Wits & Weights: Strength and Nutrition for Skeptics

Ep 59: Why You Should Track Your Food

April 07, 2023 Philip Pape Episode 59
Wits & Weights: Strength and Nutrition for Skeptics
Ep 59: Why You Should Track Your Food
Wits & Weights: Strength & Nutrition for Skeptics
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Show Notes Transcript

Tracking your food may sound daunting or obsessive, but doing so will help you develop freedom and flexibility in your relationship with food.

In this episode, I share a framework to help you understand why you should track your food and the practical steps you can take to start doing so right away. You can choose whatever food-tracking app you want that will help you track the priorities included in the framework.

Tune in and learn more about the specifics you need to track and how it can help you improve your eating habits, health, and well-being.
👩‍💻 Schedule your FREE 30-minute Nutrition Momentum Call with Philip here.

Today you’ll learn all about:

[1:48] A top-down framework on why you should track your food
[3:38] Documenting your food, how you feel, and your sleep
[6:57] Energy level of your food in terms of calories
[11:00] Tracking your macronutrients
[13:05] Tracking carbs and your energy
[15:55]  Stephanie shares her experience with her one-on-one nutrition coaching with Philip
[17:49] Sub-macros: Breakdown of your macros
[22:10] Protein sources and amino acids
[23:42] Micronutrients: vitamins and minerals
[26:03] Getting bloodwork or vitamin/mineral screening to know if you have any deficiency
[27:10] Recap of the 5 food tracking priorities

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Philip Pape:

10% of your calories or a third of your fat as saturated fat, you track that and then you could alter your food choices. I prefer you getting saturated fat from your meat and animal products and not adding a whole bunch of more saturated fat.Welcome to the Wits & Weights podcast. I'm your host Philip Pape. And this twice a week podcast is dedicated to helping you achieve physical self mastery by getting stronger.Optimizing your nutrition and upgrading your body composition will uncover science backed strategies for movement,metabolism, muscle and mindset with a skeptical eye on the fitness industry. So you can look and feel your absolute best. Let's dive right in. Wits& Weights community Welcome to another solo episode of the Wits& Weights podcast, where we talk about how you can look and feel your best using science backed strategies. I hope you enjoyed our last episode number 58 with Brandon de Cruz, where we revealed what it means to live a high energy flux lifestyle.Today for episode 59 Why you should track your food, you might be thinking that tracking your food is inconvenient, it's weird, it's obsessive, or it's not something that you can do forever. And yet, it's by far one of the most effective things you can do. Especially if you've struggled to manage your weight or your body composition until now, or you've never done it before tracking your food if you do it the right way. And for the right reasons will help you develop flexibility and freedom in your relationship with food for the rest of your life. And yes, even if you decide at some point that you no longer want or need to track, I'm going to take a unique angle here. In this episode, I'm not going to tell you what app to use, how to use a food scale, how to prep or plan meals. Today, I'm going to construct a top down framework for you to think about why we might track food, you know, at least for a short period, and how you can do it at each level of the framework. So that by the time the episode is done, you'll know what to do and can take action to become a highly skilled, highly empowered master of your nutrition domain. So instead of following a diet, or labeling foods as good or bad,which results in a moral choice,you're going to be able to choose whatever foods you want that fit within this framework and within your lifestyle, which gives you both freedom and flexibility for the rest of your life. So if that sounds good to you, let's get into it. I'm going to start at the top with what is most important. And then we're going to work our way down the list. And the more of this list that you can satisfy, the easier it will be to reach your goals, not just for fat loss or building muscle, but also for overall health, for energy,mood, hormones recovery, and really your overall health and well being, we're going to start at the top. And the most important thing when it comes to tracking your food. And this might surprise you is tracking how you feel. What we're talking about here is making sure that you have an appreciation for what foods you tolerate or not what your preferences are before you even go to the next level of the framework. And the next priority to take the offenders off the table to understand what works for you rather than what somebody said in a diet book or program. And we can do this systematically and objectively by thinking about a few different things. And this is common sense. But what I'm asking you to do is as you track your food, I also want you to either journal or document list or even just think consciously about these things. So one of those is digestion. Lots of foods cause digestive issues,you may not even be you may not even realize it you may have been eating a certain way for so many years, that you just accept how how it is your bowel movements and how your stomach feels, and your bloating and so on. And until you start to experiment with other foods or move toward a different dietary pattern. And notice that say some of those things go away.You then until you do that you can't discover that things have been causing issues for you. So digestion is one another is hunger, hunger is huge. And being aware of your hunger and then be able to categorize it as physical or physiological. Being able to understand what level of hunger you are at relative to you and your history. And then associating those types and levels of hunger with what you were doing and what you're eating. which then gives you consciousness and awareness to tweak things and reduce that hunger as you select your foods.The next thing as far far as how you feel is your energy and your mood. So these are these might sound qualitative, but you know that when you have to drag yourself up in the morning To go to the gym, when you have to drag yourself under the bar to get your back squat, or when you have to drag yourself to go get some work done, versus the days that you're just you've got all that pep and get up and go,and you have the energy to get stuff done. And you feel strong and capable in the gym, you notice those differences, and a lot of that could be down to what you're eating. Think about when you go to a restaurant, you have a big meal with lots of sodium, salt, fat, sugar, and how you might feel even if it's not a big meal, calorie wise,just how you feel how you feel after you go to that fast food restaurant and have the fries cooked in who knows what oil,and who knows what ingredients and where they've come from.Versus if you cut up some potatoes at home and roast them with some olive oil. Compare the differences between these things, energy, mood, even recovery. And then the last thing that you want to be conscious of in terms of how you feel when it comes to tracking your food against that is your sleep. Seriously, sleep is tied to food in many ways sleep is tied to food in that if you don't get enough of it, you will be hungrier, and your metabolism will drop. And that will cause you to not be able to eat as much. But it could also be tied to when and what you're eating.If you're eating later in the day, or if you're eating certain composition of foods, whether it's macros fats, or whether it's carbs, fats or protein for you, as an individual does something cause more interrupted sleep. And again, this comes down to experimentation, and finding out what works and what doesn't. So all of this encompasses the first and top level of the framework for tracking food, which again,might surprise you, but it's going by how you feel because at the end of the day for a sustainable approach,eventually, you want to not have to track and still know exactly the right foods for you.Alright, so that's the first one, then we start getting into the more nuts and bolts, the nitty gritty if you will. And that takes us to number two on the hierarchy is calories. Now calories are important for a few reasons. The first, and maybe the biggest reason is energy balance. We know that calories are the only way to manipulate the energy coming in to your body, knowing that the energy going out is going to be driven by your movement, and your training and your muscle mass.And I recently had if you listened to last week's episode with Brandon Cruz, we talked about the high energy flux lifestyle, the idea of eating more and moving more moving more and eating more. And energy balance is not thought of in a vacuum. Meaning if you want to lose fat, yes, you have to be in a deficit. But relative to what?Well, it's relative to how much how many calories you burn.Obviously, if you burn more calories and want to be in that same deficit, you get to eat more food. So energy balance is really important, especially in the context of your overall movement. And at least being aware of the number, by tracking your food gives you the power to make the changes, you need to get to a different number. Very,very important. I have people come to me all the time saying I struggled for years with my diet. I've tried this. I've tried that whether it's keto,paleo, something else, I've tried low carb, I've tried him in fasting. And one of the first questions I asked is, have you ever tracked? And often the answer is no, because that's annoying, or I tried this app,and it was just too laborious,and so on. Now, those are all valid concerns, because the tool that you use has to fit what you're trying to accomplish. And there are real many really bad tools out there. There are some really good tools as well. And I promised that I wouldn't talk about what app to use on this on this episode. So I'm not going to do that. But the once you can find once you get that variable out of the equation, I would say that the quote unquote inconvenience of tracking your food is far outweighed by the years and years of inconvenience of not getting your results. And if you agree with that statement, then the what they call opportunity cost of not tracking is much higher than the cost of tracking. So tracking your food for calories alone will make a huge difference in meeting your goals. The other reason we want to track calories is the awareness, the awareness of how much we eat, and the awareness of how many calories we burn. So let me put that in context. How much we eat. People underestimate that by 50%. This is this has shown time and again in the literature that we do a terrible job at estimating our calories. If I told you to tell me how much you ate yesterday and you didn't track, whatever you guess would probably be to50% more than you really ate unless you've tracked before and have developed the skill and the intuition. So just the awareness even if you did it for three weeks, you'd be shocked at the reality not just of how much you eat Get days where you think you're staying on track, or are similar to other days, like Saturday versus a Thursday, you might find that Saturday just blows your whole plant out of the water. And knowing that one or two days makes all the difference in your week, allows you to take control the situation. And then the other piece of this is understanding your personal expenditure, your total daily energy expenditure or your maintenance level, if you can eat it in a fairly routine way, for about two to three weeks, and you've maintained your weight, and you've tracked your calories,then you know that that's roughly how many calories you burn per day. And if you're in the ballpark, you know, if you know you're around 2200, or3000, or 1500, and it could be way off from what a calculator tells you. That's really good information. Because even if you don't want to track in the future, you'll know that roughly this amount of food is what I need to maintain my weight. And that's one of the reasons we track calories. Okay? So tracking calories is important.The next most important is going to be number three macros macronutrients, okay. And by the way, this whole framework, the idea here is not just to track these for its own sake, it's so that you get data to make decisions from and you can construct your personal meal plan or your personal I'll say,repertoire of foods that you would go to, rather than looking at a book or eat this not that or low carb or cut this food group, it's, Hey, here's my personal ecosystem of foods that work for me that make me feel good that meet my calorie needs,and so on. So that's why we're doing this. So let's get into number three macros. Alright, we know what the macros are, if you've been listening to the show, we know we have protein,fats, and carbs. And so for protein, the importance of tracking protein is because you need enough of it. And most people don't get enough, you need about 0.7 to one gram per pound of your target body weight. But just to keep it simple, whatever you weigh,right now, if you just want to maintain your weight, you need to eat about that many pounds in grams. So if you currently weigh weigh 200, and you want to stay there, you need to shoot for one at 200 grams of protein every day. And you're probably getting a lot less if you haven't done this before. So that's the first huge revelation that most people have when they start tracking their macros. And then we have fats, most people get enough fats just naturally in their foods, we want to be around 30%of our calories. Some people can go a little less if they're on a lower fat diet, or they just don't need a lot of fat, the leaner foods. Or if you're in a fat loss phase, and others need a little bit more. If you used to eat keto, or you like a high kind of a high meat type diet with or a lot of eggs, you might want to have more fats in diets,that's totally cool. So fats are pretty flexible. But you need to be way above the essential minimum, which is something like10% of your calories. And again,most people are unless they're deliberately going out of the way not to be. And then carbs.We talked about carbs so much on this podcast, and I just can't stop mentioning how critical they are. If you want to lift weights, and improve your body composition, and feel great. I have clients all the time who are stressed, they've had a history with maybe thyroid or adrenal issues. And they just may not have enough carbs, I mean, let alone the strength training, which is an important piece of it. They may have just been under feeding not just calories, but carbohydrates for years, and all of a sudden we get them to 200 or even 300grams of carbs. And it's like whoa, I've got energy, I can go to the gym and lift, I can sleep, I don't have stress, all of a sudden my thyroid numbers good. My you know, reproductive hormones, look at everything all of a sudden starts to regulate just because of carbs. So tracking your food and understanding your carb intake and how that links to number one. How you feel is very important. I have a fellow lifter, I know he actually doesn't do well on a lot of carbs, he needs to stay below200. It's not keto territory,but it's not where he could be.For an average person his size with his activity, he would know I would normally have around400 400 to 500 grams of carbs,right? bigger guy, strong guy eats a lot of calories. But it doesn't work for him. Right? He needs more fats and protein in his diet and less carbs. And that's like a sweet spot. And he knows that because he listens to his body, but it takes a lot to get there. So tracking your macros is important. And here's the fourth macro alcohol don't forget alcohol. Alright, alcohol does have energy it has around seven calories per gram. We don't consume alcohol because it's good for our energy or anything else. We consume it because we like it because it's enjoyable because we get a buzz from the alcohol. We know why we consume alcohol any minor benefits from things like resveratrol, as I say, the antioxidants in red wine, for example, are just are practically negligible compared to the, the negative potential of alcohol, especially when over consume. So I want to add it in there, because you should track it. And if you're using apps that actually single it out specifically as a macro, it helps you see how much you're getting, which I mean, you probably know how much alcohol you're getting. And then that's a good, that's a good macro that you can tweak or reduce. For example, if you need more room in calories, you need more room for other more wholesome carbs,and so on. So just don't forget it is all I'm saying. All right,so that's number three of the,you know, top down approach here for breaking down your, your dietary pattern and your framework for selecting food,because this is really about food selection.


