Five Reasons Why You Should Track Your Food Intake

MyFitnessPal App by Under Armour

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.

What is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is an excellent way to train functional fitness. What is functional fitness? Doing work. Moving an object or your body over a distance to accomplish a task. Lifting a bag of dog food into the trunk of your car. Placing a large container of laundry detergent on a shelf. Walking. Swimming. Climbing a ladder. Running. The list goes on…

Powerlifting can be used by anyone to improve strength and fitness. But powerlifters train for strength. Their purpose is to put as much weight on the bar as they can. Many powerlifters compete in events called powerlifting meets. The meet is designed to find the lifter with the highest “total,” or the one who has the most combined one repetition maximum of three main lifts. Strength and technique are important in these three lifts, but accessory work is also utilized to improve upon the strength and mastery of the lifts.

The three lifts are:

• Back squat

• Deadlift

• Bench press

The Back Squat

The back squat is a multi-joint exercise. It utilizes so many muscle groups that it is the king of all weight lifting exercises. It is an excellent way to develop leg strength and core strength. To perform this exercise, the bar is placed on the upper back, across the shoulders. With hands on the bar for stabilization, maintaining an upright posture and proper lumbar spinal curve, flexion of the hips initiates the movement. Flexion of the hips means the lifter decreases the angle, or “bends” at the hips. As the hips descend toward the ground, the knees and ankles begin flexion (bending) as well.

As this motion is occurring, the feet remain locked to the floor so that the knees and ankles can produce external torque against the floor. External torque is produced by sending the knees toward the outside of the body. Torque is a twisting or rotational force, so imagine the heels of your feet are twisting against the floor towards the outside of the body. It is important to create and maintain torque, because it stabilizes and protects the knee joint. It also sets the hip joint into an optimal position during the movement.

During the descent, the body needs to remain rigid. The core muscles should be tight, pushing the abdominal muscles into the spine. The calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and lats fire and stay tight during both the descent and ascent. The descent ends when the quads go below parallel and the lifter is in the “hole.” At this point, the movements are reversed and the lifter ascends back to the starting position.

A power lifters goal with the back squat is to squat as much weight as possible for one repetition. This goal is achieved by practicing the lift in different, low repetition back squat workouts. For example, the lifter may choose a rep-scheme such as five sets of five reps, increasing the weight each set. Another example would be a back squat training session consisting of seven sets of three reps. Increasing the weight each set. And, of course, a workout consisting of one rep is important in training as well.

When the squats are complete, the lifter would continue the workout with accessory exercises. These exercises are limited only by the imagination. Leg extensions, leg curls, reverse-hypers, sit-ups, back extensions, front squats, overhead squats, body-weight squats, lunges, and stretching.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

The Deadlift

Just like the back squat, the deadlift is also a multi-joint exercise utilizing several muscle groups. It develops core strength, hip strength, and back strength. To perform this exercise, the lifter stands shoulder width apart, with shins touching the barbell. The knees are slightly bent, and the ankles and hips are in flexion so that the hands can grip the bar just outside of shoulder width. The arms remain locked, and they do not bend at any time during the lift. The core muscles and glutes remain engaged, squeezed, and locked as the lift is performed. The hamstrings, glutes, core, lower-back, and upper-back work together to move the bar from the floor to the fully upright, standing position. After a brief pause, the movement reverses, and the lifter lowers the bar to the floor.

As with the back squat, a powerlifter’s goal in performing the deadlift is to lift as much weight as possible for one repetition. A lifter trains for this also in a low-repetition workout. Similar to back squat training, one would perform five sets of five deadlifts, for example, with the aim of increasing the weight each of the five sets. Sets of three, sets of two, and single repetition sets are also utilized to increase deadlift strength.

Accessory exercises for deadlift training are also utilized. Rowing exercises with barbell, dumbbell, cables, and machines are common deadlift accessory exercises. As are pull-ups with different grip variations. Sumo deadlifts, and deficit deadlifts are different deadlift variations that can also be used to develop strength.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

The Bench Press

The bench press is arguably the most popular weight lifting exercise that exists. Functionally, it simulates moving from a prone position to an extended position called the leaning rest. It is a multi-joint exercise that utilizes the chest, shoulders, and arms to move a barbell from full extension, to flexion, and back to full extension. The lifter begins face up on a bench with the barbell racked above them. A grip just outside of shoulder width, or wider, is used to un-rack the bar to move it to the starting position. The bar descends to the chest and back to the starting position in a smooth, fluid motion. A spotter and safety arms should always be used during this exercise. And, as with the back squat and deadlift, a one-rep maximum is the goal.

Training the bench press utilizes sets of low repetitions, just like the back squat and deadlift. There are many, nearly infinite accessory exercises that compliment the bench press. Incline and decline bench pressing with a barbell and dumbbells are most common. Dumbbell and cable flys are also popular ways to increase bench press strength. Body weight exercises such as the push-up and hand stand push-up are effective strength building exercises for the bench press.

Powerlifting can be intimidating. The name alone can instill images of very large animalistic men lifting unimaginable amounts of weight. But we are Normal Humans, and Normal Humans can utilize powerlifting to increase our health, strength, and fitness. Whether you are squatting, deadlifting, or bench pressing 10 pounds or 1000, work within your limits and compete only with yourself. This will always make you better, and is another tool we can use for our own personal improvement.