Why Measure Your Food? When?

It is common knowledge that the way to get the most out of your fitness and workouts is to make a plan based on your goals and what works for you, a few variables like your athletic history and such, and then record the results.

The same is true for nutrition.

Based on your goals, your activity level, your food preferences, cooking experience, resources available and timeline, you can make a plan for your nutrition. This doesn’t need to be a super in depth and highly calculated plan (and is often best to not go that route unless you’re a highly elite professional athlete), and can be mostly based on intuition with some guidelines such as:

  • Every meal includes vegetables (or is the ideal plate)
  • Minimizing processed foods to 3-5x per week
  • Drink water with every meal
  • Having a protein shake with carbs after workouts
  • Eating until you’re satisfied, not stuffed full
  • Avoiding snacks
  • Etc…

Making these adjustments for most people lead to better health and performance, depending on where you’re at with your nutrition game. Without measuring, this is called “intuitive eating”, and is an important skill to develop with nutrition and health. Why?

  • To build a better connection with your body
  • Develop your awareness around food and stress
  • Keep things low key and relatively low stress with nutrition, focusing on what matters most first

So, why measure your food? One word:

Gainzz. Yep, two z’s.

But, if you start measuring your food for the wrong reasons and without the proper foundation, you get one word:

Problemsss. Yep, three s’s.

What foundation should you have before measuring your food? Well, you should be able to avoid food as an emotional coping mechanism, and you should be able to eat the ideal plate in every meal with relative ease. You should be able to easily avoid drinking your calories, and your life stress should feel like a choice, not like it’s out of control. Basically, food should feel like a choice. If it doesn’t, and you feel like things happen to you rather than for you or you take them on yourself, then you should address those first.

Why Measure My Food? No, Really? Why?

Ok so really, measuring your food isn’t super easy, purely from a sustainability standpoint. It’s also not a place that we generally want to “live” forever. Measuring your food, when done properly, allows you to limit your intake so that you don’t have a bunch of excess that goes to storage and turns into excess body fat. This means that you can achieve:

  • A higher and faster metabolism
  • A leaner physique
  • A healthier and higher performing athletic body
  • More daily energy
  • Better sleep
  • Etc…

How To Measure Your Food

There are SO many ways to measure your food. You can track the amount of macronutrients that you’re taking in (aka macros), you can use a super high tech scale to weigh and measure every ounce and gram of food you take in and of specific types of food, timing “perfectly” with your workouts and recovery time, all while wearing two smart watches that track your recovery in every way possible! GAINZZ!

You can also start by using your hands. It may seem less cool, but it’s all about sustainability here – you don’t want the excuse that you couldn’t fit your food scale in your pocket on your way to dinner with friends. Your hands are always with you! Full disclosure, all of my nutrition clients start with hand measurements. They’re actually highly customizable, and do the job just fine. No form of measurement is 100% accurate, and you just need one that creates change. If you follow it 100% and the rate of change isn’t to your liking, you can make it more complicated and “level up” if you’d like.

The hand measurements go as follows, with pictures just below for a visual: a palm of protein, a fistful of vegetables, a cupped hand of dense carbohydrates (starch, fruit), and a thumb of fat.

Precision Nutrition/Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS/https://www.precisionnutrition.com/calorie-control-guide

Variables With Measuring Your Food

These hand measurements are made in a relative balance of each other, not necessarily for every person. For most active men, you’ll want about 2-3 palms of PRO, 2-3 fists of veggies, 2-3 cupped hands of CHO, and 3-5 thumbs of FAT per meal. For most active women, you’ll want 1-2 palms for PRO, 1-2 fists of veggies, 1-2 cupped hands of CHO, and 2-3 thumbs of FAT per meal. Again, generally speaking for a person who is generally active and eats 3 times per day. Generally.

For the macro breakdown, a palm of PRO/cupped hand of CHO is approx. 20-30 g CHO, and a thumb of FAT is 7-12 g FAT.

What Should I Do Next?

The first thing that you should do is to make sure you have the foundations to measure your food regularly. If you feel like you’re on top of things and you can handle it, consult a certified nutrition coach to get some specific measurements for yourself to work with and go from there!

Nick Gifford (CF-L3)
Nick Gifford (CF-L3)Author
Nick Gifford, Head Coach and Owner of Gifford Fitness, CrossFit Red Lion and Gifford Barbell has coached over 3000 athletes since 2012. He has worked with athletes from all walks and stages of life, focusing on health and wellness, balance, and pursuing excellence.