Losing weight or adding lean mass is a difficult task. Eating can be as subconscious or autonomous as breathing. Most of us go throughout the day knowing we need at least three meals, maybe some snacks, and are usually looking forward to the next thing we are going to eat. When eating in this random manner, do you know if you are getting enough or too many calories? Do you know if you are eating adequate amounts of protein? If you don’t document what you are eating, and how much, it is very difficult to eat with a purpose to reach your nutrition goals.
In the electronic age we live in, there are a multitude of apps that can help us track the food we eat. These apps record the serving size, the calories contained, and the macronutrients contained. If you dislike apps, however, a spreadsheet or even a pen and notebook can be used to log nutrition intake. However you do it, this log is definitely an advantage that will set you closer to your goals in only a short time.
There are at least five reasons why you should track what you eat. These five reasons are:
1. To learn your caloric intake and eating habits
2. To learn your macronutrient intake and set macro goals
3. To use as a tool to plan meals
4. To use as a tool to combat overeating by being aware of what you eat
5. To be deliberate about your food intake
The first reason you should track your food intake, is to learn your caloric intake and eating habits. This first reason may seem pretty obvious, but do you really know how many calories you eat if you don’t track them? It may come as a surprise to learn the amount of calories you take in once you begin keeping track.
You will also learn some of your eating habits. You will see which meal, or which time of day you eat the most. And which meal, or which time of day you eat the least. Learning your habits is a good way to bring awareness to your diet and nutrition intake.
The second reason you should track your food intake, is to learn your macronutrient intake and set macronutrient goals. Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Your macros need to be set a certain way, depending on your goals. Whether for weight-loss, muscle gain, even certain diets, your macronutrients must be tracked. And if you are not tracking your nutrient intake, you will not reach your macronutrient goals.
The third reason you should track your food intake, is to use as a tool to plan meals. Looking over your food tracker will help you plan meals and make grocery lists. You will know exactly how much of a particular food to buy by plugging the macros into your food tracker. It can also tell you if you are deficient in fiber or any micronutrients, and you can adjust your meals accordingly.
The fourth reason you should track your food intake, is to use as a tool to combat overeating by being aware of exactly what you eat and how much. In this step, it is very important to be honest when entering your serving sizes. For example, the normal serving size for most peanut butter brands is two tablespoons. Most of us easily exceed this amount which can be catastrophic when logging high calorie-concentrated foods like peanut butter. It doesn’t take long to learn the proper serving sizes you need to reach your caloric goals. This also helps us become accurately aware of how many calories we are actually taking in. It may be surprising to learn how many calories are contained in our favorite foods. And it is very helpful to learn which foods we eat are high calorie-concentrated. This is just another step to help us to begin eating with a purpose, on purpose.
And finally, you should track what you eat to be deliberate about your food intake. Plan your daily meals one week in advance. Make sure your meals contain the calories and macronutrients you need for the goals you are trying to reach. Build the habit of planning your meals, and you will find that it becomes easier and easier to follow this plan as the habit is reinforced. But whether you stick to this plan or stray from it, make sure to honestly track what you are eating. This way, you will always have a record which can allow you to go back and analyze where you need to make adjustments if necessary.
Tracking your food intake is not difficult. It does take some work at first, but becomes easier the more you do it. It allows you to stop the mindless cycle of random eating, and puts you on the path of eating with a purpose, on purpose. Everything is more effective and efficient with a plan. Eating is no different. Tracking your food intake allows you to plan your meals to the very last calorie, even when eating in a restaurant. To make the most of your nutrition goals, be sure to start a food log immediately.