If you’ve ever had any interest in food logging, you’ve almost assuredly heard of MyFitnessPal (and you’ve probably used MyFitnessPal). It’s the biggest game in town, for good reason – MyFitnessPal was one of the first food logging apps on the market, and it has maintained a pretty high-quality free service tier for years. However, the cracks have started to show within the past few months. Their recent dashboard rollout was polarizing (many users perceived it as a play to insert more ads – and more intrusive ads – into their day-to-day experience with the app), and they recently announced that barcode scanning would soon become a paid-only feature. This move has encouraged many long-time users to check out other options. In this article, I’ll compare MacroFactor vs MyFitnessPal head to head and explain why MacroFactor should be high on your radar in your search for an alternative to MyFitnessPal.
Before this article gets rolling, I figure I should address the elephant in the room. I’m part of the team behind MacroFactor, and therefore not a completely unbiased third party. However, that also means I’m incentivized to understand the strengths and weaknesses of MacroFactor and all of its main competitors: if we didn’t think our product could offer more value than MyFitnessPal, there would have been little reason to release MacroFactor in the first place. By the end of this article, I think I can convince you to give MacroFactor a shot.
First, I’ll discuss the areas where MacroFactor has a clear leg up on MyFitnessPal (and virtually every other nutrition app), followed by the things that some people might miss about MyFitnessPal after making the switch to MacroFactor, and then I’ll finish up with the reasons why MacroFactor is the safest bet when looking toward the future.
Advantages of MacroFactor
There are three key areas in which MacroFactor is a clear upgrade over MyFitnessPal:
- Food logging speed: MacroFactor has the fastest food logging workflows on the market.
- Database accuracy: The foods in MacroFactor’s database have been verified for accuracy, so you can trust that the calorie and macronutrient information for the foods you log is correct.
- Dietary intake recommendations: MacroFactor’s dynamic coaching algorithms and weekly macro plan adjustments ensure that your nutrition targets remain in line with your goals.
Food logging speed
In any food logging application, the thing you’ll do the most often is…log food. The thing is, most people don’t actually like logging their food. As such, we figured it made sense to build the most frictionless food logging system possible, so you can log your meals in the shortest amount of time and with the fewest clicks or taps possible.
So, we devised a quantitative system to evaluate the speed and efficiency of every food logger on the market, and made note of every tap that could be shaved away. Then, we built a food logging system that could top all competitors. As a result, MacroFactor has the most efficient food logging workflows of any app on the market. Across the four most common ways users log food – via barcode scanning, search, multi-add, and quick-adding calories and macros – it takes about 1.5x more discrete actions to log foods in MyFitnessPal than in MacroFactor.
If you consistently log your food, using more efficient food logging workflows will noticeably cut down on the amount of friction you experience each time you log a meal or snack. This may seem like a small quality-of-life upgrade, but it adds up.
Imagine if you had to click through several extraneous screens or dialog boxes every single time you wanted to read or send a text – I suspect you’d find it needlessly frustrating. That’s how it will feel to look back on MyFitnessPal’s food logging workflows once you get used to MacroFactor’s food logger.
MyFitnessPal’s biggest selling point is its enormous food library…but that’s both a blessing and a curse. You’ll be able to find most of the foods you’d like to log via search or barcode scanning in MyFitnessPal, but the quality of many food entries leaves a lot to be desired. MyFitnessPal primarily has an unverified, user-submitted food database. When a user creates a new food and enters erroneous nutrition information, that erroneous food entry will be added to the database. So, while MyFitnessPal’s database does contain nearly any food someone might want to log, finding the entry with correct nutrition information might require a considerable amount of hunting and sifting through erroneous or duplicate entries to find the diamond in the rough, which can add further time and frustration to the food logging process. Alternately, you might accidentally wind up logging lots of foods with erroneous nutrition information, which makes your data messy and less useful for guiding nutrition-related planning and decisions.
MacroFactor takes a different approach. When it comes to our food database, we value both quantity and quality, but with an emphasis on quality.
Foods in MacroFactor’s database come from two sources: highly vetted research databases, and verified user-submitted entries.
