Counting calories is so last year. Targeting macros (macronutrients like protein, carbs and fats) will help keep you focused on food composition and overall healthfulness rather than just low-calorie options. And hey, you are what you eat! If you give your body the right kinds of nutrients, you’ll have enough energy to crush your next workout instead of feeling fatigued, cranky and craving those foods you’re trying to avoid.
“Not paying attention to nutrition while going after your fitness goals is like trying to start a fire with unseasoned, wet firewood,” says DailyBurn trainer Ben Booker. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or build lean muscle, the first step is taking a hard look at how you’re fueling your furnace. “Start learning what is entering your body,” says Booker, who recommends keeping track of macros instead of obsessing over calories.
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Does tracking three things sound tedious to you? Luckily, you can record your food and keep an eye on proteins, carbs and fats with just a few taps, thanks to a new crop of food diary apps. Nutrition is part science, part art, and at the end of the day, we all know that abs are made in the kitchen! Whether you’re a competitive bodybuilder, a recreational athlete or someone hoping to shed a few pounds, we’ve got the scoop on how to track macros with these five easy-to-navigate apps.
A Food Diary App for Every Personality
1. My Macros+
Best for: Motivated Meal Planners
Created by a former bodybuilder, this comprehensive app delivers a lot of bang for your buck. At the top of the screen, red numerals show you how many of each nutrient (protein, carbs and fat) you have remaining for the rest of your day as you input saved meals or foods from the library. Looking to eat fewer carbs on a recovery day? The app will let you save different macronutrient “goals” that you can choose between, meaning intermittent fasters or athletes whose daily diets often change dramatically will be able to easily switch their goal when desired intake changes. ($2.99; iOS)
Best for: First-Time Food Loggers
With an easy-to-navigate interface, this app is a great choice for those trying food journaling for the first time. Save and re-use your logged meals, which can be built from the four million foods in the MyFitnessPal database. Best of all, there’s a barcode scanner that can help easily input your daily diet. While you’ll only be able to set a caloric goal and not a macronutrient goal, you’ll still be able to see your nutrient breakdown by tapping the “Nutrition” pie chart icon at the bottom of the “Diary” screen. Red, blue and green slices make visualizing your progress a piece of cake! Check out your weekly breakdown under the “Nutrition” tab in the menu. (Free; iOS, Android)
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3. Fitocracy Macros
Best for: Macro Minimalists
Want just the essentials? This newly launched app puts macro counts front and center in a clear and simple Venn diagram on its home screen. If you need help determining your nutrient breakdown, a built-in calculator can help you set reasonable goals. Next, input your carbs, fats and protein for every meal and track your trends over time. You’ll be able to save the stats for the meals you eat most frequently. (Note: Since this app tracks macros and does not log food, you need to know how much of each nutrient are in your own grub.) (Free; iOS)
Best for: Real Food Rookies
Ideal for beginners who need some extra help along the way, this supportive app includes tons of useful tips and tricks so users have the best food logging experience possible. Portion control ideas make sure you won’t overindulge and pop-up alerts can remind you to weigh-in or have a healthy afternoon snack. Compare how your actual macro intake stacks up against your daily target each day. Plus, the app auto-adjusts your caloric goals when your body composition changes. If your Wi-Fi is spotty or you’re constantly logging on-the-go, rest assured that the complete food database is available offline, too. ($3.99; iOS, Android)
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5. Lose It!
Best for: Social Foodies
Recommended by many nutritionists, Lose It! is an easy way to track edibles and also connect with food-conscious friends. Plus, Apple users are in luck — you can quickly build your Lose It profile by syncing with the HealthKit available on iOS 8. Within the Lose It! app, review your macronutrient breakdown by tapping the “Nutrients” tab. And thanks to a brightly colored circle in the middle of the home screen, calorie counters can gauge how much they should eat for the rest of the day. Want to know how you’ve fared all week long? Green and red bars indicate which days you hit the mark or overindulged. Bonus: The app now suggests healthy restaurants nearby. (Free; iOS, Android)