Bodybuilders often have a lot to spare for their goal: training almost daily, sometimes adding cardio, eating a lot or little, reading websites and watching videos, and a kitchen cupboard full of powders. But one thing is usually too much about it: food tracking. While that may be the best predictor of a successful diet, as new research suggests.
CALORIES AND MACROS
Nutrition tracking means that you carefully keeps track of what you eat and in what quantities. On the one hand you count the number of calories, on the other hand you measure the macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Where we used to fiddle with Excel sheets in the past, there are now handy calorie apps with a built-in barcode scanner. This makes food tracking a breeze, although of course it requires the necessary discipline to do this every day.
But that discipline pays off, according to a recent study published in the journal Obesity.
Researchers from the University of Vermont tracked how 142 people tracked their food intake for 24 weeks on a special website. The participants wanted to lose weight and therefore followed a calorie-restricted diet. At the end, people who had tracked their diet more often (on average 2.4 times a day) had lost at least 5% of their body weight, while less consistently logging people (on average 1.6 times a day) lost less than 5%. used to be. Conclusion of the researchers, in their press release:
If you want lose weight the single best predictor of success is monitoring and recording calorie and fat intake throughout the day – to ‘write it when you bite it’.
Of course that is a bit short sighted. Diet success depends on many individual factors, and some work better than others. Nevertheless, the study makes it plausible that there is a connection between food tracking and the success of a diet. Which is not illogical, because: to measure is to know.
NUTRITION TRACKING DURING THE BULK
That ‘measuring is knowing’ is also important if you follow a diet to build muscle mass, ie bulking. Perhaps even more important than with a calorie-restricted diet. After all, with the latter you can simply eat very little and rely on the result that the scale indicates.
When bulking, it is crucial that you eat enough on the one hand (otherwise you will not build muscle mass, no matter how well you train) and on the other hand not too much (because otherwise you will gain a lot of fat mass in addition to muscle). That requires a balanced calorie surplus. In addition, the amount of protein you eat is also very important for both bulking and cutting.
If you just rely on intuitive eating, you can quickly find yourself hundreds of calories above or below your optimal food intake. One day it won’t matter, but doing it daily for an entire bulking period can seriously undermine your results. For example, there may be days when you eat far too little, so that your body has no energy to achieve muscle growth. While on other days you eat way too much and let those just be non-training days…
A waste of all your hard work in the gym! Training provides the growth stimulus, but the actual growth requires nutrition and rest.
FOOD TRACKING TIME-CONSUMING?
Many people find recording food intake too time consuming. But is that true?
In the study we mentioned, it was found that the most successful participants (who lost more than 10% of their weight) spent ‘just’ 14.6 minutes a day tracking their diet. We still think that’s a lot. With a smart calorie app and a fairly fixed diet, in our experience, it doesn’t need to be more than five minutes a day. You do have to do it several times a day, so that requires discipline.
Discipline is something that many bodybuilders do have when it comes to training, but usually not when it comes to logging. Because keeping track of training performance (weight, and number of reps and sets) also turns out to be a bridge too far for many. While that in turn is crucial for achieving progressive overload, the basic principle of muscle growth…
NATURAL BODYBUILDING: MORE THAN ‘BEAST MODE’
Unfortunately, natural bodybuilding isn’t just a matter of kicking ass in the gym, no matter how yelling YouTube ‘coaches’ would have you believe. It is a process that requires a well-thought-out combination of training, nutrition and recovery management. A process that can be a bit boring at times and requires a rather pragmatic attitude.
We maintain that food tracking is a crucial part of this, something that is now also being confirmed a little bit by research. If that is still too much for you, do it at least temporarily, so that you have a rough idea of nutritional values and what you throw in every day.