With verified food databases, user submissions are all checked for accuracy by other humans before the foods are added to the public database. As a result, the number of duplicate foods is dramatically reduced, and the number of foods with erroneous nutrition information is dramatically reduced.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll readily admit that you can occasionally find foods with erroneous nutrition information in MacroFactor’s database, but they’re few and far between. Most of the time, the errors are small, and are the simple result of product reformulation. In other words, a particular food may have previously had 200 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving, but it now has 210 calories and 9 grams of fat per serving after the manufacturer tweaked its formulation. There will be a bit of lag time between the moment of reformulation, and the moment at which the food entry is updated in the database. But, in general, erroneous food entries are rare enough and contain errors small enough that I rarely feel the need to be vigilant about checking entries for accuracy when logging food in MacroFactor.
Even with these quality standards in place, MacroFactor still has a very large food database containing more than 1,150,000 verified items with robust macro- and micronutrient reporting.
Dietary intake recommendations
This is the main differentiator between MacroFactor and other nutrition apps (including MyFitnessPal): MacroFactor’s dynamic coaching algorithms ensure that your nutrition targets will actually be appropriate for your goals.
This article discusses this point in considerable detail, but here’s the short version:
When you set a goal in MyFitnessPal, it will estimate how many calories you burn per day based on basic information, such as your height, weight, age, sex, and activity level. From there, it will determine how many fewer calories or how many additional calories you should consume per day to gain or lose weight at your desired rate. Simple enough, right?
This is an incredibly reasonable approach for calculating calorie targets when you don’t have much information about someone. It’s the same general process MacroFactor uses to determine your initial calorie targets. However, this process also has two notable drawbacks.
First, it can result in initial calorie targets that differ considerably from someone’s true caloric needs. The static equations used to estimate energy expenditure (and therefore maintenance calories) have the potential to generate pretty sizable errors. The typical error is approximately 300-350 calories per day – in other words, this is a good process for generating energy intake targets that should be within the right general ballpark, but you shouldn’t expect this process to generate bang-on energy intake targets for most people. This article goes into the nitty gritty details, if you’re interested.
Second, we know that energy needs change over time as activity levels change, or as someone gains or loses weight via metabolic adaptation. As far as I’m aware, MyFitnessPal’s calorie targets don’t adjust over time to adequately account for metabolic adaptation, and their process for accounting for changes in exercise and activity levels runs counter to the research on the topic.
In short, many people will find that MyFitnessPal’s initial calorie targets are either too high or too low for their goals, and most people will likely find that MyFitnessPal’s calorie targets get less and less appropriate over time as they gain or lose weight.
MacroFactor’s system works very differently, to ensure that your calorie recommendations are appropriate for your goals. Instead of merely hoping that a static equation will generate appropriate energy intake targets, we consistently analyze your weight and nutrition data over time to ensure that your energy intake targets are appropriate for your goals.
Here’s a simplified example using some nice, round numbers: let’s assume that you burn 2500 calories per day, and you’re aiming to lose a pound per week (thus requiring an energy deficit of around 500 calories per day, and an energy intake target of 2000 calories per day).
When you initially set up your goal in both MyFitnessPal and MacroFactor, both apps might estimate that you’ll burn 2750 calories per day, based on the demographic details you enter during onboarding, and thus recommend that you consume 2250 calories per day to achieve your target rate of weight loss.
With MyFitnessPal, there is no “next step.” You’ll initially lose about half a pound per week, and your weight loss will eventually plateau as metabolic adaptation sets in, and your daily energy expenditure decreases. MyFitnessPal does decrease your calorie targets as you lose weight, but these adjustments still assume that you burn the average number of calories predicted by your general demographic characteristics. So, if MyFitnessPal overestimated or underestimated your energy needs at the start of a diet, it will continue to overestimate or underestimate your energy needs as the diet progresses.
With MacroFactor, our algorithms will see that when you consume 2250 calories per day, you’re losing weight slower than you’d like to. As a result, your estimated energy expenditure will decrease, and your calorie target will decrease at your next weekly check-in to ensure that your calorie targets are actually appropriate for your goals. As metabolic adaptation sets in, your daily energy expenditure may decrease further – your rate of weight loss at a particular calorie intake will decrease. Once again, MacroFactor will recognize this change, and decrease your energy intake targets accordingly. Conversely, if your activity levels meaningfully increase, your rate of weight loss at a particular calorie intake will increase. MacroFactor will recognize the change, and increase your energy intake targets accordingly.
