Hey, Friends! Happy Tuesday! I am so excited to bring you today’s post because it is on a topic I feel so strongly about, meal tracking! If you are new to tracking your intake, this topic can come off as challenging and daunting. It can be overwhelming and the task can seem unnecessary, but today I am going to break it down for you all and explain why it is so important and how someday you can do it in your head alone.
First, allow me to tell you all my own personal story with meal tracking and how it really has changed the lifestyle for me in such a positive way. When I competed in my first fitness show in 2014, I went into it not knowing much about nutrition. I knew what foods were “good” and which ones that I obviously had to stay away from, but I did not know too much more than that. I didn’t know the estimated nutritional value in each type of food sources, what amounts were good for me and my body, nutrient timing for certain foods, and what a day should look like calorie wise for me. All I had and “knew” was what my coach at the time told me to eat, which was pretty much the same food and amounts every day. Fast forward to the end of my show and getting back to normalcy, I was truly lost. I did not know what a reverse diet was (the amount of time you spend to slowly increase your calories back up to your normal state) and how to incorporate foods back in that I enjoyed. If you know anything about fitness shows, this period of time is crucial to your health and metabolism and it makes me cringe now that I knew nothing about it! It wasn’t necessarily my coach’s fault, but more so my own for not being more knowledgeable on what I was getting myself into. I gained weight back faster than I should have and I got to a place where I was stuck with my fitness. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to cater to my goals of keeping the leanness but adding calories. I was a mess!
When I competed in my third show in 2016, I had a coach named John Gorman that changed the game for me. It was more of a macro-counting approach allowing me a bit more freedom with my meal choices and how I wanted to eat them. He had a set amount of proteins, fats, and carbs for each meal and the total number I needed to hit for a given day. This forced me to learn about foods and it was the best thing that had happened. With this approach, you are given the opportunity to learn about all the foods you want to eat and what macros are in them for your set amount. For example, say I get 45 grams of carbs for one of my meals. I can eat these carbs anyway that I like as long as it is coming from a food that is primarily carbs with small traces, if none, of proteins and fats. This can be rice, potatoes, bagel, you get the picture! Since I know I need 45g of carbs, I need to look at the nutrition label and see how much of the food will get me to 45g of carbs. I then use my food scale in grams or ounces (depending on how the food is measured on the label) to get the amount needed. Sounds extensive, but after a time or two doing it, it will become second nature!
So when I came out of that show, it was a world’s of difference for me! Since I knew foods and what my body needed, I was able to save my metabolism and keep that leanness while still adding food back in.
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When people ask me to help them with their fitness journey, I ALWAYS ask “How much are you eating in a day?” Nine times out of ten, they do not know and a meal comes few and far between. They eat whenever, whatever, and often too little.
They are scared of carbs and cardio is their go-to workout. So why is knowing your intake so incredibly important?
If you want to make healthy, long-lasting changes, knowing your current metabolic intake is crucial. How do you expect to add in or take away calories if you do not know where you stand currently? Taking away calories if you are already in a deficit is unhealthy. Adding in calories if you are in a surplus can cause unwanted weight gain. You cannot hit the ground running if you do not know where you stand! So what is the easiest and most effective way to know your intake? Track your consumption for a week. Weigh everything that goes into your body (this includes sauces and liquid consumption other than water) and keep count of your water consumption. I always recommend the My Fitness Pal App by UnderArmour. It has an amazing library with thousands of foods ready to be plugged in. The scanner in the app will scan any label and pull up the nutritional label on it and adjust to your amounts accordingly.
Now that I have a few years under my belt of tracking my food, I can almost always look at something and guess the macros in it (a plate of pasta, rice, meat, etc). This makes things so much easier when I am somewhere unable to track. All I need is my brain! Most people want to quit before they get to this point. Tracking doesn’t have to be forever, and I promise if you stick with it long enough, you will know foods like the back of your hand. This allows you freedom in the future and the skills to be able to intuitively eat! I still track my meals now, but I definitely give myself the freedom to eat “outside the lines”.
Tips for Meal Tracking
- Always measure your food the same way (after the meat is cooked, for example)
- Set amounts for each meal of proteins, fats, carbs
- Purchase a scale that can be used in grams, ounces, and ML with the buttons on top (trust me, makes it so much easier than flipping it over to change!)
- Use a reliable meal tracking app, I use the My Fitness Pal App by UnderArmour
- Be watchful of your sugar and fiber totals for the day
Remember, change only happens when you fight for it. Comfort is the enemy of progress! Meal tracking can seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it you will thank your lucky stars for it. Learning about foods and their nutritional value per amounts has helped me greatly. It has allowed me the freedom to eat out, to eat on the go, and to make smart decisions on my food choices when I am in a bind. The first step is the hardest but once those feet start picking up speed, the possibilities are endless.
