Here at Clar-e-ty, we are big supporters of tracking one’s intake.
When you have a clear idea of what is going into your body, it’s pretty easy to make changes.
That makes sense, right?
I’m sure you wouldn’t disagree.
Tracking for MANY people is tedious, exhausting, and maybe even triggering.
This poses a serious problem for us as coaches and for you as a client.
How do you track your food intake without being so miserable in the process?
We’ve done a LOT of work the past few years with our clients in the world of tracking our food intake. To be honest, a TON of coaches...the good ones at least...are also doing the same.
Pre-COVID, tracking macros via MyFitnessPal was pretty easy to get people to do. However, whether due to COVID pandemic stress or just due to the natural ebb and flow of nutrition practices, tracking diligently really isn’t cutting it anymore.
And it’s created quite the dilemma.
In fact, one of the biggest hindrances we see in our clients’ abilities to see results comes down to willingness to track and remain aware of one’s food intake.
Which means we have some work to do.
We can’t just expect everyone to track macros diligently & be at the beck and call of their MyFitnessPal. Not only is that simply unrealistic, we’re also going to lose a looooooooooot of people in the process.
We’ve come up with a pretty overarching theme amongst clients & tracking apps.
The MORE restrictive & strict tracking you’ve done in the past, the LESS likely you are to continue it in future endeavors.
This is true for many reasons.
First, it probably burnt you out. Doing alllllllllllllllllllllllllll the things—when, spoiler alert, you don’t have to—can get really tedious. Add some life stress and maybe some plateauing results and you’re bound to give up. Seriously, why put in ALL that work for little reward? Mentally, emotionally, and physically?
Secondly, we see it with fad diets, when you follow a plan that isn’t conducive with YOU or your lifestyle, we see higher rates of failure and giving up. Plaaaaaaaaaaain and simple. SO...as a company that is based on the principle of individualized nutrition coaching, there has to be a way to get someone tracking their food somehow that is more sustainable.
And here’s the kicker that most people don’t realize.
You CAN track your food and not feel restricted.
You CAN track your food while remaining flexible.
You CAN track your food and still keep a social life.
Restrictive/strict tracking one’s food is NOT the only way.
Today, hopefully, we can share some of how Clar-e-ty has shifted in regards to tracking and logging food intake. We’ve implemented what we will talk about today with every single one of our clients and the results are unbelievably amazing. Increased adherence and compliance, increased enjoyment, and overall better & more enhanced results.
SO let’s dive into it.
First, a discussion on why tracking your food is important. Don’t worry, we will keep this nice and short since we’ve discussed this thousands of times.
When we look at the hierarchy of nutrition, we see that first and foremost—after adherence—calories are the foundation to any nutrition plan.
It does not matter what macro split you’re following or how much magnesium or calcium you’re getting into your diet and when.
If you’re eating in a manner that doesn’t support your goals, it’s going to be hard to see results.
If you’re trying to lose weight but eating more than your body is expending, you won’t lose weight.
If you’re trying to gain weight but eating less than what your body needs even to just survive, you can’t expect results.
If you’re eating close to nothing during the week, but binging on the weekends—and have no clue how big of a difference this makes—you can’t expect massive results.
It also goes WAY beyond calories in v. calories out.
It comes down to giving yourself freedom to live your life.
When you track your food—in a manner that isn’t strict & restricting—you actually get to learn how to ENJOY foods you like. It tells you how you can add some fun & not go overboard. Say you want to have a vacation with your family. A restrictive tracking plan forces you to meticulously track & honestly be miserable the entire time. A flexible approach, one we use with our clients, could say “hey, let’s prioritize anywhere between 125-155g protein and keep fiber greater than 25g.” You can easily get 2-4 meals with protein, even add a whey supplement, get some fruit and veggies, then simply enjoy yourself beyond that. Which seems more fulfilling? Yeah, we agree 😉
NOTE: this is also why we encourage eating enough to support your body because you simply have more room to enjoy foods you love.
If you think of it like a financial budget, a restrictive budget forces you to not spend any money and can be very limiting, very exhausting and very very tedious. You likely will be very inconsistent in your ability to remain compliant.
HOWEVER, what if you viewed it as a way to simply tell your money where to go so that you CAN enjoy yourself, the conversation becomes very different. You make sure you have basics covered like rent, insurance, and groceries. Then you use the rest of what you make to decide how much fun you get to have that month...again, way more enjoyable line of thought than “SPEND NO MONEY EVER”.
You can also refer to Coach Ashley’s latest blog on the most important variables to track, specifically calories to learn more.
Now let’s talk about how traditional tracking takes place in many coaches’ repertoires still.
We’ll be transparent, we USED to coach this way, so we’re not really knocking on anyone still following this approach or if anyone has used this approach before.
We’ve simply found for our clients and for those coming to us with nutrition inquiries, we’ve needed an adjustment & evolution in our approach.
Traditional tracking includes tracking all metrics: calories and macros (including protein, carbohydrates, and fats).
SOME will have just calories tracked and not macros, but this is less commonly seen now.
Traditional tracking includes often a macro prescription: 150g protein, 200g carbs, and 75g fats, equaling 2075 calories. Aim to get between 10-15g for protein and carbs and within 5-10g for fats, maaaaaaaaaaaaybe a 100-calorie range for you.
It’s to the point, precise, and straight forward.
Does this approach work? Absolutely.
