Apps track foods, fitness — even your daily water supply

For Miami Herald. 

To escape the tedious task of calorie counting by pen and paper, Mike Lee, a programmer who wanted to shed some pounds for his beach wedding, created the nutrition tracker, MyFitnessPal.

Ten years later, MyFitnessPal has helped 75 million users lose 180 million pounds.

Among them is Andrea Ceballos, a Zumba fitness instructor, who has lost 80 pounds thanks to her love for Zumba and the MyFitnessPal app on her iPhone and iPad.

The South Miami resident, originally from the Dominican Republic, was overweight when she moved to Miami five years ago. Zumba helped her lose some of the weight, but she needed more.

“Every time I lost about 20 pounds I plateaued,” said Ceballos, who teaches about 12 classes a week. “And that’s when I started to realize unless I changed my eating habits I wasn’t going to lose any further. That’s when MyFitnessPal came along and helped me.”

The app keeps track of the nutritional value of about four million food items while also tracking a user’s exercise. It has the option to sync with 60 other apps like Fitbit Tracker, MapMyFitness and Garmin Connect.

Here then are our picks for the best nutrition and fitness apps.

Strava

Michael Horvath and Mark Gainey had one goal when they developed the GPS tracking fitness app Strava in 2009 — to connect friends through fitness.

“Strava was founded on the principle of being able to share your workouts and keep in touch with friends,” said Michael Oldenburg, senior communications manager at Strava.

By tracking running and cycling activities, the app shows users a map of exactly where they went during their workout and what they’ve accomplished. Their progress can then be viewed by friends who can comment and reward them with virtual high fives.

With more than a million active members, Strava users have traveled 1.74 billion miles and climbed 95.4 billion feet — the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest three million times.

Fitocracy

Working out is very similar to leveling up in a video game.

At least that’s what two self proclaimed “fitness geeks” thought when they came up with the original concept of Fitocracy, a coaching app that builds different workout routines for their users.

“It’s very similar in terms of the mechanics where you’re putting in the effort, taking on multiply challenges and seeing yourself improve as a result,” said Brian Wang, co-founder and CEO of Fitocracy.

They wanted to gamify the workout experience by implementing a point system and allow users to take part in challenges and quests.

Over the years, the app has evolved into a personal coaching platform. Users can hire an online professional personal trainer that personalizes workout and nutrition plans, offers feedback and analysis and motivates.

“Guidance and support are really, really critical for the success and positive outcomes,” said Wang, who became interested in fitness when he realized that playing video games in high school turned him into a “skinny nerd.”

Jefit

Starting a workout plan may be intimidating for many people.

That’s where Jefit, a workout tracker, comes in.

“Essentially our application is a personal trainer in your pocket,” said Robert Rogo, a developer for the app.

The app, which was developed four years ago, has an extensive database of exercises and routines.

More than two million users created a free profile and then were given a basic workout routine where they entered their reps and how many sets they’ve done.

The app also tracks the resting time between each rep, letting users know when to begin another set.

“Jefit follows you through each exercise as you progress through a workout,” said Rogo. “It helps new people get into the workout or helps experienced people keep track and see new progress goals.”

Fooducate

Fooducate, an extensive database of food and calorie counts, is a website and app that aims to improve the health of people through knowledge.

The app has helped millions of people learn what’s really in their food and lose weight by tracking the quality of their calories.

Users can enter or scan the bar code on food found on store shelves and fooducate will grade the item based on an algorithms developed by nutrition professionals and dietitians. The grade is based on the concept of nutrient density of foods. The more nutrient dense a food is, the better it is for you. (Think foods with fiber and complex carbohydrates.)

Waterlogged, WaterLog, Water Your Body, Hydro Coach and Daily Water

Drinking the right amount of water is essential to health, but many people don’t drink enough water while others drink too much water. Water-tracking apps can solve that problem.

There are a number of apps for tracking water available on the iTunes store or the Android play store.

Most of them allow users to set alerts or goals and have good graphics to show visually if users are hydrating themselves properly.

Zombies, Run!

Sometimes running the same route can be a drag, especially for those new to the sport, but with an app like Zombies, Run! workouts become a means of survival.

In this app, runners turn their route into a post-apocalyptic survival audio adventure game where they can escape zombies and join other online heroes.

As runners begin their trek, the app takes control of the phone’s sound and introduces them to the game’s story. During set intervals, the app alerts players they are being chased by zombies and then they must increase their running speed to avoid being captured.

