What if I told you that adding just one habit to your routine could make all the difference in your ability to lose weight, tone up and put on muscle?
This one habit is so powerful, it gives you greater awareness of everything you eat, for your entire life, and improves your chances of weight loss dramatically. It’s a habit people with the best physiques – models, actors, bodybuilders, bikini competitors – rely on daily.
THE INSIGHT YOU’VE BEEN MISSING
One of my core beliefs is that being fit helps us live our greatest life. Indeed, proper nutrition and exercise can go a long way to providing a high quality life and aiding with longevity.
To truly know if you’re on track towards meeting your fitness goals, you need insights. You need to know where you are and the impact of your actions on your goal. In other words, you need data and you need measurements. As renowned management guru and author Peter Drucker famously quoted “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
While he was referring to financial and business performance, the same holds true for your health and fitness goals. Tracking and measuring makes a huge difference towards achieving a healthier you, and ultimately, living your greatest life.
The power of tracking can be seen in a study by The Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, whose findings showed that participants who kept a food diary doubled their weight loss compared to those that didn’t keep a food diary.
Tracking helps you get a sense of where you are today and better assess the ‘gap’ towards where you want to go. It helps you understand cause-and-effect relationships between what you are doing and how it’s impacting you. For example, adding one extra HIIT session per week (done easily with the Motion Traxx fitness app), might help you drop some extra weight.
As another example, reducing your carbohydrate intake by 20% might result in a slimmer waistline. Best of all, seeing ‘the numbers move’, whether it be your weight, your bicep size, your average running pace, your cholesterol level, etc. – can be very motivating and can keep inspiring you to stay consistent and even take things to the next level.
BEST PRACTICES AND HACKS TO KEEP YOU ON TRACK
While tracking your progress is valuable, putting tracking into practice can be a challenge. First, you need to know what to track, whether it be the protein you consumed, the reps you lifted or the number of steps you took.
Next, you need to know when to track so that the data and metrics are relevant and can give you the insights you need in a timely fashion. Additionally, you must think through how to track – what tools to use and how to interpret the data.
While tracking for #fitnessgoals can be a pretty in-depth topic, beyond the scope of this post, some of these best practices and hacks below will go a long way towards helping you implement this super-useful habit of tracking, so you can crush your fitness goals with ease.
Knowing What to Track
While there are myriads of data variables one can track, and what to track depends on each individual’s current situation and goals, below are some basic items to track that will pertain to most people’s weight loss journey:
1. Track Your Weight
This one is simple and straightforward. Stand on a scale. Done. One thing to keep in mind when tracking your weight is to make sure the scale is accurate, especially if you don’t have a digital scale. Measure a random object on your scale 3 times in a row to test if there is variance in the reading. Additionally, because scales are calibrated differently and reading may vary a bit among them, be sure to use the same scale every time.
Don’t get overly obsessed with your weight, though. According to Katherine Zeratsky, nutritionist from the Mayo Clinic, our body is designed to stay in equilibrium, which is one reason why body weight fluctuates throughout the day. Therefore, weighing oneself multiple times during the day, after every meal is not the best method of recording. The best time is in the morning since most of the food consumed the day before is already used up and getting up from a relaxed state that sleep brings keeps the activity in the body to a minimum.
In short, weigh yourself on the same day of the week first thing in the morning, naked, before eating or drinking anything. This will give you the most accurate measure of your weight and show whether you are making progress.
2. Take Progress Photos Each Week
When I coach people on body transformation (i.e. to lose weight and add muscle), one practice I emphasize is sending me full body progress photos each week. This is because weight data only tells part of the story. Changes in body composition, where you are adding muscle weight and losing fat, can ‘fool’ the scale.
When focused on body transformation, you might weigh in at the same weight, or actually in come in heavier, even though you are making significant changes in muscle tone (a good thing). This is one reason why the Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement is usually inaccurate, and one I don’t recommend you rely on. The BMI can show you as overweight, even though you have a 6-pack. That’s because it treats all weight the same, whether it’s muscle or fat. Big mistake. But I digress.
In short, don’t just rely on the scale to show progress. Take full body pictures, from all angles – front, sides, back. Most likely, you will hate your starting pictures. This is actually a good thing because they will serve as motivation. Hang them up somewhere visible to serve as a constant reminder of what you don’t want to look like. This will help with discipline and staying on track.
Once you make some progress you are proud of, replace the first set of photos with your new progress pictures. You can even have them side-by-side to show your progress. Use this for inspiration and positive motivation. As an added bonus, photo documenting your fitness journey will give you some impressive before/after shots you can brag about on social media. Let the ooh’s and aah’s begin.
