The phrase "there's an app for that" is pretty much a well-worn cliché at this point. But if you're trying to lose weight and stick to a diet, there's definitely an app for that—actually, there are hundreds. But not all of them work. In fact, many of them are based on shoddy research or advice from self-styled "experts" who don't actually know what they're talking about.
That said, apps can help some people lose weight. A 2019 paper published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth found that people who tracked their food daily using My Fitness Pal lost the most weight compared to those who used the app less diligently. Researchers found the combination of using a food diary and developing tailored goals were key in helping people lose weight.
“We have very strong evidence that consistent tracking—particularly of diet, but also one’s weight—is an essential element of successful weight loss,” study co-author Gary Bennett, a psychology professor at Duke University, explained to Futurity. “Consumers should look for apps that make it easy for them to track on a consistent basis.”
We’ve put together a list of the best weight loss apps on the market. They’ll help you hit your nutrition goals, get the most out of your workouts, and even keep you hydrated. However, people with a history of disordered eating may be triggered by counting calories or macronutrients. If you have experience disordered eating habits, it’s best to work with a registered dietitian to find a plan that works for you.
It doesn't matter what diet you're on, or what specific approach you're taking to losing weight: At the end of the day, success comes down to calories in vs. calories out. That's why we're such big fans of the MyFitnessPal app, which has a database of more than 1 million foods, complete with counts on calories, macros, and other nutrients. Don't know how many calories are in that turkey burger? MyFitnessPal can help you out. Plus, it can help you set the right weight loss goals based on your current weight, how much you want to lose, and your current exercise level.
Yeah, yeah, we all know the ’ol check-your-pee-color-to-see-if-you’re-hydrated test. But this app makes hitting your hydration goals (which are linked to your energy levels, workout capacity, and hunger levels) much easier, not to mention less gross.
“The Waterlogged app allows me to set reminders for myself at scheduled or random intervals to drink more water and keeps track of how well I am meeting my daily drinking goals,” says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia. “I try to shoot for drinking half of my body weight in ounces of water per day.”
Yes, this is a shameless plug, but we'd be remiss if we didn't include the Men’s Health app. It makes working out simple: You can search for routines based on the body parts you want to hit, or how much time and equipment you have. It also includes step-by-step video demonstrations of each move and monitors your rest periods. You don’t have to think about anything—just get to work!
(free with premium upgrades available for iOS, itunes.com)
When it comes to losing weight, diet and exercise are crucial, but to have any success, you can’t discount the importance of mental health, says Georgie Fear, R.D., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. For her clients who struggle with emotional or binge eating, Fear recommends Talkspace, which gives you access to professional counseling anywhere, anytime. Message your therapist 24/7 via text, voice, video.
Runkeeper offers tailored training programs based on your current fitness level and personal goals. It offers a look at your performance over time and syncs with fitness trackers like Garmin and Apple Watch.
(download is free, but premium services cost $39.99 annually for iOS, itunes, and play.google.com)
When you step on the scale, the number is a reflection of not just your true weight, but also your hormonal fluctuations and poop habits. “Happy Scale takes the fluctuations out of weight measurements and makes for a smooth curve, so guys are better able to gauge their true progress,” says board-certified family and bariatric physician Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. The app will even predict what you’ll weigh in the future if you keep up your current habits.
(free for iOS, itunes.com)
Your heart rate variability—a.k.a., the fluctuations in the amount of time between each heartbeat—is a marker of your body’s current stress levels and exercise recovery status. Too much fluctuation is a sign of fatigue, and BioForce HRV uses these measurements to determine how hard you should work out. “I've used this for years,” says Men’s Health Nutrition Advisor Mike Roussell, Ph.D. “It allows me to know how long and hard I should train that day based on the state of my nervous system.”
Many foods, such as protein bars or frozen dinners, masquerade as healthy options, even though they're actually anything but. Fooducate makes it easy to determine whether those quinoa crackers are actually healthier than a bag of chips. Its database of more than 250,000 items allows you to scan any food UPC label using your smartphone’s camera. It'll then give the product a letter grade, along with an explanation for why it is or isn’t healthy. The app will even provide a list of healthier options that are similar to the product you’re eyeing.
It can be tough for dieters to find healthy options when they're dining out. Using GPS technology, HealthyOut will compile a list restaurants in your area, along with recommended menu items for the health-conscious. It'll also provide additional tips for how to make the dish healthier, such as leaving croutons off a salad.
Deciding what to eat for dinner after a long day at work can be annoying for anyone. But factor in dietary restrictions, and meal time can become downright stressful. With Yummly, you can enter your dietary preferences (such as Paleo or Keto), favorite cuisines, and your cooking abilities to generate a list of recipes that will suit your taste buds and lifestyle preferences. You can also create shopping lists from your favorite recipes, so you'll never forget to buy anything at the grocery store.
Struggling to kick that late night snacking? Just can’t seem to wake up for those early am workouts? Letting go of bad habits is hard, and adopting healthy ones can seem brutal. Done aims to make both easier. Set goals, track your activity and progress, and set reminders to stay motivated throughout the day.
(free basic version for iOS, itunes.com)
Think of this app as a mashup of traditional food diaries, like MyFitnessPal, and instagram. Instead of weighing and logging food from the database, users upload photos of meals. YouAte stresses mindful eating, so you can record emotions to determine if stress led you to eating those afternoon donuts.
The KetoDiet app is a great resource for those following the high-fat diet. You’ll find recipes; food and body weight tracking; and a keto starter guide. There’s even a calculator to determine how much fat, protein, and carbs you should eat to stay in ketosis, or fat burning mode.
Perfect for staying fit while traveling, ClassPass Go offers audio-based workouts. Just choose a workout type, like HIIT, strength, running. Then pick your skill level: beginner, intermediate or advanced. Workouts start at just five minutes for those who don’t have time for a full gym session.
($7.99 a month for iOS, itunes.com)
Another photo-based food diary, this app lets you post photos of meals and snacks to help you monitor portion sizes, and prevent excess snacking and overeating. Opt for the premium version and get feedback from a nutrition coach.