Memorial Day is fast approaching, and we're all thinking about our plans for the summer. For those of us planning beach trips, it's time for the body to come out of winter hibernation.
Earlier this year, we looked at services that give you exercising tips. But good exercise, as experts say, isn't everything behind a great beach bod. Eating well is another major component.
Below is a roundup of tools that help you track your calorie intake and exercise routines, as well as help you find support from others who are working toward the same goal.
Beach bod tools
A Calorie Counter Tracking your calorie intake is important. That's why A Calorie Counter is a useful tool. It enables you to search the USDA Food Nutrition database for anything you've eaten throughout the day. Once you find what you're looking for in the results, it reveals nutritional facts and a box that lets you change your serving size. When you update your serving size, the nutritional fact image changes to show you exactly how many calories you consumed. I was happy with the size of the database, and changing your serving size takes seconds.
BuddySlim.com BuddySlim operates on the belief that trying to lose weight alone is too difficult. Because of that, it enables folks who are trying to lose weight to form communities around their common goals and inspire each other to keep exercising. The site lets you search for others by diet, exercise, goals, location, or gender. Once you find a "buddy," you can keep in touch through a free e-mail account the site provides, as well as blogs and forums. The tool itself features a weight tracker so you (and others) can monitor your progress. But the real value of BuddySlim is its active, engaging community.
The Daily Plate The Daily Plate is primarily a calorie counter. But it does quite a bit more. The site lets you track how many calories you've burned by exercising throughout the day. You can set up weight goals and track your progress toward them with charts and graphs. Although I was happy with The Daily Plate, I wasn't overly pleased with its calorie tracking. It's not nearly as useful as A Calorie Counter.
DietTV.com This site provides an end-to-end healthy lifestyle service with calorie tracking. But one of its best features is the option to create a workout regimen. It asks you for your current weight, finds out what your ideal weight would be, determines what kind of exercises you'd like to do, and creates a full-body workout.
I was able to create a regimen that included 60 minutes of exercise, four days a week, on an elliptical machine, supplemented by weight exercises to build muscle mass. It was a fantastic tool. I also liked that DietTV lets you join a support group. Since forcing yourself to work out can be difficult at times, joining the various support groups on DietTV could help you stay motivated. Each group lets you upload your weight, include photos of your progress, and communicate with others. It's a great system that more of these tools should have.
FitnessJournal FitnessJournal is one of the most impressive health tools I've ever tried. After you sign up, the site gives you the opportunity to input all of your daily food intake. It then gives you a detailed food journal, complete with charts and analysis. FitnessJournal also sports opportunities to discuss your progress with other users and set challenges. It's simply the most powerful, well-designed, and useful service in this roundup. But there's one catch: You'll be forced to pay $39.95 for a one-year membership or up to $79.95 for a three-year membership. FitnessJournal is costly, but it's worth it.
MyFoodDiary.com MyFoodDiary will set you back $9 per month. But for what you get, it might be worth it. The tool offers a database of more than 50,000 foods. Simply input what you ate in the search field, and it will add it to your diary, along with information on calories, fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.
The tool also features an exercise-tracking feature that tells you how many calories you've burned while exercising, performing household chores, or participating in other activities. You can literally input anything you've done all day, and it will track burned calories. The site also boasts reports that track your progress. If you're serious about losing weight, the My Food Diary is a powerful tool to help you. But that $9-per-month fee might scare some away.
Nike + iPod Sport Kit If you own an iPod Nano or second-generation iPod Touch, the Nike + iPod Sport Kit is something to consider. Once you buy a Nike+ shoe, you need to insert the wireless sensor inside the pocket under the insole of the sneaker. If you have an iPod Nano, you'll need to plug a receiver into your Dock Connector.
Second-generation iPod Touch users don't need the receiver. Once you start your workout, the sensor sends your time, distance, pace, and calories burned back to your iPod. You can get real-time updates as you train. When you're done, you can sync the Nike + iPod information with iTunes or the Nike+ Web site. You can then view your performance or set goals. Check out the CNET review of the kit.
Skinnyr Skinnyr is a simple tool. It provides you with a graph in your profile that tracks your weight. Each day you input your weight, it plots a point on the graph. If you want to see how much weight you've lost or gained, the tool will do that too. It's not as full-featured as many of the other services in this roundup, but if you want a visual representation of how your weight is changing, Skinnyr is the tool for you.
Traineo Traineo is an extremely well-designed site that makes inputting your activities quick and easy. The site tracks your calorie intake but requires you to know how many calories a type of food has, instead of finding that information for you. You can input the activities you've engaged in throughout the day to see how many calories you've burned. The site also boasts a graphing feature that lets you visually see just how well you're doing. It's a nice site, but I would have liked a calorie search database.
Weightcircles Weightcircles is a nicely designed community of folks who want to share their dietary tips with others. Once you sign up for the site, you can create a profile containing your current weight, your exercise plan, and other information that users might find useful. Weightcircles also provides you with a blog to document your progress. But the best part of Weightcircles is its community. You'll be able to communicate with others who are also trying to lose weight through blog comments and private messages. The Weightcircles community isn't huge, but it's active. I think it's worth joining.
WorkoutDump WorkoutDump isn't the best service in this roundup. And its design is a little suspect. But I think that it's a great motivation tool. Once you sign up, the site lets you input how your workout went. You then monitor what others have achieved in their latest workouts. The site even has listings of the top runners by distance and pace. Plus, it integrates with Nike+, so all the data you recorded with the tool will be uploaded automatically to WorkoutDump. It's a neat service.
The Top 3
If you're ready to start losing some weight, check out these three services that will do the best job of helping you:
1. Fitness Journal
2. Diet TV
3. My Food Diary