While the thought of writing down what your daily food intake might scare you, if you have no idea of what you’re eating, it’s hard for you or your Personal Trainer to plan how to improve and you won’t be aware of your current relationship with food. It helps both parties and becomes a very useful exercise if done correctly.
What does it contain?
A food diary needs to include the times and amounts of food and drink you consume on a daily basis. Record breakfast, lunch and your evening meal. It’s important not to forget any snacks and drinks as they all add up. You could also include how you feel after eating each snack or meal.
Psychologically, you will start eating better if you needed to write everything down. Therefore, try to be honest. It’s a great step forward that your PT will appreciate as it’s a great sign that you’re invested in your health and are taking your fitness journey seriously. A step that will put you on the road to success!
Recording anything helps you to reflect, learn from mistakes and also draw positives from your routines. As a matter of course, all professional athletes have their performance, diet and activity tracked.
You may also want to think about how you track – whether this will be a paper-based journal or a digital platform. Over the last two years we have seen a huge increase in people using smart watches and fitness-based apps. There are pros and cons to both formats, but it’s important to choose a route that fits into your lifestyle and keeps you motivated. At the end of the day, the main thing is that you can track, monitor and improve, but ultimately stay committed. There is a well known saying “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
Keeping a food diary should be one of the first things that you do when starting with a Personal Trainer. It can also be used during a training block to check on progress. Once water intake, calories and timings are established, recommendations can be made and suggestions based on the correct amount of food that should be eaten from different macronutrients.
What is a macronutrient?
A Macronutrient is the type of food group that you eat from. The vital food groups can be broken down into the following three groups:
Although all trainers and medical experts have variations on the correct diet, we can all agree that eating from these groups, looking at quality, time and amount will all contribute to your overall health. Having a nutritional plan is about establishing what works for you. It may mean that initially you need to eat less of certain food groups, but this may be added back in at a letter stage based on how your body is responding.
How to asses your find diary
Once you have a good view on your eating habits, we would recommend seeking skilled a Personal Trainer to help you understand any patterns or to establish key changes required on your fitness journey. However, here are some basic guidelines to follow if you are starting on your own:
- Note the total amount of water for the day. Your aim is to only add 10-15% to this per week and do not increase anything more until you have been consistent over 7 days. Increasing too much or too fast will only result in regular trips to the bathroom and a negative effect on your working day
- Note any foods that you know are bad. Cakes, sweets, pastry etc. You might be letting the odd 1-2 slip through the net but might not be aware of how much this adds up
- Try dividing your plan into protein, fats, carbs (P:F:C) and see if you can work out the % of each one. You may be overloading on one without knowing
- Note if you are leaving long periods between meals. Although this might be work related, if this is the case then you will need some kind on intervention. This might be a protein shake or snack as an interim – this shouldn’t be a long-term strategy
- Look for patterns in your behaviour and food sources. Most people try to eat the same thing on a daily basis. Although this is easy and a routine, it also creates a longer-term problem because you won’t be getting exposure to a variety of minerals and nutrients. Try rotating food and looking for new tasty bites
Look for patterns in your behaviour and food sources. Most people try and eat the same thing on a daily basis. Although this is easy and a routine, it also creates a longer term problem because you won’t be getting exposure to a variety of minerals and nutrients. Try rotating food and looking for new tasty bites.
The four day food diary
You will consciously be aware of your food intake when you start tracking, so you have to expect some natural changes. Tracking for a long period may not be necessary to begin with. It may be high on your agenda, but remember to start slow and work the food diary around your schedule. Keeping a food diary for 7 days may cause additional stress (depending on your lifestyle) so it may become a hindrance to some and typically people forget to input information.
Therefore, a typical food diary should be kept for four days and across a weekend to begin with. This will then be more realistic and give an overview of your work and social life. Friday (the end of a working week) is when people start to unwind and focus may start to decrease. The weekend is when there is usually a shift in food habits and times – resulting in potential calorie increases. Monday is the start of the working week and when people feel like they have the most focus. Therefore, recording your food habits between Friday-Monday is a good place to start.
Once you’re recording your food intake like a pro, you can increase the timeframes accordingly or use the support of a Personal Trainer for more detail. Ultimately, whatever format and timeframe you choose, you’re on the road to success and have made a conscious effort to kickstart your fitness journey.
You should always seek advice from your doctor if you have a medical condition before making any drastic changes to your diet. This advice is intended for short term analysis only.