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The 5 Best Free Calorie Counting Apps to Build Muscle and Lose Fat

June 07, 2023

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Nowadays there is an app for almost everything, which is handy, as they can save us a lot of time and can make our lives a lot easier. A calorie counting app is no different. Whether we’re looking to build muscle, lose fat, improve our body composition, and/or improve our health – A decent calorie counting app can have a massive impact on the rate at which we see progress.

You see, to build muscle, you need to be eating more calories than you burn (calorie surplus). And to lose fat, you need to be eating fewer calories than you burn (calorie deficit).  

If we don’t know how much we’re eating, we never know for sure whether we’re in a calorie surplus or a calorie deficit.

This makes things difficult. When people are trying to build muscle, they experience 1 of 2 things. 1- They think they’re eating enough food, but, they’re not and they’ll get frustrated when they don’t see progress. 2- They overeat and wonder why they are experiencing excessive fat gain.

Similar to those who are trying to lose weight, they’ll experience 1 of 2 things. 1- They think they’re eating in a calorie deficit, but they’re not and they’ll get frustrated when they remain the same weight. 2- They undereat and experience excessive muscle loss rather than the desired fat loss.

A calorie counting app can remove any guesswork and can save us a lot of time and heartache. We can work out how many calories we need to be consuming daily to remain the same weight and then tailor our calorie targets based on our training goals.

Many of these apps also contain communities that uplift and motivate each other, as well as challenges to participate in for added motivation. 

We have rounded up the 5 best free calorie counting apps to remove the guesswork and get you on your way to achieving the body you desire.


What is a calorie?

A calorie is a unit of measure for energy. You consume calories through food, and it provides energy for your body to maintain its daily functions. The calories you consume daily make up your calorie intake, whilst the calories your body burns through exercise, digestion, or metabolic rate make up your outtake. The term ‘energy balance’ indicates that your calorie intakes match your outtake. Creating a calorie surplus leads to weight gain, whilst a calorie deficit leads to weight loss.


Why use a calorie counter?

Counting calories is the tried and tested method for tracking weight loss, muscle gain, or maintenance.  Many scientific studies have shown that recording your food intake and exercise is the most effective way to help lose weight. [1]

However, counting calories only allows you to evaluate your diet from a quantity perspective. What matters equally is also the quality of what you put in your body. For example, 100 calories from donuts are inherently different than 100 calories from a banana. Therefore, it is important you pick food based on its nutritional value, rather than solely just calorific value. The apps listed below also have features that can tell you the nutritional value of food.

One study involving 272 people found that participants who monitored food intake, physical activity, and body weight were more likely to experience greater weight loss. [2]

Another recent study reports that weight loss programs in conjunction with calorie counting led participants to lose approximately 7 pounds (3.3 kg) more than those who did not. The study concluded that the more consistently you recorded your calorie intake, the better. [3]


There are three main reasons why calorie counting works:

  1. Tracking calories helps identify eating which eating patterns to be mindful of to lose weight.
  2. Being aware of your calorie intake can give you a baseline to work from and compare when you are trying to reduce calorie intake or increase calorie intake.
  3. Keeping track of calories can help monitor your behaviour, this can help when making the right choices to help motivate you and keep you on track toward your goals.


Are calorie counters safe?

Research suggests that calorie counting by logging your food intake is a successful weight loss strategy. However, studies have shown calorie counting to be unsafe for those with a history of disordered eating, and that people who self-monitored diet and exercise are more likely to be at risk of developing eating disorders. If you are concerned about your safety, taking an intuitive eating approach may be more beneficial.


Top 5 best free calorie tracking apps

1.      MyFitness pal

MyFitness pal is probably the most well-known among the calorie-counting apps, and there are a few good reasons for this! With approximately 200 million users, and over 300 million foods in its database, this app reigns supreme among diet and fitness trackers.

MyFitness Pal Interface

This app is extremely easy to navigate, you simply search the name of the food you’re looking for and add it to your diary. The diary can be split into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks or you have the option to name 5 different meals as you please.

You can see exactly how many calories are in each food along with how many grams of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. After adding foods, the app will calculate how many calories you should eat for the rest of the day to hit your daily calorie target.

Once a food has been added, it's added to your history so you can easily find it again (you’ll probably notice you end up eating a lot of the same foods each day, so the history feature is super helpful).

You can create your own recipes by searching for the individual ingredients and adding them to ‘My Recipes’. From here, you enter how many portions the recipe makes, and the app calculates exactly how many calories per serving. Alternatively, you can try one of the 500+ recipes available on the app.

The ‘Newsfeed’ tab is constantly updated with recipes, nutritional tips, and workout tips that can provide inspiration when we’re struggling for ideas, it’s always good to try something new.

The community forums let you share your ideas, learn for others, and connect with like-minded people to provide encouragement along your fitness journeys.


  • It’s easy to navigate
  • A massive food database
  • A sense of community can help inspire you to reach your goals


  • Since users can upload their recipes, calories and other nutrient information might not be entirely accurate
  • On 1st October 2022, MyFitness pal removed the barcode food scanner. (Don't worry - the other apps have the barcode scanner on the free versions!). 


2. FatSecret

FatSecret is a free calorie counting app that also includes a food diary, recipes, exercise log, and a weight log. Unlike MyFitness pal, where the new update requires the user to upgrade to a premium subscription to unlock the barcode scanner, the barcode scanner is available on the FatSecret free version.

