Thursday, February 19, 2009

Food Journals

More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and we spend billions each year on products and services that promise to help us shed pounds. Cyclists typically aren't overweight by average American standards, but we're nonetheless fixated on weight, wanting to make bike and body alike ever lighter in a quest for better performance. As I noted in a previous post, Phil and I have learned a few things about weight management over the last few seasons.

One tip I failed to mention is the benefit of keeping a food diary or journal.

In a
recent study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, participants who kept food journals lost almost double the weight of their non-journaling counterparts.

I used to be a Palm Pilot gal, and I used the Diet and Exercise Assistant application to keep track of my calorie intake and expenditures. I found it quite easy to use, and having it with me all the time, rather than having to wait until I was at my computer to update the entries, made me more likely to honestly track everything that I ate.

I recently made the switch to a Blackberry device (I’m not a Crackberry addict yet, but it might happen . . .). The food diary applications for the Blackberry do not seem to be as user-friendly as those for the Palm, but I recently uploaded Ascendo Fitness
and I’m getting used to its quirks.

If you prefer the pen and paper approach, here is a guide to making your own nutrition journal.

Most weight management advisors and nutritionists recommend keeping a food diary for a minimum of 3 days in order to get an idea of your typical diet patterns. I don’t keep my log all the time, but I do try to keep it for 3 or 4 days at a time every month.

Keep in mind that a food journal is only good if you are completely honest. You may need to measure your food for a couple of days until you learn to eyeball portion sizes. (You may be shocked by how many grams of almonds were in that handful you ate for a snack. . .) I use the Salter Nutri-Weigh Scale.

Reviewing my food journal after 3 or 4 days allows me to see:

What is my average daily calorie intake?
What is my average daily calorie expenditure?
Is my diet meeting my macronutrient goals? (How many grams of carbs, protein, fat, sugar, fiber and milligrams of sodium am I eating daily?)
Where are the deficiencies? For example, am I not eating enough protein and eating too much fat?

Our first coach, Bob Seebohar, had a mantra – “Eat to train; do not train to eat.”

Keeping a food journal allows me to see if I am following that advice. Do I overeat on days I’m not working out? The key to weight management is balancing the intake and the output and a journal gives me immediate feedback on that point.

Here is a site with reviews and links to several web-based food journal applications.

Give food journaling a try – you might be surprised by what you find hiding in your daily diet.

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