A documentary on Biosphere 2’s doctor Roy Walford introduced me to the concept of being able to finely track all macro/micro nutrients in the 1990s, but at the cost of hundreds of dollars. A few years later, around 2001/2002 I was able to start doing the same thing With FitDay.com and then later with their PC equivalent. In recent years their platform has stagnated and the PC-to-Website integration has totally broken. I ran across a website called CRON-O-Meter that at first glance seemed like FitDay on steroids, and boy is it!
I know I’m a bit of an anomaly in my fitness tracking. I’ve written elsewhere about how I used to do this just during diets but starting with a New Year’s resolution in 2011 I’ve logged my daily food intake almost every day since. I have friends who do this for bursts of time that have tried other systems. One of the most popular is MyFitnessPal.com. It has the largest database, since it has contributors from members, and it has better connectivity and community aspects than others. However it misses the mark for me in several ways. First, I’m interested in more than just carbs, protein, fat, and calories. I wanted the detailed micronutrient analysis I was getting with FitDay. I also wanted to have confidence in the food database, and it is hard to determine which elements were validated and which ones were not.
So, for almost a year now I’ve been stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand I could go to MyFitnessPal and lose a lot of the fidelity or stick with a dying platform that I couldn’t even get my data extracted out of. I did come up with a means of extracting data out of it even though I couldn’t get information on their file format (amazing what you can do with system macros). I also started planning a new library for doing this same process but online. Then, lo and behold I ran across CRON-O-Meter which already did many of the things I had planned.
CRON-O-Meter has a free and a gold level. The free level has all of the input capabilities but the gold level lets you create custom things to track. The free level has some basic reporting but the gold level has highly customized reporting levels. It ties into some tools, like Withings, and has an iOS application that allows it to synchronize with other HealthKit enabled applications. All of this alone was enough for me to try it for one day. Now that I have I am really loving it.
The database they use actually is a series of six government provided databases. They also have some of their own databases as well. Users can enter their own items directly or make custom items out of “recipes”. This capability is indispensable for me, and a welcome ability. This is actually far more flexible than FitDay that just had one US database and custom foods (which could also be made of recipes too). Once I started experimenting with their food entry I became really impressed. Not only does it calculate micronutrient levels to a far higher fidelity than FitDay, but they also track other things like total water content, caffeine levels. The idea of being able to study Omega-3/6 ratios, amino acid profiles, et cetera plus track water and caffeine really excites me.
Where things get very interesting are with the user interface. One of the big deficiencies with other web-based UIs is how to duplicate entries from previous days and edit entries. The UI that CRON-O-Meter has setup is as flexible as FitDay’s PC version. It’s possible to copy entire days or just a subset of fields to use in a different day. The merging of the activities, which are used in calculating calorie expenditure, with the food consumed is a little irritating but workable. The interface for graphing and trending is pretty flexible as well. It is even more flexible under the gold platform, apparently. I have to manually adjust the calorie expenditures and activities, but that’s the same as it was on FitDay.
The website doesn’t do everything that FitDay PC did however. FitDay allowed the tracking of moods as well, which has no counterpart in CRON-O-Meter. I already have a spreadsheet that I use to track daily parameters so I will start tracking these parameters there. FitDay also provided the ability to aggregate values over periods of time. That let me do stuff like calculate the average daily calorie deficit/surplus for a given month. I don’t think even with the gold level that I’ll be able to do that. Because CRON-O-Meter allows for the exporting of all data I will be able to reproduce this in Excel or with some post-processing scripts I can write as well. Lastly, by having both a PC version and a website version FitDay let me do analysis when I’m on an airplane or not connected to the internet. I won’t be able to do that with CRON-O-Meter.
The bottom line is that CRON-O-Meter provides far better micronutrient analysis with a UI that is easy to use as FitDay’s. WIth the additional integration into Withings, and what appears to be ever increasing integration with Apple’s HealthKit and other systems this is the exact FitDay replacement I was looking for.