We all have that friend:
The one who has become obsessed with counting her macros and even brings a food scale to restaurants to weigh her steak or sweet potato fries. The one who has to refer to her app before deciding whether or not to order another glass of Pinot Noir.
I have to make sure it fit my macros, she urges. To which brows furrow and eyes roll.
Months later, and the joke is now on you. Your friend has leaned up and looks better than ever and here you are at a crossroads thinking: Maybe there’s something to all this macro-counting, after all.
Though you still vow you’ll never bring a food scale into a restaurant, the time has come to hop on board the macro-counting craze…
But where to start? Do you download MyFitnessPal? FatSecret? Noom Coach? Lose it? Samsung Health? MyMacrosPlus?
If you’re a discerning person, you probably have questions about the accuracy of these apps.
Are their databases extensive enough to provide an accurate report of the exact number of grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat we’re consuming? And are they really smart enough to tell you how many grams you should be eating each day in order to reach your own unique goals?
This is what a group of researchers from the UK decided to look into. In doing so, they selected five popular apps that count calories, macronutrients and micronutrients.
Here’s a link to the study (https://mhealth.jmir.org/2019/2/e9838/#ref7) that was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) in February 2019.
The apps included in the study were: MyFitnessPal, FatSecret, Noom Coach, Samsung Health and Lose It!. The researchers then compared their individual nutritional databases with professional standards used by dieticians in the UK.
In short, here’s what the study found:
While Noom Coach was found to be the most accurate for calorie-counting, as it has the most up-to-date nutritional database, it doesn’t show people their levels of macronutrients at all, so kind of useless for the macro-counting we’re so obsessed with.
Meanwhile, Lose It! often underestimates protein, carbohydrates fat and fibre consumption, while FatSecret underestimates both sodium and protein levels, but was otherwise fairly accurate, said the researchers.
Finally, MyFitnessPal and Samsung Health both proved to do an accurate job counting macronutrients, but were less useful when tracking micronutrients, like calcium iron and vitamin C.
Our Top 3 macro-counting apps:
Owned by Under Armour, MyFitnessPal (https://www.myfitnesspal.com/) is one of the most popular macro-tracking apps today. This popularity also means its database is constantly growing, so it’s arguably getting more and more accurate every day.
Another great feature on the MyFitnessPal app is how you can scan barcodes directly to your app (other apps do this, too, but MyFitnessPal has the biggest database for entering barcodes), which again, makes it incredibly user-friendly and accurate, not to mention time-saving.
Further, MyFitnessPal allows you to add and save your own foods and recipes, which also saves you time in the future, and it lets you follow friends and view their recipes, too…if you’re into that sort of thing.
Another huge database—5 million items and counting—MyMacros+ (https://getmymacros.com/) is easy to use and has proven to be both reliable and accurate.
Like MyFitnessPal, it also lets you follow friends. Further, it provides you with nutritional overviews of the food you ate on any given day, and allows you to track measurements like your bodyweight. And while some apps limit you to three meals and a snack, MyMacos+ lets you log as many meals and snacks as you want each day.
And for those who need a little more help with your nutrition, you can also hire an online Macro Coach to help you figure out how much you should be eating to reach your goals, as well as what types of foods you should focus on.
If you’re interested in tracking your micronutrients along with your macros, this is maybe the app for you.
It’s one thing to hit your body composition goals through dialling in your protein, carbohydrates and fats, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting all of your essential amino acids, vitamins or minerals each day. In light of this, Cronometer (https://cronometer.com/) does a more effective job at tracking micronutrients than any other app we have seen.
And like many other macro-tracking apps, Cronometer also lets you enter custom foods and recipes, and allows you to track, not just your diet, but also your exercise and biometrics.
One final tip:
Before you select your app and start tracking your macros, you need to figure out exactly how many macros you need to be consuming each day.
Most people start with a Google search and come across one website or another, where they plug in their height, weight, body type exercise level and goals, and then boom, it spits out numbers.
Our advice: Take those calculations with a gain of salt!
Instead, put in your information in 4 or 5 websites and compare and contrast each one before you decide what you think your ideal macros should be. And even then, don’t expect this number to be perfect. EXPECT to take a month or more to become your own Guinea Pig.
Here are 5 different websites that do just this:
- HealtherEater (https://healthyeater.com/flexible-dieting-calculator)
- If it Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) (https://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/)
- KatyHearnFit (https://www.katyhearnfit.com/macro-calculator)
- WholesomeYum (https://www.wholesomeyum.com/the-best-free-low-carb-keto-macro-calculator/)
- KetoCalculator (https://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/)
While we like to think nutrition is a science, it is as much of an art as it is a science, so track what you’re eating, how your body is responding and how you’re feeling and then make adjustments by upping or lowering your protein, carbs or fats as you go, and then constantly reassess to figure out what works best for you.