Strongr, Fastr and individualized: Pitt alums develop fitness app

“Strongr Fastr” is an app that helps formulate good meal plans and workout routines. (Photo Courtesy of Strongr Fastr)

As a person without a strong interest in fitness, Eric Lutz had trouble figuring out what constituted a good workout and a healthy meal — and sticking with the exercise and diet plans he came up with.

“I would try to go the gym, but would eventually end up not going,” Lutz said. “I really wanted something like a personal trainer, but I couldn’t afford one.”

Lutz, a 27-year-old planning on returning to the Community College of Allegheny County for music technology, eventually found a solution to his problem in the form of an app called Strongr Fastr.

“Strongr Fastr has really given me an idea of what to do in terms of fitness,” Lutz said. “I’ve been sticking with the app for the past few months.”

Strongr Fastr, released on mobile app stores Jan. 4, is a fitness app that combines efficient meal planning and precise workout routines. Based on personal information — including height, weight, dietary restrictions, grocery budget and fitness goals — the app generates different meal plans and workout routines specific to each user, ranging from “beginners” to “experts.”

Pitt alum Philip Schinis created the app in 2017. Schinis was motivated to create Strongr Fastr because he was dissatisfied with the fitness apps available and noticed other fitness lovers were too. People on the internet fitness forums he frequented, such as bodybuilder.com, complained that the apps available to them couldn’t meet their specific needs. He then decided to make an app where people at different fitness levels could have a proper platform to manage all their fitness needs.

“Unlike other apps, this app caters to different levels of people,” Schinis said. “A lot of apps out there cater to more casual fitness users who are trying to stay healthy and maybe work out at home, but there aren’t a lot of apps for people who are looking to train more seriously.”

The free version of the app offers workout routines, but only one day of meal planning each week. Users can upgrade to the premium version for full meal-planning access in addition to the workout aspect. For premium access, users can pay $13 a month for a three-month period or $5 a month for a 12-month period.

Schinis quit his software developing job in early 2016 to pursue developing Strongr Fastr. Last year, Schinis released a beta test of the web version of the app to test the viability and usability of the app, making alterations based on feedback from beta testers. Since its recent release date, Strongr Fastr has accumulated between 500 and 1,000 users across web, Android and iOS platforms.

Mary Weidner, another Pitt graduate, joined the project on the business and marketing side. Weidner said she started working with Schinis on the app because she wanted push herself out of her comfort zone.

“I’ve never really thought of myself as being a risk-taker,” Weidner said. “I really liked the idea of learning and being in a position that would be hard to find in the real world.”

Schinis found the meal-planning aspect to be the main problem with the available fitness apps and decided to emphasize that feature in the app’s online description. Schinis said the app works to ensure that the user’s overall diet fits within the nutionital parameters that they are aiming for. It also allows the user to insert their own preferences for when they want to eat and what types of food they prefer.

“There are only a few apps that plan out what you should grocery shop and what recipes you should cook in advance each day, but they lack on the workout side,” Schinis said. “There’s not an app that does good meal planning that also matches you with quality workout routines.”

The meal-planning aspect of the Strongr Fastr app considers the user’s health goals when creating daily diets. It then creates grocery lists based on the suggested meals to guide the user’s shopping trips.

Other problems that Schinis and Weidner found with other apps’ meal planning were long and expensive grocery lists as well as useless meal suggestions. Weidner said Strongr Fastr looked for high-rated recipes online and then simplified them to cut the cost and time to make them. An example of a meal includes eggs with tomato and avocado for breakfast and a tuna salad wrap for lunch.

“A lot of our recipes are very basic, standard — and don’t require crazy ingredients. We wanted them to be very realistic,” Weidner said.

Lutz found the customization and thoroughness of the meal planning in Strongr Fastr to be effective compared to other apps that simply track calories.

“I never eat breakfast, so I can take that off and the app doesn’t even consider breakfast for the meal plan,” Lutz said. “There are actually pretty good recipes. They really vary, so you’re not just eating a plain chicken breast, which is great.”

Schinis also described how the app’s meal planning is accurate in adhering to nutritional parameters and diet goals.

“The app is pretty smart in making sure your overall diet fits within the nutritional parameter that you’re aiming for, and those parameters by default are based on the latest scientific research,” Schinis said.

Schinis and Weidner also expanded on the workout aspect of the app by further accomodating user experience. Lutz described how he found the breakdown of exercises into levels and video demonstrations of exercises very useful. He also appreciated the ability to easily switch between easier or harder modes.

“A big benefit is seeing the exercise,” he said. “It shows you exactly how to do it or how to have proper form or any variations on it so that you can feel comfortable in the workout that you are doing.”

Schinis and Weidner also plan to integrate third parties such as Fitbit or MyFitnessPal to increase the number of users and improve the app.

Beyond those plans, Weidner said she and Schinis hope Strongr Fastr will go on to surpass other apps in the market.

“Our mission is to help people cut through all the noise in the fitness industry and give them plans that just work and are backed by science,” Weidner said.

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