If you are trying to be “healthier”, or a little more conscious of what you're eating, you may have been told to “track your food,” or “keep a food log.” You may wonder, ‘Why?’
Tracking your food can be a real pain in the butt, right? Constantly entering and editing foods to enter into an app on your phone or online. What a hassle, so why bother? Let me tell you.
Scientific research shows people who track their food are more conscious of what they are putting in their bodies. These people also tend to have better results with weight loss and weight maintenance. Tracking food will make you think twice about eating a slice of cheese while you cook dinner. Little things like a couple nuts here and there can really ad up throughout the day and set you in the wrong direction, even if your options seem healthy. Tracking is also a great tool to hold yourself accountable.
Before we can talk about tracking food, let's talk about why it's important to know about your body and what it needs. Knowing your basil metabolic rate, or BMR is key. What is your BMR and why is it important? Your basil metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body expends at rest. In other words, if you didn't get out of bed today, what would your body need in terms of food.
Why is this number important? This number of calories is the amount of energy your body physically needs to maintain your lean muscle and organ functions. If you aren't able to feed your body it's requirements, you're going to end up storing fat for energy because your body is essentially in starvation mode.
Even if you may not feel that way. It's not uncommon that people struggle to lose weight because they aren't eating enough. Yes, I know. Take some time to wrap your head around that. You have to eat to lose weight and you have to eat to recover and build lean muscle. The amount you need varies depending on your goals. If you're not sure what your BMR is, you can visit this link to do a quick calculation: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/
Next, it's important to know where your calories are coming from. Now that you have a general idea how many calories your body needs, you want to make sure those calories count. Eating 1800 calories of all carbs, fat, sugar, and processed foods probably isn't going to get you far. You want to really make sure that your percentages of macro nutrients are well rounded. Again, these percentages will vary based on your goals, but a good general place to start is 40% protein, 30% carbohydrates, and 30% fat. For those of you who have tracked your food at any point, you can vouch for the fact you probably thought you were eating way healthier than you actually were. This can be a real eye opener, but also the key to success. You can't outwork a poor diet. Work smart and educate yourself in both fitness and nutrition for the best results.
I understand that tracking food may seem like a hassle. For most people, I recommend MyFitness Pal. This app is free and pretty easy to use. My personal favorite feature is the pie chart of your macro nutrient breakdown. I also love that once you enter or scan different foods, it stores them, so re-entering becomes much faster and easier.
Tracking food doesn't have to be a permanent solution to getting optimal results. What it will do is teach you what your body needs, portion sizes, and nutritional values so that moving forward you're aware of what you need. Everyone is different, and the same percentages of macro nutrients may work for you, but not for someone else even if you have the same goals. Tracking will help you figure out what works best for you personally.
If you're struggling with your diet or struggling to see the results you feel you're working your tail off for, try tracking your food for a couple weeks. Log everything you eat and drink. Learn about your BMR and find out where you might be getting too many calories, or too many empty calories from. Be patient with process as it will take some time and experimenting, but in the end, you'll be glad you did it.