You Can’t Afford Not To Track During A Diet
- Take up these daily tasks to get the best possible rates of fat loss and muscle gain
- Self diagnosis is critical, since everyone’s so different and special
- Weigh yourself
- Check your calorie totals
- Monitor your sleep
- Track your heart rate
- Stay ahead of the curve, nip the setbacks before they bring your programme to an anticlimactic end.
It’s non-negotiable, or at least it should be. If you don’t believe in the scale, I’m going to provide a few reasons why you should reconsider and face the numbers. And if you’re already on the daily weight bandwagon, this article is covering much more than the scale alone. This is a completely fledged out guide for ensuring a diet’s success by the art of bio tracking.
The Goal Of Tracking Is To Spot The Problems And Identify The Causes
This isn’t just about being able to nerd out and melt over carefully crafted excel spreadsheets. Bio tracking enables you to push past the ebbs and flows that inevitably crop up in a weight loss programme. Fat loss is never going to be linear, but we can always straighten the line.
There’s always the option of going ahead armed with just common sense and a few skimmed diet books. In which case, you might not notice that you’ve just hit a sticking point. When fat loss stalls, it’s usually because you’re not recovering well, or your energy is starting to wane.
It’s something that you can identify, patch up, and move forward with the best possible rates of weight loss and muscle retention. In the meantime, you’ll find out so much more about yourself, and there’ll be a chance to build the optimal routine.
Who Can Use This Guide
- People who struggle to hit a consistent, sustained spell of weight loss.
- People looking to optimise their diet programme for the best possible level of fat loss and muscle gain.
- And the ones who just want to feel better, and can’t figure out why they’re so lethargic.
If You’re A Complete Beginner, Don’t Give Up Reading Just Yet
This guide may seem a little complicated, but there’s no harm in adding a few of these tracking techniques to your programme. Bio tracking is something you’ll want to learn at some point, so you might as well pick it up from the outset. I won’t make it any more difficult than it needs to be.
Getting an oura ring has been one of the biggest changes I’ve made in anticipation of another exciting fat loss season, and it’s definitely been for the better. With my business and training, I’ve relied on being able to adapt and change with every fresh summer attempt. More exposure, more experience, leading to a better range of tools to apply with clients. This is why I don’t cook the same meal twice. It’s not that my taste buds have a bad case of ADHD. I’d happily stick with the boring lazy option of slow cooked beef stew, if I just left it to likes and dislikes.
My Personal Fat Loss Problem That Needs Fixing
My biggest stumbling block with weight loss has always been the stage when the body decides it doesn’t want to drop any further. So it comes up with every possible negative adaptation to suppress lipolysis and crashes my energy to zombie-like levels. Up until then, it’s smooth sailing. It doesn’t really matter what I throw together on the plate.
High carb, low carb, as long as the calories are in the rough ballpark, the scale keeps going down. Then I shift from 10 to 9% body-fat, and everything comes to a standstill. From here, I have to fight and grind for every lost gram. It’s more pain than it’s worth, and this is where I usually pack up and go home after a few weeks of riding the seesaw.
This Should Be Relatable For You
Everyone’s got a sticking point like this, although it’s impossible to pin down to a number. Someone lucky might be able to get to 7-8%, veins on abs, before running into a few issues. This is going to be part genetic, and part hormonal makeup. In any case, it’s not a fun spot to be camped in.
There’s a lot of factors that combine to create this unwanted homeostasis, but they all essentially spring from the same root. The body doesn’t want to stray too far from its established setpoint, which is the body fat percentage where it can coast along in maintenance mode. The negative adaptation will typically cause energy expenditure (NEAT) to nosedive, and any grasp on portion control goes out of the window. Basically your ability to burn off calories takes a hit, while your appetite for food goes up. It’s bad news on both ends.
This is a phenomenon that’s called an adaptive metabolism, where the body is remarkably smart at burning up or holding onto calories for when the setpoint starts to shift. Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) plays a big role in this, as it encompasses all movement outside intentional training. So someone with an adaptive metabolism becomes restless when trying to load on a few extra pounds, and resembles a couch potato when dropping down to single digits.
Tracking – Not Just A Tool For Those Resistant To Weight Loss
Bio tracking now becomes the best way to prevent fat loss from slowing down to a miserable crawl, and even swinging the pendulum the other way. This isn’t a solution solely for people with hyper adaptive metabolisms, as everyone’s going to be sitting somewhere on that curve of homeostatic regulation. Regardless of how intense the reaction is, the body’s going to start fighting against weight loss. The stage, and the degree can vary from person to person, but it’s going to happen for anyone who keeps fishing for a leaner look.
