The Importance of Tracking Your Intake

Tracking your calorie and macronutrient intake can be an extremely beneficial educational tool to create awareness around what you are truly putting into your body. It helps us to realize how little or how much we’re eating, where our diet may be lacking in a certain macronutrient and can help us to eventually feel confident in making goal-supportive nutrition choices without using an app.

   Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, increased performance, increased strength, or just finding an overall healthier balance with your lifestyle, tracking your food intake is a solid place to start. How can you ever expect to gain control over your goals if you don’t have any idea of not only the quantity of food you’re consuming but the overall quality of the foods you’re consuming?

   Both quantity and quality matter when it comes to reaching our goals. In terms of food quality, we want to gear our focus toward choosing nutrient-dense foods 80-100% of the time (foods that provide us with more micronutrients for generally fewer calories) versus energy-dense foods (foods that provide us with a larger amount of calories and few micronutrients). Now, this is not to say that all nutrient-dense foods are low-calorie foods, because that’s certainly not the case. There are many higher-calorie foods out there that provide us with tons of micronutrients, but the difference is that they’re providing us with more health benefits than your typical energy-dense, empty-calorie foods.  

   As important as macronutrients are in terms of your goals, let’s shift the gears and focus on some other benefits of tracking your intake. Along with macros, micronutrients are also extremely important when it comes to making progress and your overall health. Understanding the nutrient composition of your foods can help you to get a better grasp of foods that fit your needs and make you feel your best. An app that helps you track your food intake can help you to get a sense of where you may be lacking in certain micronutrients and help you assess where you can add more in. Noticing that you’re not having at least 2-3 cups of veggies per day? Maybe you’ll begin to mix more into your meals for volume and find flavorful ways of incorporating them. Noticing that you’re getting in zero fruit? Maybe you’ll begin to switch up your morning breakfast to a fresh fruit smoothie or some oats with berries.

  Tracking your intake also gives you a sense of what foods work best for YOU when paired together. Maybe you noticed some increased energy levels this past week and are wondering if it could be from your food intake. One surefire way of knowing that is to track it! Chances are, you might be feeling increased energy if you had a meal or snack that combined macronutrients together in a way that kept you feeling satiated and kept blood glucose levels from crashing later in the day – such as having a serving of protein with some fat, a complex carb, and some fibrous veggies. Flipping the script, maybe you’ve had some gastrointestinal discomfort in the past week. If you track your intake, you can go back and pinpoint the foods you ate around those feelings of discomfort. Did you consume more fiber than usual? Did you eat something that was fried or higher in added sugars than usual?

   Speaking of sugar and fat – another way tracking our intake in an app can help us to assess the quality of our diet is by showing us amounts of the types of fats we’re eating in a day and overall sugar as well. An adequate amount of fat is necessary for our health and hormone functioning, but we want to make sure that the majority is coming from unsaturated sources, with a bit of saturated mixed in. Could the majority of your fats be coming from saturated and trans fats? This is something we want to be sure we’re on the lookout for. As for added sugar, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams/day for women and 37.5 grams/day for men. If you notice that your overall sugar consumption is well over these levels, tracking your intake and understanding which foods provide more added sugar could be of benefit.

  As a disclaimer, tracking your intake is certainly not for everyone. It truly depends on the person’s overall goals and past experiences. With that being said, there are many reasons why creating awareness of your overall diet is beneficial. Awareness precedes change; we cannot improve upon something if we never know about it in the first place.  

-Kaylin Hauge BS, CSCS

Disclaimer:  The author is not a physician or a registered dietitian. The contents of this article should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician.