Nutrition tracking is an essential part of the fitness, weight loss, and mass gain process. Some people find this process hard while others find it easy. The main difference between the two types of people is the motivation. More often than not, in my experience, if a person has trouble tracking nutrition, the problem is he or she simply does not want to do it. People come up with all sorts of excuses, such as:
- I do not have the time
- I am not sure what is in the food
- I do not understand calories and macronutrients
However, these things can be easily addressed if someone is motivated. Time is the only legitimate point, in that it can be difficult to track, but if you really want to reach your goals, you have to put in the work. Once a person gets into a rhythm and knows what is in food he or she commonly eats, entering the data usually take no more than 10 minutes per meal, less for snacks, or usually no more than 30 minutes per day. That is not a long time, especially since it will help you reach your goals.
The point of nutrition tracking Without insight we cannot assess, plan, track change, and modify as needed. The point of nutrition tracking is to gain insight into a your eating. This applies to the initial assessment and ongoing adjustment.
Initial assessment The initial assessment of a your nutrition is to gain insight into current eating habits. How this occurs is by a trainee completing a food log, whether via an app like MyFitnessPal or a written food log. By looking at the food log we can look at overall behaviors for areas that are ideal and spots that need improvement. We consider quality of food, calorie intake, timing, macronutrient intake, and possibly other areas, such as alcohol consumption. Another equally important point of the initial tracking is to help you become more familiar with your food habits. Many people think they know what they eat, but once tracked, realize the food they consume differs from their believed consumption. The initial assessment is meant to be insight for the person who will review, such as a trainer or nutrition coach, but also for the person tracking, you.
Ongoing adjustment Nutrition tracking is an assessment tool that helps us track nutrition targets such as calories, protein, and food consumed, must like workout tracking helps us track sets, reps, and exercises completed. Just as the workouts stats allows us to assess if a you completed more or less reps, ran further or faster, or other variables, such as changes in rest used, nutrition tracking tells us if you are meeting or exceeding nutrition targets. Meeting or exceeding these targets, and their correlation to meeting goals such as fat loss, allow us to make adjustments. If you are not seeing progress, but have followed the program diligently, then we need to make a change. If you are progressing, but the rate of progress could be improved, we likely need to make change. If a you are not following the program, and are not seeing progress because of this, then we likely do not need to make a change. Without seeing what is working and what is not through the use of data metrics, we cannot determine what changes to make, if any. This will affect your progress in negative ways. Ongoing assessment is necessary.
How the data helps progress Data metrics are important for assessment of anything. This applies to fitness goals like it does anything else. This is even more important for online training, which is the main way we deliver our training services right now. Seeing data such as weight, lean mass, and fat mass for body stats with regular tracking over time allows us to gauge progress. If you are moving toward your goals, such as body fat reduction, we can look at the program and your consistency to see that both are working. If you are not reaching your goals, we look at the stats to help determine the issue. While motivation and work effort are always required, if you are putting in work, we look at the stats to see what is holding up progress. One way we do this for body composition changes is to look at nutrition tracking. If you want to lose fat, we look at calories consumed and can adjust the calories down to help with weight loss. Without being able to see the calories, we would not know what adjustment to make. The last sentence reflects the overall important of tracking to any fitness goal. Simply put, if you are not tracking, you do not know if you are moving toward your goals, or even worse, how to adjust to keep moving toward your goals. You are just using guesswork.
Nutrition tracking is temporary Nutrition tracking is not meant to be forever. It is meant to be a thing that provides information for immediate nutrition program; tracking and modification in the short term; education for the individual; and something that will help a person transition to intuitive eating.
Track to become educated Becoming educated about nutrition requires hands on work. The tracking of food helps you realize what you eat, and to contrast against historical eating, by allowing you to see what is in food. Through nutrition tracking you become aware of what is “in” food, such as the macronutrients, micronutrients, and preservatives. Ideally, by paying attaching the actual tracking, such as the data collected in MFP, but also by looking at labels, comparing foods in store, and similar tasks, such as noting limitations with nutrition information for restaurants, a you gain basic education about food. This basic education is what helps you know how to intuitively eat.
Transition to intuitive eating Intuitive eating is not simply eating what you want when you want—that is mindless eating. Intuitive eating is being able to select foods that you enjoy but that also help you reach your goals. By educating yourself about what is in food, how to read labels, and contrasting food habits that did no equal success versus those that did, you will be able to make educated decisions about food without tracking. I spent years tracking food. It is why I am able to look at foods and have an idea of macronutrients, calories, and additives contained in common foods. Intuitive eating also includes being able to read real hunger signals versus those brought on by something else, such as boredom or stress; how to tell when you are not timing your food right, how to tell if you are overeating or undereating, and other topics, such as how to tell when you are getting enough fiber, and then being able to adjust using the education you have about what is in food. That is another topic, however.
Do you need to track nutrition? Yes. If you are not reaching your weight loss, fitness, and health goals, you need to track nutrition. What you eat is always a part of the equation. No one loses weight without food. No one improves fitness without food. No one improve health without food. You need to track, at least for a while until you are educated and mindful enough to eat intuitively. Nutrition tracking is easier than ever thanks to tracking tools such as MyFitnessPal and meal planning is easier than ever thanks to tools such as eMeals.
Your goals are dependent upon nutrition. You have tools that a readily available to help you succeed, but even without them you can plan and track your eating to ensure you reach you goals. These two things are paramount to your success.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.