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When and How You Should Track Your Food Intake, Calories, and Macros

Over the last few posts, we’ve battled through tough times together, and bid farewell to a few that we’ve lost. But dammit, its high time we get back to having a little fun and getting some shit done. So for your fat loss satisfaction, we return to the nutrition action.

As many of you know, the core principle of my intermittent feasting-style diet (Feast Your Fat Away) is to eat lighter during the day, and enjoy your biggest meal — with the majority of your calories and carbs — at night.

As Big Poppa once said, “And if you don’t know, now you know.”

But I’d be lying to you if I said that diet structure is THE most important step to slashing fat and looking dead sexy (or deadly shredded).  It is really just a way to make your fat loss plan a lot more practical, easy to follow, and enjoyable than most traditional fitness or commercial weight loss diets.

But here’s da no bullshit truth — consistently hitting the right diet numbers (calories and targeted macronutrients) is by far the most important step to achieving any higher-level physique goal. I can’t (MC) hammer that point home enough. It’s just too legit to quit (talking about).

When clients ask, “why am I not losing any weight/fat?”, “why have I hit a plateau?”, or “why can’t I lose that last layer, that last 5-10lbs?”, I usually dig into the diet numbers to find the answer. As the great Brian Fantana once said, “60% of the time, it works every time.”

Brian Fantana Quotes

Actually in my experience, it’s been 95% of the time.

With the first day of summer fast approaching, I figured we’d dive into the diggity-details of diet numbers. I want to spend the next few posts helping you get them right. Part of the reason is that my goal with this blog is NOT to make you co-dependent on me. It’s to empower you, and give you the tools you’ll need to coach yourself.

So first things first. To get to where you want to go, you first need to know where you are starting from. How do you figure that out, and ultimately make the dietary adjustments necessary to reach your fat loss goals?

TRACK YOUR FOOD INTAKE & DIET NUMBERS FOR A WEEK

“That’s a pain in the ass Nate.” “I’m not a fitness freak.” “I have a life”. Etc.

Yeah I know, but this is not something I recommend you do indefinitely. Hell, I don’t track my food intake anymore. I gravitate towards certain foods and can now eyeball portion sizes like a hawk. But I highly suggest it at two different points in your fitness journey.

1. When you are first starting out, it’s a great educational tool.

By simply tracking food intake and numbers for a week, I’ve had clients realize their protein intake was paltry, they were committing “carbicide” like Bruno, or they were eating 1000 calories per day above maintenance levels via refined oils.  In short, they were not eating nearly as good as they thought they were.

Bruno Carbicide

This can even happen with “good” food choices. So if you want to get uber-lean, it’s not just about eating low carb, low fat, Paleo, All-Natural, Raw, Whole Foods, Island-style, The All-Weiner Diet, The All-Beaver Diet, or any other approach. Keep eating Costco size bags of nuts like an over-sized squirrel every day, and that spare tire probably ain’t going away.

By getting on track(ing tools), you’ll get to know what your general serving sizes should be in order to hit your optimal fat loss numbers. You’ll also probably see how much extra shit is sneaking in there. After you cut the excess crap and get a good feel for the right portions for you, then you can start to eyeball everything. You don’t have to be a statistician forever.  But it definitely helps educate and guide you in the beginning.

You can also see how where and what you like to normally eat, including restaurant meals in your regular rotation, etc., can fit into your overall fat loss plan. In essence, being more rigid with your tracking allows you to be a little more flexible with your diet, yet still get great results.

Perhaps it is most important from a psychological perspective. Doing something as simple as tracking your food intake forces you to take personal accountability AND some kind of action towards your physique goals. These two steps are necessary to achieve anything in life.

2. When you hit a plateau.

Going from out of shape to decent shape is one thing. But going from good shape to the cover of a fitness magazine, or top of an e-dating site profile page, is a whole other thing. If you want to jump to the next physique class, often times it necessitates being more detailed and consistent with your diet numbers.

Don’t listen to the intellectual pontificators that say “calories don’t count”, and throw around big boy words like “metabolic advantage” to make up for their lack of practical experience.

I don’t care what sounds good in a lab, lecture, or debate. I only care about what works in the real world. And unless you have great genetics or are using physique enhancing drugs, trust me, the numbers absolutely matter if you want to get ripped. Calorie deficits, metabolic advantage of macronutrient amounts and ratios, satiety impacts of food choices, etc., it all frickin’ matters baby.

And I’d say the diet numbers matter a whole hell of a lot more than throwing a bunch of BCAA’s, MCT’s, fat-burning herbs, and other magic pills into some bone broth, and cooking it all up in a caldron like Gargamel.

Gargamel

Busting through plateaus does not always necessitate biohacks, complicated cyclical diet strategies, or being cool and cutting edge.  Sometimes it actually necessitates the opposite — getting back to the boring basics. Maybe you’re underestimating how many carbs or added fats you are taking in. If all is on point, maybe its time to re-assess and adjust the numbers for continued progress, but only if you’re actually sticking to your current ones to begin with.

See what I’m saying?

GOOD TRACKING TOOLS

These days, with food databases and even smart-phone apps, its relatively easy and pain free to track your numbers. Here are a few free resources I recommend:

1. Pen & Paper Food Journal

Go old school and just write things down in a notebook. Use this food database to find the calorie & macronutrient information of any food.

http://nutritiondata.self.com

2. Food Tracking Software

Keep track on your computer or smart phone. I suggest the following:

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/

A VIDEO RECAP

I talked about this topic in the video portion of our Free Beach Physique Guide and ongoing e-course. I think it makes a nice recap to this post.

In the next post, I’m going to dive into protein numbers and research. If you would like more useful fat loss tips and strategies like this, in the same multi-media format, or you don’t have the patience to wait for my next post (with my leisurely working schedule), you can check out The Beach Physique Guide and Ongoing E-course.

Until next time, TRACK IT!