The most value that I got from this was the fact that I had someone that I could talk to about anything, and that there was going to be no judgement, it was just Well,here are your goals, here's the best way that you're going to achieve it. And then let's work together to help you feel inspired and motivated to do that. And there's a lot of people out there trying to be coaches, and not all of them have done the work and also just be a genuine person that is positive and coming from the heart in terms of wanting to help and Phillip really embodied all of those qualities, I would recommend him to just about anyone that's looking to achieve goals in that realm of their nutrition and building new habits.

Philip Pape:

So now we're gonna get to number four. And so if we just stopped at calories and macros, this is where the If It Fits Your Macros crowd stops,and they're like, Okay, if, if I need 2000 calories, and I need this much protein, fats, and carbs, and then I'm just going to choose whatever food I want.How many donuts pizza, ice cream, gummy bears, coke,whatever. Now, yes, you can eat those and satisfy energy balance, and macros potentially,I mean, you've got to get your protein, of course, but you wouldn't satisfy number one, if you did that, most likely, you wouldn't satisfy feeling great having good digestion, managing your hunger, managing your energy, mood, and sleep. If you're eating all of these ultra processed foods all the time,even though yes, it could satisfy your energy balance and macro needs. So already, we've started to rule out that approach into approach that must by definition, incorporate things that make you feel good,which generally includes more whole and unprocessed foods, not100% of the food the time, but80 or 90% of the time. So let's get to number four now, which will further refine this approach. And that is the breakdown of your macros. And what I mean by that is within each macro category, there are specific types of those macros,that if you can track them, and then have targets around them,they will further induce you to select foods that serve you and your goals. So what am I talking about? carbs, let's talk carbs.The the type of carb that we want to track is fiber. Okay,fiber is critical for digestion,and gut health, your microbiome,for managing hunger. And it is mainly found in fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts. So think about that list right there. And if you think about quote,unquote, diets that people have called Healthy over the years,like a Mediterranean diet, or a whole food diet, or something like that, they generally have those types of foods. But we don't again, we don't care about good bad this, that we just want to look at how much fiber is in whatever we are selecting. Even if you have that quest bar, it might have a decent amount of fiber from soluble corn, corn fiber, I'm not saying that's,you know, the quote unquote,best form to get but it's still fiber, it's still going to contribute to your digestion and your fiber needs, which doesn't rule it out. Right. So tracking your fiber, and then understanding the minimums you want to aim for, which the evidence supports is 14 grams per 1000 calories consumed. So if you consume 2000 calories,you want to consume 28 grams of fiber, right? So track your fiber. And if you're using an app that tracks all the macro breakdowns and the micronutrients, you'll know how much you're getting. And then you can tweak your food choices,right? If you're in a fat loss phase, and all of a sudden you're getting hungry. And then you notice your fiber is low.That might be the connection,and you increase your fiber and all of a sudden the hunger goes away. Boom, you've just realized that you want to have more fibrous foods in your diet. Now you start incorporating more vegetables, more greens, more fruits, all good things, okay,or not good things with things that serve you. Alright, the next macro to break down is fats. And there's two in particular I like to focus on saturated fats and omega threes saturated fat.The evidence has been, I don't want to say mixed, it generally leans toward showing us that too much saturated fat is associated with cardiovascular disease. But I know there's some confounding factors, like if you have a high saturated fat diet, but otherwise, you move a lot and have a healthy dietary pattern,like we see in some European countries in the Mediterranean,that it isn't linked with it, in which case, it's the other factors that are usually associated with someone who also consumes high saturated fats.Because where do we find a lot of saturated fat in western diets, it's in processed foods because of the types of fats and oils that they add to make them delicious. And there you go, you get an ungodly amount of saturated fat, versus what you would normally have if you just picked Whole Foods off the shelf. So here's my suggestion,track your saturated fat, and see if it's in the ballpark of10% of your calories. If it's far above that, that could be an issue. But it could also sit and it could also suggest you're selecting foods that may not work for you long term. And maybe you're having a lot of ultra processed foods in there.10% of your calories or a third of your fat as saturated fat.You track that. And then you can alter your food choices. I prefer getting saturated fat from your meat and animal products, and not adding a whole bunch of more saturated fat like don't add a ton of butter to everything, use a little bit of olive oil or coconut oil. Well coconut oil, also saturated fat,but just just use it sparingly for flavor. We don't have to go crazy, and we can keep that where we need it to be. The other type of fat is omega three fatty acids, which are primarily found in fatty fish, you know and fit in fish and fish oil. A lot of us myself included take fish oil supplement, it may not be necessary if you eat fish two or three times a week if you eat seafood. And it's just important to have decent amount of something from fish in your diet. Also, it's a great source of protein. So you get to from one there. And I wouldn't get too hung up on the Omega three to six ratio and the amount of DHA and EPA and all that just get enough. Okay, and then protein, the real, the only thing that's really important for protein here is that we are getting complete, complete essential amino acids, or complete sources of amino acids,which, if you eat animal products, you're going to get that if you are vegetarian or vegan, you're going to have to get creative with the combinations of plant foods,plant based foods and the quantities to make sure you get your protein. And if necessary,then supplement with P or rice protein. Again, if you don't eat meat, or meat, eggs, dairy, soy,meat, eggs, and dairy are the big sources for omnivores. And the specific amino acid that we care most about as