overall, apps like Myfitnesspal either work for you, or they don’t. They can be extremely useful in shedding light on how many calories are in the foods you eat regularly. They’re informative about macronutrients and micronutrients too.

However, you can’t rely solely on an application for weight loss results. Tracking your food is meant to help you stay in a calorie deficit. You have to eat fewer calories than you burn (for a sustained amount of time) in order to successfully lose weight.

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