DQS App - What It Is and How I'm Using It

I've been using the DQS app for the last month and I love it. A lot of you have expressed interest in the app. I've been cautious to recommend it because it is not a calorie or macro counter which is the most common question I get. I do not count calories, macros, anything - and I'm not against this if you do. I just find it doesn't work well for me and as an endurance athlete who needs to use food to fuel my workouts rather than focus on slimming down, it can become a slippery slope for creating disordered eating for me personally.

DQS stands for Diet Quality Score. It was created by Matt Fitzgerald and if you haven't read any of his books, I recommend checking out The Endurance Diet or The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition. These provide way more insight than I can offer in a single post about the different categories on the DQS chart and reasons why the DQS might be a good tool for you and your endurance goals. His nutrition philosophies can be explained with the following habits:

  • Eat Everything
  • Eat Carb-Centered
  • Eat Enough
  • Eat Individually

I love everything about the DQS because it is NOT RESTRICTIVE. It promotes eating quality food, diet diversity, carbs are your friend, don't limit your food, and don't eat stuff you don't like or that doesn't agree with your body. And all of this while not worrying about the amount of calories you are getting. Let's not confuse this with overeating. You should eat when you're hungry, not just to fill a box.

The idea behind the Diet Quality Score is the higher the score, the better, but you decide what your goal score is. I've set my goal DQS score to 20 during training. This has a lot to do with how frequently you eat, how high your mileage is etc. In the off season, I'll set it to 15 because I know I'll allow myself more treats and won't be eating as much while my mileage is down.

The DQS promotes avoiding processed foods in favor of whole foods, but accepts that everyone wants to have processed, fried, refined sugar foods and allows you to add these into your day, but you lose points. Here's the different categories of foods that get you points. You want to eat the most of the first group, then the second and so forth:

  • Vegetables: These are the most nutrient rich foods on earth. This is the category that you can eat up to 4 servings before you stop earning points.
  • Fruits: Almost as valuable as veggies.
  • Nuts, Seeds, etc: This group includes peanut butter! And you should eat less of this group than fruits or veggies, but you can eat up to 3 servings before you stop racking up the points.
  • Whole Grains: This group is important as a source of good carbs, but you should eat less of this than the 3 above.
  • Dairy: Dairy should be consumed less than the first 4 foods, and one to two servings goes a long way. These should be full fat servings, not low fat. Dairy promotes a healthy cholesterol level and improved vascular function. 
  • High-Quality Meat and Seafood: These are unprocessed sources of meat, including eggs (for all the vegetarians out there!).
  • High-Quality Beverages: This is tea, coffee and your first alcoholic drink of the day.
  • High-Quality Processed Food: This is energy bars made from whole foods only, supplements made from high quality foods such as whey protein, etc. 

Each category has the option for you to click on it and see what might fall in the category so you have zero questions when you're out to eat about where things should fall. If I'm not sure where a food falls, I just google the food and figure out if it's a vegetable or a whole grain etc. They also offer a vegetarian and vegan version of the app!


As I mentioned there's also an option to add low quality foods to your day (sweets, processed meat i.e. bacon, low quality processed foods, etc), and it provides details on what those are too.


It also tracks your score over time - weekly, monthly and yearly. You can choose to track other items as well, like your weight or how many servings of veggies you get each day.


Why Choose DQS:

It's easy! I love how easy it is to track the QUALITY of what I'm eating rather than the calories or macros. I work best off of unprocessed food and that is what the DQS is based on. I've tried counting macros, calories, etc., and it just drives me nuts and quite frankly, I don't have time to track. I know there are apps like My Fitness Pal that make that a bit easier, but the DQS app is the simplest tracking app there is. I don't have to search anything. I just look at what I ate, and click the categories that apply. It is literally a 2 second process after every meal.

It promotes quality. With macros there's an opportunity to fill your unused macros with processed food, like a pint of Halo Top. That's fine and dandy but macros is just about filling up a number, not focusing on where it comes from. With the DQS app, you get points for eating quality food. That's ok if you want to eat sweets or processed food, but you lose points quickly by doing this. I enjoy the game of trying to eat more quality food, and if at the end of the day I'm over my DQS goal, I'll consider eating a sweet to reward myself. However, you can be sure this is a sweet from unprocessed food - Talenti is better for you than Halo Top and it tastes better too. Just eat REAL FOOD.

It's not restrictive. There's nothing you can't eat and there's not DQS standard that everyone has to meet. I just try to hit 20 each day. If I don't, I don't feel bad about it and I can look at it and easily see where I fell short.

I've been very vocal on the fact that food is fuel. It took me a long time to get here though. I started out running as a way to stay in shape after college soccer ended and I realized by metabolism was not getting any faster. I also used it as a way to tell myself that I could "eat whatever I wanted." The way I view running and food since then has changed. I not only want to get faster, I want to FEEL GOOD while I'm running. The relationship between food and exercise is an important one to understand. You will not see results if your nutrition does not pair with your goals and you will also feel like shit. Because running on chocolate chips cookies, pizza, and ice cream just doesn't feel that great. Save that for after the marathon. My goal is to run faster - if yours is different, the DQS app and philosophy might not be for you, but I hope this post was helpful if you are considering using the app. Just do what works best for YOU and your training!