Honestly, is there anything your smartphone can’t do?
It’s a navigation system that helps you beat traffic (or helps you navigate a city on foot), a streaming platform for binge-watching, and a high-quality digital camera—all in a tiny rectangle that fits in your palm. So why not enlist it to help you lose weight, too?
The best weight loss apps clear up confusion about what you’re eating (and what you’re burning) on the regular and how active you are throughout the day, says Brandon Beatty, a certified strength and conditioning coach (C.S.C.S.). Basically, tracking—calories and activity—is key for weight loss, whether you’re just starting or are looking to get past a plateau, he says.
Ready to download your way to better weight-loss results? Here, experts share the best weight-loss apps to crush your goals.
1. If you’re running for weight loss: Studio
With a slogan like, “running on the treadmill doesn’t have to suck,” Studio’s an obvious choice for runners. Its platform delivers audio-based group running classes with kickass instructors and playlists. So all you have to do is plug in and get moving.
“The best part of the app is that women can compete in real-time on the leaderboard against runners from across the world with the opportunity to earn prizes through an in-app reward system called Fitcoin,” Lisa Niren, certified personal trainer (C.P.T.) and head trainer of CITYROW in New York City, explains. That’s a total win, considering that a recent Stanford study found that apps that inspire friendly competition can motivate you to exercise more. (Don’t worry, the app isn’t only for the elite runners, and is a great download for walkers and couch-to-5kers, too, she explains.)
Plus, it boasts a nine-week weight-loss running plan that’ll help keep you accountable. Try the app out for two weeks for free.
2. If you’ve got sleep issues: Sleep Cycle
If those pounds won’t budge, your sleep schedule and cycle could be to blame. That’s because, when it comes to weight loss, it’s about more than just calories in and calories out, says trainer Grayson Wickham, certified strength and conditioning specialist (C.S.C.S.) founder of Movement Vault. It’s also about hormones, stress, and sleep.
Enter, Sleep Cycle. The app tracks your movement and sleep patterns to give you tips on how to improve your sleep quality, Wickham says. Plus, it uses that data to slowly wake you up when you’re in your lightest sleep phase, which is the most natural time to wake up.
3. If you love high-intensity interval training: Interval Timer
By now, you’ve probably heard the buzz: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to burn calories and shed weight. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require a little bit of clock-watching. Which, as anyone who’s ever spent 20 minutes eyeing the seconds knows, can really take the fun out fitness.
“I recommend Interval Timer because it allows you to program the timer to match your workout so you don’t have to worry about counting the seconds on the clock. Instead, all you have to do it plug in your earbuds and stop every time the phone buzzes,” Alena Luciani, C.S.C.S., founder of Training2xl, explains. So, for example, if you’re doing a Tabata sequence of 20 seconds on with 10 seconds rest for four minutes, you can program that in and the app will buzz when you’re meant to switch from your high to low interval and back again.
4. If you have trouble sticking with one workout: Aaptiv
If the bags at your favorite kickboxing class have all been claimed and your favorite indoor cycling class is all booked, no sweat. Just download Aaptiv for on-demand audio classes.
Here’s how it works: The voice of a trainer will guide you through a fitness studio-style session with music that’s tailored to a wide variety of workouts. Whatever fitness vibes you’re feeling, Aaptiv has something for you, says certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Jaime Mcfaden, C.P.T.
“I recommend Aaptiv to my clients because it lets them do their workouts wherever, whenever, and however they want,” Mcfaden says. “So if they want a long run outside one day, there are workouts like that, and if the next day they want a 10-minute strength class, Aaptiv has that, too,” It’s this combination of workouts that makes it such a powerful tool for members, since getting a well-rounded routine is key to achieving weight loss results, she adds.
Get started with a 30-day free trial.
5. If you want to improve your relationship with food: Mindful Eating Tracker
When it comes to finding a healthy weight, adapting mindful food behaviors is paramount to success, says Whitney English, R.D.N, C.P.T. “The Mindful Eating Tracker app helps my clients get in touch with their innate hunger and fullness cues to help establish why they’re eating and to differentiate between true physical hunger and emotional or mental hunger,” she explains. That’s why this app is particularly beneficial to women are trying to establish a healthier relationship with food, she adds.
The way it works is that it takes the focus off calorie-counting and helps clients learn how to make positive decisions that will ultimately be the more beneficial to their long-term goals. The app functions similarly to how a food journal might; you’ll log your feelings, your hunger levels, but unlike a paper journal, you’ll be able to track those feelings in graph-form. Which makes it a great option for visual learners, notes English.
