Nutrition tracking requires some tools to do it right. You can’t just guess at how much you are eating. Your old self will always tell you what your stomach wants to hear. “That’s about a cup.” When actually you’ve poured yourself 2 ½ cups of cereal. The best way to get extreme results is to track your nutrition. No portion plan here. Get down to the nitty-gritty and be precise!
Nutrition Tracking Programs
Let’s get this out of the way. There are many different options for programs to handle all your nutrition tracking needs. I used Tap & Track for the iPhone for a long time. I now use, and recommend, MyFitnessPal for nutrition tracking. They have a great online tool and apps for all smart-phones. I have written a lot about MFP so I won’t go into much detail now. For more info, check out:
Nutrition Tracking Kitchen Tools
You have to know exactly how much you are eating to actually track your nutrition. Again, guessing at how much you eat will not cut it. If you are trying to lose weight, it most often leads to overeating. If you are trying to bulk, it often leads to underestimating (it takes a lot of calories to gain for most people). Here are the tools I recommend:
Weighing your food is the most accurate way to make sure you are eating the right amounts of food. Weight is not dependent on volume (as you will see in a little bit). If you weigh out 1 oz of almonds, you are really eating 1 oz. Counting out 22 almonds is a great start, but there is still variation in almond size. How to weigh meat is a question I get a lot. Either weigh it raw or you will need to change your cooked weights. Cooking most meats will leave only 75% of the initial weight. So that 8 oz. of chicken you need will weigh 8 oz before cooking but only 6 oz after. Cooking does not change the amount of protein in the piece of chicken (it is the same piece before you put it in the oven and after), it only changes the weight by cooking out the moisture. Now if it is precooked deli meat, just weigh it and go.
Digital scales have great features like a TARE and switching from GRAMS to OUNCES. The TARE or ZERO feature allows you to put a dish on the scale and re-zero the scale to only measure what you add to the dish. That is great for getting really exact with your measurements. Tare after each addition and you can get down to the gram accuracy with every ingredient. Look at your labels also, they will often list a volume measurement (ex. ½ cup or 1 scoop) and a weight measurement (ex. 26g). If you want to be precise, use a scale. Here is an example of ISO 100, a protein I really like (and yes, I use the scoop for protein powders).
Measuring cups are a great tool. They can quickly portion out your food. Did you catch that… PORTION your food. This is not as precise as a scale. It is far better than taking a handful and calling it a cup, but with all measuring cups and spoons you are still fighting against variable volumes due to differing densities. For less dense items, you can have great variation between measurements by packing more or less in the cup. Professional bakers for example always weigh their flour because it is easy to over pack flour and get more than a cup pressed into the measuring cup. Weight is the only truly accurate measurement There also comes the issue of a level scoop or heaping scoop. Get close and you will be fine, or get extreme and weigh it out!
Tupperware? What does that have to do with nutrition tracking? A lot! Precooking food and packing known amounts is a great way to pre-plan your week and have all your food ready. You can package lunches for the week with 8 oz of chicken, 2 cups of green beans, and ½ cup of rice. Then each morning, just grab a new container. Throw your Tupperware on the scale and tare after the addition of each new item. A little planning makes it much easier to succeed.
Nutrition Tracking Takes YOU
All these tools help a lot, but it is up to you to hit those budgets. It may seem overwhelming at first but you will get the hang of nutrition tracking. So go pick up a digital scale and track everything! That is the best and most reliable way to get extreme results.
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