Here’s the kicker: without tracking, your metabolism can tank, fat loss stops, and you won’t even notice it. The brain’s got a funny way of adapting to suppressed states and adopting it as the new normal. So you could lose out on sleep, build up chronic levels of stress and inflammation, and not realise that you’re riding on a downward spiral.
In the case of dieting, people can be in a caloric deficit for way longer than necessary, and not realise that the body has dropped to half functionality. Logically, this would be the perfect time to set up a nice little diet break, a week away in the sun. But with the OCD folk, the mission is to keep digging a bigger hole.
For times when the brain’s playing tricks on you, numbers can save the day before things end in disaster.
You Don’t Need An Oura Ring For Decent Tracking
The benefits aren’t going to be exclusive to those who can get hold of this nifty bit of equipment, as many smartwatches will have the same features. Even if it just boils down to tracking step count with a phone, you’re going to be able to stay ahead of the curve.
The key part in tracking is in taking down measurements and readings while you’re in a normal pre-diet state, and keeping a tight eye on those numbers as the diet starts to approach the stubborn spot. If there’s a big disturbance in the bio algorithm that doesn’t go away for a few days, then it becomes the frontline priority in the diet. Pump those numbers back up to baseline, and you can safely assume that weight loss can sidestep the waiting stall.
Here’s What I Track Every Day During The Diet
Some of you may be a little squeamish about checking up on these numbers each day, especially during or after bad ones. But this is exactly why tracking should be done every day, with scale weight being the prime example. Get the bad days, the good days, and you can see the median number that actually reflects where your true weight is lurking around.
This is a given, and there’s nothing new here. Calorie counting is the chief amongst all diets. Even those who will happily tell you how they don’t bother tracking what they eat, will likely have built up the intuition through previous experience of calorie counting. Once you do it every day for a few years, you start to get a good sense of which foods are packing calories.
At that point, maybe tracking isn’t needed anymore. At least not every day. It’s still worth testing it out every week or so to check whether you’re in the right zone. Otherwise you’re just wasting time dancing around maintenance.
If you’re following a diet like keto, this will also enable you to keep a tight leash on the carb count, and prevent a few too many strays leaking in. For those who struggle to get enough protein in, this can be the eye opener you desperately need in order to start upping your steak game. Hovering under 100g isn’t going to bode well over the course of a diet. The body is extremely adept at holding on to muscle, but you don’t want to keep prodding.
Best App For Calorie Counting
There’s plenty of apps to take a shot at, but so far I’m liking the feel of Cronometer.
2. Scale Weight
As I mentioned earlier, your scale weight is one of the best pieces of data you can collect over the diet. By picking the median, you’re only taking the middle number out of the week. This prevents abnormal days and fluctuating water weight from blurring the values. For an example, weighing yourself after an evening of pizza. The extra sodium and carbs are bound to hold on to water and get the weight to climb up a few pounds. But that’s water weight, and not exactly relevant to fat loss. Within another day or two, the bloat’s going to disappear. So that day probably doesn’t make it as the median.
Women will have to take this on a little differently, as water weight will fluctuate over the course of the month. For the unlucky ones, there will be some serious numbers darting up and down. The median from one week may not be comparable to the next. To beat this, you’d still track daily, but compare the median from each week to the corresponding week of the next month.
Assuming you can time things well enough, this will be quite easy. Week 1 against Week 1, and so on. With this method, water weight gets tracked, and you’ll be able to see whether you’re actually losing a few pounds amongst the roller coaster.
Best App For Weight Tracking
A nutrition app like Cronometer will work great for this. Appovo’s Weight Loss Tracker is a great standalone option.
3. Step Count
This is fast becoming the gold standard that personal trainers use to encourage their clients to start shifting weight. It’s simple, and it doesn’t require you to run up and down the gym until you throw up and call it a day. Tracking your step count will allow you to find out how much you move on an average day. If the number is decent enough, then it’s your job to maintain that level across the diet. This is by far the best way of measuring NEAT, which tends to experience the biggest drop out of all metabolic factors.
For example, if you see your step count go down by a few thousand, that’s a clear sign that you’re starting to slow down. At this point, you can start working one or two brisk walks into your day, or make a point to always go the long way round and park at the furthest spot. Over the span of the day, that can amount to a 200-500 extra calories burnt, which is a game changer when you hit a sticking point.