6. If you want to track your daily calories: Lose It!
Everybody needs a different amount of calories to maintain their weight depending on several factors (like age, sex, and level of physical activity).
The average woman needs anywhere from 1,600 to 2,400 calories every day, according to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines. To lose weight, you have to trim that number of calories down; cutting out 250 to 500 calories each day may result in modest weight loss.
Bored yet? It’s okay—calorie-counting can be a real drag. I mean, who wants to do math after (or before) meals? That’s where an app that tracks calories for you really comes in handy. Input what you ate (or plan to eat) and let the app do all the calculations for you. For an app that lets you set a goal, track daily food and exercise, and connect to other fitness apps for comprehensive metrics, registered and licensed dietician Allison Childress, Ph.D., recommends Lose It!.
“The premium version offers community support from other users, and another cool feature is that you can take a picture of your food and the app will bring up the nutritional information for it,” she says. Scanning bar codes is convenient, but uploading a pic of what you’re eating? That’s a piece of cake (sometimes literally!).
7. If you’re always confused about portion sizes: MyFitnessPal
You really can’t go wrong with the MyFitnessPal app, which offers a whole lot of bang for its totally free buck. Sure, there’s in-depth calorie tracking (it has one of the largest databases of food around, coming in at a whopping 6 million items) but it also outshines other apps when it comes to understanding how the portions of food you eat each day stack up in comparison to one another.
Did you get enough protein? How much of the fat you consumed was saturated? Did you eat three times as many french fries as you should have? (No judgment, we’ve all been there.) The MyFitnessPal app can tell you all of that. For an even better understanding of portion control, Childress recommends heading to the MyFitnessPal blog, which has an easy-to-understand portion size guide that compares common foods to your hand and tells you how much one serving size of that food is.
8. If you need to find a healthy restaurant: HealthyOut
Lots of restaurants are opening up about the nutritional value of their meals, but other eateries make it impossible to know how many calories a simple chicken sandwich is going to cost you. And even when nutrition info is publicized, you’ll still have to go inside the restaurant to get it—by that point, it’s pretty late to turn back if there’s nothing low-cal on the menu.
But the HealthyOut app takes all the guesswork out of which restaurants are serving the healthiest options. Open it up, input your zip code, and wait for the app to find customized options for nutritious meals in your area.
“You can search by specific diet restriction, like low carb, Mediterranean, paleo, heart healthy, gluten sensitive, and high protein,” explains Childress. “It also gives you healthy modifications for items found on the menu or modifications based on the diet you are following.”
9. If you’re new to the paleo diet: Nom Nom Paleo
If you just started the paleo diet, you’ve probably been relying on the award-winning blog and cookbook Nom Nom Paleo for delish recipes and no-brainer meal plans. It’s one of the most comprehensive paleo resources on the web, and—lucky you—it’s also available as a handy app.
“There are many choices for apps to help you out with the Paleo diet, but this is one of the best,” says Childress. “It gives you over 145 recipes, with photos, and walks you through every step of the cooking process.”
The convenience factor of this app is sky-high, too: once you choose a recipe, it helps you make a grocery list and then emails your shopping list to you (so no “I forgot my list” excuses).
10. If you’re new to the Whole30 diet: 30 Whole Days
Less a weight loss diet than an elimination plan designed to identify problematic foods, Whole30 is meant to only last 30 days. But those 30 days can feel like an eternity, which is why you might want an app to help you get through it (it’s called a challenge for a reason).
Childress recommends the 30 Whole Days compliance checker app, which not only includes a handy challenge countdown but also a large database of foods so you can make sure your choices fit into the Whole30 plan. You can scan product barcodes to see if a food is approved, and search by whole foods, ingredients, or packaging features (like UPC and brand name). Whole30 might be rigorous, but this app makes it just a little bit easier.
11. If you’re new to the keto diet: KetoDiet
KetoDiet and KetoDiet Basic are two apps that promise to help people calculate their macros, and/or plan and track their keto diets effectively. They also provide subscribers with expert advice from the KetoDiet Blog, which includes input from two registered dietitians.
The apps, created by Martina Slajerova, author of multiple books including The KetoDiet Cookbook and Keto Slow Cooker & One-Pot Meals, also offers up a bunch of recipes (300, to be exact) and nutritional info for 1.65 million popular foods, products, and restaurant meals to help you track your keto meals right on your phone.