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Health and Fitness Column: Tracking calories

Melissa Vogel is a fitness expert with more than 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry. The mother of three daughters is a fitness trainer, host of the Bomb Mom Podcast, keynote speaker, model, actress, and a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Photo by Melissa Vogel.

By Melissa Vogel  
Health and Fitness Columnist, Canyon Lake Insider 

As summer begins to wind down and kids head back to school, many parents are looking to get their nutrition back on track. But where do you start?

As a coach and trainer, one of the first things I dive into is a client’s daily caloric intake. Most clients have no clue how many calories they do or do not consume on any given day. Most people, including the old me, had absolutely no idea. I knew it wasn’t an excessive amount because I wasn’t pounding down hamburgers, fried foods, or extra carbohydrates for every meal. I also wasn’t having dessert all that often either.

So, how bad could my calories really be, right?  At this point, I had just had my third child and was ready to get serious again with my muscle growth and definition. I thought I had a pretty good estimate of my caloric and protein intake, but I needed to know for sure. 

I tried out several different apps until I found one that I really liked and could help me track my food, recipes, and workouts. I adjusted the settings, entered in my goals, and was ready to go. I can still remember the first time I entered in my entire day’s worth of food and beverage. I was shocked! 

My calories exceeded the recommended amount, my protein was too low, and my sugar was out of control. On the second day of tracking with my new app, it was the exact opposite. I did not consume enough calories, my protein was better but not great, and my sugar was still a mess.

My first mistake was waiting until the end of the day to enter all of the food I had consumed. If I had been tracking my food as the day went on, I would have seen the warning signs back at lunchtime.

When you enter your food at meal time, you are constantly aware of your numbers. This is extremely helpful in assisting you to stay within your caloric limits, as well as making sure you’re eating enough. Also, when you know exactly what your caloric intake is, it makes it a lot easier to compare those numbers to what you are burning during your workouts. The greater the deficit between calories going in versus calories going out will get you closer to your fitness goals. Without this information, you are simply guessing and hoping that you are making gains and getting closer to your fitness goals.

In my coaching program, Busy To Bomb Fit Mom, we call this “collecting data.” I don’t refer to it as calorie counting or even counting macros. You most certainly can get very specific with things but I like to look at the big picture and keep it simple.

To track what you’re consuming versus what you are burning, start out by getting a general idea of what you are putting in your body on a daily basis. You can even keep it old school and only use a notebook and pen. No need for a fancy app, but it does help make it a little easier.

Once you’ve collected this data for several weeks, do a weigh-in to see if you have dropped weight, gained weight, or maintained. Regardless of your results, all of this is still extremely helpful information because now you have a baseline of how your body is responding to the amount of calories you are consuming. Now you can start playing around with your nutrition.

If you want to lose weight simply decrease the number of calories you’ve been consuming on average. For example, if you have been tracking and on average you eat 2,800 calories a day, begin cutting back to 2,600. Be consistent for a couple of weeks and then weigh-in again. The more you begin to learn how your body works and responds to certain foods and calories consumed, the more success you will be at taking back control of your health and waistline. 

Melissa Vogel is a fitness expert with more than 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry. She is a fitness trainer, host of the Bomb Mom Podcast, keynote speaker, model, actress, a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo, and mother of three daughters. For more information, visit www.melissavogelfitness.com.

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