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Navigating the Apps 2.0

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The last time I blogged about apps I was talking appetizers. This time around, I’m talking the inedible sorts—those tiny illustrated squares that decorate the screens of your iPhones and iPads.

If you’re a savvy P. Fit-er—and I know you are—then you’re smart enough to know that sometimes you need a little help keeping track of the important elements of fitness and nutrition.

A caveat before you dig in—

Tracking your food intake is a fine line to walk, because maybe you’re TOO savvy for your own good. Maybe you keep such good track that tracking starts getting in the way of your life.

This article from Whole 9 illustrates this scenario. Nia Shanks, another fitness expert I admire agrees.

Then there are other experts who stress importance of tracking and suggest using MyFitnessPal.

It’s enough to make your kettlebells spin.

I personally don’t encourage people to weigh and measure their food more than necessary, and before I move on, let’s define “necessary”: If you want to change your body, you must develop the ability to eyeball appropriate portion sizes, calories and macronutrients. Once you can do this, you forfeit the ability to BS yourself about what you’re eating,

Examples of self-sabotaging magical thinking include: “Calories don’t count during the holidays,” and, “This ice cream sundae is a freebie because I worked out,” or even, “But I drank eight glasses of water. Now I can eat anything I want.” Um, yeah. Take a look in the mirror. Are you reaching your fitness goals? And no, that’s not a rhetorical question.

With a SANE approach to counting calories, tracking does NOT become a lifestyle, but a TOOL to help you achieve your health and fitness goals. In other words, this is NOT an invitation to obsess about calories.

Okay already. I’ll be your guinea pig.

I’ve used My Fitness Pal consistently for the past four weeks and discovered two things:

1. Seeing my workouts posted in black and white gives me a real sense of accomplishment and helps me stay motivated.
2. Seeing the foods that I’m eating and being aware of (not obsessing over!) the calories helps me focus and make good choices.
3. (I know I said two things). It makes me feel in control. And feeling in control = peace—for me. It’s a nebulous something I can’t explain. Maybe because I’m a control freak.

The criticism out there about MFP and calorie counting are the same criticisms that others might have about Whole 30. Many of you know how much I love the Whole30, but I also understand how some people find it too restrictive and how it could be damaging for someone who has a disordered eating history, or is a little OCD.

The internet being the great Vitamix of contradictory information, all this fitness and nutrition stuff seems to add up to a whole bunch of what you make of it—no black and white. Only shades of gray. No clear signal. Just white noise.

However you see or hear it, the good news is that in the end, it’s up to you. It’s up to you to research and investigate. To try this and that. To see how it all affects your waistline, health and happiness. You are your own science experiment, the ultimate goal of which is to feel amazing—energized, optimistic, resilient, well-rested, strong, fit and beautiful.

It reminds me of something kinda Shakespearean—to track or not to track—that is the question.

Now that you have taken all this with a grain of Celtic sea salt, let’s give tracking a cracking?

Here are some apps we’ve test-driven and recommend to help you stay accountable and boost your fitness level, and thank you to bootcamper and kettlebell client, Elise Miller who shares her own app pics to illustrate this post.

Looking for an all-in-one to track your workouts, calories, carbs and—bonus—water intake? We recommend LiveStrong’s MyPlate app. It’s easy to use and includes bazillions of foods you actually eat, including a bevy of Trader Joe’s items.

It tracks your water intake and helps you determine a daily caloric intake for optimal weight maintenance or weight loss. Not only that, but you can enter in the amount of calories you’ve expended—it helps you figure that out as well—and it will automatically adjust for your daily needs. The one thing missing from the MyPlate app? A macronutrient tracker. You know, the holy trinity: protein, fat and carbs.

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If macros are what you’re after—if, for instance, you want to build what we call “lean mass,” then you’ll be focusing on getting enough protein, say .5 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. In that case, go with the Bulk Up app. It tracks your protein and a whole bunch of other things, like calories, carbs, fiber, sugar and fat. It does not track your water or calorie expenditure, but it does include graphs and a handy pie chart.

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How do you know how many calories you actually expend in a day? Check out the and figure it all out to the energy unit. Then put it to use to lose weight.

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Want to tackle that chin-up bar once and for all? Or how about conquering a set of twenty or more consecutive military style pushups? The Pushups For Charity Challenge is right around the corner after all, HINT HINT.

Here’s a sampling of what’s available on iTunes-

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Finally, the My Fitness Pal app. It tracks your goals, sets a calorie-intake depending on your goals, includes plenty of foods you actually eat, say from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or Giant, and also tracks your exercise, and factors in the calories you expend.

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One additional feature of MFP that other tracking apps don’t offer is seeing into your fitness future. If you have a stellar day, MFP will let you know how much you’ll weigh in five weeks if you eat and exercise the same way for the duration. This can be very motivating. But watch out. Because conversely, if you succumb to a binge-fest, MFP will also let you know your weight in five weeks, eating at the same rate.

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Find the perfect one for you and get cranking!

Have a favorite health and fitness app? Tell us about in the comments section or on our facebook page!

And happy tracking!

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