This same logic applies to the opposite scenario. If you burn more calories than would be predicted by your basic demographic characteristics, MyFitnessPal and MacroFactor will both initially recommend a level of energy intake that’s a bit too low for you. Since MyFitnessPal’s recommendations lack a robust self-correcting mechanism, your energy intake targets will remain too low, resulting in daily calorie targets that may be unsustainable if you’re trying to lose weight, or daily calorie targets that are simply too low to result in weight gain if you’re trying to gain weight. With MacroFactor, our algorithms will see that you’re either losing weight faster than you’d like, or gaining weight slower than you’d like, and thus increase your daily calorie targets to appropriate levels.
In short, MacroFactor’s algorithms are inherently self-correcting to ensure that your calorie targets are always in line with your goals. MyFitnessPal has no such system. MacroFactor uses all of the weight and nutrition information you log to personalize your calorie intake targets, much like a nutrition coach would. In MyFitnessPal, there is no personalization. You’re reduced to your basic demographic information, with the hope that a very rough estimate of your energy needs will be “good enough” for the duration of your time in the app.
Advantages of MyFitnessPal
While MacroFactor’s hyper-efficient food logging workflows and weekly nutrition adjustments may be enough to win you over, MyFitnessPal also has a few advantages over MacroFactor that are worth acknowledging:
- Database size
- Social utilities
- Pricing (for free users)
It’s no secret that MyFitnessPal has the largest food database of any nutrition app. As mentioned previously, this is both a blessing and a curse: you can find an entry for virtually any food you’d want to log, but you might need to wade through half a dozen entries with erroneous nutrition facts before finding the food entry with accurate nutrition information.
However, there will certainly be situations where you can find a food in the MyFitnessPal database but not the MacroFactor database. Most users from the US, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand may not notice much of a difference – MacroFactor has really solid barcode and branded product coverage in all of those countries – but users in most other countries will be able to find considerably more local products in MyFitnessPal than MacroFactor.
This difference in branded product coverage may not matter much to you. If you live in the Anglosphere, you don’t have much to worry about. If you live outside of the Anglosphere, but you mostly eat foods prepared from fresh ingredients, you still may not notice much of a difference (the nutrition facts for an onion, an apple, a chicken breast, or a bowl of rice are basically the same everywhere in the world). However, if you live outside of the Anglosphere, and you regularly consume a lot of packaged, branded food items, you’re likely to appreciate MyFitnessPal’s larger food database.
I will note that MacroFactor’s custom food creation process is smooth and efficient, even allowing you to associate a barcode with custom foods for easier logging in the future, and we allow you to quick-add nutrition data for foods in circumstances where you don’t want to create a custom food (you might even find that it’s quicker to create custom foods in MacroFactor than to sift through erroneous entries in MyFitnessPal), but I certainly understand if the size of MyFitnessPal’s food database is a strong enough selling point to justify sticking with them.
Unlike MyFitnessPal, MacroFactor doesn’t have a social feed or in-app messaging. It appears that these features aren’t incredibly popular in MyFitnessPal (as evidenced by MyFitnessPal’s decision to replace the social feed with a dashboard as the user’s home screen), but I’m sure some users appreciate these social features. There aren’t similar features in MacroFactor, and we have little interest in adding these features any time in the foreseeable future. As social media permeates more and more of everyday lives, we figure most people don’t want their food logger to function as an additional social media platform.
Otherwise, MyFitnessPal’s and MacroFactor’s feature sets stack up quite well. They have some features we don’t have (for example, homescreen widgets and an HTML recipe importer), and we have some features they don’t have (for example, advanced weight trending functionality and much more robust micronutrient reporting). They have a few more bells and whistles, while we have more features that are indispensable for folks who are really serious about pursuing their nutrition-related goals.
MacroFactor vs MyFitnessPal Pricing
When comparing MacroFactor vs MyFitnessPal premium, MacroFactor stacks up very well. You simply get more total functionality for less money (MacroFactor is $11.99 per month or $71.99 per year; MyFitnessPal premium is $19.99 per month or $79.99 per year, as of the time of writing). However, when comparing MacroFactor vs MyFitnessPal’s free version…well, it’s hard to be more inexpensive than “free.”
However, there are reasons you might want to pay for a service when a free version of the same service exists. TV is a great example. You can get local channels for free, but most people still pay for cable or for access to streaming platforms for better and more numerous content options, and fewer (or no) commercials. Similarly, plenty of people pay for a gym membership when they could get in a great workout at home with just their body weight.
