How to Best Track your Food Intake
Journaling and tracking your food is a great way to keep yourself accountable and stay on top of what you’re eating. By no means, is it meant to make you feel guilty, but merely provide clarity on how much you’re eating and help you find some possible areas you can improve on. It can be a bit overwhelming and fiddly, I get it. So, I’ve whipped up a little How-To guide for you. Don’t worry guys, I got your back.
WHAT APP TO USE?
There’s a bunch of apps out there to choose from. My top pick would be My Fitness Pal – their database is extremely extensive for almost every form of food you can imagine and if you can’t find the food you’re thinking of, you can manually add it in. My Fitness Pal also allows you to plug in all your exercise, so you can stay on top of your total calorie intake and expenditure. Other apps to consider include; Easy Diet Diary, LoseIt! And YAZIO. Download a few and have a play around to see which suits you best.
WHAT TO DO?
When you are first setting the app up, pop in your height, weight, age and goals (fat loss, increase muscle mass etc). The app will then take all this info to estimate your daily energy intake, and whether you require a calorie deficit or surplus to get you to your goals. Some of the tracking apps allow you to customise this further, which can be of benefit if there are specific targets you are required to meet for key nutrients.
To get a good understanding of your intake, it would be great to begin with tracking a full week. Seven days will give you a good idea of your dietary habits during the week and on weekends. If that’s a little too much, I’d recommend a minimum of four days – two weekdays and the weekend. Many people eat quite differently on weekends, so I suggest you include both days.
HOW TO MEASURE
Try to record absolutely everything. Cups of tea, half a biscuit – absolutely everything that enters your mouth for the day. Ideally, I’d love you to weigh everything out, which might work fine for the avid meal-preppers, but maybe not as suitable if you often eat out and about. If you need to guestimate, familiarise yourself with the suggested portion sizes for foods and see if what you’re eating is the same as/more or less than a portion size and record accordingly.
Known as BMR, our Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of energy burned at rest, it includes the energy our body uses to keep all systems functioning and account for the largest amount of energy expended each day (between 50-70 of our daily energy use). To calculate your daily energy expenditure, you multiply your BMR by an activity factor, to allow for your lifestyle and exercise. By tracking your food, you will be able to see if you are overeating or undereating. As a general rule, you should be consuming roughly 30 – 40 calories per kilo of body weight to maintain weight, depending on your activity level. On rest days, you might eat closer to the lower end, and for double sessions, you might aim for the upper end.
MACRONUTRIENTS & MICRONUTRIENTS
Macronutrients, also known as ‘macros’ are the nutrients we need in large amounts; carbohydrates, fats and proteins and are required for energy, growth and repair. Micronutrients are what we need in much smaller amounts; vitamins and minerals and are essential for general health and wellbeing.
When tracking your intake, it’s important you understand how much you need each day. Each macronutrient has a different calorie/kilojoule value per gram. For your reference, 1 calories = 4.2 kilojoules.
- 1 gram Carbohydrates = 4 calories/16 kilojoules
- 1 gram Fat = 9 calories/38 kilojoules
- 1 gram Protein = 4.2 calories/17 kilojoules
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
Adequate protein is important to maximise muscle growth, cell division and protein balance. For most active people, aim for roughly 1.5-2.0g of protein for each kilo you weigh.
Carbs help to replenish your glycogen stores post exercise and prevent muscle breakdown. Suggested intake can vary so greatly from one to the next but try to aim for 3.0-5.0g of carb per kilo body weight and generally speaking you can allow for, more carbs on active days, less on rest days.
Fat is essential for cell function and vitamin absorption, fats are also a key contributor to hormone regulation, sustained energy levels and mediating inflammation. Fat should represent approximately 25-30% of daily calorie, but as fat is so energy dense, it’s important you watch your intake, particularly if aiming so lose weight. Aim for roughly 1.0-1.5g of fat per kilo.
Avid Foodie & Dietitian
Determined to be a dietitian, from the early age of 15, once graduating high school Rachel completed a Bachelor of Nutrition & Dietetics. Since then, she has worked as a Nutrition Advisor for a large multi-national food manufacturer, performed nutrition consultancy work for small and medium business and also dabbled in marketing. The food industry is her true passion, the ability to change and optimise the nutritional profile of an item before it even hits the shelf is a true fascination of Rachels.