In this third and final installment of “Why You Should Use Food Diaries,” we will discuss how to use your food diary to review, adjust, and plan your future nutrition.
Whether you log your food on a daily, weekly, or biweekly basis, it’s crucial to review your logs at the end to identify foods and habits that can be changed to maximize your nutrition and dietary goals. Here are the main points to consider when reviewing your diary:
Did you go over, or were you severely under your macronutrient limit at any point?
In Part 1, we went over how to calculate your Caloric needs on a daily basis and broke those down into macronutrient requirements. Look over your day’s log and check whether you met your limits for Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat. If you went over, try to identify which food or meal contributed the most to surpassing your limits. Is there a healthier or “light” option that you could substitute to reduce the impact? If you were under one of your macronutrient limits, look for the meals or snacks that are particularly low in the missing macronutrient. What food could you add that contains a healthy amount of that macronutrient?
Are your macronutrients working for your goals?
Consider the percentage of macronutrients you have ingested, when they were ingested, your activity level each day, and the purpose of each macronutrient:
- Carbs are quick energy and used for activity and movement. These should cover about 40% of your daily Calories. If you are primarily sedentary, less of your intake needs to come from carbohydrates because you do not need quick energy. If you are active, some carbohydrate intake is good right after a workout to replenish the stores you used during the session.This can apply to the time at which you take in your carbohydrates, as well. At the end of a day, you have already finished work and exercised. The chances of you being active in the evening or throughout the night are slim, so you don’t need to take in so many carbohydrates. Try to get your carbohydrates in during the first half of the day and immediately following your workout, because that is the part of the day when you will be the most active!
- Fats are for slow, sustainable energy, used primarily during rest or idle times. Fats can help you feel full, which makes them useful for mornings or when you will be going longer periods without food. Aim for 30% of your diet consisting of fats.
- Protein is used for muscle growth. Each meal should have an adequate amount of protein to provide a continuous supply to your growing tissue. Reserve higher protein meals or snacks for directly after your workout. Aim for 30% of your diet consisting of protein.
Treat your macronutrients as fuel. If you need quick energy or activity, ingest more carbohydrate. If you need to fuel slow, idle, or long periods of time without food, increase the fats to keep you feeling full. If you are active or exercise regularly, ingest more protein to keep your body progressing.
Did you space your calories out throughout the day, or were they all lumped together in one or two meals?
One of the best ways to avoid food cravings and overeating is to spread out your meals. Your body is constantly rebuilding itself and burning fuel throughout the day. It is important to provide your body with the fuel it needs, when it needs it! Eating only once or twice a day leaves large periods of time where your body is trying to recover and perform without energy. Try to space your meals and snacks so that you are eating every 2 to 3 hours. Your first meal of the day should contain all 3 macronutrients so that you start your day with a full tank. Try to have your snacks contain a healthy amount of fats and protein so that you remain full while you go about your day.
Food Diaries can be an amazing and educational tool for fixing your fitness. Most of the learning comes from critically reviewing then adjusting your nutrition for the future. Knowing what to look for can make all the difference. Whether this is your first time food logging or your one hundredth, use this information to make your nutrition productive and effective.