Keeping A Food Journal: A Secret Weapon In Reaching Your Goals

by Chris on August 12, 2010

For many people the most difficult part of a fitness lifestyle is eating well. Lots of people set goals that include some form of body composition change, and a big part of achieving that change is eating right. Whether you are trying to build muscle or burn fat, what you eat has a tremendous impact on reaching (or not reaching) that goal.

Just eating right can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re busy. Even more difficult, however, is knowing whether or not you’re eating what you should be eating throughout the day. Sure, it’s easy to estimate or guess, but doing that means you never really know whether or not you’re getting the kind of nutrition you need. If you’re trying to gain muscle, knowing whether you’re getting enough calories is vital. Same goes for burning fat.

So what’s the solution?

Keep a food journal. Over the years I have stressed the importance of keeping a training journal to many people. As it turns out, if you’re having trouble reaching your body composition goals, keeping a food journal could be just the thing you need. Many people out there who are trying to gain muscle or lose fat are often convinced that they are eating the right amount of calories. When they start keeping track of what they eat, however, lots of people are shocked to see that they aren’t actually getting the right amount.

Recently, I began keeping my own food journal, and I can tell you that it has made a big difference in how I eat throughout the day. Now I have a hard copy so I know if how much I’ve actually eaten and how to modify my diet as necessary.

Now I’m not going to tell you that you need to get X amount of calories or grams of certain macronutrients in order to reach your goals, and that you should strive to reach those numbers in your journal. But I will suggest trying this:

Keep your food journal for a few weeks and monitor your progress towards your goal. If you are making minimal or no progress, or heading in the wrong direction, you now have a record of what you’ve been doing and know how to modify your diet. Simple enough, right?

Inevitably the big problem that most people have with keeping a food journal is how time intensive they can be, and I agree. Looking up the nutrition profile of everything you eat can be daunting. But there is a solution to that, too!

When I started keeping my food journal I looked around to see if I could find something to make my life easier. Excel spreadsheets, computer programs, whatever. I ended up finding something very helpful, though. is a website where you can keep an online food journal with access to a HUGE database of nutrition profiles. I’m talking huge. You can look up almost any food and get the info instantly and have it automatically added to your food journal. You have to do no math at all. Just search and enter. The database includes basic foods (e.g. grilled chicken, whole grain bread, etc.) and even pulls up the info for name brand foods and restaurant menus! The website is free so you can sign up and start keeping your journal right away.

Oh, and it gets better. For those of you with smart phones (Blackberry, iPhone, Android) there is a mobile application for FatSecret. Personally, this is where I keep all my food journal info because I can enter it in right when I eat so I don’t forget. If you have a account, you can even sync it with the application on your phone. If you don’t have a smart phone, just write down what you ate and add it in online later. It’s really as simple as that.

So there you have it. For those of you who have trouble reaching your body composition goals, this may be just the thing you need. With the technology out there, there are really no excuses anymore. While I happened to find FatSecret, and have been using it myself, I’m sure there are plenty of other sites and applications out there if you want to try something different. Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

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