USA Triathlon News Blogs Fuel Station 6 Nutrition Apps Tri...

6 Nutrition Apps Triathletes Will Love

By Michelle Meinking | June 06, 2017, 2:03 p.m. (ET)

nutrition apps 

With countless nutrition apps available ranging from cooking tips to calorie counting, it can be overwhelming to find one that might be right for you. As many athletes know, being mindful of what you are consuming and fueling your body appropriately is crucial to performance. Nutrition apps can be useful tools to track nutrients and eating patterns. However, choosing the best one for you may be difficult given the endless availability of new apps. In selecting an app, it is important to recognize what you want the app to do for you. Do you want to track calories? Macronutrients? Meal timing? Diet quality? Or a little bit of everything? Other important factors to consider include accessing information that is easy to understand and finding user- friendly platforms.

To simplify this process for you, we chose six of our favorite apps, each offering unique features.

1. Nutrino: Nutrino is a food and exercise tracking app that allows you to monitor calories and macronutrients.
• 
Features: Connect to the Health app (iPhone) and wearable devices, add meal photos and times, set taste preferences, search recipes, receive daily nutrition tips and suggestions for eating out, log sleep, water, measurements and feelings
• Drawback: Tracking micronutrients is limited, only sodium and fiber available
• Cost: Free to $1.99/month
• Download: App Store, Google Play

2. DietHero: DietHero does not track calories and nutrients, but instead allows you to set weight goals and provides meal plans and recipes to help you reach those goals.
• 
Features: Generate recipes from food already in your kitchen, create personal shopping lists, set meal reminders and taste preferences
• Cost: $1.99
• Download: App Store

3. Coach Noom: Coach Noom matches you with a personal coach who provides you with guidance and feedback on your daily food and exercise log.
• 
Features: Food analysis tool assigns either red, yellow or green to each food based on caloric density, connect with other apps, easy-to-understand portion sizes
• Drawback: Food analysis tool may assign the color red to a calorically dense food, even though it may have many nutritional benefits (ex: almond butter)
• Cost: Free to $59.99/month
• Download: App Store, Google Play

4. MealLogger: MealLogger takes a different approach to food tracking. As opposed to counting calories and monitoring nutrients, you snap a picture of your meals/snacks and share it with others. 
• 
Features: MealLogger’s goal is to keep the fun and enjoyment in eating and encourage individual accountability by sharing meals with a community of members.
• Cost: Free
• Download: App Store, Google Play

5. Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal: Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal is a calorie and nutrient tracking app that is known for its ease and convenience.
• 
Features: Macronutrient and micronutrient tracking, barcode scanning, save meals or recipes for future logging, connect with other apps and wearable devices, community platform to share information and participate in challenges
• Cost: Free to $49.99/year
• Download: App Store, Google Play

6. Fooducate: Fooducate allows for tracking calories and exercise. This app not only tracks food quantity, but also quality. Each food item you log is given a grade A+ through D, based on ingredient quality.
• 
Features: Connect with the Health app, create personal recipes, barcode scanning, food ingredient explanations, track sleep, mood and hunger
• Cost: Free to $4.99/month
• Download: App Store, Google Play

When asking experts what they recommend when working athletes, USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach and sports dietitian Regina Hammond typically uses MyFitnessPal because, “it is updated often with features that save time for athletes. Logging food is a burden, which makes it challenging to ensure reporting is accurate. One of the key features I like about MFP is that you can fill out most of your food log in advance by copying and pasting meals from one day to the next.”

Although apps can be useful for tracking nutrition, it is also important to keep the disadvantages in mind. For instance, you should be aware that certain food items may have incorrect nutrient profiles, the app may miscalculate your personal needs, or key nutrients may be missing from food items or reports. Also, another concern is overusing nutrition apps: by either becoming too focused on the numbers rather than listening to your body or losing a sense of the joy and pleasure we derive from the eating experience.

“To be honest, I do not encourage or use apps with my nutrition athletes. I find that although nutrition apps can help some individuals stay more accountable to what they are eating and understand what they are eating, it can also make athletes become more obsessive and extreme with eating. Also, nutrition apps don't teach about personalized needs and how to understand hunger, cravings and specifics on nutrient timing,” said Marni Sumbal, USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach and sports dietitian. “Above all, nutrition apps can take the fun away from eating and meal planning and can cause athletes to create a dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship with food.” She instead advises the athlete to plan meals in advance and make adjustments as necessary, which allows for a more sustainable and pleasurable way of eating.

When athletes begin to focus too much on calories, they may choose less nutritious foods and that concerns for disordered eating may arise, Hammond explained. Instead, she said that food analysis software is key when monitoring athletes for any clinical nutrition concerns.

Deciding if a nutrition app may be beneficial for you is an individual choice based on personal desires and needs. Keep in mind both the advantages and disadvantages of using a nutrition app to find what works best for you. Ultimately, listening to your body and fueling properly is key to reaching peak performance.

Michelle MeinkingMichelle Meinking has a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and is currently obtaining her master’s in nutrition with a sports concentration at the University of Utah. Meinking has had several experiences within the athletic field including opportunities with the Green Bay Packers, University of Notre Dame and Chicago Cubs. Meinking enjoys helping athletes achieve their goals and reach optimal performance. To get in touch with Meinking, email meinking.michelle@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.