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.
You can find this set HERE. Search “recharge legging” and “recharge yoga bra”.
My favorite jean jacket in a size Medium (under $30!)
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!
Are you an avid Pinner? It would mean the world to me if you could pin this image below!