The Best Weight-Loss Apps
I've been pretty good about maintaining my weight the last few years, but sometimes my motivation goes and the pounds creep on. That's when I know that it's time to get help.
To get back on track, I follow the tried-and-true advice I received a few years ago from Ariane Hundt, nutritionist and founder of Brooklyn Boot Camp, about what helps people stay motivated and see results. Check out my picks.
1. Set Measurable Goals
Determining a starting point and an end point with measurable results (body weight, inches, or body fat) and taking before-and-after pictures will give you something to look forward to. But don’t set losing 50 pounds as your goal, cautions Hundt. Instead, set more modest goals more frequently and incentivize yourself with a non-food reward each time you achieve a goal. For tracking your goals, try BodyShot ($2.99 on iTunes) or My Diet Coach - Pro ($2.99 on Google Play). Both apps let you store photos along your weight loss journey, as well as basic stats like weight and waist and hip circumference.
2. Share Your Progress
If you know people who are going for the same goal as you, you are much more likely to achieve that goal than if you pursued it alone, observes Hundt. So pick a group that will support you, commenting on your accomplishments and making you feel good about them. Many workout apps have a social networking hook included, but I have a few favorites.
I like DietBet (free on iTunes and Google Play), which lets you bet you'll lose a certain amount of weight in a given time — say, 4 percent of your body weight in four weeks or 10 percent in six months. If you lose the weight, you'll split the pot with everyone else who meets their goals. During the four- or eight-week challenge, you'll be connected with others also trying to reach their goals.
If you're looking for support, Nudge (free on iTunes and Google Play) makes it easy to connect with others easily. Choose to connect one on one via your contacts list or Facebook for private support, or join one of the ongoing chat clubs that cater to lifestyle interests like running, strength training and recipes. I like that Nudge makes logging very easy, whether you're tracking food, sleep, energy level or indulgences like sweets, fatty foods or alcohol. Plus, it pulls in data from popular apps like RunKeeper, Fitbit, Withings and Up by Jawbone.
If you want guaranteed support, consider stepping up to Weight Watchers Online Plus ($19.95 per month, accessible through a free app in iTunes and Google Play). You'll get 24/7 real-time chat support from trained weight watchers coaches, plus general community support, meal ideas, food tracking and more.
3. Don’t Overdo It
What good is running for three hours if you overeat because you overdid it, asks Hundt. It’s about finding the right balance between exercise and eating. A manageable exercise schedule will serve you better in the long run.
Great programs are available through PEAR 2.0 ($0.99 per reusable workout or access an unlimited selection for $3.99/mo. or $29.99/year, app available on iTunes and Google Play) and Adidas miCoach train & run (free on Google Play and iTunes) apps. Both deliver programs for everyone, from those just getting back into a fitness routine to marathon runners. Each program schedules in rest days and a combination of higher and lower intensity workouts.
To get the most out of these training apps, you'll want to use a heart rate monitor (like the Wahoo Tickr X Workout Tracker, $99.99 on Amazon, or adidas miCoach Fit Smart, $149.27 on Amazon) to keep track of intensity of your workout. Both PEAR and miCoach use heart rate to ensure that you don't over train.
In addition, PEAR lets you track your heart rate variability (HRV) app. Heart rate variability, which is the variation in the intervals between heart beats, is a good indicator of how prepared your body is for a hard workout. The higher the HRV, the more rested and less stressed you are. If you have a low HRV, your body needs to take it easy. For a standalone HRV app, try iThlete ($8.99 on iTunes and Google Play), which gets good marks from consumers.
4. Track Carbs, Protein and Fat
Metabolically, there is a big difference between eating 100 calories of cookies and eating 100 calories of chicken. The sugar signals your body to store fat, whereas the chicken makes you feel full and tells your body to burn fat. The protein found in chicken also aids your muscles to get lean and strong. Hundt recommends building in “cheat meals” twice a week to keep your metabolism from slowing down. Check out a calorie counting app to learn how much you’re actually consuming and whether you’re getting right amounts of carbs, protein and fat.
My favorite calorie counter is Lose It! (free on iTunes and Google Play). The app makes entering foods into the system simple; you can scan a product’s barcode, find it in the app's comprehensive online database or enter your own foods and recipes. You’ll see a breakdown of the food’s protein, fat and carbs at a glance. Lose It! pulls exercise data from popular activity trackers, digital scales and fitness apps, and you can join social groups for support and connect one on one with friends who use the app
5. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can stall fat loss, make you feel sluggish and trigger overeating. In fact, many people mistakenly think they are hungry when they're really just thirsty. So it’s important to drink plenty of water. Try Water Your Body (free on Google Play) or iDrated ($0.99 on iTunes) to help you track your water consumption.
Updated with new app information on 10/20/2015