lifters trying to improve our body composition is leucine, because that's the one that supposed to contribute the most toward muscle muscle protein synthesis in terms of triggering it. And so this is this goes back to the discussion about not only getting enough protein, but spreading protein throughout the day to meet that threshold. But honestly, the most important thing is just getting enough.And then the rest is optimization. And the point with this podcast today is are you tracking these things? Are you tracking not only the macros,but the breakdown of the macros?Like the fiber, saturated fat,mega threes and the amino acids,you don't have to track those.I'm just making a point that you need to get enough and have it spread throughout the day. And tracking will help do that. All right. The last the I'll say last but not least kind of not the lowest priority. But the final piece to optimize all of this and result in good food selection for you is going to be micronutrients. So micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. And I'm not going to specify any one particular vitamin or mineral how much to get, because there are a ton.And there are the recommended daily allowances out there the minimums, so called minimums and then there's the minimums for individuals. So if you're a woman, who is in say, your 30s,right, and you need you need iron, you need a lot more iron than anyone else, right. Once you get to menopause, it drops to about the same level as men need or when you're younger,it's lower. But right in the middle, the middle there, women need a lot more iron, and if you've been anemic for example,it could just come down to iron consumption. You may not need an iron tablets, you may not need any special intervention, just track your iron. And if it's way less than that recommendation for your gender and your age.Look for foods that have higher iron that might be red meat,which by the way is awesome. It tastes good. It's nutrition and it's perfectly nutritious and perfectly healthy for you. If it's natural, lean sources of red meat versus for example,processed meats which we should limit it But I've had clients go through this where they've had low iron over and over again in their blood work. And when we say let's just bump up the amount of burgers, yeah, you know, mate, make some burgers at home, or bump up the certain types of meat or plants that have higher iron, and all of a sudden, because the iron consumption is up in the optimal range, the iron in the blood rises to where it needs to be.That's not always the case. But in many cases, that's that's what's going on is we have a deficiency, whether it's B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium,the electrolytes like magnesium and potassium, which you can get all these from food, selenium,Selenium is great for thyroid health and your metabolism. And so if you have the rumen near calories and macros, eating a couple Brazil nuts every day could get your Selenium exactly where it needs to be sodium, you may not have enough, you may have too much depends again on your goals, and your bloodwork and everything else. And zinc is another one, which is also good for immune system. Alright, so I'm not going to get into every single nutrient. My point here is, I asked you to think about the ones that are important to you. Think about any deficiencies you have. Go ahead and get bloodwork if you need to or get a vitamin mineral test a screening, and then look for foods that are higher in those go to the search engine. And just type in foods high in X,you know, high in B vitamins,high potassium, BT B vitamins are something that for example,vegetarians, vegans may not get enough of all right, so that's the fifth one to the framework.If you can track your food, for at least I'll say three months while following this framework for selecting your food, then,and then use that tracking as feedback to close the loop. And make sure you're actually satisfied each of those priorities. I think you're going to be significantly more educated. You're going to be an intelligent person when it comes to selecting foods that are high in quality for you, that satisfy you that make you feel great that help you reach your goals.So let's just recap the five food tracking priorities as a as a summary for the episode.Number one, how does the move make you? How's the food make you feel? digestion, hunger,energy, mood, sleep and so on.Number two, what's the energy level in your food in terms of calories? So that you can meet your energy balance and are aware of how much you're eating and how much you burn? Number three macronutrients are you getting enough protein are your fats where you need to be and are you getting enough carbs and tying that to your how you feel your energy recovery. Number four, the macro breakdown the sub macros if you will of carbs which would be fiber, fats,which would be saturated fat,Omega three, and protein which would be having complete amino acids. And then number five would be micros, micronutrients,vitamins and minerals, tracking those and making sure you get enough for your needs. Wits, &Weights community if you want to jump on a free 30 minute nutrition momentum call, just reach out using the link in my show notes. I'm not going to sell your pitch on anything, but I will help you gain perspective and guidance. For example, on the things that we talked about today, we can jump into those details if that's where you're struggling and figure out where you need to be to get on the right track toward looking and feeling your best. It's just you and me. We're coming together coming up with a game plan. For the biggest thing holding you back right now. That could be your relationship with food.That could be your training approach. You might be having a weight plateau. Whatever it is,we're going to dive deep so that you have concrete steps to break through that barrier and get closer to your results. Again,just use the link in my show notes and go ahead and book a free 30 minute nutrition momentum. Call with me. Next week for episode 60. We have an incredible interview with Andy Baker. Andy is a highly sought after strength coach. He's my personal barbell coach. He's the co author of two best selling books including the starting strength gray Brook grey book called practical programming.And you're going to learn all about mastering strength and programming to maximize your games. As always, stay strong and I will talk to you next time here on the Wits & Weights podcast. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Wits &Weights. If you found value in today's episode, and know someone else who's looking to level up their Wits & Weights,please take a moment to share this episode with them. And make sure to hit the Follow button in your podcast platform right now to catch the next episode. Until then stay strong