Starting a journey towards your body composition goals is an exciting endeavor. Whether you're aiming for fat loss, maintaining your weight, or gaining lean muscle, one important tool that can guide you on this path is tracking your food intake. In this article, we'll explore why food tracking is invaluable, what it entails, and how it can be a game-changer for your fitness journey.
Why Track Your Food Intake?
Understanding what you eat and when you eat it provides a clear snapshot of your nutritional habits. It's like having a map that guides you towards your destination. By tracking your food intake, you gain valuable insights into your eating patterns, allowing you to make informed decisions about your nutrition.
It's important to remember that there are no "good" or "bad" foods—just food. Every morsel you consume contributes to your overall nutritional picture. A common pitfall in tracking is the temptation to underreport or omit certain foods, which can stem from a place of self-judgment. This practice only hinders your progress. Being real with yourself about what you eat is a vital part of gaining an accurate understanding of your current habits.
When you approach tracking without judgment, you open the door to genuine self-discovery. This honesty paves the way for making sustainable changes in the long run. Remember, the goal is to empower yourself, not to impose unnecessary restrictions. When you are real with yourself, you'll find that navigating your path towards your body composition goals becomes a smoother, more enriching experience.
How to Track Your Food Intake with food journals or apps:
There are various methods to track your food intake, catering to different preferences and lifestyles. You can keep it simple with pen and paper, jotting down your meals, snacks, and drinks. Alternatively, you can let technology help by using user-friendly apps like MyFitnessPal, MacroFactor or any smart watch app. These apps offer a comprehensive database of foods and their nutritional information, making tracking easier.
What to write in your food journal:
Some people want to keep it as simple as possible & others want to know all the nitty gritty details about their food habits. Here are 3 approaches to food tracking:
Let's use the example meal of a bowl of rice, black beans, chicken, cheese, and salsa for each tracking method:
With the estimation method, you'd take a quick assessment of your portions based on typical serving sizes. For example, you might estimate a cup of rice, half a cup of black beans, a palm-sized portion of chicken, about a 1/4 cup of cheese, and a couple of tablespoons of salsa. This gives you a rough idea of your calorie intake without the need for meticulous measurement.
Handful Method for General Estimates:
Protein (palm-sized portion): A piece of chicken roughly the size and thickness of your palm.
Carbohydrates (closed fist): A clenched fist of rice and black beans.
Fats (thumb): The size of your thumb represents a serving of cheese.
Note: Salsa doesn't fit into the handful method categories, but you can estimate about two tablespoons.
Precision with a Food Scale or Package Label:
Use a food scale to weigh the portions:
Weigh the rice, black beans, chicken, and cheese to get exact measurements in grams or ounces.
Refer to the package labels for precise nutritional information, especially for any pre-packaged items.
The key is finding a method that fits your lifestyle and preferences & allows you to be consistant!. Whether you opt for estimation, the handful method, or precise measurements, the goal remains the same: to gain a clear understanding of your calorie intake.
How Often Should You Track?
For effective tracking, aim to record your food intake consistently. Starting with a week or two of diligent tracking can provide a solid foundation.
Finding Your Energy Balance:
Energy balance is the cornerstone of body composition goals. It's the delicate interplay between the calories you consume and the calories you expend. Tracking your food intake lays the groundwork for assessing this balance. Once you have this information, you can make adjustments tailored to your specific goals.
Remember, It's Just Information:
I'm gong to say this again! Approach the information gathered through tracking without judgment! This data is a tool, not a verdict. It empowers you to make informed choices and adjustments that align with your objectives. Celebrate your successes and learn from any challenges without being overly critical of yourself.
Let's Get Started:
Ready to get started? Download and start testing out a tracking app today, or feel free to use the 3-day tracking sheet below.