Keeping a food log, as a personal trainer in West Los Angeles, is the only thing that keeps me on track. Keeping a food log (a diary of what you’re eating and how much) is something I’ve always endorsed with my clients, whether their goals are to look a little prettier, perform better, or both. It’s one of the biggest pieces of the nutrition puzzle (not the only one), and always reaps great results when manipulated THE RIGHT WAY
The undertone of any popular diet is that it puts a control on your caloric intake while manipulating some sort of macronutrient (fat, carbs, protein). Most of the programs control calories by cutting out a macronutrient such as fat (Ornish Diet) or carbohydrates (Paleo Diet, Atkins), particular foods (grains, unhealthy fats, etc), or behavior towards food (Intermittent Fasting, Mindful Eating). If you look at any of these websites or meet anyone that’s had success with the diet, you can find a vast amount of testimonials PROVING they all work. So, should YOU log your food? Here are 5 reasons I think YOU SHOULD:
1. Calories in < Calories Out (caloric deficit) for weight loss.
You will lose weight by being in a caloric deficit. Bottom line. The weight loss will come in the result of fat, but may also come in the form of muscle as well as water. Being in an extended deficit I do believe is unsafe for your body. As a rule of thumb, for every 6 days you are in a caloric deficit, have 1 day of maintenance or surplus. Here’s what’s going on with your body during a deficit (from leighpeele.com):
2. Calories in > Calories Out (caloric surplus) for rapid lean muscle gains.
Metabolism plays a huge role in your body’s ability to get “calories out.” We all know muscle is metabolically more active than fat, so raising your metabolism through planned caloric surpluses accompanied with resistance training will help ignite your fat burning fire. However, you may have to put on some body fat to do so, and that basically comes down to how willing you are to see results and how fast you want to see them.
3. Less likely to eat like $%**.
Tracking your foods will ensure you are tracking which types of food you’re eating. Seeing this on paper, your computer screen or mobile device makes you much more conscious of where your calories are coming from. A planned “cheat meal” is definitely a must, as it will lessen the need to binge off the diet and will lessen the psychological impact of being on a set nutrition program.
4. Feel what real hunger is like.
Sometimes, we eat just to eat. It’s not so much our body’s telling us it needs energy, but more so our mind telling us we need something to curb our stress (emotional eating). Your allotted caloric intake will tell you whether or not you’re hungry because your body needs calories or if you’re hungry because of another psychological factor.
5. Manipulating macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein) is key to transforming your body .
9 out of 10 people who log their food use some sort of computerized usually in the form of a mobile application. These mobile apps make it extremely easy to see what your macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrates) breakdown is and how it’s affecting your body. There are certain macronutrient ratios that give your body a higher propensity to transform, which will become a larger piece of the puzzle once all results have been reaped from caloric manipulation. Which specific macronutrient ratio will help you transform your body the most can be recorded and observed.
LAST WORDS: Now, there are some drawbacks to logging your food. Some may find this to be a psychological burden, to the point where it will negate any results. Psychological stressors turn into physiological ones (cortisol production, for example) and puts the body in a state where the diet is less likely to do its job. Also, calorie counts on foods can be inaccurate which may make you over or under consume. I’m sure you could come up with a billion reasons you shouldn’t, but as long as recording your food doesn’t challenge your health and wellbeing, I would argue against them.