Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: October 7, 2020

SparkPeople is one of the latest online programs that promises to make it easier for people to get fit, eat healthily, and lose weight.

But let’s be honest and say that every other app and service that has come out over the past couple of years has been promising the same.

Unfortunately, many of them don’t live up to those promises, and users end up wasting a load of time, effort, and money.

So, our team signed up for SparkPeople and tested it out for a couple of months with a few clients.

And in this SparkPeople review, we’ll tell you what it’s all about, what we liked and disliked, and what other users have been saying.

What Is SparkPeople?

sparkpeople-app

SparkPeople is an online platform and app that allows its users to track their diet and activities, as well as receive recommendations for exercise and meal plans.

Unlike many other apps, the company has aimed to combine both nutrition and physical activity tracking in one place.

And that does seem to make sense.

By keeping details of the calories you take in and the energy you burn on a daily basis, you should be in a much better position to achieve your weight loss goals.

By seeing how changes to your exercise routine and diet impact the scales, you could make it easier on yourself to plan what and when you eat and workout.

The database that has been included claims to contain over 2 million different foods.

In theory, that should help keep track of all meals and snacks you have throughout the day.

Let’s take a closer look at how it works first.

How Does SparkPeople Work?

SparkPeople works by giving its members the tools to assess their current weight issues, come up with realistic goals, and then recommend and monitor dietary needs and exercises.

Here’s how it’s broken down.

1 - Weight Management

Weight Machine

The first thing users need to do after their initial SparkPeople login is to enter some personal details about gender, age, height, and weight.

And this is important: you have to be honest about all this data.

What SparkPeople then does is try to determine how overweight you currently are and what your ideal weight would be.

The next thing it claims to do is calculate your resting metabolic rate, which apparently it does by using the Harris-Benedict Equation [1].

The end result is a recommended daily calorie intake that aims to help you lose weight at a rate of 1 - 2 lbs per week.

And the first step to achieving that comes down to what you eat.

2 - Diet And Nutrition

female preparing for food diet

Once your base calorie rate has been established, the SparkPeople program makes specific recommendations for the macros you should be aiming for.

The general recommendation is 50% carbs, 30% fat, and 20% protein. While for most people, this may be a great breakdown, it does limit things for people on certain diets like low-carb.

With some suggested meal plans available on the website and in the community forum, you should then be in a position to change your eating habits [2].

And by logging everything you eat and drink using the database search feature, the program should be able to tell you if you're on target for the recommended calories.

Members also have access to educational resources for information and tips on dining out, avoiding snacking, portion control, and apparently hundreds of other topics.

3 - Exercise

people in gym

After fixing your diet and nutrition intake, the service claims to make exercise recommendations to help you get to your goals faster.

The recommendations are based on a health and fitness questionnaire that you have to fill out.

This should allow you to then pick exercises that are right for your current fitness levels.

Each of the recommended workout plans has been put together by certified personal trainers.

And the ones we have assessed seem to be well designed to gradually make improvements for members.

Technically, that should be a great recipe for losing some pounds.

“Following a low-calorie diet while exercising is one of the most successful ways to lose weight and keep it off. Even if you have a lot of weight to lose, try not to be intimidated.”

Pros And Cons

Overall we found that the combination of diet tracking, exercise recommendation, and integration with your fitness tracker seems to be a suitable setup.

It should improve your motivation as well, which is often half the weight loss battle.

Pros
  • People seem to like the easy set up to get a recommended calorie intake
  • Claims that it’s easy to find all the foods you eat in the database
  • Integration with activity trackers seems to work well
Cons
  • Not suitable for diets like Keto and Paleo with specific macro requirements
  • The choice of exercise programs is a bit limited
  • Some people said that improvements could be made on the meal plans.

The main issue we have with SparkPeople is that they only use one predetermined set of macros. So if you have a diet that requires more protein and fewer carbs, for example, then you’ll hit some limitations.

But there are some other disadvantages we identified.

What are the Disadvantages?

The company makes a big deal out of the group of personal trainers and diet experts on their team. However, from what we could tell, you only have access to them once a week for questions.

That’s not really what I’d call personal coaching.

The other thing we found in a few reviews is that while there's plenty of website content about making healthy diet adjustments, the actual meal plans are a bit limited.

It seems like they haven’t been adding enough new ideas and diet advice to keep people interested.

How Much Does SparkPeople Cost?

calculator

SparkPeople costs $4.99 per month for full access to all the services, online community, and to remove the ads.

Personally, the ads didn’t bother me too much.

But we heard from some folks that the number of ads you see tends to increase at different times.

Turning those off for $4.99 seems a bit expensive to me, and we have used other services for a slightly higher cost that just seems to be a complete solution.

SparkPeople User Reviews

To give you a quick idea of what people in the community groups are saying, we’ve summarised a couple of reviews.

This user was trying to find ways to make healthy food choices and keep a closer eye on her calories. She thought it was great that she could see a rolling total so that she could make quick adjustments to her meal sizes.

-Emma from Las Vegas

Steve struggled from day one as his dietitian had recommended a lower carb intake to help deal with his diabetes. While he did get accurate macro numbers, he constantly got recommendations to adjust his meal plan.

-Steve from Albany

This is a long-time user who took advantage of one of the early offers for lifetime access at a lower rate. He seems to have lost a load of weight based on the advice, along with maintaining that weight.

-Patrick from Oakland

Chase lost the weight he had aimed for but ultimately found paying to remove the ads was just not the right solution for him. He also missed being able to get professional help.

-Chase from Springfield

FAQ

Is SparkPeople good for weight loss?

Yes, SparkPeople is good for weight loss. And for most people, the service should provide the amount of information needed to make healthier choices. From fixing your diet to spending more time exercising, it’s a positive program to shed some pounds.

Is SparkPeople free?

Yes, the SparkPeople app is free. And a lot of the services and information on the website are available with the free account. But for some advanced features, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid account.

What are SparkPoints?

SparkPoints are a reward system that allocates points when you achieve certain goals. These points claim to serve as a reward system where you can trade them for different badges of achievement.

Does SparkPeople work with fitness trackers?

Yes, SparkPeople works with fitness trackers. And this seems to be one of the main attractions that users in the community find helpful to lose weight. It should help you get a better idea of your actual calorie intake and output.

Do We Recommend Sparkpeople?

Based on all the information we gathered and the hundreds of reviews we read, our recommendation is not to use SparkPeople.

Although it seems to be pretty useful to track your nutrition and activity, the cost doesn’t seem to match the features you get.

Of all the weight loss apps and services we have tested, Noom still seems to be the best one. We have a full review of the app, too.

It also integrates with wearable technology, and the subscription program gives you access to a dedicated real personal trainer. We have a detailed review on the Noom app, go check that out if you’d like to know more.

Once you’ve used it for a few weeks, let us know on social media how it worked out for you.

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