You’ve probably heard counting calories can help you lose weight. But even if dropping a few pounds isn’t on your goals list, logging your food in the Fitbit app can set you up for a number of “ah ha” moments. Tracking what you eat gives you a big picture view of your diet, making you more aware of your favorite foods, portion sizes, not-so-healthy habits, and fallback cravings. It can also show you a breakdown of the macronutrients you’re eating, so you can see real numbers—rather than just guesstimating!
From balancing protein intake to boosting athletic performance, here are seven reasons to track your intake.
Reason #1: You’re Trying to Maintain Weight Loss
Setbacks are to be expected—anyone who’s ever lost weight can tell you that. But how you handle them determines whether you’ll get back on track, or slide down the slippery slope to weight regain. If you notice the pounds creeping on again, start logging your food! It can help you refocus and spot where those extra cookies or cocktails are sneaking in.
Reason #2: You’re Vegetarian
A vegetarian diet can be a smart eating strategy, but it takes a bit more effort to balance and meet your nutritional needs. In particular, pay attention to protein—it should make up 10 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. In your food log, take a look at the breakdown of your macros to determine if you’re within the healthy range. Not quite there? Bump up your plant proteins, like beans, lentils, edamame, nuts, and soy, by including a small amount at each meal and snack. Then check back in with your food log to ensure you’re on track.
Reason #3: You’re Watching Your Salt Intake
If your doctor tells you to limit salt in your diet, food logging can help you spot the sneaky sources. Start inputting your meals and snacks, especially packaged and prepared foods, which contribute more than 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet. (Pro tip: The barcode scanner in the Fitbit app is useful for quick logging.) Once you’ve been doing it for a few days, log into your Fitbit dashboard online, and navigate to your food log (click “log” at the top, then “food”) to see your total daily intake of sodium.
Reason #4: You’re Cutting Carbs
Following a low-carb diet? Cutting back, or completely eliminating, certain foods can cause you to miss out on essential nutrients, like fiber. Log your meals and snacks for a few days, then go to your online dashboard and check to see if you’re getting the recommended daily amount (25 grams for women and 38 grams for men). To avoid a sluggish gut, do it before your system gets clogged.
Reason #5: You’re Attempting to Gain Muscle
To bulk up you need to partner a good exercise program with a solid nutrition strategy. Logging your food intake for a few days can help you understand how many additional calories you need to gain weight. Then, it’s important to keep tracking, to make sure you’re getting those extra calories and to balance your macros. Getting the right amount of protein immediately after your workouts is key for building muscle mass.
Reason #6: You’re Struggling with Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities can be tricky to spot, but keeping a food log is the first step toward figuring out your triggers. Record everything you eat and make note of your symptoms over the course of the day, so you can identify patterns. You may notice that garlic gives you tummy troubles, too much cheese leads to a headache, or citrus fruits fire up your acid reflux. Talking to a registered dietitian about your reactions and working together to figure out what’s bothering you, and what you can eat, is always a good idea.
Reason #7: You Exercise a Lot
If your fitness goals include breaking tape or getting an age-group podium spot, eating right is just as important as your training plan. Current thinking suggests competitive athletes (and those who work out like them) benefit from manipulating calories and macros according to training level and intensity. So when you’re training hard your body should be getting more calories and carbs, and during rest and taper weeks you can ease up. Food logging can help you get into the nitty gritty of those numbers, and hit all of your performance goals.
Spending a week logging your food and getting to know all the nutrition features offered in the Fitbit app can be eye-opening. You’ll get a big picture view of your calorie needs, and be able to keep an eye on your macros. And digging into even more data in your online dashboard might reveal places where you can improve (so long, sneaky salt; hello, whole grains and fiber!). What you discover about your eating can help keep you on the path toward achieving your personal health and fitness goals.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.