How do you keep your workouts and diets in check? We discuss the reasons and best apps for food logging and how they can help you measure your fitness progress.
I am a big believer in tracking fitness progress. Doing so not only keeps you motivated, but it can also help you make sense of what is working and what is not. People are constantly on diets, trying to lose weight or gain muscle. But how do you keep track of your progress? Assuming you made progress because of the time you spent in the gym or simply listening to your body may not be the best method.
Knowing the specifics can help you set realistic goals, monitor your progress and maintain your motivation. In a series of blog posts, we will explore the different reasons and methods of keeping track of your fitness progress. We will start with nutrition as you all probably heard the saying that “Abs are made in the kitchen”. We will break this further, exploring why and how to track the following:
- Water & Sodium
- Food & Emotions
This Article focuses on the first two points – calories and macronutrients. Diet is the most important part of reaching your goals whether you want to lose weight or gain muscle. Tracking your macros along with calorie counting is vital to achieving the shape you desire.
Why track your calorie intake?
- Using a calorie tracker is one of the best ways to get control of your diet. We need to be better informed about what we are eating. Keeping track of what food you’re consuming helps you eat right and make healthier food choices. To lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories than your body burns each day. Tracking calories will help to ensure you create a “calorie deficit”. Likewise, if building muscle, one often needs to eat enough food for a caloric surplus. Tracking calories will help you meet your specific goal.
- Recording all those snacks and meals you’re having in a day can reveal some shocking news about your eating habits. Food tracking can help you to identify your bad habits as well as the good ones.
- It ensures that you reach your daily goals and stay on track.
- Food tracking can help to lose weight. You become more conscious about the things you are eating. This increase of mindfulness of one’s dietary habits means you are less likely to eat large portions or high-calorie foods.
- It can highlight common misconceptions about the food you eat. Yes, your chocolate smoothie nearly tops 700 calories.
- You’ll get immediate gratification. One of the main reasons dieters fail is because they can’t see any progress. Weight loss takes time and changes in water weight and muscle gain can often mask weight loss and make it look like you’ve gained weight. Tracking your food gives you immediate feedback which can be a powerful motivator. It can show that you’re still in a calorific deficit so you can relax knowing that weight loss is coming.
- Most people have a very poor sense of reality when it comes to proper “portion size” and what constitutes a meal. Food logging can help you learn to better measure and estimate portions.
- It can help you gain insight into how certain foods affect your mood and well being.
Not convinced? Experts support the idea of monitoring what you eat and drink.
A research review published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association looked at 22 research studies that investigated the relationship between weight loss and food monitoring. Reviewers consistently found a positive association between successful weight loss and tracking food intake.
Another study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics showed similar findings. The researchers observed 123 postmenopausal, overweight and obese women over the span of a year. These women were put on two different diets. But regardless of which diet the women followed, the women who completed food journals lost about 4 percent more weight, on average, than those who didn’t track their food regularly.
How To Track Calories
Carrying a pencil and paper journal and having to look up the calories of everything you eat can be a very tedious and time consuming process. Luckily, there is an app for everything including food logging. Thanks to smartphones, it’s easier than ever to track what and how much you’re eating, no matter where your day takes you.
Here are 3 food-tracking apps that will help you understand your diet:
Phenomenally successful and for good reason, MyFitnessPal app makes it incredibly easy to log your meals and snacks, either by searching for them or scanning product barcodes. It has a huge database of more than 5 million foods and you can save and re-use your logged meals. The app allows you to set goals, and displays simple but clear graphs to give you a visual report of your progress. You can also connect with friends and family for extra encouragement, join forums and swap tips with the community.
LoseIt, as the name suggests, puts emphasis on losing weight. Based on your current and target weight, height, gender and desired pace of weight loss, it assigns you a daily budget for your food intake. You can scan barcodes to log meals and calculate how many calories you have burnt from a session in the gym. The app displays green and red bars to indicate which days you hit your goals or overindulged, allowing to track your weight loss journey. LoseIt has a community forum where you can share your favourite meals and enter challenges to keep you motivated.
This is a more fun way to keep track of the food you eat. MealLogger is a photo food journal which helps you keep yourself accountable by sharing a photo of your meal with others. It is a unique app that connects you directly with a health professional, usually a registered dietitian. You snap a photo of what you eat, add a brief description and upload it to your account. The nutrition coach will then review your meal online, providing advice and guidance to improve your diet. Having a pictorial evidence of how you’re feeding yourself, is a great way to maintain proper portion sizes and can help to stop overeating and snacking.
Connect To Other Apps And Devices
Both MyFitnessPal and LoseIt make tracking incredibly easy. Both platforms integrate with other top health and fitness devices, trackers and apps to provide a seamless, connected experience. Both apps connect with Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Strava, Runkeeper, MapMyFitness, Misfit and more! Users can also track steps right from the built-in step tracker in their phones so no additional tracker is required. MyFitnessPal alone connects with over 50 devices and apps and adjust your goals automatically to take into account your actual daily activity
To Macro or Not?
