Step one at the four apps I’ve picked to check out is to see how much help they’ll give me in setting goals. If I don’t have a clue how many calories I should be downing or how much fat is too much (or too little), then what do I learn from listing my foods (ok, the four pints of Ben & Jerry’s might be obvious)? And how consistent are the numbers from app to app. So I went in to set up my personal information on each one. I chose to say I wanted to “maintain” weight (smirk) to avoid getting “diet” numbers.
Calorie Counter, which is allied with FatSecret and is one of the more popular apps on the iPhone and iPad, didn’t give me any recommendations. I was able to put in my height, weight, and age but I had to come up with goals on my own. It’s possible that syncing with the web site, http://www.fatsecret.com, would have done more for me but I’m trying to stick strictly to the app versions.
I went to SparkPeople next. I’ve been to their web site before and found it massively confusing, with ads galore, and lots of flashing widgets and links. The app is much more cleanly laid out, although I could do without the inspirational “quote of the day.” After putting in my stats, it recommended a broad calorie range for me, 1500-1850, calories. Rather mysteriously, it made comments about what kind of exercise was scheduled for the day, telling me that “No cardio is scheduled for today.” Too bad I hadn’t seen that before I did cardio, huh! And on the daily food page, it did give recommended–again in broad strokes–ranges for carbs, fat, and protein but didn’t explain that those numbers were for grams of each, not calories, which could be confusing: darn hard to eat only 33 calories of fat, no matter how “good” I’m being.
Next stop was Calorie 1. I had to reset this once because it didn’t save my info from the first time I put it in. When I did get the right stats in, I got a very specific calorie recommendation, 1687, but it took me some time to find the goals for other nutrients and somewhat strangely, I thought, it gave numbers for fat but not for carbohydrates or protein although there was room to enter that myself.
Livestrong and Calorie 1 must be using the same calorie formula (and I suspect Calorie 1 might have been an earlier version of Livestrong–too many similarities of style) because I was again, at Livestrong, given a very specific number: 1686. Somebody’s rounding down and somebody up, no doubt. And while this number is lower than what I get when I figure my own based on the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, both sites figure the difference between calories and net calories in their math, subtracting calories expended in exercise (but not in “activities of daily living”). I find this a bit dangerous, since computing calories burned is a tricky science. Nowhere does the Livestrong app mention fat, carbs, and protein but maybe once I start entering foods, that will pop up.
Not much to conclude from this, except that on first look, Calorie Smart doesn’t seem to give as much guidance as the other three, SparkPeople stays comfily vague, and Calorie 1 and Livestrong are perhaps too paternalistically prescriptive. Round one: no clear winner but I’m dumping Calorie 1 as being too much like Livestrong.