Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tracking Nutrition with MFP

In my last post, Flexible Dieting Basics, I went over four basic steps to tracking your calories using MyFitnessPal (MFP). You can use other calorie counting apps as well, but MFP is the one with which I am most familiar.  This post will go over some of the nice features of the program, to make it even easier for you to use.

I am quite "religious" about working out, but I didn't really see results in my physique until I started being serious about my nutrition.  Flexible Dieting works!
With the newest version of the app, you can copy yesterday's breakfast in one simple step.
To add yesterday's breakfast, just swipe to add and it's done immediately.
Copying meals:
From day to day, I often eat the same foods for lunch or dinner. I can log into MyFitnessPal on my computer and copy that meal to the current (or future day).  This is not available on the mobile app.

This was my dinner last Thursday.  If I were planning to have this tonight or tomorrow. I could log into MyFitnessPal on my computer and quickly add the meal to tonight or tomorrow's dinner.  It takes 30 seconds.
You can input your own recipes and import recipes from the Internet on MFP. When adding a recipe to your meals, you simply add the meal from your recipes and it automatically updated the calories. It's great! It also is useful to see exactly how healthy recipes are and if they really align with your nutritional goals.

Adjusting your calories and macros:
I lead an active lifestyle, which is a big change from where I was two years ago. I also lift weights, so I need more calories and a lot more protein than the default settings in MFP.  I adjust my calories and macros every time I update my weight in MFP. If my goal is to lose the 6 pounds I gained during the holidays, MFP defaults my settings to 1,660 calories.  This is not enough for me and I need a lot more protein than MFP recommends because I lift weights. 

You won't know right away if the default settings are right for you or not. You have to see how you feel after tracking your food for a while. Then adjust accordingly. You have to make sure you are eating enough.  No one should eat less than 1,300 calories per day.  If you are eating somewhat clean and getting in at least 100 grams of protein each day, you are probably okay. If you feel really hungry or tired with the default settings, increase by 100 calorie increments until you feel better.  
To change adjust your calorie or macros, you have to go to "More", on the lower right side of the screen.  Then go to "Goals."
You will see your current weight, your goal weight and what your goal is.  I want to lose the weight I gained during the holidays, but not too fast.  You also see your activity level.  I had to put mine from "Active" to "Lightly Active" because I'm not riding my bike as much and my job is relatively sedentary.  To adjust your calories and macros, select that under "Nutritional Goals."
I  manually increased my calories to 2,000 and reduced my carbs from the default of 50% to 40% and increased my protein from 20% to 30%.  This works best for me.  When I follow these macros, I feel best.  If I cut my calories too much, I feel hungry, tired and irritable.  
Be careful with this! You WILL be hungry at first. Your body is trying to adapt to the change and you will feel hungry. (Eat celery sticks and carrots to help between meals.) But I know now that when I feel hungry, there is a difference between between that and "the munchies" or cravings.  

MFP Community:
There are forums on MFP and you can read differs people's success stories, ask questions and add friends. Your MFP friends will see your feed, with updates to your daily goals, exercise and weight loss. Your MFP friends will cheer you on as you go. It's one way to establish a support network of people who have common goals. 

Food diary settings
You can adjust the settings on your food journal to make it either private or public. Making your food diary public means your MFP friends will be able to view your food and provide you with feedback if you need it, this is entirely optional. I would keep mine private, but I have friends who ask me for advice and tips, so I let them see my food journal so they can see what I eat and how much.  (This is done under "Settings" and "Sharing and Privacy."

Completing Your Food Journal:
At the end of the day when you complete your food journal, MFP makes a prediction of how much you will weigh if you keep eating the way you ate today. Don't pay too much attention to that. It can trick you into under-eating because you will think, "If I eat like this every day, I'll meet my goal sooner." OR if you go over on your calories and it tells you that you will weigh MORE in a few weeks, you can become discouraged easily.
This is Friday's food journal.  I was 25 calories over, including the calories added in for exercise.  (I don't usually eat my exercise calories, but I did yesterday.)  Click on "Complete Entry."
MyFitnessPal tells me what it projects I will weigh if  I eat like this every day.  You can't really go crazy with this prediction because it could make you a little batty.  Just be cautious.
The trick is to TRACK everything you eat! EVERY THING! Make adjustments as you go. Only by accurately tracking your food can you see what affect different foods have on your calories, macros and overall weight loss (or gain).

Two years ago, I weighed 232 lbs.  When I decided to lose weight, it was a series of trial and error.
When I started tracking my calories, I lost all the weight I wanted to and quickly.
Christmas, 2015
Challenge for today:
If you haven't created your account in MyFitnessPal, go ahead and do that.  Log your food for today and see if you can copy today's lunch to tomorrow.  Even if you don't eat that for lunch tomorrow, you should be able to delete it with no problem.  Experiment with the program and see if you like it.  It takes a little time to get used to, but it's really very easy.

Here are links to previous posts where I have discussed nutrition.  They are worth a second view if you are serious about flexible dieting as an option.

Nutrition 101:   I talk about meal prep and give examples of the food I eat on a daily basis.

Wonder Woman:  I explain how I got the nickname "Wonder Woman" by tracking all my calories and macronutrients.  I give a brief explanation of macros here.

Protein:  Getting enough protein was probably the biggest challenge I had when I started this.  This post gives examples of my "go to" protein sources.

A Calorie is Not a Calorie:  This post talks about the different effect foods have on you.

Question for you: 
(Answer in the comment section below.)
What did you do this weekend?  Did you get in any good workouts?

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