“I always wanted to make a running game for a long time,” said Adrian Hon, co-founder and CEO of Six to Start, who noticed there weren’t a lot of running games for mobile phones at the time. “I found that to be a bit strange.”

Hon set out to change that by developing Zombies, Run! Today, the zombie simulator has sold more than one million copies and has 40 million kilometers tracked, which is equivalent to running around the world 1,000 times.

Strong

Keeping track of weight, sets and reps is an annoying task for gym-goers but with the iOS app, Strong, tracking becomes effortless.

The app takes simplicity to another level by giving users the ability to create easy custom workout plans that can be archived and repeated at a finger’s touch.

After logging a workout, the app records the information and stores it until the exercise is repeated, where it then displays next to the current session.

Strong also categorizes users’ data into a detailed list that makes beating a personal record visual.

MapMyFitness

MapMyFitness is a comprehensive activity tracker that allows users the ability to log more than 600 workouts, including running, cycling and hiking.

The app uses the built-in GPS on mobile phones to track, graph and compare the user’s activity. The fitness tracker also utilizes social media, allowing users to share and compare their progress with friends and online leaderboards in hopes of earning virtual achievements.

It also integrates with various apps and tracking devices like MyFitnessPal, FitBit and Nike, giving users the ability to monitor heart rate, sleep patterns and nutrition.

MapMyFitness is free to download but display ads and locks some content out for those who have not subscribed to the app’s “MVP” $5.99 a month or $29.99 a year service.

Nike + Running GPS

For those who enjoy a friendly competition, the Nike+ Running GPS app is perfect. Like many GPS trackers, the app allows people to track running routes, distance, pace, time and calories. Users can receive personalized coaching and real-time audio feedback.

But what makes it fun for many users is the ability to compete with friends or other users on the Nike leaderboard, a scoreboard showing which users ran the most miles.

The app also gives users the ability to attach photos and share them across social media channels. Users take photos, attach their stats or which route they took and use a popular hashtag that Nike suggests.

 

MYFITNESSPAL

Type: Calorie counter, diet and exercise journal

Available: iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry and web

Features: Large database with about four million food items

Cost: Free

For more info: myfitnesspal.com

STRAVA

Type: Running and Cycling Tracker

Available: iPhone, Android, and Web

Special Features: More than 1 million active members. Integrates with MyFitnessPal and synchronizes with GPS trackers from Garmin, Suunto, Timex, TomTom and Soleus.

Cost: Free but has a premium subscription service.

For more info: strava.com

FITOCRACY

Type: Workout and coaching

Available: iPhone, Android, web

Features: Build and tracks workouts, offers coaching services, motivation through games

Cost: Free app comes with workouts and community; coaching starts at $1 per day.

For more info: fitocracy.com

JEFIT

Type: Workout and fitness tracker

Available: iPhone, Android, and web

Features: Extensive databases, personalized workouts and 2 million user community.

Cost: Free version, pro version for $4.99 or elite version for $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year.

For more info: jefit.com

FOODUCATE

Type: Nutrition and food tracker

Available: iPhone and Android

Features: Barcode scanner, extensive database of food items and grading system.

Cost: Free

For more info: fooducate.com

WATERLOGGED, WATERLOG, WATER YOUR BODY, HYDRO COACH AND DAILY WATER

Type: Water intake tracker

Available: iPhone, Android

Special Features: Charts and graphs and the ability to set reminders, alerts and goals.

Cost: Most are free.

For more info: Check the iTunes store or the Android play store.

STRONG

Type: Workout Tracker

Available: iPhone

Special Features: Simple way to log, keep track and refer back to workouts.

Cost: Free but includes add-on content that costs extra such as Themes, Graphs, Plate Calculator, Unlimited Workouts.

For more info: strongapp.me

NIKE + RUNNING GPS

Type: Running Tracker

Available: iPhone, Android and Web

Special Features: Nike leaderboard, a scoreboard showing which users ran the most miles. Also, can attach photos and share across social media channels.

Cost: Free

For more info: www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/running/nikeplus/gps-app#1

MAPMYFITNESS

Type: Fitness, Running, Cycling, Walking and Hiking Tracker

Available: iPhone, Android, Blackberry limited support and Web

Special Features: Map routes, track over 600 workouts and active online community.

Cost: Free but has a premium subscription service.

For more info: mapmyfitness.com

ZOMBIES, RUN!

Type: Running Tracker

Available: iPhone, Android, and Web

Special Features: Run while being chased by zombies and listening to an interactive story.

Cost: $3.99 and app also sells add-on seasons and content.

For more info: zombiesrungame.com

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