Last week I pulled back the curtain and revealed my meal prep system. Nothing earth shattering or even new, but perhaps something that gave you some ideas of things you can implement to help you save some time and money while dialing in your diet.
Speaking of dialing it in… combining meal prep with food logging is incredibly powerful for fine tuning your intake.
Here is an example of my food log from one day last week. In fact, it’s a log of the same day that I took the photos of the meals that are included in my meal prep post.
Look at all that beautiful data! The tables above are from a tool I’ve recommended a number of times before, myfitnesspal. Using their website or app makes tracking your food a breeze. But how does all of this information help you dial in your diet?
The relevant information from these logs is dependent on where you are in your journey. If you’re just getting started with quantifying your intake then you should probably focus more on big picture items. In working with my clients, I’ve found that for most folks the best jumping off point is protein consumption. Of course, the amount that is right for you is dependent on a number of things like activity level, types of activities you participate in (running vs. strength training), goals (performance vs. weight loss vs. longevity) and even medical history and genetics.
How does meal prep help here? Well, if you’re eating roughly the same thing each day in a particular week, then your protein consumption will also be consistent. Many people are all over the map with their intake, somedays getting almost no protein and other days well over their bodyweight in grams of protein. Consistency is key though!
Appropriate protein consumption is highly individual, but it’s impossible to determine what is right for you without establishing a baseline. Perhaps you’re at 100g of protein daily and you notice that you’re not recovering well from your workouts. It isn’t necessarily inadequate protein, but that is one likely cause, so the next week, try bumping it up to 125g daily and see if you feel a difference.
If you’ve put the time in and dialed in big picture items like protein, hydration and food quality, then you can really begin to use your food log data to geek out. For instance tracking carbohydrate intake on workout days that are heavily glycolytic vs. those days that are aerobic. This is when it starts to make sense to look at all of the macros and perhaps the timing of their intake throughout the day. And you get exactly that data from myfitnesspal.
You can see from my example data that I stay relatively low carb throughout the morning and afternoon and then on this particular day had a moderate amount of carbs with my dinner. My intake is based on a ton of personal experimentation. I’ve found that for my goals, this is what is working best for me right now. Does that mean it’s right for you? Nope. You’ve got to experiment to find the sweet spot.
Feeling overwhelmed by all of these layers to your diet? Fortunately, most people don’t actually need to take things this far. The only reason I do it is to help inform my advise to clients. You will likely be quite content sticking with the big picture items. However, if you are interested in optimizing your diet for performance or perhaps if your weight loss has stalled or if you’re stuck at 145 lbs at 6’1″ (been there), then digging deeper into the data is essential.
The Ideal Diet
There is no formula for an optimal diet. What does optimal diet mean anyway? Is it optimal for adding muscle? For losing fat? For long term health? For a ridiculously skinny 6’1″ dude? Not only that, but each person responds differently to foods. Some people do extremely well on very low carb diets, others function poorly. What’s right for you? I don’t know. The only way to find out is to start collecting data and experiment.
Hopefully you accepted my challenge last week and prepped food this week. If so, let’s build on this momentum. This week, I’d like for you to log your intake for a few consecutive days. Also note how you feel each day. Tons of energy? Terrible workout? These can usually be tied back to your intake. Give it a shot and let me know in the comments below what you learn.