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Dr Lachlan Soper on Health Apps That Are Actually Helpful | Sydney, Australia

People generally want a healthier lifestyle and a good, healthy body. However, not many people have the money to shell out for personal trainers that can tell you when to work out, what to eat, and what  macros and how many calories you should eat. When looking to become healthier, a number of people become so overwhelmed as they’re inundated by diet culture that they give up before they ever start. One of the best ways that you can get your healthy lifestyle back on track is to use health apps. Today, we’re going to be looking at some of the most beneficial health apps to help take charge of your health. 

MyFitnessPal

If you’re looking for the best free app, look no further than MyFitnessPal. With over 50 million total downloads, this lifestyle app is designed to help track your daily food intake, giving its users a specific workout goal, calorie limit, and a great way to keep on track with your diet. While weight loss (or more appropriately fat loss, because we don’t want to loose muscle) can be quite complicated and nuanced, it is also in many ways quite simple. Energy in, energy out. For those who like maths – fat loss is simply a spreadsheet. 

MyFitness Pal helps you understand your calories you intake (eat or drink) and those you burn (exercise) on top of your Basal Metabolic Rate (the rate at which you burn energy when doing pretty well nothing – the energy that your muscles and organs need on a daily basis. 

If you input your sex, age, height and weight it pretty accurately estimates your Basal Metabolic Rate (although if you’re really serious getting a DEXA scan is the gold standard). A tip when setting up the App I’d recommend is not to select a goal weight loss or weight gain, but to “maintain weight”, otherwise MyFitnessPal will set a basal energy level below (to loose weight) or above (to gain weight) your basal metabolic rate. 

Lets say you’re a 70kg male, your basal metabolic rate will be about 1700kcal / day. If you walk for an hour, you’ve burnt say 400kcal, and if you do half an hour of hard weights you’ve burnt another 300kcal. Lets say it was an adventurous day and you rode a bike for an hour, then you’ve burnt approximately another 700kcal. That means to stay in energy balance you would eat 3100kcal. However, if that is a day that you want to loose some fat, then you could choose to have a 1000kcal deficit (noting that 1kg of fat is approximately 7000kcal of energy). 

MyFitnessPal is really useful to understand the energy density of food. Lets say for that 70kg male they did no exercise on a particular day, but they had a triple scoop chocolate ice cream for a treat at lunch. That ice cream alone would be in the vicinity of 750kcal – nearly half of all the energy budget for the day! MyFitnessPal can scan the barcode on your food and if you know the portion size you’re having you can very accurately understand the calories and portions of carbohydrates, protein and fat (“macros”) you’ve ingested. This is such a widely used app, its index of food and portion sizes is unmatched, with a database of over 11 million foods and even a recipe importer that can track recipes that you use on the web. 

This App is a great way to understand energy in, energy out, how to better control or modulate your eating habits and the benefits of exercise to burning fat. It’s a fantastic starter to the journey of fat loss and weight maintenance. 

Strava

If your lifestyle changes are more focused on outdoor activities such as running, walking, hiking, cycling, or swimming, then Strava is the app for you. This free app used by 48 million people connects to a number of different wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, Samsung’s Galaxy Watches, and Google’s Wear OS watches. If you don’t have a wearable device, Strava also allows you to use your phone or a cycle computer. Strava’s main purpose is to act as a GPS, tracking your exercise journey as you go out cycling, swimming, running, or hiking. For an extra fee of $7.99 a month, you can get more features, such as real-time location sharing, route planning, goal setting, training logs, as well as maps of popular routes in your area. There’s also an extensive social media network connected to it where people can join challenges, connect with people on a similar workout journey, or even share photos of daily activities. 

Strava links with MyFitnessPal and the exercise that you log on Strava can instantly upload to MyFitnessPal so that you have an accurate idea of your energy use during the day.

For those a little more competitive (either internally with yourself, or with mates or anyone out there), people set up ‘segments’ on Strava and you can see how you have gone on any segment on any road or trail you have been on. Lets say you have a favourite little hill on your ride home most days. If you give it a crack you can see how you compare with your previous results, your personal best, other people who have done it on the same day, your mates and in fact compared with the best times ever. 

It’s an exercise logging app with a social and competitive element too!

Fooducate

This app does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s an incredible app that teaches you about weight loss, calories, and the importance of water intake, macros, and workouts. The app is an educational tool to tell you what kinds of food you should be buying on your diet and even goes so far as to recommend ingredients to buy from the grocery store. It even has a feature that allows you to scan food products to look at the pros and cons of purchasing the food. This allows you to make the best decision based on your health journey.

This article was originally published on LachlanSoper.com.au

Published by lachlansoper

Lachlan Soper lives in Mosman, Sydney, Australia as a caring general practitioner to his patients, a committed cyclist to his biking companions, and, most importantly, a father to his three beautiful children. With over two decades of experience as a doctor, he is continuously fascinated by medicine and the human body. Infusing a bit of his parenting style into his work, he takes the time to listen to his patients so that he can make informed and comprehensive management plans that link into their lifestyle and personal preferences.

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