When people embark on a diet, it is common for them to only monitor calories. But calories are not everything. Solely focusing on calories can leave people feeling hungry, lacking energy, and being irritable. Monitoring macronutrients allows you to counteract these side effects.
Targeting macros has become increasingly popular with IFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) craze sweeping over the nutritional stratosphere. If you search #iifym on Instagram, you will see over 5 million results! Counting macros means tracking the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that you consume on a particular day. This helps you to focus on food composition and overall healthfulness rather than just low-calorie foods. With the right macros, you can remain full all day, stay energetic, and build lean muscle to achieve that toned look. A lot of bodybuilders have mastered the art of calculating macros and have no no problems with whipping out their food scale anytime and anywhere.
Why Track Macros?
- While counting calories tracks the total energy you’re putting into your body, not all calories are created equal. Whether that 400-calorie snack comes from fruits or pizza doesn’t matter to your average calorie-counter. This can lead to a diet that’s unbalanced and unhealthy.
- Tracking macros help to prevent the feeling of hunger, low energy levels, and crankiness that diets can cause.
- Macros provide a closer look at how your diet works. This allows you to get more specific about the root cause of your abundant fat or lack of muscle, and tailor your diet to your goals.
- Tracking macros is especially of a great importance to those who want to build muscle. When you train, the muscle tissue gets damaged and needs to be rebuilt through protein synthesis. This process is the basic of building muscle therefore it is vital you’re getting the right amount of protein. Further, a new study revealed that with increased muscle synthesis, fat loss is also accelerated. This means that if you’re not getting enough protein, you will struggle to build serious muscle no matter how hard you train. Tracking macros will ensure you meet the correct amount.
- You’ll learn what your food is made of and what you’re getting out of them. This valuable knowledge will help you make better judgements and choose healthier foods. and use that information to eat better.
- It helps to eliminate “cheat” mentality. The goal of monitoring is for you to hit your daily macronutrient intake. If your friends are going out for pizza there is no reason why you shouldn’t go with them. Instead of eating 3 large pizzas on your own because it’s your “cheat day”, just fit a couple of slices into your daily macronutrient intake. Having a modest amount of such foods and being able to stay on target and consistent with your goals is much better than completely falling off the wagon.
How To Track Macros?
Tracking macros can be challenging but these two apps offer a great way to make IIFYM much easier to put into practise.
This diet tracking app was designed by a professional bodybuilder. It has a library of over 1.5 million food items and all the content is stored locally so there is no need for internet connection. What is great about this app is that it displays macro totals not only for the day, but also for all foods and individual meals. You can also set yourself goals and the app allows for detailed nutrition targets and multiple target sets. So if you want different macro totals for different days, this app can do that for you. My Macros + allows you to log your body weight to make sure you stay on track. You can also follow your friends and keep an eye on their daily progress.
Fitocracy is a super-simple macro and calorie counter. The app not only allows you to track your caloric intake but also protein, fat and carbohydrate consumption. This will help you reach your fitness goals, whether that’s losing weight, or building lean muscle. Fitocracy Macros tracks your eating history and provides you with weekly averages for macronutrient and total calorie consumption. You can also receive free exercise routines that you can perform in conjunction with your diet plan.
This app is essentially having a food police in your phone. Unlike other apps, there is no need to guess the portion size or to manually enter your food. It is super simple. You snap a picture of your food and write a basic description of what you ate. That’s it. Rise connects you with a registered dietitian who offers feedback on your meals and pinpoint your problem areas. It gives you personalized, real time support when you need it. The app teaches you the necessary good habits and over time you start to adopt them without thinking. This will help you to keep the weight off once it’s been lost. Rise it’s quite pricey and costs $48 per month. However, looking at all the positive reviews it received, it may be worth the price.
Be consistent but don’t obsess
Monitoring your calories and macros will help you make sense of your diet, stay on track and keep you motivated. As you lean to track your nutrition, you become a more aware eater. In this way you’ll be closer to achieving your fitness goals. What works best will depend on what your goal is. When it comes to weight loss, how much you eat is critical. To lose weight you must regularly feed your body less energy than it burns. Therefore keeping track of how many calories you consume is the best way to achieve your goal. If you want to build muscle, what you eat becomes more important. You must be providing your body enough protein to rebuild muscle tissue. In this case, tracking your macronutrients will best help you get in your dream shape.
Whether you’re tracking calories, macronutrients, or both, what is important is that you are consistent. It is very easy to overdo it but it is possible to enjoy using fitness trackers without going crazy. We recommend you aim for a weekly average that meets your calorie and/or nutritional goal.
Try out these apps and let us know about your experience. Next week we will look at the importance of water and best ways to track our consumption. We will also look at the relationship between how we feel and what we eat and explore ways to keep track of our emotions. Make sure you don’t miss it!