I went on a bit of an app bender recently, and want to share my findings with you. Don’t worry, they’re either free or cheap… I generally resent paying for apps unless they’re really spectacular.

After trying several overly bloated and restrictive apps, here are my top 3 that fit nicely with the Propane Protocol, in that they allow you to do your own thing and don’t get in the way.

 1) Sleep Cycle
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This is my absolute favourite – what smartphones were made for. This app uses the accelerometer in your phone to determine your movement in bed as a proxy variable for your sleep phases. It then wakes you up during a 30 minute predetermined window when you’re at your lightest phase in your sleep. Additionally, it collects and aggregates data on your sleep cycles, average sleep time, bedtimes, and allows you to factor in variables such as caffeine, whether you trained that day, etc. This way you can actually collect evidence on the effect of different variables on the level of REM sleep you’re getting every night.

I’ve seen some users graphs display terrible sleep quality after drinking alcohol, where they barely enter REM. In terms of your muscle gain or fat loss progress, sleep acts as a permissive variable, so if it’s the weak link, then no matter how good your diet and training are, you’re operating under a handicap.

 

Download for iPhone (69p) or Android (free)

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2) MyFitnessPal

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This is a calorie tracker, like Cron-o-meter, but the main benefit is the barcode scanner that adds the macros straight into your daily intake. The app also syncs with your online account, and gives you a breakdown of micronutrients, graphs your weight gain/loss over time and accounts for calorie deficits created by exercise.

To adjust your macros precisely, rather than in 5% increments, use this script.

Download for Android or iPhone

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3) Gym Hero

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Workout logging apps are.so.annoying. And they’re mainly directed at joggers or people that need 500 video guides of David Beckham demonstrating their favourite ‘butt exercises’. This one lets you track sets, reps, and weight, in lbs or kg. It also compares what you did last week on the same screen to make sure you’re aiming for more weight or more reps each week.

You can export your workout to log on the forum too.

I actually emailed the guys who wrote this app to congratulate them – they’re responsive and receptive to feedback, good to see people taking pride in their work and seeking perfection over profit.

Download for iPhone 

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Finally, a few non-fitness related ones that could make your life easier:
Dropbox – 5GB free cloud storage.
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Umano – Reads interesting news articles to you out loud.
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Apple

Camscanner – Take a photo of a document and it adjusts the exposure/contrast and converts to PDF.
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Stocard – Saves all of your loyalty/discount cards so you can scan your phone in the shop, rather than carry cards around with you.

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Android

WeQ4U – Waits on hold for you and calls you back when the representative is available.
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What are your favourite apps, training related or otherwise? 

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12 responses to “3 Smartphone Apps to Enhance Your Progress and Take the Headache Out of Diet & Training

  1. Thanks for the guide. Have you guys tried Jefit? I’ve used that but find it too cumbersome to remain compliant with its usage. How does Gym Hero stack up compared to Jefit?

    1. I downloaded Jefit briefly, got frustrated after about a minute and deleted it promptly. If an app is too complicated to use when it has your full concentration, God help me when I’m trying to use it between sets of squats!

  2. I’ve used Sleep Cycle on and off for a while now. It’s really good for auto-regulating your stress levels based on your sleep. Worth the purchase. Going to get this gymhero app as I want to save wasting paper, logging it on a notepad and then losing or damaging it =/ Also thinking about switching to myfitnesspal. The issue with Cronometer is that the online app often goes down, which leaves me clueless for a few hours. Has this happened with myfitnesspal?

  3. @Mehrad – I don’t use the online cronometer app, but that’s a pain. Maybe they use the same terrible hosts as us..

    Will be trying many variables over the next few months, including meditating before bed to see if that affects sleep quality.

    @Humont – when you export it, it comes out as a link which provides a plain text version of the session. Not perfect but best available

    1. Fitocracy is good, Ben uses it. I do weirdy beardy vegan workouts and exercises aren’t always listed
      Yusef

  4. Yusef,

    Thanks for this. I actually just switched to a dumb phone for now (my Galaxy Note 2 was stolen in Rome), but I’ll keep these in mind. You got me interested in tracking my daily food intake from your comment at my blog. I’m thinking of starting a strength-building regimen soon, so I’ll bookmark this. Thanks!

    ~ Stephen

    1. Great stuff Stephen. Starting strength is a good program – obviously we would always recommend the Propane Protocol, but in truth anything that ensures weekly weight/rep progression and a consistent weekly calorie surplus will get you where you want to be.

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