But what are some of the drawbacks?
In stricter, more regimented plans, you set yourself up for a lower level of adherence simply because life happens. You might forget to log a protein shake. You might wake up not hungry or vice versa, wake up ravenous. You might forget to log your breakfast. Heck, you also might just NOT want to. You might know that you’re going to go over or fall short, so you simply avoid it. Does that help you get results? Heck no.
You also lose a level of having the ability to adjust and remain flexible for when life happens. In our more sustainable approach, we have ranges and/or minimums for clients to hit. SO if they accidentally forget their lunch at home and ends up making ends meet by grabbing a lunch at a nearby sandwich shop, they’re likely to still fall within our recommendations.
Your body is going to be different every single day, especially women. We don’t like forcefeeding ourselves based on arbitrary numbers. If you’re simply not hungry, having a flexible approach to let you bring your intake down slightly helps you still see results but also lets you enjoy it a bit more.
Most importantly, we firmly believe that clients should be able to do this on their own. While we are sad to see clients go, it also means we’ve done our job well. That means they need to know how to adjust in a day or over the weekend or when life sucks or when they’re not feeling it. In a strict tracking plan, you have to follow numbers your coach gave you. In a more sustainable plan with ranges and flexibility, you get some of that autonomy to adjust based on how YOU feel. Sure, we give you some guidance along the way. But we can’t tell you how exciting it is to see a Monday check in that says “Friday, I needed up changing plans so that I could go out to eat for my anniversary. I still fell within my protein targets and got a ton of fruits and vegetables in. I had a great time & didn’t feel like crap the next day.” In a plan that gives you some control & authority, you learn about your body’s needs that much quicker and are that much more successful.
Do we still use this approach for some clients? You betcha. HOWEVER, the clients are either in periodized plans & in a current “intense” peaking phase for their goals. WE have one client 10 weeks out from a half-Ironman and another helping her partner train for an ultramarathon. We didn’t start with allllllll the macros & calories being logged. This was a progression for us to match their higher intensity goals.
For the general public, we don’t need to be this intense to be honest.
Now we know what you might be saying, “But I’ve done it before & it worked” or “But I CAN do it all.”
Just because you can or you have...doesn’t mean you should. Times have changed & likely if you HAVE tracked meticulously, we’d argue the less successful you’ll be this go around, especially if the last time was super restrictive and strict.
Most importantly, as a coaching business, we’re trying to find the MOST minimal effective dose to elicit results. SURE you may have gotten results the last time being alllllllll in...but what if you didn’t HAVE to be that all in?? What if you could have done less to get the same results? Would you predict being more successful in the long run? Absolutely.
THE NEW SUSTAINABLE WAY TO TRACK
Now, let’s discuss some of our shifts we’ve made in tracking intake.
We’ve kind of alluded to it already but there are two main changes we make.
We utilize ranges and/or minimums in macro tracking.
We don’t track alllllllll three macros AND calories and add instead another useful metric to track.
While this is still very individualized, we generally do the following:
We track protein, fruits & vegetables (or fiber), and/or calories. In those targets, we provide our clients with ranges that are functional for them.
Recently, a meta-analysis came out indicating we see no losses in muscle protein synthesis at a protein intake of 0.8g/lb bodyweight, so this is really helpful at establishing a minimum range... especially for our clients who do struggle eating protein. If we have a 170lb individual coming to us, we can eat a minimum of 135g protein and see results. If you’ve ever struggled getting a higher protein intake, you know how much of a relief this could be in one’s adherence!!
Why these metrics and not others? This is for a couple of reasons. First, protein is one of the tougher macronutrients to hit. Having some awareness & accountability here isn’t a bad idea. Secondly, protein & whole foods (fruits, veggies, fiber) are most influential in increasing your thermic effect of food, and as a result increasing your overall daily calorie expenditure. In a whole foods based diet, we see as high as 25% of calories consumed used as fuel for digesting compared to a Westernized diet (high in carbs/fats), which is roughly 10%. Thirdly, carbs and fats are easy for people to hit...why add a defining category when we know we’re fine in this area? Lastly, we provide a calorie target simply because it gives a ballpark. Again, though, this is a RANGE of probably 300 or so calories...not 50.
Will this take more time? MAYBE...but we would argue no simply because there will be less yoyoing and more consistency.
Now let’s give a real-world example. We have a client who is a woman, weighs 170lbs, and wants to lose weight. She has a full-time job and also a mom. She has a lot on her hands. We give her a protein target of 145-165g protein, a minimum of 200g fruits AND veggies, and a calorie range of 1800-2100 calories. A macro calculator gives her a prescription of: 170gP/175gC/65F=1975calories.
Which do you think offers this mom more flexibility?
Which do you think gives this mom a chance to feel successful?
Which do you think will require less energy to do?
Which do you think will let her balance a family and a job but also keep her health in check too?
Yeah...the sustainable option.
Tracking intake lately has gotten a decently bad rep...but it doesn’t have to be.
AND even from this, there are tons of ways to downgrade if we need or scale up if we need.
You might be wondering why we haven't gone into specific numbers...and that's because it's completely dependent on YOU: how you're eating now, what your goals are, what your non-negotiables are, and more.
All things we cover in our 1:1 coaching option.
If you like this new form of tracking & think that it will help you see better results, apply below today to talk with a Clar-e-ty coach on what options we can provide for you!!
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.