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    Default Calorie Counter Showdown (Fat Secret vs. My Fitness Pal)

    This is my first attempt at a comparison, but hope this will be helpful to people (and future reference for myself).

    There are two Calorie Counter apps in the market that I've been testing out over the last month. One is by Fat Secret, and the other is by My Fitness Pal. Below I'll attempt to give an overview of both, and highlight the differences, pros, and cons of each. Keep in mind they are just my opinions.

    I will refer to Fat Secret's as "FS" and My Fitness Pal's as "MFP" for easy reference below.


    Cost: Both are free. Both have ads at the bottom of the screen.


    Profile Creation and Maintenance
    When you start up both apps, you are asked to create an account, enter your information (age, gender, current weight, height, activity level, and goals).

    Right away I noticed some differences. FS only allowed you to enter your age, while MFP let you enter your birthdate: essential if you use the app for more than a year, as intakes/recommendations change based on age: i.e. with FS you'd have to go in to edit your age every year. Probably not a big deal as one year doesn't make a huge difference, but still a minor annoyance.

    FS only has 5 goals available (maintain, lose or gain 1/2 lb/week, lose or gain 1 lb/week). MFP adds two more (lose 1.5 or 2 lbs/week).

    MFP also adds on Exercise goals (workouts/week and minutes/workout), which FS is missing.

    Finally, MFP allows you to select units (metric or english). While FS allowed me to enter my info in English, when I went to edit my profile, it had reverted back to metric.

    As for editing profile information or changing your goals, it is pretty straight forward in MFP. You either click the "profile" button at the top or go to Menu > More and it's easy to change.

    On the other hand, it took me awhile to find it in FS. You have to go to your food diary, scroll to the bottom and click on the "Daily Summary" to get there. Please note that I have not been able to find another way to get here (if there is, someone correct me), but it seems to be hidden. Again, all my profile stuff resets to metric for some reason in the FS app.

    Finally, I noticed one huge differences in the apps. I set both up for a goal to lose 1 lb/week and set my activity level to Low/Light active. MFP recommended I eat 2070 calories per day, while FS recommended 2500. I am not sure why this would be.

    Winner: MFP: With more options for goals, ability to put in birthdate instead of age, and easier access to edit your profile, I feel it wins this category


    Presentation
    FS has a white text on black background scheme, while MFP has a black text on white background theme. This would be individual personal preference.

    FS: When you first open the FS app, you see a screen with options to search, scan, a "quick pick" section with foods, restaurants, popular brands, and supermarket brands, and then your Food, Exercise and Diet and Weight Tracking Diaries:


    MFP: When you first open it, you are greeted with a big number for the remaining calories you have left for the day, a large "add to diary" button, as well as a summary, and then near the bottom a breakdown of your nutrients for the day. In the top-right are buttons for your diary for the day, to weigh in, and to get to your profile (if you are on the other screens you also see a "home" button to bring you back here)


    What is interesting is that FS has it's stuff broken down into Food Diary, Exercise Diary, and Diet Calendar (which combines the two), while MFP only has a "Diary" that is more of an all-in-one thing. As such, in MFP you can view your food and exercise all on one page, while in FS you have to skip between either the Food or the Exercise diary for the day (if you view your Diet Calendar, you are asked to choose which diary to view when you select the day).

    Winner: MFP: While the color scheme is personal preference I do feel the ability to view both your diet and exercise on the same screen, the "goals at a glance" on the home screen, and easier navigation in general beats out FS in this area.


    Diet/Calorie Tracking
    Entering food is relatively easy in both applications. You can save meals (if like me, you eat the same breakfast every day), or you can create exercise routines to quickly add the entire routine.

    Both allow you to enter Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snack items. MFP also has a "Water" section to track how much water you are drinking (although that can be added as an item in FS to a meal).

    However, there are some huge differences between the apps.

    EDIT: on 12/02, MFP added a barcode scanner, so much of what appears below is a bit out of date.

    First and foremost is the barcode scanner. FS has it. MFP does not. This is very very convenient when you can just scan what you are eating. MFP requires you to search for everything (although it does save your recent items for quick-picking)

    Secondly, FS has a "restaurant" and "brands" categories, which MFP is lacking. For example, you can select restaurants, and go to "R" and choose "Red Lobster" and then choose from Beverages, Chicken, Cocktails, Crab, etc." which is handy. While these items are also in MFP's database, it again requires you to search for the item (such as "Red Lobster Admiral's Feast")

    On the other hand, MFP breaks down each nutrient into RDI Total, Goals, and how much you have left (if you go over, that number turns red). I could not find anything like this in FS, other than counts of what you are consuming (but no RDI values besides calories). Using MFP, I was able to tell my sodium intake was consistently high, and I was low on my iron intake on a daily basis (getting less than 25% of the RDI). That was very helpful to identify deficiencies or area for improvement. On a personal note, iron deficiencies cause lethargic feelings and can attribute to lack of weight loss, despite exercise and diet...I have bought a multivitamin and feel much better than I was.

