Over the last month I have, for the first time in my life, I have kept a food log. I have literally written down everything I have consumed, and then I have logged them into an online calorie calculator. Why on why would someone do this? I wanted to see if I could find patterns. I’m happy with my bodyweight and my body composition–I’m currently sitting at a bodyweight of 245-250, and 10-11% bodyfat.
But I believe that if you measure something, then whatever it is can be improved. If you can look at the data, you can see patterns. If there is anything in our progress that that makes us unhappy, it can often be solved by tweaking the patterns. It probably doesn’t sound very fun, but I’ve really enjoyed seeing the numbers behind what I was so sure I knew.
That’s why I like the online calorie trackers. Many can be rendered into graphical representations so trends are even easier to track.
I’ll give you an example. A month ago, if you had asked me how many calories I ate on a “low calorie” day, I probably would have said, “Oh, probably like 2000. Or whatever.” I probably would have estimated my high days as “Well maybe like and but like 9,000. But you know.” Just kidding–the numbers would have been comparable, but that linguistic duncery is not where I live, yo. But like whatever.
The results of food tracking so far
My low days are usually closer to 4,000 calories, typically in the range of 3800-4100. My high days are well above 5,000. Last Saturday I was quite stunned to see that I ate 9,000 calories. Yes, it was an awesome day.
I don’t stuff my face like a hog-gone-wild, but I don’t limit myself either. If you could see the foods I eat and then you looked at how lean I am, it might surprise you to see that I eat lots of candy (Easter is coming and that means Peeps!!!), at least one pizza every week, and I’m a freaking crackhead for bread. Also, there are intervals where I don’t have anything but water for 20-26 hours.
The more data you have, the more options you have
I have always done a better job of tracking my sleep and weight training than my eating, which has also proved helpful. By tweaking variables like sleep and training frequency and/or intensity, I’m usually able to ferret out a pattern that I can change, without going the “chicken breasts and broccoli for every single meal” route that I couldn’t actually stick with if my life depended on it.
A lot of the concepts I’ve touched on here were presented to me in Mike Nelson’s Metabolic Flexibility Program, which I have been experimenting with for a few months now.
If you have never tracked your food, I highly recommend giving it a try if you are unhappy with the way you feel, look, or you’re wondering if you can maker faster progress. I would write it down on paper, or if you’re more of an online type, here are the two nutrition trackers I have been trying (thanks to David Dellanave, one of my Gym Movement pals, for the recommendations).
Daily Burn has a lot of features but I’ve only used it to keep track of my foods so far. When you eat something you can find it by searching their database, which I’ve yet to stump. Meaning, I’ve never searched for a food and not found it, and I’ve searched for some doozies just trying to fool it.
If you’re an iPhone user there’s an app, too. It’s pretty slick and very easy to use.
Daily Burn is only free for the first week, then there’s a yearly or monthly fee.
My Plate is through Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong site. So far I don’t see anything that Daily Burn doesn’t do, but again, I’m not really interested in every little feature. I will say that I don’t think the user interface is nearly as intuitive or user-friendly.
And that, as they say, is that. Simple enough for anyone to use. If you’ve ever contemplated trying a similar experiment to see how what you’re eating actually stacks up numerically, I would try each of these out and make things a little easier on yourself.