why it IS USEFUL
When it comes to having a successful fitness journey, good nutrition is vital to achieving desired goals. As the old saying goes, it’s impossible to out train a bad diet, and for the most part, this is very true.
Sure, you can probably get stronger without worrying about what you eat, especially when first starting, but when you’re ready to get serious and want to take your results to the next level, especially when it comes to body composition, you need to be precise with your diet. There are many different approaches to nutrition, and all have their own pros and cons, but whatever you choose, planning and tracking are essential.
Perhaps you want to try to get in shape by simply eating clean; which generally refers to eating certain whole-foods while eliminating others. And you may be pleased with the initial results. Same goes with reducing portions, eliminating soda, etc. These measures may offer stellar results at first, but eventually those will slow down, and you may find yourself stuck.
Here is where tracking comes into play. Having a good idea of how many calories you’re eating each day, or better yet, what the exact macronutrient breakdown is, allows for a much easier time when adjustments are required. Tracking allows you to look at your diet, know exactly what to adjust to shave off 300 calories, or to lower carb intake. Without tracking…if you’ve just been guessing…you really can’t do much. What are you going to do - eat “cleaner” and just hope for the best? Tracking and precision are vital to achieving the results you desire.
Planning ahead of time is critical. Let’s say you’ve calculated your macronutrient goals, and you know how many calories you’re aiming for that day. If you log as you go, just eating and tracking, you may find you’ve run out of protein, carbs, or fat toward the end of the day, with a few meals to go. Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself needing 45 more grams of protein, and you’ve already burned through your daily fat. Not fun. By planning ahead each day, you can see where your gaps are, and fix those before they happen.
As a general rule, you want to try to eat the same amount of calories each day for 7-10 days, and check your bodyweight. If your weight remains stable, you’ve found your maintenance level. If you lost weight, you’re eating under your maintenance, and if you gained weight, you’re eating over your maintenance.
Once you’ve found your maintenance caloric intake, simply adjust it up or down, depending on your goals. For the average person looking to get stronger, a good starting point might be one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, one gram of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight, and .25-.4 grams of fat per pound. Of course, the actual numbers can vary based on your carb tolerance and preferences, but that’s a good start.
Let’s say a 200 pound man wants to clean up his eating. He’d start with 200g protein, 200g carbs, and 50-80g fat. That’s a pretty good starting macro profile, noting, of course, needs will be different on a case by case basis, and the man in our example will have to make adjustments. Still, it’s a good starting point and very easy to calculate.
Methods of tracking
There are several calorie counting apps out there, but sometimes, nothing beats a good old fashioned spreadsheet, and/or hand written log. It’s much easier to click through days and see at a glance what you have eating versus scrolling back through your smart phone app of choice.
The attached spreadsheet has been created for your personal use. The first page is a sample, filled out with random foods, and the following three are blanks, for your use. You can print it, copy it, or do whatever you’d like with it.
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