Saturday, January 7, 2012

Product Reviews: MyFitnessPal vs LoseIt

New Years Resolutions almost always involve Health & Fitness goals.  To that end, we'll continue this week with another product review.  Last week I reviewed 2 fitness apps to get the new year off on the right 'foot' (pun intentional). This week we'll look at 2 apps that help you keep track of your nutrition.

Last year I spent 2 months on crutches following a wretched little mishap on the running trail.  That, combined with another couple of months of slowly getting back into a decent fitness routine and lots of lessons learned.  

Lesson 1: You can maintain your weight without exercise.  Well, you can but you have to eat WAY less, and that's really hard to do, especially if your body is used to a certain level of both activity and fuel.  Besides, it's no fun at all. 

Lesson 2: Keeping track of your food intake is critical, regardless of your activity level, if you want to attain even the most modest of fitness goals.  I've heard it said that you can't outrun a bad diet, and that's true. No level of exercise will compensate for poor nutrition.  And no exercise and no food monitoring will most likely equal weight gain :(

I've always preached the benefit of a food diary, and for years I just used a self-created excel spreadsheet but it wasn't always practical to carry around my laptop, so when I got my first iPod Touch, I found an app called LoseIt.  It's free and has been very helpful and convenient.  I just moved to an iPhone and was interested in comparing other similar apps, so  I decided to also try out MyFitnessPal, also free.

So let's compare the 2 apps:

Both are Free. MyFitnessPal is ad supported, while LoseIt is just plain free.   

Both have community aspects, such as friend requests, community bulletin boards, things of that nature.  The community aspect seems a bit stronger on MyFitnessPal, and there are some weight loss tickers you can add to your profile if that appeals to you.  I don't much care about virtual friendships, they don't motivate me, but it's very helpful for many to have a circle of supporters in your journey.  I have added friends who I've convinced to try an app to my friend list and that was helpful to encourage and motivate each other. 

Both will calculate both calories and comprehensive nutrition information, include an activity tracker, barcode scanner, and reports function. MyFitnessPal has multiple reports that you generate online, LoseIt has a few reports that can be automatically emailed to you as an excel spreadsheet).  The reports function is a great feature, especially if you are working with a physician, nutritionist, or trainer - or if like me, you just want to track your own data.

I love the activity tracker since you get to see it give you extra food to eat - that's the best motivation for exercise I've ever found ;-)  Unfortunately, you do get a serious wake up call when you realize it's not that much more food, but still every calorie helps.

The barcode scanner is just cool! I didn't have that on the iPod Touch since I bought mine before it included a camera, so I had to enter any new foods that weren't in the database manually.  Most foods are there, but it's still way-cooler to scan than search :)

Key differences:

LoseIt: An app-based program with a web back-end.  The app was developed first and web-based logging came separate.  What that means is yes, you can do whatever you need from either the app or the web but the power really is in the app. 
Like it's name, it is weight-loss focused. There are no options for those wanting to use it for weight gain.  Well, I suppose you can, there's just no setting for it.
It's also a simple algorithm, so whatever you set it for, it will allot a calories/day limit that sometimes is far below safe.  I hope that's something they will address in later updates.
LoseIt has a much cleaner interface and you can move foods from one meal to the other within the app. You can also easily access previous meals so you can just add or modify them for a different day.

MyFitnessPal: A web-based program that seems to have added the app as a secondary support for the web.  You can do most things from the app, but some things can only be done from the web (like move an item from lunch to dinner instead of delete/add). 
There are weight gain or weight loss options, which is great for bodybuilders or those needing to gain weight. While gaining weight has never been difficult for me, I do have friends and family for which it is a problem and being able to set that goal is quite helpful for them.
The program will not let you go below 1200 calories/day - which is a safe limit, and without medical supervision no one should go below that anyway.
There are more food options in the database, which is very convenient for eating out or if you have a more international diet.  I've often used the MyFitnessPal website to custom-add foods to my LoseIt app.
You must actively save meals for the app to remember it. That works if you really want to save a meal, but I'd still rather it remember meals automatically without having to save it since I may or may not have the same thing again. Not a big deal, but still...
The app remembers recent items only by meals, so if you want to have the same thing for dinner that you had for lunch, you won't see it under recent items for dinner - you'll need to re-add it and then the next time it will be there. Again, a minor annoyance.
The app-interface is a bit cluttered. The web-interface is a much better user-experience.

I'll start by saying I'm still using both, and I do like them both - for different reasons.  On this one, I find no clear winner and which app you prefer may ultimately depend on how and when you use it.  

If you want a primarily web-based program where you access your app only when you're out, then MyFitnessPal is probably your best bet.  Also, if you're looking for weight gain, it's one of the few options out there.

If you want a primarily app-based program with occasional web access, then LoseIt offers a much better user-experience on your mobile device. There are fewer foods in the database, and if you eat out or have a more international diet then you may find yourself having to custom-add foods.  And if you're only looking for weight-loss or maintenance, then this app could be for you.

Whichever one you choose, and I do highly recommend choosing one, use it daily and you will reach all of your fitness goals for 2012 and beyond!


Anonymous said...

Do you worry about permissions you give by using the myfitnesspal app?

Cheryl Hurt said...

No, generally I don't worry about permissions because I only allow websites to have the information I figure may possibly go public. I have a separate email address for all such things as well. Besides, if anyone is really that interested in my food & exercise diary, well then... :)