Wednesday 10 July 2013

Week 28 Nutrition Habit: Food Logging for Body Composition

Are you currently at your ideal body composition or currently and consistently losing fat and moving towards it? Are you currently at your ideal level of lean muscle mass or currently and consistently gaining? If not, then this habit is for you! In week 28 of the 52 Weeks to Better Nutrition and a New You, I have a special habit for anyone looking to build muscle or burn fat.

This week's habit is keeping a daily food journal. No, this not something you need to do for the rest of your life, but a temporary habit to help you get to your body composition goal.

Many frustrated people trying to lose fat or gain muscle eat inappropriately without realizing it. Research shows that most people trying to lose body fat underestimate how many calories they are actually consuming each day. In my experience, the opposite is usually true for those trying to gain muscle. They claim they are eating a ton, yet when they actually log their food, they have overestimated the amount of food they are consuming.

Food logging serves three roles for body composition. The first is getting you thinking about what you eat and how that connects to your goal. The second is accountability. For example, if your goal is losing body fat you will not like seeing things like chips and cookies in writing. The third is it gives you something to reflect on and make adjustments as needed. Without a record of what you eat, how can you know what you should change and how do you monitor this?

One of the great features of record keeping is later reflection. If you track your body composition, your training and your food, then you can reflect on what is working and not working for you. This can be especially helpful if you hit plateau. You can go back to your records and reflect on what has worked for you and what has not.

The Application
If gaining muscle or losing fat is what you are focusing on right now, then get a pen and note pad and start recording what you eat, as you eat it. If you want a higher-tech option, there are lots of cool apps you can get for your phone. One example is MyFitnessPal.

Does this mean that you need to walk around with a food scale and weigh every single morsel that enters your mouth? Does it mean elaborate spread sheets with calorie and macronutrient totals? If you are planning to step on stage for a physique show the answer may be yes. However for athletes and those training to look and feel like one, this is a little over kill.

Some items are easy to log. For example eggs, fruit, scoops of protein powder are easily measured. Here a few great ideas from Precision Nutrition's calorie control guide that can help with measuring the sizes of other foods:
  • Meat: palm of your hand
  • Vegetables: fist size
  • Carbs: half cupped hand
  • Fats: size of your thumb
Once you are logging your food, then if you assess your body composition and it is not moving in the right direction, then you can go back and make a few small changes and then re-assess a few weeks later. For example, if you trying to lose fat and not doing so, take out a few carb servings from your normal daily meals. If you are trying to gain muscle and the scale is not moving up, look at your typical meals and add a few extra servings of protein, carbs and/or fat to your meals. Assess, eat, log, re-assess and adjust as necessary.

In case you have missed any of the previous habits in this series, check out the links below:
Week 27: Eggs
Week 24: Farm Markets
Week 23: Restuarant Guide 
Week 22: Eat Natural

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