Ultimately, I think most people are hesitant to pay for a food logger because they see food logging as a chore (at best). Who wants to pay to do chores? I also don’t think that perception is undeserved. Most food loggers are effectively just digital notebooks: they let you log your data, but they leave you the task of figuring out what to do with it. Furthermore, most “premium-only” features feel like a rip-off – you’re already logging your data, but certain analytics are paywalled. The app is asking you to pay for the honor of seeing your own data.
Our approach and outlook are different. People pay for a gym membership because there are tangible benefits of training at a gym that you can’t easily replicate at home; you can do more exercises because there’s more equipment available, you can do cardio inside when it’s too hot or pouring rain, etc. We view MacroFactor similarly. You can log your food anywhere, but we provide analytics, insights, and recommendations to help you reach your goals, that would otherwise require you to invest considerably more effort (investing a lot of time into learning about nutrition, human metabolism, and data analysis to generate your own nutrition targets and weekly adjustments) or money (i.e. paying $100+ per month for nutrition coaching).
In other areas of your life that matter to you, I’m sure you base your purchasing decisions on more than simply evaluating, “what’s the cheapest option?” If your nutrition-related goals matter to you, it may be worth considering whether you want the best product, or just the cheapest product. In a world of free alternatives, we want MacroFactor to be an app that’s actually worth paying for.
The Future of MacroFactor vs MyFitnessPal
To close things out, let’s talk about incentives. This may seem like a strange note to end on, but I think it’s a logical choice. Switching between food loggers is a relatively painful process. You need to learn new logging workflows, you need to re-create recipes and custom foods, and you might want to re-log old data. So, it’s worth asking yourself, “which app can I see myself using 5-10 years from now?” That’s where incentives come in.
Ultimately, businesses exist to make money. I’m not going to pretend that MacroFactor is a philanthropic endeavor. However, it’s worth considering how MacroFactor makes money, and how MyFitnessPal makes money.
MacroFactor is a premium-only app, competing against a slate of freemium apps (like MyFitnessPal). The most obvious way for us to gain more users – and make more money – is to continually improve our product. We can’t really compete for eyeballs against companies with multi-million dollar ad budgets, so most of our growth comes from word-of-mouth.
How do you get more word-of-mouth? Make a product that people want to tell their friends and family about.
How do you keep people subscribed when they could switch to a free alternative? Make the product so good that they don’t want to leave.
What about cutting costs? We already run a lean operation, so cutting costs would mean cutting quality, and cutting quality would mean losing users.
What about raising prices? Again, when we’re competing against “free,” we strongly suspect that raising prices would be a bad move.
Realistically, there’s only one way forward: keep making a better product. Our business model simply doesn’t allow for many other options.
In short, our business model ensures that our interests are fully aligned with the interests of our users. They want the best app possible, and our only realistic path to continued success is to make the best app possible. And our actions back up this point: just peruse our release notes for this past year. You’ll see a strong, consistent track record of regularly shipping new features, marked improvements, and clear quality-of-life upgrades for our users. You can also see what we have planned for the future (and vote on the features you’d most like to see) on our public roadmap.
With MyFitnessPal…I think you can deduce their incentives from their track record. In just the past few years, they’ve raised the price on their premium subscription, paywalled more and more features away from free users, and have made ads more and more intrusive (including unskippable, full-screen video ads).
For an app like MyFitnessPal, acquiring new users is fairly easy – you have a free service and unmatched name recognition, after all. You primarily make more money by convincing more users to sign up to a premium account. With multiple service tiers, you don’t need to develop that many new features; you can increase the perceived value of your premium tier by taking features away from the free tier, and by making ads more and more intrusive (such that removing ads is seen as providing value, instead of simply removing an annoyance). Of course, not all of the incentives are insidious. MyFitnessPal could also make more money by further improving its premium service tier (to thus improve retention), for example. However, the incentives are certainly mixed: they can deliver a lackluster experience to users and still be very successful. In fact, treating free users too well is actively disincentivized – users need to have a reason to upgrade to the premium tier, after all.
If past is prelude, you should have every reason to expect that MyFitnessPal will be the same basic product in five years, with minimal innovation for premium users and more friction and more paywalled features for free users. Conversely, you should have every reason to expect that MacroFactor will be a fundamentally better product next year, five years from now, and into the foreseeable future.