"If You're Not Tracking, You're Simply Slacking"
by Matthew Sloan
Many people assume that tracking your food is difficult and time consuming, and that's just plain wrong. Tracking your food can be very simple, easy, and beneficial. Here are the two main reasons why tracking what you eat is so important.
1. Breaking fat loss plateaus. Many people who begin "fat loss journeys", see progress in the beginning—they lose 5-10 lbs or so, but then it stops. The primary reason for this fat loss plateau is a problem with their diet (I will go into the exact detailed reasons for this in another article). People will try everything to break through this plateau—everything from crash diets to extreme amounts of cardio. But eventually these people will just give up, end up binge eating, and gaining all the weight they loss back—I know from experience; this is how it started for me on my fat-loss journey. However, it would be very simple to break through this plateau if you were tracking your food. For example, let’s say I had a client who had seen some progress and had lost 5 lbs, but then hit a plateau. Since I would have had him tracking his food, he could do a few things: he could take away 25 grams of carbs from his daily diet, he could switch up his macronutrient ratio, he could add in some carb cycling, or he could even add in some cardio(100 calories worth). Any of these methods would let him break through his plateau, and continue to reach his goals. But to do any of these things, the person must know what they are consuming daily. If you aren't tracking what you eat, then you will be unable to use any of these methods, and will just get frustrated with these plateaus.
2. Performance. Whether you are a strength athlete, a bodybuilder, or even a fighter, your performance will be crucial for success, and nutrition will be the key factor to performing well. So again, tracking what you eat is going to allow you to manipulate your diet for your specific needs. For example, if a bodybuilder is noticing a lack of a good "pump" in the gym, then, if he was tracking his food, he could add in some simple carbs before his workout—50 grams or so. Another reason for a bodybuilder to track what he eats, could be to make sure he is refilling his glycogen stores after an intense workout. He can make sure that he gets 50-100 grams of carbs post-workout.
If you are a powerlifter, and you start noticing that one of your major lifts is not going up, then you may need to change something. Now, of course, you could change up your workout, but you could also do something like add an extra few hundred calories to your diet. The increase in calories will help your overall strength gains, and if you aren't tracking your food, you will be unable to know whether or not you are getting these extra calories.
If you are a fighter, then your energy levels will be crucial for your performance. If you know what you are consuming, then you will be able to add in carbs/fats for an increase in energy if that is needed.
There are many more benefits to tracking what you eat and there are not any negatives to it, aside from the few minutes a day it takes to look at the nutrition facts of your food. For me personally, I use a basic nutrition app to track my food (for convenience), but you can always go “old-school” and use a pen and paper.