WERQ® your Diet for Maximum Results – Four Free Online Nutrition Trackers
Have you ever heard the phrase “you can’t out train a bad diet?” What this phrase typically means is that even if you have an intense and regular work out regimen, you won’t achieve optimal results if your dietary intake is poor. While what exactly constitutes a “bad diet” varies from one person to the next, if your WERQ®, R.I.P.P.E.D.®, Cycling, Boot Camp or other classes aren’t giving you the results you want, it’s time to take a hard, honest look at your daily dietary intake – not just calories, but overall nutrient intake.
Whether your idea of the optimal diet is Paleo, South Beach, IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) or some other approach, how exactly are you supposed to know how well you’re eating? One option is to work with a nutritionist or dietitian to design and evaluate an eating plan. Another option is to follow a commercial program like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. A third option, and one used by approximately 11% of the U.S. Population (8 million people, as of 2012 - http://quantifiedself.com/2013/01/how-many-people-self-track/) is to use some type of technology-based fitness and/or nutrition tracker to keep a log of what you eat. But, which tracker will work best for you? There are lots of different trackers available and numerous factors to consider. See below for a quick comparison of four free online fitness trackers that might fit your needs:
My Fitness Pal – http://myfitnesspal.com
Myfitnesspal is a free online and mobile nutrition and exercise tracker with an extensive food database, customizable diet tracking, exercise database and user community.
Pros – Convenient integration with other popular systems like Fitbit (http://fitbit.com), BodyMedia Fit (http://www.bodymedia.com) and Runkeeper (http://runkeeper.com); Free mobile app available for iOS, Android, Windows AND Blackberry; Extensive user database contains nearly every food you can imagine and makes it easy to quickly log and/or add new foods; ability to customize your dietary goals as well as which macros you see; Built-in and well-designed exercise tracker allows you to track everything with one tool.
Cons – Macro customization is limited to five items; you have to create an account to use the tool.
Super Tracker – http://supertracker.usda.gov
SuperTracker is a free online tool developed and maintained by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), an organization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). SuperTracker data and guidance is based on the MyPlate (http://choosemyplate.gov) food guide developed by the USDA and therefore, focused on a U.S. diet.
Pros – Although it’s recommended for best results, you don’t have to create an account to use the tracker; Not focused solely (or primarily) on weight loss – you can choose other goals to track like (1) amount of physical activity, (2) target food groups, and (3) monitoring specific nutrient intake. Amazingly detailed reports to show macro- and micro-nutrients and empty calories (calories that do not provide any nutritional value).
Cons – Limited food database and only very useful if you only (or mostly) eat regular whole foods and simple recipes with few ingredients; limited ability to manually quick-add foods to your log; no mobile app; government created and maintained, so in times of governmental crisis – like last year’s shutdown – the site may not be available (I learned this the hard way).
FitDay – http://fitday.com
FitDay is a multi-tiered application that seems highly geared toward weight loss. A very basic online version of the nutrition tracker is available for free. Additional features are provided in a paid premium version. You may also pay to download and install a PC version to use offline. A mobile app is also available.
Pros – Detailed reports show macro- and micro-nutrients, although not as many as Supertracker; easy-to-use interface; opportunity to connect with a live dietitian for dietary advice.
Cons – Online basic online account is free – you must pay for a PC version ($29.99) or mobile app ($1.99 for iOS); No ability to select which macros you want to track; Doesn’t track sodium intake (this is a big deal for potential users who must watch their sodium intake); Can’t customize your dietary goals (in the free version); limited food database.
Cronometer – http://cronometer.com
Cronometer describes itself very simply, as an online diet and fitness tracker that aims “to provide a complete solution for the smart dieter.”
Pros – Easy to use, Detailed reports directly integrated onto the main food diary screen (although not customizable); built-in exercise tracker.
Cons – You have to pay for the mobile app ($2.99 for iOS; $2.97 for Android); Very basic functionality and the interface is not very “user-friendly” – error messages are cryptic and highly technical, e.g., “com.nutrimeter.client.login.NotLoggedInException: Failed to parse facebook response: JSONObject["email"] not found.”
About the blogger: Christina N. Outlay, PhD, is a certified Group Exercise Instructor by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and an Assistant Professor of Information Technology. Read more of her helpful blog posts at FIT Scholar – Fitness and Information Technology (http://fitscholar.com).