Updated: Aug 13, 2020
THREE must do tips for using MyFitnessPal. You could really be sacrificing your progress if you don't do these things!
I rate MyFitnessPal very highly and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to track calories or interested in understanding their nutrition habits. - I have a whole other blog post on whether your should be tracking calories here. However, I did realize that there are some little hacks that I automatically do when using the app just through years of practice with it and they actually make a substantial difference. So, I have put together 3 top MUST DO tips for using MyFitnessPal to make sure you are getting the most out of it and able to make the progress you deserve.
Tracking the correct quantities.
Often the servings on the MFP can be wrong on both branded packaged foods and even fresh foods. Even if MFP will register the exact food - say for example 'popchips' and you have the option of adding servings they may not add up. Say you have 1/2 of a bag of popchips you may assume this is 1/2 a serving on MFP but this could be wildly different leading to unreliable tracking.
This also goes for fresh foods as MFP will guess what a serving is. Don't just enter banana or apple for example - try to gauge an idea of the amount in grams. Yes, this can be tiring weighing your foods but once you have done it a little bit you will become aware of the size and will know for the future. If you are unable to weight it then use the most generic serving size of the food as this is till better than not tracking!
Solution: use grams over servings.
Still check these add up, check what 100g on the packet is and that 100g registers the same on MFP. If it is then you can reliably use this feature. E.G Bag of popchips 100g, you have half a bag - enter 50g.
2. Don't eat back 'burned' calories
On MFP there is the option to link it to your Fitbit or health data on your phone. Once it links up it will adjust your daily calories depending on this data. So you may hit your daily calories but then be confused as to why it says you have 200-300 remaining, this has synced through from your phone/fit bit from the activity you did that day. SO, what's wrong with this?
Firstly activity tracking apps and the step counter on your phone can be way off, therefore they could be overestimating your calorie burn. If you then eat back those calories you may no longer be hitting the amount you needed too.
Secondly, you should really be calculating your calories and macros for your average day, thinking more long term. Each day you are not going to be eating exactly the same and each day you are not going to be as active. You need to calculate your calories for an average day therefore you can aim to stick to this each day and be satisfied. This is the most sustainable method for staying on track, so you can eat consistently day to day not dependent on whether you worked out of not. Yes, if you have a particularly hard session, active day or just generally hungrier than usual you listen to your body and increase those calories slightly. If you are always looking at MFP for direction on how much to eat in regard to your activity levels then you could start to form an obsessive habit of associating activity with eating more food (or calories). Find the amount which will sustain you everyday no matter how variable your activity is but still able to make progress.
Solution: Unlink MFP from accessing health data or your activity tracker. You can then look at these trackers separately (and these are more reliable) to determine that if you were substantially more active than usual you may need some extra fuel.
3. Are you tracking your drinks?
This is a simple one but I do think it is worth mentioning. When I get clients to track, I VERY RARELY see drinks being tracked. I have to then check if they frequently drink drinks other than water/ coffee and tea and if they do what kinds. If you are drinking tea and coffee with lots of milk and sugar then this can really add up and should be tracked if you want maximum accuracy. The same goes for juices and smoothies - you may be amazed how many calories they can have in them so make sure they are being included!
I hope you find this useful and I'd love to hear any questions and help out with any tracking queries. I'd appreciate a share and a like too!