How do I track my food & calories?
If you are on a weight loss or gain journey within your health & fitness tracking your food can be the essential element to you getting the results you want. When I suggest to clients that they start tracking their food & logging nutrition there is an impending look of doom spread over their face (no joke), clearly thinking well how the hell do I measure my rice krispies? Fear not in this blog I am going to break down the process of tracking your nutrition to make it as easy as possible for you to understand & be able to fit in with your life. If you are wanting to lose weight or gain it is not something that just happens by magic, weight loss is a scientific process that requires an understanding of maths & a structured approach.
So first step if your goal is to lose weight then first off we need to know how to do it. This is one of the most over complicated messages in the fitness industry & many trainers hold it to their chest like its the biggest secret of 2020, however again its just simple maths. If your goal is weight loss it is a scenario of the following;
Weight loss= Calories In - Calories Expended Out (exercise)
In order to achieve a loss the calories in must be less than the calories expended, so you must be expending more calories than you are consuming. Basically this means you need to be exercising more & eating less. If you have a goal of weight gain then it is the same equation but the opposite way round, calories in must be more than calories expended = weight gain. If your goal is maintaining your weight then you must have an even energy balance. For weight loss this is known as a CALORIE DEFICIT. There is no magic pill, secret or juice you need, if you are trying to lose weight you MUST be in a calorie deficit, simple science.
Now you know what you need to do to achieve your goal the next step is tracking your food, known as a food diary. Without tracking you are simply guessing what you are consuming & tracking is a good place to start to see what you are currently consuming and any small changes that could be made to your diet. I ask all my clients to track their nutrition when we have a weight goal & you just want to track what you are currently eating. Tracking will subconsciously make you more aware of what you are eating but try not to change too much, tracking isn't for your coach to say naughty you, you shouldn't of had that gin or cheese platter. It is done to provide us with an insight to your current diet & where would keep make small changes to improve your overall nutrition. A coach should never make you feel guilty or ashamed of your diet, most of my clients will always need a degree of education about nutrition & a balanced diet so don't ever let anyone make you feel like this!
First Step; Download a food tracking app, the most used one is MY FITNESS PAL free to download & use. For online clients my app has its own tracking feature so use this as it keeps all info in one place & gives me access to your diary immediately which will be easiest for us both.
Second Step; Ignore the calorie set up when you download the app. Normally when you log in it will want all your stats which is good & handy to put in. From this information the app automatically generates a calorie target for you. I would suggest ignoring this as the calorie target given can be very inaccurate. Remember every one is different so Sarah's calories to lose 10 pounds won't be the same as yours, key point!! When you first start tracking you probably won't have a calorie goal so don't worry about the numbers just track all your food.
Third Step; Logging Food; the apps provide you with a barcode scanner which makes tracking simple as pie. On the back of the packet you scan the barcode, you will get an item come up. Double check the value with the calories on the packet (on the odd occasion the food the app has logged can be different to the packet & correct calories), normally on the app it will be done per 100g or per slice dependant on what you're eating. So once you have scanned the barcode pop your bowl on a set of weighing scales & set the scale to zero. Pour in the specified amount of granola & record that weight. This is the easiest way to track. I will give you an example of how I track my breakfast, it is easy & time efficient.
Bowl on scales set to zero. Banana & berries in bowl (don't weight these as fruit is so calorie dense not needed), then re zero scales pour in 45g of granola & scan the barcode on the packet change the weight to 45g on the product & add to my breakfast on app. Set to zero add 200g of 0% Greek Yogurt scan the barcode & input 200g in the grams box add to breakfas. Set to zero add 25g of wholenut butter scan the jar and add the 25g into the app on my breakfast. Each item is logged individually into the breakfast section of the app then the app gives you a total for your meal, breakfast is 525 calories. Tracking my breakfast normally takes about 2 minutes.
Occasionally an item may not be on the app simply scan the barcode & add the item with the measurement required. If you are making a home cooked meal the same thing applies just log each ingredient as you go and record the weight. In the app go to meals & add all your weighed ingredients & the calorie value. Put in how many servings this meal is for & from there you can log your meal per serving into your diary & the app will give you a calorie value per serving for your meal.
Fourth Step; Do this for each meal & all your snacks throughout the day including all drinks except for water. Be sure to add in things like sauces ie mayonnaise, fizzy drinks & alcohol. To track the small bits like jam & mayo the easiest thing to do is put your plate of food on the scales and set to zero. Squeeze on your mayo & record the weight on the scale. This is the easiest way to do it & makes zero mess. Weighing your food should be accurate but it should not be stressful so make it as simple as possible, there is no need to measure everything in small pots and then have to add it all together. I personally hate washing up so everything is weighed in one place to make things super simple for me. I suggest you do the same, minimal time, mess & effort needed!
Fifth Step; Do this for every meal and snack for the week. Whilst we are all eating at home all the time there is no excuse not to do so! Be accurate but don't stress too much about the exact number being spot on, as I mentioned before if you end up being a couple of grams out here and there it's not the end of the world, you're not prepping for a bodybuilding show just providing yourself with a picture of your current diet. Log your calories for each day & then you will be given a weekly total.
You want to focus on the weekly total as this is the important thing. If one day you hit 3000 calories the next 1800 calories that is not the end of the world as the weekly total overall would be more even. If you find that you are consistently going over your calories by more than 500 calories this could be your reason as to why you're not losing weight. For example if your daily target is 2000 calories per day x 7= 14,000 calories for the week. If you find you are consuming 16,000 this would be too high for your overall weekly total & disrupt your weight loss. If you find you are going over talk to your coach about changes you could make to your diet to help this.
Tracking calories should not be stressful or time consuming but it is a good way to educate yourself on calories & how to eat a balanced diet to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Nutrition is a big part of a fitness journey so it is worth spending 15 minutes of your whole day thinking about what you're consuming. I hope this helps & keeps things simple for you