This topic comes up a LOT in the fitness world when working with clients... believe it or not however, tracking your food isn't just for weight loss! It's a common misconception that only those who want to lose weight should track food - but what about those who are wanting to improve their health, or those who want to gain muscle?
Some trainers suggest that their clients to track food and calories for months on end - which for some clients can work - but for me and my clients I find that it can be a useful tool to make some changes to lifestyle and eating habits. I don't want my clients to feel like tracking food is a chore, as this can sometimes demotivate people! I believe in regular small changes to see what works and what doesn't; everyone is different. In addition to this, I will always spread the importance that a Personal Trainer should be able to advise the best options and healthy meal ideas, but shouldn't write exact diet plans for their clients telling them exactly how much of each food to eat! (Keep this in mind when looking for a personal trainer; we're NOT dieticians.)
I find food tracking (through apps such as MyFitnessPal*) a really useful tool to help get myself back on track at certain times throughout the year. We all have times where we binge on some things, and don't eat enough of others, so tracking our food can help to put our food choices into perspective for a few weeks. I know that I'm a big culprit of pouring myself a bowl of cereal that can sometimes be double the suggested portion, or thinking I'm doing myself a favour eating 5 portions of fruit each day, when in fact I may be consuming too much sugar (albeit natural sugars, it can still sometimes be too much in a day!)
UK Government Guidelines suggest 2000 calories per day for women or 2500 calories per day for men. This is alongside 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This poses the question; if we are not completing the suggested amount of exercise each week is it necessary to eat the full amount of suggested calories each day as well? My answer... probably not. Our lifestyles nowadays are becoming more and more sedentary, so in alignment we should consider our food intake to remain at a healthy weight. Those looking to lose weight may drop the above calorie suggestions by 500 calories, whilst those wanting to gain muscle for example, should look at the types and levels of proteins that they consume each day.
Your personal trainer should be able to calculate a suggested calorie range based on age, current weight, height and activity levels - apps may be able to do this as well, but remember it's still only a rough estimate and up to you to find exactly what works for you and your goals. Food apps in which we input our diets can help to look at the levels of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, sugars, salts and saturates among other things; having too much of any of those groups can potentially create health problems, as can a lack of any of these groups. Everything we eat should be in moderation, therefore food tracking is a useful tool to see how we're doing for a few weeks!
I've always used it when I've got into a bit of a slump with food. If I've been busy working and been lazy with food prep I'll grab something quick (a snack bar, a bag of crisps, a slice of toast and Nutella... you get the idea) which isn't bad as a one off. However, it becomes a cycle of not bothering to eat healthily, feeling lethargic, eating something quick and feeling rubbish. Giving yourself a kick up the backside to prep some meals, or grab some fruit/veggie sticks and hummus (for example) can provide us with long lasting energy and in turn make us more productive and more alert. I look at this as self care. After a couple of weeks meal prepping or eating a balanced diet whilst using an app to track your diet can really help to create healthy habits.
For some people it can also be useful to track foods alongside energy levels, or allergies for example. These type of things may not be severe, but it may just be simply that some foods can cause us to feel more emotional, sluggish or more bloated, among other feelings. Some ingredients may just not "agree" with you!
Next time your trainer suggests that you track food for a few days it's not because we're insinuating that you need to lose weight, it's just far easier for us to help you make healthy changes by seeing your current eating patterns! I'm not going to say that you must cut out all the yummy foods from our diets; it might sometimes be as simple as just drinking more water and eating more veggies. We want you to be the best version of yourself, and for you to feel strong in both your PT sessions and everyday life - if getting on top of your food habits is the way to do this then let's try it... you'd be surprised at the foods we can eat within our suggested calorie intake, and trust me; it's not as hard a task as it seems!
*MyFitnessPal - this is not an endorsed blog, I just find it a genuinely useful app!