Should You Log Supplements? | Ask the Dietitian

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
by Trinh Le, MPH, RD
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Should You Log Supplements? | Ask the Dietitian

Do you take dietary supplements? If you use  MyFitnessPal to track nutrition, you may wonder whether you should even bother to log any dietary supplements you take. The answer depends on what type and how many supplements you’re taking as well as how much of a stickler you are.

WHAT ARE DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS?

The Food and Drug Administration defines a dietary supplement as something taken to add nutritional value on top of the foods you eat on a regular basis. In addition to carbohydrates, protein and fat, our amazing body requires dozens of vitamins and minerals to function properly. Depending on your lifestyle, you may or may not be able to obtain all these nutrients from food. (However, like most experts, I recommend you improve your eating habits before considering supplements.)

It’s not always a clear choice. Some of us voluntarily seek out supplements to enhance our current health, prevent future issues or improve physical appearance. Others take supplements out of medical necessity such as correcting a nutrient deficiency. If you’re unsure of how to make that choice, please consult your health-care professional, so he or she can help navigate your individual case.


READ MORE > IS A CALORIE A CALORIE?


THE CALORIE COUNTS IN SUPPLEMENTS

As a MyFitnessPal user, you understand that calories and macronutrients (Think: carbohydrates, fat and protein) are critical for success. Depending on which dietary supplements you take, the calorie count will vary. Here is a brief summary:

  1. Micronutrient supplements: Once isolated from food, vitamins and minerals don’t contribute calories. However, when they are made into pills, soft chews or gummies, additives such as sugar or oils may be included. Calories from micronutrient supplements are fairly small — most range from 5–30 calories if you take the recommended amount.
  2. Fat-based supplements: This category includes omega-3 or -6 fatty-acid capsules, conjugated linoleic acid, flaxseed and fish and krill oil, to name a few. Fat-based supplements range from 15–45 calories if you take the recommended amount.
  3. Carbohydrate-based supplements: Fiber supplements are common in this category and range from 15–80 calories if you take the recommended amount.
  4. Protein-based supplements: Of all the categories, only protein-based supplements confer a sizable amount of calories. Protein bars and powders range have the most!

 CaloriesFat (g)Carbohydrate (g)Protein (g)
Protein Bars200-3005-1015-4015-30
Protein Powder*80<5<1015-30
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)25-5001-25-10

*Before mixing with milk.

THE VERDICT

With the exception of protein powders and bars, dietary supplements don’t provide all that many calories. If you’re taking protein-based supplements, especially multiple times per day, then it’s a good idea to keep track. For the other types of supplements, it’s totally up to you! A perk of tracking is that it helps you remember that you already took a supplement that day.

MyFitnessPal makes it simple to keep track of your dietary supplements. Here’s my suggestion: Create an extra meal, and title it “Supplements.” You can log all your supplements here. The best part is that the app will remember the supplements you regularly log, making it super easy to add your supplements consistently to your food diary. To set this up, follow two steps:

  1. Log in to MyFitnessPal. To get started, you’ll need to access your MyFitnessPal account in a web browser. If you predominantly use the web version of MyFitnessPal, you may have already figured out how to rename your meals. For those of you on mobile only, here’s a reason to get cozy with your computer for a few minutes.
  2. Add and rename meals. Once you’ve logged in, click “My Home,” then “Settings,” then “Diary Settings.” There you can add another meal and title it “Supplements.” The next time you log in on the web or one of our mobile apps, your diary will reflect the changes.

About the Author

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food RD by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. For more, connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

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7 responses to “Should You Log Supplements? | Ask the Dietitian”

  1. Avatar Leslie M. says:

    Problem is I find with My fitness pal is if I log nutrients it doesn’t give any information on it whatsoever all zeros… Does not log my nutrients… Maybe the premium version does but I’m not spending $50 a year.. And they won’t offer a free trial for a few weeks to explore the features… I don’t want to blindly spend the money and find I’m not happy with the features or doesn’t offer me what I want

    • Avatar Edith Reardon says:

      I would agree Leslie. I thought about getting the premium version but so far not a lot of my connections are really happy with it. I keep wondering if it would be good for me though. Keep tracking.

      • Avatar Leslie M. says:

        I wrote to them and said to them it would be nice if they did a free trial whether it be a week two weeks or a month and they said to buy a month but I don’t want to spend that money and then another $50 to buy for another year

    • Avatar chexwarrior says:

      I never had premium yet I can see a running total of my nutrients for the day as well as totals for previous days. Do you use the bar code scanner or manually enter the nutrition facts? If you use the bar code scanner the database might not have the micronutrients for that item. I think the only difference premium makes for nutrient tracking is you can break down which meals had what proportion of your nutrients.

      • Avatar Leslie M. says:

        Iuse the barcode scanner all the time and many of the nutrients and I scanned come up with all zeros

        • Avatar chexwarrior says:

          You may have to manually enter the nutrients for the item if the scanner comes up with zeros; that probably means the item isn’t in the database yet.

  2. Avatar eugenistoc says:

    The benefit of tracking supplements is to be able to gain a better picture of how much you’re supplementing. Creatine, for example, can come from natural sources even though most people take it as a supplement, but the overall creatine intake is that which comes naturally through the food eaten + the one that is supplemented. All that to say that tracking supplements should be a little more involved than simply checking box that you took supplement X.

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