Find Your Fuel: Where are Your Calories Coming From?

Tracking your intake. Some hate, some dislike it, few of us embrace it. Unfortunately to make any meaningful and transformative change, it's essential to know what's going in. It's not the quantity that I care about, unless it's making sure you are getting ENOUGH calories, it's the quality. 

This necessary exercise will help get you started on the path to lean and vibrant. The basic goals are:

     - What are you fueling your body with currently?
     - What happens when you alter this?
     - Make adjustments and track the results.

1. Get a free myfitnesspal account: click here to sign up

2. It's best to use the myfitness pal app as it will display the pie chart of where your calories are coming from. Download the free app on iPad (my preference), iPhone or any other smart phone.

3. If you do not have a mobile device to use, you will have to follow this link to add a script to your browser that will allow you to see your pie chart on the online version. It's not  a straigtforward process, and Chrome just changed their settings to delete my original set up, so you are on your own here. My suggestion is to invest in a mobile device if possible. If not, try to find a macronutrient percentage calculator online to use.

4. Change your goals. Using the online version, go to MY HOME --> Goals and click on Change Goals button

Choose Custom: Manually set my own custom fitness goals and click Continue

Enter goals as below for percent of Carbohydrates (15%), Protein (25%) and Fat (60%). These are my personal goals and where I see the greatest success. It may be different for you (see below), but I suggest starting here. 

For Net Calories Consumed, I suggest starting here:
- Women: 2000 calories (I know, I'm crazy.   Just wait.  Get the pie right and likely this number can go up! Enjoy eating!!!)
- Men: 2400 calories

Completely ignore the Your Diet Profile section. It's wrong and you are about to prove that.  Also, ignore the Fitness Goals.  Exercising in order to burn calories is an effort in futility and will have you doing way more cardio work than you should, and it will likely hold you back.

Click Change Goals

5. Start tracking your intake.  Don't change much for a few days, just identify where you are at baseline.  Most likely, you will have a very hard time meeting your fat intake goal and blow your carb percentage day after day. This is what we have been told to do since the evolution of the awful low fat message, and where has that gotten us?  If you are looking to achieve a level of health beyond average, than you have to leave average (and often below average) nutritional advice in your rearview mirror.

6. Enter everything.  For things you make regularly and cannot find anything similar, enter it as a recipe for use later. The myfitnesspal database is ginormous. But note that not everything lists the fats/protein/carb content and this is essential.  Some items people enter only the calories (AKA worthless). Only enter food items that have listed fats/protein/carb numbers.

7. I suggest investing in a scale.  It's a great way to get a real assessment for what's going in. Here is the one I use: Eat Smart Precision Pro.  After awhile you will get the hang of it and not need it, unless you become a high maintenance Bulletproof Coffee maniac (more on this later) like myself, and you'll use it for every cup. 

8. THE VERY, VERY MOST IMPORTANT STEP FOR MOST PEOPLE: You have to enter all foods/beverages that contain artificial sweeteners as 1.5 times the sugared version of that food-like substance. That is anything with Splenda, sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame, stevia (YES, I SAID STEVIA), xylitol.  Your clue to these sweeteners being present is anything marketed as Low-Cal, sugar-free, calorie-free or you just cannot believe something "good" for you tastes like something you used to eat. 

The reason for this is that these foods will have very little to zero formal carbohydrates that would register on your pie chart. The problem is even though these sweeteners do not contain carbs, they have a very dramatic and metabolically deranging carbohydrate effect and may in fact be worse. For this reason, you have to account for this. 

- 12 ounces of Diet Coke (or Crystal Light) have to be logged as 18 ounces of Coca-Cola
- 8 ounces of Sugar-Free Yogurt, have to be logged in as 12 ounces of the full sugar version

Don't believe me? Below is a study from earlier this year following 66,000 women over 14 years and tracked their sweetened beverage intake along with the occurrence of Type 2 Diabetes (DM2). The graph shows incidence of DM2 based on the consumption of certain sweet drinks. Note that 1 twelve ounce can is 354 mL, so at 3 cans per week the DM2 in those consuming Artificially Sweetened Beverages (ASB), seen in the middle graph is dramatically increased. Water anyone?


9. The more you use myfitnesspal, the easier it gets. I eat a lot of the same meals week after week. Actually we all do. Despite our desire for "variety", even those on the Standard American Diet essentially eat the same foods over and over. If you find yourself logging in something that you eat routinely, it's best to make a Meal out of it:

Here's my typical heavy lifting day morning.  Rather than find each ingredient, I just click Remember Meal, call it Workout Morning. When I go to enter it in the future, it's under the Meals tab when I click on + Add to Breakfast. I can adjust any ingredient if I added or subtracted something.  You can also make recipes of things you make often and have it saved for later entry when you make it again or eat it for lunch the next day.

10. Watch your pie chart. Keep an eye on what type of calories you are consuming on a day to day basis. It's easy to find on the iPad, just click the Home tab.  On the iPhone (and I imagine other smartphones) it a little trickier. 

- Tap on the Home icon in the lower left corner
- Tap on the Daily button the very top, in the middle
- On the far right side of the blue, Nutrient Details bar, you will see a pie chart, tap the pie

Next I'll talk about where all this fat comes from, but for now work on shrinking that big blue chunk of pie!

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