3. Track Your Nutrition (Super Important!)
When it comes to food, what to track is simple but when to track it (constantly) is what makes it hard. Focus on tracking the basics: Calories, Protein, Fats and Carbs.
Tracking your nutritional intake will help you determine if what you ate that day is in line with your daily caloric and macro-nutrient targets. What should those targets be for you? Well, that depends on a number of factors, including your individual height, weight, age, gender, level of activity, current body fat, weight loss goal, etc. This is something I customize for each client, individually, in my 90-Day Body Transformation program. You can also do some research online to find the right targets for you.
Once you have your targets, you can track what you ate and determine how many calories and macros are in each meal. Now, I do recommend people track their food for at least a few weeks, for several reasons:
Primarily, because you will start gaining a better understanding of which foods contain quality nutrients, and which one don’t. Just as importantly, you will see which foods are healthy but loaded with sugars or fats that can impact your waste line negatively. Moreover, you will start learning and even memorizing the nutritional content in foods (e.g. one ounce of chicken breast has 8 grams of protein, no carbs and >1 gram of fat. The average chicken breast is around 6 oz. So every time you each a chicken breast, you will know, forevermore, that you just got around 50 grams of protein. You get the idea.).
But until you develop your ninja food-tracking abilities, you will have to look up food items online and this gets tedious, fast, because you’re eating and drinking several times a day, which necessitates looking up foods in a database multiple time per day. But have no fear, as Deekron has a food tracking hack to help you with this. (For more of my fitness and diet hacks, check out my blog posts Fitness Hacks For Fitting Fitness In, and Diet Hack: Beat Your Sweet Tooth).
Here’s what you do: Create a Note in your phone that will serve as a temporary food log. Every time you eat something, jot down the food item and the amount (i.e. number of servings). To easily estimate the number of servings, use the ‘fist method’ (I’m not sure it’s called that; just making it up, science be damned). The fist method is basically this: one serving is approximately equal to the size of your fist.
By quickly jotting down what you ate in your Note on your phone, you record the food without having to look it up on the spot, which requires you to stop what you’re doing at the moment in order to log your food. This can kill the moment, and be rude to anyone dining with you. Definitely not a good idea during a business lunch or dinner date, that’s fo-sho.
Later, during a free moment, you can open the Food Log on your Note, and enter the items in the database. This little hack will make tracking your food easier. I used this technique myself daily to keep productive and reduce interruptions during the day, but still get my tracking in.
4. Track Your Activity and Exercise
Being active and working out help us burn calories and create a caloric deficit, the key to losing wight and firming up. Better still, lifting weights builds muscle and boosts our metabolism, helping us burn more fat even when we’re not exercising. This is why weight training is a core part of my fitness coaching philosophy.
But how many calories are you burning? And is your fitness level actually progressing? For weight training, you want to track things like weight you lifted, and the number of sets and reps you did for each exercise. For cardio and endurance workouts, you want to track the distance you ran or biked, your average pace, and account for things like hills and elevation. A more advanced technique is to track our intensity by using a heart rate monitor. This will tell you if the workout you just did, which felt hard, actually was hard.
When doing cardio machine workouts, you can enter you weight and age, and most machines will tell you approximately how many calories you burned in that session. On that note, to really crank up the calorie burn during cardio, do a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout with the Motion Traxx app. It streams guided audio workouts that feature coaching by top trainers, synced to high energy music.
For basic, non-exercise activities like walking, dancing, etc. most phones and many smart watches, including Apple Watch, will track your steps, distance, calories and other relevant metrics.
Tools To Use To Track
Some popular tracking tools include:
- Nutrition Tracking – MyFitnessPal, MyMacros, LoseIt!
- Calorie and Nutrition Lookup – CalorieKing, SelfNutritionData
- Activity Tracking – Apple Watch, FitBit, Samsung smartwatches, iPhone, Android phones
- Workout Tracking – Skimble, JEFit
So there you have it. An overview of what to track, when to track and how to track it in order to meet your fitness goals. If you’ve read this far, I’m certain you’re excited to starting implementing tracking into your routine and receiving the many benefits of this all-important practice. It’s certainly one of the things that separates those who succeed and those who wish they could.
Please let me know if I can help you implement any of the practices above, and reach out if you have any questions. I have no doubt that by following the practices above, you will embark on an all new ‘track’ to fitness, and to greatness.