    I will also note that FS did NOT have my Centrum vitamin (although I only searched, didn't scan), nor my sin-food: Brusters ice cream in it...both of which are in MFP. Other than that, I've found the databases to be roughly even.

    Both apps allow you to add new foods.

    Winner: Draw: I am calling this a draw because the RDI values for your nutrients in MFP are actually useful. However, the lack of a barcode scanner really holds the app back and feel it's a feature that really differentiates FS. I guess it boils down to if you prefer the ease of a barcode scanner or more detailed nutrient information in your daily summary.


    Exercise Tracking
    This is an interesting area, and I'll detail the differences, starting with FS.

    FS starts each day with 16 hours of "Resting" and 8 hours of "sleep" with the associated calories burned. You can adjust these of course. When you add an exercise, you are asked to deduct that time from another activity, so you always end up with a 24 hour day.

    FS has a long list of exercises, and "not-so-much-exercise" activities. For example, it has activities for driving, desk work, sitting, shoveling, Yard Work, etc. This really helps you break down your day (if you're so inclined).

    However, it really lacks in gym exercises. It has things like Circuit Training, Conditioning, Weight training, and Exercise Machine (slow, moderate, and fast). But it really doesn't break it down further than that. Of course, selecting any allows you to enter the duration (although you don't see how many calories that burned until you save it, and you cannot edit the calories burned)

    MFP on the other hand handles it a bit different. Exercises are broken into "Cardio" and "Strength" sections. There are no options for "desk work" for example.

    The exercises themselves are MUCH more detailed than FS. Instead of a generic "exercise machine" like FS, it has the different machines, like arc-trainer, elliptical, spin cycle, etc. Selecting any allows you to enter the duration, which displays the calories burned (which you can then edit if you feel the need).

    For strength exercises, MFP really shines as well. Whereas FS only has "weight training" MFP allows you to select exactly which machines (or free weights), the reps, sets, and weights for each. This allows you to really track your workout routine (it even has Wii-Fit in there!)

    Both allow you to add exercises that are missing and create saved routines to add easily.

    Winner: MFP: I feel, the breakdown of exercises into non-generic categories really propels MFP ahead of FS in this department. While I feel the "24 hour tracking" of FS is neat, I really feel it's geared towards people who think that something like "driving" should be tracked for your diet.


    (Continued in my next post due to size limitations)
    Last edited by EvilMonkey; 01-04-2011 at 06:53 PM.
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  2. Thread Author  Thread Author    #2  

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    Online Component
    Both apps sync up to a web site (FatSecret.com and MyFitnessPal.com). Both sites allow you to enter your diet/exercise activity, both have a very active community with forums, advice, and challenges (not all safe/healthy). MFP offers Facebook/Twitter sharing, either automatically or manually when you finalize your journal for the day, but this has to be done on the site (not the app).

    Winner: Draw: Not much difference between the sites.

    Support
    I've contacted both developers. MFP to see if there are plans to add a barcode scanner, and FS to see if there are plans to expand the exercise library or add the ability to view RDI's for nutrients. Have not heard back from either.

    Winner: Draw: Developers for neither have replied, so I am not holding my breath for new features. I have not received any updates for either app since installing it about 6 weeks ago.

    EDIT: MFP added a barcode scanner on 12/02.



    CONCLUSION
    This is a tough call.

    The exercise tracking and RDI tracking of MFP is outstanding. However, the lack of a barcode scanner severely limits MFP and is a big advantage I feel FS has.

    Winner: MFP: This is based on my personal preferences and needs. The RDI tracking is very useful for me, and being able to really break my exercise/gym routine into the actual items I'm doing (instead of generic areas) is enough for me to use this over the other one.

    However, if all you want to do is track calories (regardless of exercise or RDI's of the different nutrients), the barcode scanner on FS should be enough to make you choose FS over MFP.

    It boils down to a preference of what you specifically want to use it for.
    Last edited by EvilMonkey; 01-04-2011 at 06:51 PM.
  3. #3  

    Default Re: Calorie Counter Showdown (Fat Secret vs. My Fitness Pal)

    Great post! I use MFP and love it. There has yet to be a food that I couldn't find in the database.

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  4. #4  
    KoukiFC3S's Avatar
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    I've been happy with Fat Secret, but I will give MFP a look.
  5. #5  
    Mike77's Avatar

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    I like the bar code scanning with fat secret alot, but it doesnt seem to have the summaries MFP does, switched to that.
  6. Thread Author  Thread Author    #6  

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    Just FYI to those using these that MFP now has bar-coding functionality (finally). That puts it ahead of FS, as far as I am concerned.
  7. #7  
    Zorro1's Avatar

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    And FS just unveiled a new interface, which just makes it a bit easier to use and navigate. I still like it for the calorie out aka exercise options. It's a lifestyle thing.
  8. #8  

    Default Re: Calorie Counter Showdown (Fat Secret vs. My Fitness Pal)

    Have you done a comparison with Lose It! ?

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