As always, comment below or send me your questions you may have. I would love to elaborate on anything I touched on. Questions on meal prepping in itself? Read my Meal Prep post HERE!
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How did you figure out what was the best calories/carbs for you to ensure you see results?? That’s what I struggle with the most is knowing what works for my body. I’m currently lost.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post. For me, It was a lot of trial and error. I remembered what my old coach, John, had me doing before I began my prep with him so I used that as a starting point. When you combine tracking the same amount of food for a week along with getting on the scale everyday and finding your average for that week, it helps you to see the direction your body is going. That is another post on its own, though! Please feel free to email my at firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional questions. I would love to help you out!
That was very encouraging and interesting!! Loved it!!
I found macros a little over a year ago and it has changed my life! It has changed my view of food and to see it as fuel. I weigh my food every time I eat and track in my macros plus! I love it so much and it has helped me reach my goals!
So happy to hear that! It really does give you so much freedom knowing that food isn’t the enemy! Thanks for taking the time to read this post!
I really appreciated reading this. I too often eat too little or way too much of the very obvious unhealthy foods..also having a general sense of what is “good” and “bad” but not in particular for me. This blog helps me understand it isn’t all or none with foods..and I understand the macro counting now in a way I didn’t before. Thank you for the suggestions !
I am so happy this post could help you! I was definitely in your shoes and completely know where you are coming from. Once I learned about foods and what my body truly needed I was shocked by how much I actually could eat!
What resources did you use/do you recommend when tracking macros?
I always use the MyFitnessPal App by UnderArmour for plugging in my everyday meals. I determined my macros by a lot of trial and error with how I felt and what my goals were. Hope this helps!
This is so great! I’m actually at the point of, do I keep going with my tracking and “memorizing” my foods or do I give up and run through the motions?? Yohmake a good point about going out to eat. This can be difficult especially during travel, but if I have an idea of the macros in most foods this would make my life a million times easier!!
Hey, Bianca! If you feel comfortable with where you are at and feel confident in intuitively eating, definitely give doing it “alone” a try! You may surprise yourself with how well you know your foods! There is so much freedom in knowing, so excellent job in taking those first steps. Thank you so much for reading this post and taking the time to reply!
Love your insight and following along on your journey!! You’re a doll! Xoxo
Thank you so much, Jade! Appreciate the support!
Thank you for sharing this! I’ve tried to meal track with that same app when I was super busy (in school, working full time, sorority events constantly, etc.) and quit after a few days because I felt as if I didn’t have the time/ energy for it. I do want to try it again now that I have more free time! One of my struggles is that sometimes I will mess up (eat some of the kids’ snack at my daycare, eat a filling dessert, etc.) in the early afternoon and then I feel full/ bloated and skip dinner because I know I took in way too many sugars/ calories. Do you suggest continuing to eat a normal dinner after that or is it worse if I skip that meal? Thanks a ton!
Thanks for stopping by! Definitely never skip a meal unless you really do not feel like eating. If you are hungry, always eat! Let me know if you would like to to expand on this!
Crazy how macros work! I haven’t lost a pound since tracking a year ago, but I get sooo many compliments from people who know me about how much “weight I’ve lost”. I can totally tell the difference in beach pictures from last year and this year that I’ve gained A TON of muscle. I also downloaded the Nutralete app (I think it has a small purchase fee), but I love it. Tracks CPF and fiber and you can customize it to track your needs depending on whether it’s a rest day all the way to heavy day. You have to know your macro goals ahead of time tho.
Hey, Laryn! Isn’t it crazy how body weight and how you look overall really have no correlation?! The human body is a crazy, beautiful thing. Muscle gain really helps make it look like you lose a lot of weight. In reality you are, you are just also gaining the muscle at the same time!
Way to go, girl!
Love it. Everything you said is everything I need to do.
I use myfitnesspal, I TRY to track everyday. I just fail to weigh my foods so assume I can eyeball my portions – something I need to work on.
Question, probably more so for the app itself rather than you, but how do you record your exercises (if you do at all)? I have a trainer at my gym and we do a lot of exercises. It’s so difficult for me to remember each one, how many rounds and reps etc.
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment! Yes, weighing foods can be the annoying part of tracking your day, but it really is so helpful! Once you get your rhythm down, it’ll be second nature!
I do not track my exercises on the app. What I do when I am trying to really hone in on my nutrition and If I have a specific goal is to weigh myself daily then collect the average for the week. If you are wanting to plug it all in, I suggest keeping a journal with you when you are training so you can go back and cross reference.
Hope that helps!