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How To Track It Like A Champ

 

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You just finished a great training session and what’s the first thing you want to do? That’s right, you write it down or even post it online for others to see!  Why are we SO GOOD about logging our training sessions but, when it comes to tracking our food it’s usually an EPIC FAIL?

Tracking and analyzing your food intake is easier than ever and it’s the final step in putting together an individualized nutrition plan for endurance athlete. In this post you will learn the benefits of using a food log, including how keeping a food log can improve race times.

 

What Are 3 Benefits Of Tracking It?

1. Helps determine if you are consuming the proper number of calories

The only way to really know if you are eating more or less than you should is to track it.

Self-monitoring is key because it helps you hit your calorie goals.

Let’s say your goal is to eat 2,000 calories a day. But when you review your food logs it shows you are ‘putting on the feed bag’ and consuming 3,000 calories. Armed with this valuable piece of information you can take back control of your eating.

On the other hand, if you are tired and having sub-par workouts maybe you are not eating enough. This can easily happen during big training blocks when volume is really high.

 

2. Increased awareness of current habits

Another benefit of keeping a food journal is that it reveals your eating pattern. Once patterns become clear you can work to change these habits, if necessary.

One example of a poor eating habit caught through record keeping  is eating most of your calories in the evening. Recording when you eat will make unhealthy patterns like this more noticeable.

And it’s not just about meal patterns. Nutrient timing is also extremely important for athletes. More specifically, for maximal recovery, protein intake should be equally distributed throughout the day. Reviewing your food journal can make these types of issues apparent.

 

3. Improved Adherence to Goals

You are more likely to make positive food choices because you are accountable to your records. This is one reason many athletes don’t keep records; they would rather forget how much they’ve eaten or how many times they dined out during the week. Just knowing that you are writing everything down helps to avoid overeating and increases motivation to stay on track.

 

When Should You Track It?

You don’t have to track daily but shoot for 3 days a week (2 weekdays and 1 weekend day). There are 3 different times when tracking food intake can be helpful.

  1. When You First Get Started 

You have chosen a goal  “A” race for the year. Now is the perfect time to start tracking your diet. This helps provide a baseline, determines if you are getting the proper amount of nutrients, and teaches you about serving sizes.

  1. As You Change Training Phases

As your training program ramps up or down calorie needs will change. Tracking your food  helps to adjust your calorie intake to meet the demands of your current training phase.

  1. More Often If Weight Loss is Your Goal

Tweaking your food intake as you attempt to lose weight is important. This is a very individualized process. What works for one person may not work for another. As you lose weight, your metabolic rate decreases so your food intake requires some fine tuning.

 

How Should You Track It?

There are many different ways to keep a food journal. Here are several popular websites and apps that you might find helpful. I have also included a screenshot of what a food diary looks like in MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal Food Log

Websites/Apps to Track Calories:

 

How To Analyze Your Food Plan?

Now that you have logged your food intake, it is important to carefully analyze your diet. Be on the lookout for ways to make tweaks that will improve your performance.

Let me provide you with an example using a 2,000 calorie diet. Remember from our last post your calorie needs should be converted to a meal plan.

 

A 2,000 calorie meal plan contains the following food groups:

 

2000 calories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now take your food log and see if it matches the desired meal pattern. I personally like to use the tracking form below with the diet plan and servings for each group on the left. Using numbers or checkmarks determine if you are getting close to your eating pattern.

 

MEAL PATTERN PIC

 

A cool feature of ChooseMyPlate.gov is that they provide the worksheets for you. Below is a sample 2400 calorie meal plan. It even allows you to set goals and rate how well you ate. To see more food patterns click here.

Choose Meal Plan

 

To Summarize

Tracking and then analyzing your food intake is an important final step to creating an individualized nutrition plan.  Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect but with practice you can learn to track it like a champ. Analyzing your diet and making small tweaks can lead to big results come race day.

As always, if you have questions about putting your plan together shoot me an email, I’d love to help.

 

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Learn the exact steps I used to become a 9x Ironman finisher, ultramarathoner, and Boston Qualifier. Take the guesswork out of race-day nutrition.

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