I have been doing a bit of a whole self experiment to see how I could do more tracking. It feels a little like Biohacking but it is much more subtle.
I have been tracking my calories in using the app and website My Fitness Pal and at the same time I have gotten myself a FitBit Charge HR so that I can track my calories expended as well as my heart rate, sleep, and number of steps and floors done on a daily basis.
First My Fitness Pal
You have likely heard of My Fitness Pal before. It is a site that not only offers articles and other blog like infomration but also, I think more importantly, tracks your food with calories and nutrition.
To me it is interesting to see the number of calories eaten but it is also great to break down my protein, carbs, and fats. Also I track sodium and vitamin and mineral levels with the app and it has worked really well for seeing a lot of interesting food choices that I make.
This is what My Fitness Pal looks like on the Desktop
One of the early things that I found was that my eating was actually lower protein than I thought and that for many of my meals I was still overeating while other meals were a lot lower calories than I thought.
I can probably stand to eat less. I am a big snacker, but My Fitness Pal was also telling me that all those fruits and vegetables that I snack on throughout the day are very low in calories even when eaten in pretty big amounts.
I find that adding the foods is really easy in My Fitness Pal and I can either search through the online database and add a food easily or even scan a barcode with my phone and have it show up.
Also you get to break down breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as all your snacks so that it is easy to see what parts of your day are higher calorie than others.
Be aware of the serving size though. Just like anywhere else the serving size that you see in the app and the serving size the you actually eat may be different.
Add in A Fitbit Charge HR
Around the same time that I started using My Fitness Pal I also finally got myself a FitBit Charge HR.
The difference with this fitbit is that although it is still tracking steps like all of these different trackers do, this Fitbit Charge HR also tracks my heart rate, my sleep amount and patterns, and also links up my exercise level (doing some interpolation) right over to My Fitness Pal
This is what the sleep tracking as well as the exercise tracking looks in Fitbit
I have been using the Fitbit Charge HR for a few weeks now and it is great for letting me know exactly how much exercise I am getting so late in the day regardless of whether I have worked out of not I can at least see if I have had enough walking done.
Be aware though that the number of steps and calories burned may not be exact but over time you will be much more aware of how much exercise you are getting and what difference that exercise is doing for you.
Finally there is also a very vibrant Fitbit community online on both Reddit and on Facebook and these spots are great for tips, training ideas, and motivation.
There is a very social gamification with Fitbit where you can join in with others for a kind of challenge where you can compare yourself to your online friends to see how they are doing compared to you.
Fitness and exercise can often be lonely so having a little bit of extra motivation from others, even strangers, if a great thing to help you improve and keep going.
Putting My Fitness Pal and Fitbit Together
Now is where the magic sauce is for me. If you tracking your eating you are going to do great. If you track your exercise you are also going to do great.
Here you can see the addition of the calories added from Fitbit to My Fitness Pal
But the real advantage of both of these tools together is that you can track the food you are eating, those calories, and overlay your calories burned to give you a daily in and out total.
The knowledge of knowing what you eat and what you burned means that if you eat a banana you will know how much it took to burn that banana.
If you eat a meal at Wendys it will also give you an idea of what that decision is doing to you healthwise.
I hate to ever be the guy scolding people and judging their diet but I find that when people are eating fast food they will think, as I have on occasion, that it is a cheat meal and it will just take a bit of exercise to recover. Well that is not exactly true.
It will take a lot to recover from a burger, fries and a giant pop!
So when you are going through your day and syncing your Fitbit either automatically or on demand like I do what Fitbit does if you link correctly is to push the calories burned from your walking over to My Fitness Pal.
When those calories show up you will get more calories to eat for the day and be able to see how many calories you have burned and how much that burger and fries affected your total calories for the day.
One of the great things I find between these two apps is that Fitbit and My Fitness Pal are both available on iPhone as well as Android for mobile and each also has a website full of tips as well.