Sunday, March 20, 2011

Help us, help YOU

The Importance of Logging Nutrition

The very first time I begin training a new client, before they even begin to warm up, I assign them one piece of perpetual homework: to keep an accurate log of their food and beverage intake. Why is this the first item, before even doing a single squat? Simple: because nutrition makes or breaks results from our work in the gym. You just cannot out-train a bad diet, no matter how hard you try, and the only way to consistently ensure that your nutrition is on point, is to have a record of it. Despite the fact that writing down everything that goes into your mouth is somewhat difficult and annoying to get used to, it is imperative.
Many people tell me that they “eat healthy” and do not need help with nutrition, when in fact they have no idea what healthy really is. This is not the client’s fault, as there is so much conflicting and confusing information available on product packaging, infomercials, the Internet, and any number of other sources. From these “healthy eaters” I have seen food logs with various combinations of carb-only eating, severe under eating, copious amounts of sugar, and an infinite amount of other bad choices. Drinking a diet soda next to your 1000 calorie bowl of pasta does not mean you made the “healthy” choice. Simply put, most people need advice and guidance from a professional if they want to change their bodies, and those that think they do not are often in more need than anyone!
Another great reason to keep an accurate log and share it with a professional is that you might actually need to eat more! That's right: you might be told by a trainer to eat more food. Pull your jaw off the floor and take a deep breath…it's OK. This often comes as a surprise, but many people make the mistake of taking in too few calories in a well-intentioned but uninformed attempt at losing weight quickly. But, without adequate nutrition, the body will go into "starvation mode" and actually STORE more calories as fat. This situation requires a planned approach with precision required to be successful at restoring metabolic function. Now, really, how many of you are going to be upset if your trainer makes you eat more food, and you get leaner or gain more muscle?
Another point to consider is that often, minor tweaks to a decent diet can make it a good diet. If I can let you get away with eating what you normally eat for the most part, and simply make small adjustments to portions or provide better alternatives, you will be happier and more successful in your fitness goals. I have often been able to simply cut out a few hundred extraneous calories from a food log from liquids where those calories were hiding. If you could eat the same foods as always, and just switch from drinking vitamin water with a couple hundred calories per bottle to crystal light with 5 cals per serving, you could create a 500-calorie deficit (enough to lose ~1 lb. Per week) by making that one change. The hitch is, I need to know what you’re doing to make the change!
The importance of being honest and conscientious with a food journal simply cannot be overstated! The benefits far outweigh the minor inconvenience, and results will come much faster if nutrition is on point. There are many ways to find the nutritional content of the foods you are eating, including a plethora of websites and smartphone apps. Some of our favorites include (also available as an iPhone app),,, and the website. Logs are often easily kept online, on a spreadsheet, or simply jotted down in a spiral notebook. Heck, write it on your shirtsleeves if it works for you!

Steve Decker

No comments:

Post a Comment