Readers, what I have learned in movement has been, as you might expect, largely influenced by personal interest. With my history of moving poorly and accumulating aches and pains, much of my (informal) research has focused on how to improve my training. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve started putting more effort into improving my nutrition. That’s not to say that I eat poorly in the general sense, or that I haven’t soaked up any information on the subject through my years of schooling, but I certainly haven’t gone after it with the intensity that the fitness world promotes. I’m now starting the process of fine-tuning my nutrition game, and one of the first targets in doing so has been to develop a habit of logging what I eat.
I should preface this by saying that I don’t think daily food logging is necessarily a long term habit that you need to cultivate in order to eat well. In fact, for some people it probably has the potential to create unhealthy fixations. But while you’re trying to establish a degree of dietary regularity, a food log gives you a clear picture of what your eating behaviours really look like. I’m logging my food daily so that I can build behaviours that will keep me eating well when I stop logging.
Using software is a good idea if you want to take a truly objective look at your diet. Gone are the labour- intensive days of jotting meals down and referencing little booklets. I having been using Under Armor’s ever-popular MyFitnessPal app since the summer, and it has served me quite well. You can search from popular foods or scan barcodes (I unfortunately did not realize the latter until I had used the app for a couple months). Once you’ve been using the app for a while you will have built up a nice little library of the foods you typically eat, so the process of logging becomes easier as you go. You can also enter recipes to get a nutritional breakdown of what you’re cooking and make it loggable.
Having a quantitative analysis of what you are eating can be an eye opener. For instance, I thought my diet was way higher in carbohydrates than it actually was. (There is some debate over whether high fat or high carb is the way to go, but I basically start sweating ammonia if my carb consumption is low, so going high fat for me would require more research.) I also wasn’t eating as much protein as I needed to for my goals, except on rare occasions. In most cases, you don’t need to have such a precise estimate of your macronutrient intake, but when you’re trying to change your body composition (i.e. put on muscle or lose fat), the ratio of carbs, fat, and protein in your diet is quite important.
Now that I have a better idea of how I am eating day to day, the next step has been to start planning better. It’s time to get proactive with my diet instead of just being reactive. I can log my lunch for the next day and see what the nutritional breakdown looks like. I can see on which days of the week I’m consistently missing the mark and figure out why. If lunch was light on the meat, I can plan for a higher protein dinner. Honestly, this is the stage of the process I’m currently at, so my planning still needs some work, but it’s coming along.
It’s important not to underestimate the impact that your diet has on your training. Good food means good fuel, and keeping a record of how you are fueling your body could help you tighten up this important lifestyle factor. If you are a numbers person, like I am to some degree, you might find an app useful to get a detailed nutritional breakdown. If numbers aren’t your thing, even just keeping a paper log of what you’re eating and when could be enough to help you evaluate and improve your habits.