In my post the other day about Calorie tracking and why it is important, I mentioned that I had recently switched from using My Fitness Pal to a new app called Evolve. I still used WFP as the worked example in the post of how to record your daily meals etc because it is the app that most people are familiar with, and, I would think, the industry leader. there are others: Nutracheck is, I believe very strong in the UK. The training app I was using when I was signed up with a coach had its own one. I haven’t tried the lesser known ones. Pretty much they all work in the same way: you select your foods from a database, or add in items that are not listed on a custom menu. Some of the allow you to use your phone to scan the barcodes of food packaging to enter its data – useful if you eat a lot of packaged foods, I suppose; if your diet is based on single ingredient items made from scratch, not so much. Pretty much all of them follow the same business model: you can use the basic version of the app for free or subscribe to the tiered paid levels, which open further functionality. These additional benefits tend to be variants on rating the healthiness of your food and giving your feedback on what you should be eating, which I can really live without. I have seen one which allows you to simply take photographs of your plate of food and it will analyse it from there. I have no idea how that works. My post-workout shake, for example looks pretty much the same whether I put just protein powder into it or add eggs, peanut butter and an avocado. How it calculates quantity is also beyond me.
In the past I have always stuck with My Fitness Pal and with the basic free version. It has done everything I need of it: record how many calories I have taken in, how my macros break down and how much I have left to hit my target each day. I haven’t really seen any need to upgrade to the paid versions because the added benefits have all seemed either a bit gimmicky to me, or unnecessary given I already have my nutritional requirements worked out.
MFP also allows you to track activity and, theoretically, calories burned during exercise, although I always think such trackers are rather blunt tools, and you are better off getting your TDEE right and sticking to that. Adding exercise calories into your daily allowance over and above your TDEE is usually a recipe for overeating.
On the whole though, MFP, even in its free version, does more or less everything I need of a calorie tracker and costs me nothing. So why have I switched? What is so great about Evolve?
well, I can answer that in two words: Voice Recognition.
With MFP and similar, part from when you are scanning the barcodes on your ready meals, you have to enter all your foods manually. Typing in the name of the food and selecting it from the database, or scrolling through your list of frequent foods and choosing the items.
With Evolve you have the option for voice activation. Basically you just press the single big green button on the screen and tell it what you have eaten. It is very like talking to Siri or Alexa or one of those smart voice activated devices. In fact the Evolve one is even called Eva. To be honest I have not found any need to address it by name yet.
To get a better idea of how this works, you can watch the rather twee Evolve demo video here.
How important is this? isn’t it just another gimmick? I have managed to resist buying into the Alexa/ Echodot technology thus far because I seldom find the need to ask an air freshener what the temperature is in Mumbai or add dog food to the shopping list. It’s damn hot in Mumbai and dog food is always on the shopping list. If my music playlists were available by voice activation it would be bloodshed in under ten minutes in my house with all three children trying to outshout each other to get their choice selected and I would hate all of them.
Well no. It is a total game changer. The whole key to tracking calories is being consistent with it. Well, the whole key to just about anything is consistency, but particularly calorie counting. If you record your breakfast and lunch but don’t enter what you had for supper then the day’s data is worthless. If you conscientiously enter all your meals but don’t have time to put in the snacks and coffees you have at work or when you are out and about during the day, then pretty quickly those discrepancies add up and you are out by more than enough to be missing your targets. The difficulty is that it takes quite a commitment to religiously enter every single thing you consume. It is time consuming to be typing the data in every time. I found it took me anywhere between a minute and five minutes to enter a meal into MFP, and while that may not sound like a lot of time, it is when you are at the dinner table with your family, or snatching a sandwich on the go for lunch (don’t be snatching sandwiches for lunch). The more difficult a thing is to do, the more likely you are to slip into skipping it a few times.
Conversely, of course, the easier a thing is to do, the more likely you are to stick to it. If entering your whole lunch takes seconds rather than minutes, it becomes a doddle keeping to your resolution of recording every meal. If all you have to do is tell your phone what you ate, it is no longer a chore or awkward to do, whether you are trying to hurry children to get ready for school (me, every morning), or with your besties in Nando’s (or at Quaglino’s, depending on your social circles) or at Sunday lunch with your mother in law (at least one thing I need never worry about again).
I made a resolution to track my calories properly about a month ago. I really should have been doing it every day throughout my six month bulk, and definitely need to be doing it when I start cutting in a few weeks time. While I was using MFP my tracking was sporadic verging on really poor, which as we know is utterly pointless. The reality of my life as a single parent and cramming work in means I am extremely time challenged around mealtimes in particular, though. Trying to find time to manually enter data every time I eat anything simply isn’t very realistic. Since I started using Evolve, however, I have managed to keep 100% on top of recording my diet, and it has not even felt like a chore.
It does not have the same degree of functionality as MFP, it doesn’t do activity tracking, it doesn’t advise you what your calories and macros should be (as far as I can tell) and it doesn’t have the whole online forum and wider platform deal that MFP does, but I don’t need it to do any of that stuff. All I want is an accurate record of my calories and macros, and indication in eat time of how much or each I have left in my daily target allowance. And I want it really easy to use. Which is what Evolve does brilliantly.
You can download Evolve free from the App Store. As far as I can tell, it is an entirely free app. It isn’t a limited function free version and you have to upgrade to the paid version to unlock all the functionality: it is genuinely free, gratis and fer nuthin’… also, this is not in any way a paid review. I have no connection with the makers of Evolve. They do make a pretty damn cool product, though, and it has absolutely revolutionised my food tracking, and I fully expect to achieve greater success in my dietary regime in future as a consequence. Try it.