In the last month, I’ve been ramping up the training, especially with the running. One thing is really getting in my way: my weight. According to ‘Racing Weight’ by Matt Fitzgerald, the key to getting key performance with endurance sports is to have low body fat. Unfortunately, due to a terrible diet over the past four months, I am far from optimal when it comes to body fat!.
So with it being the new year and all, I decided to try and follow a nutrition plan. I have been tracking my fitness performance for years, but I have never really been to successful tracking my nutrition. Because every food type has its own nutritional value, it can be a laborious task tracking down each individual item of food. Instead of doing that I have developed a system that concentrates on certain kinds of food… bad food! I don’t bother wasting time tracking anything healthy… salads, sugarless cereals, sugarless coffee etc. All I do is track everything else. But rather than having to log each food item, instead, I associate unhealthy food with four distinct categories.
Category 1: Fizzy Drinks
This category is based on a 330ml can of coca-cola… unfortunately, one of my vices! However, it also includes stuff like lucozade, Fanta, ginger beer and anything else. A 500ml bottle counts as 1.5 units. And because diet drinks and zero drinks have such an odd effect on the body’s ability to process sugar, they are included also! And according to Jennifer Derham, qualified nutritionist at the Fulham Health Clinic, diet drinks raise blood sugar just as much as the full-sugar variety, because the body still thinks they are sweet. If they trigger an insulin response, then they are terrible for fat management, and just as bad as the non-diet varieties for exposing the consumer to health issues such as diabetes type 2. So diet drinks had to be included, as I didn’t want to get into the habit of caning three cans a day of coke zero to combat a sugar craving. Each unit of sugary drinks is logged as 150 calories based on a 330ml can of coke being listed as 139 calories. I don’t include fruit juice or smoothies in this category. While they contain a lot of sugar, I think the nutrients on balance are quite beneficial. But if you end up having more than one glass of fruit juice a day, I would start logging them from your second glass.
Category 2: Booze
I’m measuring this one by the unit and giving each unit an average value of 90 calories. Rather than having to list individual beer and wines, going by the unit is a much more simple way to go. Of course, there are some types of alcohol that contain few calories, such as a vodka soda with fresh lime, while others are quite high on a per unit level like WKD. But I tend to go for the middle ground, so the average value works fine. You can adjust the value to suit, based on what kind of drinks you have!
Category 3: Chocolate
Another vice of mine. This category also includes things like cereal bars and flapjacks, as well as cakes, doughnuts and all the good stuff. A unit is attributed 280 calories based on a Bounty Bar listed as 275 calories.
Category 4: Junk Food
So this covers everything else… Pies, pasties, pizza, pastries, pot noodles and anything you just know is plain old bad. This is the only category where I haven’t gone for a unit approach, and instead try to get you to list the actual calories consumed, as there is such a difference between having a cheeky hot dog, versus have a calorific KFC meal. Oh, by the way, I consider bread to be junk food, so make sure you log any sandwiches here. Bread in all its varieties is sugar-packed…
The final page of the tracker takes the four calorie totals for each week and adds them up. The value that results is neither good nor bad. However, the goal is to continue through the year, and slowly bring that total down. This has got to be a pretty decent strategy for helping to encourage you to only consume healthy stuff, as none of that goes on the charts. At least, that’s what I’m hoping!
So here’s the spreadsheet if you want a copy…
Or you can mail me if you want a google docs version…
Let me know how it goes!