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How To Get Started With Food Tracking

Want to drop fat? Build muscle? Smash your first marathon? Recover from an injury? Feel like a sexy beast? Nutrition is half the battle. 
Ash Kavanagh

Regardless of your health and fitness goals for 2022, nutrition plays a big part. Want to drop fat? Build muscle? Smash your first marathon? Recover from an injury? Feel like a sexy beast? The reality is that nutrition is over half the battle. 

Time and time again we see clients make the same mistake of putting more emphasis on their training routine, and almost trying to bypass what they consume on a daily and weekly basis (yes weekend warriors, I see you). 

Here's the score: Most people exercise around 1 hour a day, leaving the other 23 (and maybe a few minutes) open for positive (or not so positive) choices that will impact all the effort you put into that 1 hour of fitness. 

You may find nutrition boring and, frankly, a bit daunting. But guess what, you are not alone. Macros? Protein? Calories? For some of us, these words bring on an instant headache. But guess what? Nutrition tracking may be your new best friend. 

Why tracking works

You may be surprised by what you do and – just as importantly – do not consume everyday. There are many sneaky calorie culprits that may not even come across your radar.

For example, the sugar or cream you put in your coffee, the sauces or dressings you use, the soft drinks and, yes, even what you may consume at the pub. That stuff all adds up and can be the reason you aren't seeing progress – ultimately feeling frustrated and unmotivated. You’re making all of this effort but getting nowhere. And that’s a crappy feeling.

Beyond that, it’s very common to think you are eating enough nutritionally dense food and getting enough protein in a day. But once you track, you might discover that you are far below an ideal range. This means you won't reap the benefits of your fitness routines and lifestyle changes.

E is for Effort

Now, I won't lie. Tracking requires some of the E word. Yes, effort. Many people (including fitness professionals) struggle with tracking at the start. It can feel annoying and time-consuming, especially if you've never attempted to track your food before. So here are some flaming hot tips to ease your tracking efforts 🔥

  • Do not attempt to track every single thing you consume at the start. Make life easier for yourself and track one meal or even just daily beverages. You want to build the habit and create consistency, just like training.
  • Calories first, then macros. The most impactful number to hit is calories, then the specific macronutrient targets (protein/fat/carbs). We’ll look at macros further in Part II.
  • Use an app (you can, by all means, keep a food journal if you find that works for you). MyFitnessPal, which free for basic use, is one of the leaders in tracking. You can even scan barcodes of nutritional labels, and the app will automatically input every detail for you (you may just need to check the serving size is accurate).

The beauty of using something like MyFitnessPal often is that it becomes easy to gauge portion sizes when eating out at a restaurant or in social settings. When you order your main course, you can roughly estimate calories, taking a lot of the stress away from being in that situation where you feel clueless and therefore think, “sod it, tonight’s a write-off anyway”, and fall off the wagon. Estimating is always better than not tracking at all.

Tracking may not be your newfound love, but it is certainly worth trying – at least for a few weeks – to give you a better idea of eating habits and create some awareness to get closer to reaching those goals you’re working hard for in the gym. Knowledge is power.

Stay tuned for Part II on how to set your calories for your goals, measuring progress and periodisation.

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