From diet tracking apps to heart rate monitoring smartwatches, technology has helped quantify diet and fitness progress like never before. But successfully tracking your efforts takes more than dropping a “G” on a high-tech solution. To successfully identify when your arrow is pointing up (or down) and optimize your health-related efforts accordingly, you need a combination of high-tech solutions and time-tested practices.
Here are five of the best ways to effectively track your diet and fitness progress:
Make Your Goals Measurable
While this article is about tracking your goals – not setting them – you can’t accurately track something that’s subjective or indirect. So, before you dive into the nuances of successful goal tracking, be sure that your goal is something you can measure.
Now, while traditional health and fitness tracking methods, like tape measurements or body fat assessments, are solid go-to measurables, your goal doesn’t have to be that definitive. So, if you’re not comfortable hopping on a scale or you don’t have regular access to traditional measurement devices, there are other options, like before and after pictures. Whichever measurement you choose, make sure the results can be accurately assessed over time.
Measure Yourself Regularly
Picking a measurement to track your success is a solid starting point. But if you don’t measure yourself frequently and consistently, you’re far less likely to reach your goals and continue to build on them.
In fact, in a study on tracking the success of weight loss, they found that people who weighed themselves more frequently had a lower BMI (body mass index) than those who failed to consistently track their progress. They also found that their maximum BMI was lower, which indicates that people who measure themselves regularly are more likely to catch themselves when slipping up and make the necessary behavioral and lifestyle changes to turn things around quickly.
Track Your Workouts
Tracking your workouts may seem excessive if you’re new to the world of health and fitness tracking. After all, that type of diligence is reserved for muscle-bound meatheads and triathletes, not you – right? Not so much. Whether you prefer to run, strength train or hike, small improvements to your performance in the gym or on the trails (e.g., reps, hike time) indicate that you need to increase your workload. In the fitness world, this concept is known as progressive overload.
Progressive overload is the act of consistently challenging your body as it adapts. It states that to achieve long-term fitness gains, the demands placed on the body must gradually and progressively increase over time. For instance, if you’re performing 3 sets of squats with 100 pounds of resistance for 10 to 15 reps, you’re eventually going to be able to crank out 3 sets of 15 reps without breaking a sweat. At that point, you need to be ready to add additional resistance, reps or sets. The same concept applies to running, hiking, swimming or any other type of physical activity. Bottom line: track your progress and increase your workload if you want to continually hit new benchmarks.
Download a Diet Tracking App
The rapid evolution of smartphone technology has made diet tracking more convenient, customizable and advanced than ever before. In fact, many modern diet tracking apps offer access to food databases with nutritional information for common foods and beverages. Simply search the keywords for your latest meal, add it to your food diary and you get a full breakdown of your calorie intake, macronutrient distribution and everything else you could previously only find on a nutritional label.
If the idea of entering everything you eat into a smartphone sounds a bit much, you have other options. For example, you could use a website with similar features or a simple paperback diary. However, studies suggest that people who choose to use their smartphones to track their food intake are more likely to be successful than their old school counterparts.
Consistently Take Measurements at the Same Time
Every day your body composition fluctuates. While those changes are incremental, they can affect the accuracy of your measurements. Maintaining a consistent time of day to step on the scale, measure your body fat or take a turn with the tape measurer is integral for accurate progress tracking. So, whether you take measurements in the morning or at night, pick one and stick with it.
Time isn’t the only important factor either, as your body composition is also likely to change throughout the week. People typically weigh the most on Sunday and Monday, then progressively weigh less each consecutive day leading up to Friday. This pattern is primarily a result of the contrasting difference between weekday and weekend eating and exercise habits. That said, the day of the week you measure yourself should always be consistent to accurately track your progress.