Tracking calories seems to be a bone of contention for a lot of people. On one hand, there is the folks that insist you have to track or you’ll never make any progress. And on the other, tracking will only ever lead to a life of disordered eating and misery. But, the reality, as always, is somewhere in the middle. So let’s look at the 3 levels of tracking food intake and find which is best for you.
Tracking calories and protein.
If you like numbers/ want to get really, really ridiculously lean/ like the ritual and procedure of tracking calories and protein, then this is a great option. While it’s not 100% accurate, it’s consistent and gives you a good amount of detail for your fat loss journey.
Since total calories and protein intake are the 2 most influential factors for fat loss, these are where to focus your attention. Your carb and fat intakes don’t matter for most fat loss goals, though as you get leaner, you may want to pay more attention since you want a minimum fat intake for a variety of health reasons. But for most of us, with a few pounds to lose, manipulating your carbs and fats to improve adherence through more enjoyable food choices is of more value.
A common complaint about tracking is that it is boring and time consuming. This is certainly true when you are new to the habit. But as we eat mostly the same stuff on repeat, it gets easier the more you do it, since the numbers are already stored.
Another downside to tracking this way is that some people do get fixated on the numbers and it can lead to disordered eating patterns, which no body comp goal is worth trading for. If you feel that tracking this way will be a problem for you, then don’t do it.
Food logs can be written or photographic, helping you keep track of what you eat along with the portion sizes and any notes on hunger/fullness levels. This can be great for accountability, identifying patterns and habits, and building awareness about the foods you eat.
This last factor, awareness, is probably the most valuable benefit of either food logs or tracking calories. You think you hardly eat anything, yet still can’t lose weight. But if you’re honest with logging your food, you can pretty quickly identify areas that need a bit of improvement.
As with tracking calories, food logs can be a bit boring to do, time consuming and easy to forget to do. Funnily enough, it tends to be the days with poor food choices that are the ones that are forgotten…
Following a structured plan
There are many options for building some structure into your meals throughout the day. One of my favourite options is the 3 meals, 2 snacks option popularised by Jordan Syatt.
The system is simple and flexible, with a couple of rules to follow:
- You get 3 meals each day, built around protein (1/4 plate) and veggies (1/2 plate). The remaining 1/4 plate is made up of carbs and fats as you prefer.
- You get 1-2 snacks each day, palm-sized and either protein based, fruit, or veggie.
- If you are adding a dessert or alcoholic drink, swap one snack for each.
While it’s not as accurate as tracking or food logs, it does provide a good structure for most people with typical fat loss goals. And it’s flexible enough for most circumstances.
Whichever you choose from these options (or if you choose something entirely different) to put some much needed structure into your nutrition, you will get good results as long as you are consistent and honest with your approach.
And if you would like some help with this, or any other nutrition/ training question, just get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.
Have an awesome day,