Best App For Step Tracking
Google Fit is pretty reliable, and can be synced with a bunch of other apps used to track other bits of bio data. Smart watches will be more accurate, but that won’t matter much as long as you’re getting consistent numbers. Over a week, you can figure out your average day, and then stick by it.
If you’ve been spending a third of your adult life tucked under the covers, it would be fair game to assume that you’d have mastered it by now. Except there’s a good chance that you’re still struggling, because the majority of the UK population suffer from disrupted sleep.
Now this may be brushed under the carpet during normal life, but during a diet, staying behind on sleep is going to cost you. The damaging consequences include a lowered metabolic rate, raised appetite, insulin resistance, and a host of other issues. Simply put, you’re being transformed into a fat storing machine. It’s a little way in the wrong direction.
Fortunately, trackers are getting better and better, so we have a few ways to gauge sleep quality. Efficiency is the percentage of time in bed that you’re actually spending asleep. If it’s below 85%, and you’re not a pensioner, then that’s a clear sign that something is obstructing sleep. Coupled with total time in bed, and you can opt to either maintain or improve. Probably the latter.
Best App For Sleep Tracking
The oura ring is perfectly suited to this, as it’s designed to monitor rest and recovery, as opposed to scoring your workouts. But there are plenty of alternatives.
Related Articles On Sleep Hacking
5. Resting Heart Rate
A raised heart rate is a pretty telling indicator of chronic stress levels. The idea here is that it’s fine to see some fluctuations during a workout, but outside of activity, you’re going to want to bring it down to a steady beat. Lower the better. That’s a measure of your ability to descend from a fight-or-flight (sympathetic) state, towards the rest-and-digest (parasympathetic) physiology. The former system may give you the edge you need to put in a shift and lift heavy, but it can also be incredibly detrimental to fat loss and muscle gain. The recovery phase is the crucial phase of the training process, that’s exactly what we’re targeting in this article.
Less stress, better recovery, and the net result is faster fat loss.
Measuring your heart-rate during sleep is the best strategy here, as it shows the state of your nervous system during the peak stage of recovery. If you’re seeing an upward trend across the diet, then it’s a sign that you need to adjust the diet, or add some breathwork in order to regain a parasympathetic dominant physiology.
6. Heart Rate Variability
HRV is perhaps an even better way of checking the state of the nervous system. As opposed to a low RHR, you’ll actually want to see an upward trend here. HRV measures the space between heart beats, and higher numbers show that your system is effective at dropping from the sympathetic to parasympathetic states.
It’s a great marker of health, as high HRV numbers show an ability to use both systems. So you’re not just aiming to become a yogi living out his days on a mountain peak. When it’s time for action, you can raise the heart rate at will and reach peak performance. And once the workout’s over, you can drop it down to enable optimal recovery. You get the best out of both worlds.
In both RHR and HRV the skill to improve is the ability to lower the heart rate in any situation. And there’s only one proven method for making that upgrade: learning how to control the breath. But factors such as the quality of food will play a passive role in improving those markers.
Related Articles Of Heart Rate Hacking
Best App For Heart Rate Tracking
This is one where you’re best off with a smartwatch or an oura ring in order to get reliable numbers. But it’s well worth a little investment, because that can always double for measuring step counts and sleep efficiency.
Android – Provided by the device
Apple – Heart Watch
The list I’ve thrown up isn’t exhaustive by any means, you can always delve a little deeper. Here are a few examples that I haven’t mentioned.
- Body Fat Measurements
- Waist & Hip Circumferences
- Respiration Rate
- Blood Glucose Levels
- Ketone Levels
I just don’t see them as essential as the rest, and there might be a headache trying to juggle all these different bits of data. So you could always check them periodically, while leaving them off the daily tasklist.
Wrapping Up – You’re Going To Become A Fan Eventually
Fitness is a hobby, and as such it has a few layers in engagement. The quest to find the best diet, the perfect routine, will inevitably reel you into bio tracking. It’s just a necessary step that needs to be scaled at some point. Otherwise there’s no knowing whether you react better to high carbs or low carbs, whether you can make do with 6 hours of sleep, or if your evening run is keeping you up at night. It can be confusing at first, but once you get your bearings, it becomes an addictive and rewarding experience.
Hey, I’m Sama, a natural bodybuilder who’s bought into the perks of keto and intermittent fasting. Why? When combined, the boosting effect on mental energy is unrivalled on any other diet. And the fat loss isn’t bad either.
I’ve got a ton of recipes, guides and insights covering both diets, and you check them all out on my blog.
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Carnivore Diet Coach And Personal Trainer