FatSecret Layout

FatSecret also includes a scanner that helps track nutritional information for Brands, packaged goods, and restaurants.  It offers a monthly summary, which includes your averages and total daily calories consumed. FatSecret also includes a community and daily challenges, which is incredibly helpful for motivation and accountability.


  • Large food database
  • Sense of community


  • The layout can be confusing


3. Lose It!

LoseIt Interface

Lose it! Is another brilliant contender in choosing a free calorie-counting app. According to their website, a whopping 112 million pounds (plus!) have been lost among the app's users.  Lose It! personalises each user's calorie intake according to their weight, height, age, and sex, tailoring your individual needs with your health goals. As with other calorie-counting apps, Lose It! Has a feature to scan barcodes, as well as a comprehensive database of foods and recipes for its users. There is also the choice to sync the app with other devices, such as the health app on your iPhone, Fitbit, or apple watch, which makes it even easier to achieve your goals. There is also a feature to connect with different health communities to keep up your accountability. For additional features, which include challenges, and private support groups, you can upgrade to the premium version for an annual fee of $39.99.


  • The app is easy to navigate
  • The choice to sync with other devices and apps
  • Sense of community


  • More time consuming adding nutritional information than other apps


4. Nutritionx Track

NutritionXTrack Layout

Nutritionx Track is a calorie and nutrition counting app that has over 948,000 food items in its database. This includes, 778,776 grocery items, 186,350 restaurant items, and 11,753 common foods. With over 5 million users, Nutritionx Track is popular for its effective approach to calorie counting, a particularly unique feature of this app is its ability to combine fresh foods with packaged and restaurant items, meaning if you have a takeaway with a fresh, homemade salad, Nutritionx will be able to calculate your full meal for you. There is the choice to upgrade your membership for an annual fee of 29$, where you can share your food diary with a nutritionist or personal trainer.


  • Easy to navigate, calorie-focused app
  • Large database of nutritional and restaurant food information
  • Made by registered dietitians


  • Difficulty connecting to other apps


5. Calory

Calory Homepage

If you’re looking for the simplest app to count calories, then this app may be the one for you. Calory is a streamlined and simplified calorie counting app, it only tracks your calories, which you log with either calories or food.  Its home page tells you your daily remaining calories, as well as calories consumed. There is also the option to customise your calorie targets. The app also makes note of your most recent consumed food and provides a list of previous food choices to make your entries quicker. If you choose to upgrade to its premium membership, then you will unlock macro and water tracking, a barcode scanner, and access to more food in its database.


  • Includes daily reminders of your goals and to log in


  • The database can be tricky to use
  • No community
  • Must upgrade to get features other than calorie tracking


How to find the best calorie counting app for you

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a calorie counter app:

  • Preferences. Every calorie counter app is different. Some are more tailored to your individual needs, while others connect you with their user community. Be sure to choose the app that suits your needs.
  • Special diets. Some apps are specially designed to follow certain dietary requirements, such as carb-free, vegan, keto, vegetarian, and gluten-free.
  • Membership billing. Take the app’s billing method into account if you decide to upgrade to a premium version. While most apps list their monthly fees, some may charge you annually.
  • Compatibility. Some apps can integrate data into other devices or apps, which can further help you achieve your goals.


The Final Say

If you’re looking to build muscle, lose fat or improve your body composition and want to remove any guesswork so that you can experience progress from the off, then a calorie counter is for you.

You know what they say, your body is built 30% in the gym and 70% in the kitchen. For years people have been working out, yet not experiencing the results they expected – and that’s likely due to having a poor diet and not tracking calories.

We now have easy-to-use apps available to us, let’s take advantage of that and use them effectively to help us achieve our goals!

We hope you liked the article, as always, if you have any questions, drop them down in the comments.

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[1] - Ingels JS, Misra R, Stewart J, Lucke-Wold B, Shawley-Brzoska S. The Effect of Adherence to Dietary Tracking on Weight Loss: Using HLM to Model Weight Loss over Time. J Diabetes Res. 2017;2017:6951495. doi: 10.1155/2017/6951495. Epub 2017 Aug 9. PMID: 28852651; PMCID: PMC5568610.

[2] - Goldstein SP, Goldstein CM, Bond DS, Raynor HA, Wing RR, Thomas JG. Associations between self-monitoring and weight change in behavioral weight loss interventions. Health Psychol. 2019 Dec;38(12):1128-1136. doi: 10.1037/hea0000800. Epub 2019 Sep 26. PMID: 31556659; PMCID: PMC6861632.

[3] - Hartmann-Boyce J, Johns DJ, Jebb SA, Aveyard P; Behavioural Weight Management Review Group. Effect of behavioral techniques and delivery mode on the effectiveness of weight management: systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression. Obes Rev. 2014 Jul;15(7):598-609. doi: 10.1111/obr.12165. Epub 2014 Mar 18. PMID: 24636238; PMCID: PMC4237119.

[4] - Levinson CA, Fewell L, Brosof LC. My Fitness Pal calorie tracker usage in the eating disorders. Eat Behav. 2017 Dec;27:14-16. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 18. PMID: 28843591; PMCID: PMC5700836.

Thomas D
Thomas D


Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.

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