How to Use MyFitness Pal (for complete beginners)
Updated: Aug 23
Hey everyone! I've been meaning to do this post for a while now and I've finally been spurred into action, so here we go. Let's talk all about one of my favorite fitness tools ever - MyFitnessPal!
MyFitnessPal is by far the best tool for tracking food intake that I've come across. Not to mention - it's free! However, it can be overwhelming to learn how to track your food intake at first, so I hope that this post can provide guidance to my clients (and followers) who are starting to track their macros and want to be sure they're doing it correctly.
1. Establish Your Goals
When you first sign up for MyFitnessPal (referred to as MFP from now on), you'll be prompted to set your goals. Add your current height, weight, age, gender, activity level, etc. as prompted to complete your profile. MFP will then try to estimate your calories for you, but ignore it for now. As your trainer, I will be helping you with this part personally by calculating your calories and macros for you. If you are not using me as your trainer, reconsider... I'm just kidding. But seriously, you will want some guidance here to make sure you're on the right track with the right macronutrient numbers for your specific goals. MFP will try and help set some for you, but their calculations aren't always the most accurate, so be skeptical of them and trust your trainer.
2. Log Everything
In order to lose weight or gain muscle, you need to hold yourself accountable for what you eat and drink. When you first sign up, the app will run you through a tutorial of how to upload a meal, add a food, and search for foods. If it's something generic like an apple, look for a verified generic, unbranded option. If it's something more specific like chips with a brand, make sure you're choosing the exact option of the food you will be eating. You can also actually scan any foods that have a barcode which is super helpful!
Once you find the right brand option, select the quantity you'll be eating. It could be 1 apple or 1/2 an apple, 1 cup of chips or 20 chips. If the food only measures in ounces, you can either weigh it using a food scale or look at the serving size on the bag and make your best estimate. For example, if the bag says 18 chips is 3 ounces, you can physically count the chips to make sure your tracking is accurate. Check the tick in the top right corner to select the food and continue with all the foods you're about to eat to make sure you're on the right track all day long.
Additionally, don't forget that beverages have calories too. And they often sneak up on you! So unless you're only drinking water, don't forget to log calories for all beverages, condiments, and cooking ingredients like oil, sauces, and marinades as well.
3. Add Favorite Recipes, Foods, and Meals
If there's a meal or recipe that you have often, you don't have to log every single ingredient every time. Instead, save it as a pre-set meal, recipe, or food on MFP for easy tracking. For example, I love banana bread. But I don't want to log the flour, sugar, egg, banana, and other ingredients one by one every time I eat banana bread! So instead, I save it as a recipe and that way I know every time I eat a slice I can easily select the option for one slice of my very own banana bread recipe. Same thing goes for meals. If you eat the same breakfast daily, save it as a meal and that way you can select it every day when you go to log your first meal instead of logging each food individually. Easy as that!
To create a meal, recipe, or food in the app, select the more tab at the bottom right. Scroll down and select the "Meals, Recipes, & Foods" tab. From there, you can choose whichever option works best for what you want to log and import or type the ingredients in.
4. Yes, You Can Still Go To Restaurants
So far we've only discussed eating at home, but what about when you go out to eat? When you go out, use nutrient calculators and nutrition sheets found on the restaurant's website. For example, simply search "Chipotle Nutrition Facts" online, view the results that come up, and select the best option for the food you're getting. So again for example, if you're getting a chicken bowl, check the Chipotle website and, if you need to, create a food on MFP with the nutrition information that you find on their website.
5. Additional Tips for Your Success
Always try to log your food before you eat them for the best accuracy. Imagine, you eat a bunch of chips and then log them and realize you went over on your calories for the day it will be a bit discouraging because you've already eaten them so there's no going back. On the contrary, if you log them first you'll be able to adjust the quantity before eating to keep from going over on your calories for the day.
Always check the brand and quantity. I know I already mentioned this but seriously this is number one. If the brand or quantity is incorrect, your log will be too.
Set reminders. When you're first starting out it can be easy to forget to log your food before eating it. To avoid forgetting, try setting reminders on your phone or push notifications through MFP before your typical meal times. For example, one at 8am before breakfast, one at 12pm before lunch, and one at 5pm before dinner.
You'll rarely be perfect. And that's okay. You don't need perfection, just consistency! Don't get discouraged if your numbers aren't spot on every day. Leave room for about 10-15g of error on macronutrients and about 100 calories for your overall daily goal. Keep tracking and just like anything, it will get easier the more you do it.
Weight isn't always an accurate predictor of success. Your weight will fluctuate daily, so try not to log it every day. I recommend once a week MAX to see true averages over time. And remember ladies, some weeks you'll be heavier than others (thank you monthly gift). Progress photos are more important, so take those once a month!
Use the barcode scanner. Scan all your foods with a barcode for simple, easy tracking!
Measure cups and ounces, at least at first. Learn what a cup of cereal looks like, or 4 ounces of chicken, by physically weighing and measuring food at least until you get the hang of it.
Alright friends that's the gist of it! I will be making a video on Youtube soon with this same information in a more interactive and visual format, so stay tuned for that and HAPPY MACRO TRACKING!
Link to download MFP - https://www.myfitnesspal.com