1/13/10

Day # 10: Keep a food Journal


Are you training for an upcoming athletic event? Are you working out on a daily basis?
Would it frustrate you if, day after day, you never saw any changes in your performance? Well, if you did the same thing every day, you should expect the same results. But wouldn't it just be super frustrating if you changed up your routine and still saw no gains in power, strength, speed or endurance? Not sure about you, but I would feel really unmotivated to continue with my current training routine if I wasn't seeing progress. Sure, I'd still train, hoping that one day I would improve, but I wouldn't like the feeling of giving my all and receiving nothing back in return on race day.

When it comes to athletic performance, it is vital that athletes understand what they consume before, during and after workouts in an effort to plan nutrition for race/competition day. The day after my IM races, I always write down exactly what I had during the race so that I can have a solid template for the next IM. I always ask my athletes to tell me what they usually do during training (before, during and after), in an effort to find strengths and weakness's in their current nutrition plan.
For the effort that an athlete puts forth in order give 100% on race day, it is imperative that he/she knows what will and won't work on race day. Therefore, he/she experiments and finds what will work for race day. While the intensity and volume may differ on race day, compared to previous training sessions, it is typical that athletes have good and bad foods that do or don't work for optimal training sessions.

When you think about a food journal, it is likely that you think it is too time-consuming, too hard to keep up with, discouraging or not helpful. While studies show that keeping a food journal/dairy can have a tremendous affect on weight loss
it is important that you understand how to use a food journal to your advantage...rather than just feeling as if you are "on a diet".

In my opinion, food journals are helpful in countless ways. Benefits of food journal:
1) Accountability - if you have a goal of eating more fruits and veggies and drinking less soda, your food journal will show you if you are making steps to reaching your goal.
2) Awareness - when the day comes to an end, I think most people would be shocked to see what they actually did OR didn't eat. Food journals show you when you eat, they tell you how much you eat and if you leave comments, why you eat.
3) Activity - after a few days of logging your foods, it is easier to plan out an effective workout routine, based on when you feel the best and when you can properly time your nutrition with your training.
4) Performance - if you are getting ready for a race, food journals can help you decide what you need to eat on the days leading up to a race, based on previous journal postings.
5) Health - next time you get sick, visit the doctor for a health concern or get injured, your food journal may show weak areas which need improvement.

To me, the purpose of food journals are similar to the concept behind energy gels during workouts/races lasting more than 90 minutes.
If you ever read the USAGE for an energy gel it will likely say something along the lines of "take 1 gel every 30-45 minutes during training".
The purpose of energy gels (and sports drinks) isn't necessarily to give you immediate energy but rather to postpone fatigue. During an Ironman distance race, if you are a decent swimmer, you are likely going to feel good during the first 20 miles of the bike. But of course, you want to start your well-practiced nutrition plan during that first hour of the bike because well, you have a long way to go (118.2 miles of biking and running, to be exact).

Think about your daily nutrition habits. What if you could find a way to prevent that 3pm sugar-craving, that 9pm cereal or ice cream binge or the feeling of starvation around 11am? Rather than telling yourself that you are not going to eat sweets at 3pm, look at the meal that precedes your 3pm sugar-craving. Did you have enough fiber? Did you have enough calories? If you suffer from GI upset during workouts, ask yourself what you are eating before that workout. What time did you eat? What did you eat and how much did you eat? If you are starving at lunchtime, are you eating breakfast? Are you eating a breakfast with fiber and a little protein and fat? Are you eating mostly sugars (simple carbs) for breakfast?

Instead of trying to change everything in your diet to eat more healthy, look at your problem areas (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, etc.) to see what you are eating before the problem arises.

Here are other questions that you can ask yourself as you are keeping a food journal:
(taken from about.com)
* Did you eat because you were truly hungry? Y / N
* Did you eat today at any time solely due to habit? Y / N
* Did you eat too many of the same types of foods? Y / N
* Did you skip any meals today? Y / N
* Did you go longer than four to five hours without eating a meal or snack? Y / N
* Did you eat one large meal instead of individual meals? Y / N
* If yes, would you consider it a binge? Y / N
* Did you eat too often? Y / N
* Did you eat too little in the morning? Y / N
* Did you eat more at night than any other time? Y / N
* Did you graze instead of actually sitting down for a meal today? Y / N
* Did you eat a lot of high-fat foods, such as whole dairy, fried foods and
desserts? Y / N
* Did you eat the same foods as you do every other day? Y / N
* Did you eat according to mood rather than hunger today? Y / N

In addition to logging your foods, be sure to log:
1) Calories (my favorite site is CalorieKing.com
2) Portions (I suggest investing in wet and dry measuring cups, measuring spoons and perhaps an affordable food scale)
3) Your comments (anything from how you feel when you eat to why you are eating)

Things to take into consideration:
1) Cooked and raw food will differ in calories. 1 cup raw broccoli has 44 calories and 1 cup cooked broccoli has 52 calories.
2) Make small changes. There is no need to get discouraged after a day of journaling.
3) Measuring your food, before you eat, will help you control portions and calories.
4) You don't always have to journal and measure. When you figure out what works for you (for your current, balanced lifestyle) you will find it easier to estimate portions and make wise eating choices.
5) Calories from fast-food facilities and restaurants may not be as accurate as you think. Read this article

I did a lot of searching on the internet for a practical food journal that will benefit the individual seeking weight loss and/or performance benefits.
Here's a great helpful Food Journal


*Keeping a food journal does not mean that you have an eating disorder or that you are obsessed with food. If used properly as an informative tool, a food journal can be a practical component of your healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Do you have any thoughts or experiences with food journals?