Last year, Renaissance Periodisation (RP) released an app as an alternative to their extremely popular diet templates. They first released an iOS version; unfortunately for plebs like me, the Android version wasn’t released until much later, in December. I downloaded it immediately, but elected not to start my diet until after Christmas (good decision, Rory.) I’ve now been using the app for some weeks, and I feel like I’m in a position to give a reasonable review of it.
I’ve previously reviewed the RP Hypertrophy for Powerlifters template, and Avatar Nutrition, which is a sort of competitor to the RP Diet App. It’s worth noting that I have no affiliation to RP at all, I just admire their work from afar.
First – What it is
If you’ve used the RP diet templates before, you’ll be familiar with the structure. You set a goal and a diet length up front, and define some lifestyle information, including things like what time you wake up, when you train, and how many meals you want to eat per day (you can set these on a day-by-day basis; you don’t have to stay the same every day.)
Each day, a series of meals is defined for you. They’re presented with little cards, and you can select food from an approved list, then the app tells you how much of each food to eat at that meal. If you flip the card over, it also shows your macros and calorie total for that meal. Two or three times per week, you weigh in, and the app adjusts your calories for the coming days to ensure you’re on target to hit the goal you defined right at the beginning.
Second – What it’s not
There seems to be some confusion around the Internet as to how this works with the existing diet templates, and how it’s different from Avatar Nutrition or MyFitnessPal.
This doesn’t play with the templates. It’s a completely separate product. You use one or the other, not both at the same time (and I probably wouldn’t recommend switching mid-diet either.)
Secondly, it’s not an If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) diet. Although your macros can be exposed, it’s meant to be used so that you eat the food from the lists, and at the suggested times (more or less.) In their book, The Renaissance Diet, (which I highly recommend), they explain that although calories and macros make up most of the efficacy of a diet, they don’t make up all of it, and some small extra benefits can be eked out through nutrient timing and nutrient quality. That makes it different from MFP or Avatar Nutrition.
I’m going to say up front, I think this RP diet is the best way to diet for performance, hands down. The RP Diet App makes following the RP Diets so much easier than the old excel templates, giving you notifications of when to eat, and how much of each food to eat. It also takes ancillary macros into account (which the templates do not) which means you stay much closer to the overall (implicit) calorie goal, so that’s all fantastic. For each meal, you can only select one food of each category. If you’re happy eating quite boring mix-and-match meals, like I am, that’s probably not a huge problem, but if you’re a person who craves variety and coherent meals, that’s probably something that needs some improvement.
It also has a cool Shopping List feature, where if you preplan a week’s worth of meals, it gives you a checkable list of how much of each food you’ll need. I started using this, but soon discovered that because I’m a bit disorganised, it was much easier just to buy a pile of each food type and mix and match on a meal-by-meal basis. It think this feature would be greatly improved if you could select a data range instead of just the options “This Week” and “Next Week”, which I found a little vague.
Finally in the good section, there’s a two week trial period, which is more than enough time to get a feel for if you like the app.
The RP Diet does not play well if your social life revolves around eating, which many people’s do. There, I said it. I suspect this is the best way to eat for performance, but it is not flexible, and that leaves you with the option of not complying/partially complying, or making some sacrifices. If flexibility in your lifestyle is something you want, this is probably not a good app to start with.
Like many brand new apps, this one has some stability issues. It freezes occasionally. Sometimes food quantities don’t update immediately, and update on the next page refresh instead.
The app is relatively expensive, at $15 USD per month (~25 NZD per month.) Personally, I think that’s an acceptable price, especially during aggressive dieting phases, but if I was just maintaining, or was more casual, I probably wouldn’t be able to justify it to myself. I certainly wouldn’t buy the 1-year option, mostly because of the lack of flexibility.
By “Ugly” I mean things which are currently a little strange or slightly negative, but could easily be improved. I’ve also hidden some feature requests here.
All of the foods are localised to what I assume is American standards. I didn’t even realise the same cut of meat had different names in different countries until using the app, so I guess I learned something, but it turns out that what we call sirloin steak in NZ, is not the same thing as they call it in the States. I’ve managed to figure it out now, but some localisation would be nice. On that note, more food options are a must. I assume that growing the food lists is on their road map for the product.
They use point weigh-ins, two or three per week. If you’ve made it this far, I suspect you know that body weights fluctuate a reasonable amount day-to-day and that using a moving average tends to give more accurate results. I feel slightly cheated when I’m trending down but a random one-day spike causes my macros to be slashed. I could calculate a moving average and use that myself, but I feel like daily weigh-ins where the app calculates a trend for you should be an included feature.
There are a couple of strange UI things, most notably that I set my target weight at 88 kg and it insists on displaying it as 87.9 kg. I suspect this is something to do with translating between kilos and pounds for storage / display, but I find it a little odd none-the-less.
Your largest meal of the day is always the last one, I suspect to combat the evening hunger many people experience, but I’d really like to be able to make it the second to last meal of the day instead (just personal preference). I know I could manually make the swap, but again, I feel like that’s something the app should be able to do.
The default fat-loss setting was custom which means, that despite knowing better, I gave myself quite an aggressive goal (mild regrets now my macros have been slashed a couple of times.) I do suspect that setting the default goal as being moderate, and the user having to deliberately make it more aggressive, might end up meaning people make overall smarter choices.
Final ugly note – I found an athlete referral option, but it was buried in the settings page and not obvious at all, definitely not part of the on-boarding flow. I’ve set it now, but was I meant to? Does the referring athlete get anything for having referred me? I don’t know. It’s not clear at all.
The RP Diet App is not an app for a casual athlete or a novice, but if you’re an advanced athlete (or like to pretend you are, like me) it could be perfect. Having laid out all the things I’ve thought about the app, it feels a little arbitrary to now give it a score out of five, but on the “will I keep paying for it” scale, my answer is “yes.” At least, yes, for the rest of my current diet. Once I’m at maintenance and maintaining happily, I’ll likely cancel my subscription until the next time I want to do a serious diet or mass phase.
Have you used the RP Diet app, or the templates? What did you think? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. Until next time.