A lot of times in life, the little things we do or don’t do consistently can impact our progress more than one off mistakes. Flexible dieting is no different. Especially when we are in a fat loss phase or contest prep, small inaccuracies on a consistent basis can really add up. Furthermore, these inaccuracies can negatively impact your communication with your coach. Your coach thinks you are at the intake you are reporting, when in actuality you are reporting inaccurately. While this is far from an exhaustive list, here are some of the most common inaccuracies that can occur when flexible dieting and how to avoid them.
One day you’re weighing out your one half cup of oats to the gram. You track it as 40 grams of oats. The next day you grab a measuring cup, scoop a heaping one half cup of oats. You track it as 40 grams of oats. Spoiler alert, that probably was not 40 grams of oats. You can tell yourself it was, you can track that it was, but your body knows the truth. With this given oats example- if you “over scooped” and under tracked every day you would be underreporting your intake 80 calories in your oats alone.
Other ways this can occur include excessive “eyeballing” your servings or weighing your meat raw and cooked by always tracking it the same way. Meat loses about a quarter of its raw weight when cooked so 3 oz of cooked chicken is probably closer to 4 oz. of chicken.
The real problem comes in when we are inconsistent with our means of measurement on a consistent basis. So whatever you’re going to do, do it consistently. If you are going to use a food scale then use a food scale the vast majority of the time. If you are going to use a measuring cup be consistent with how much you are calling “one cup” and use that most of the time. If you are going to track your meat cooked then track your meat cooked every time.
Excessive Eating Out
One of the best parts of flexible dieting is the ability to go out to eat and still track. However tracking becomes a lot less accurate when we are eating foods that we have not prepared or seen prepared. We can always track when the restaurant tells us or find a comparable food item in our tracker as a best guess. When going out to eat, don’t lose your ability to critically think. You know how to track, you know what is in your foods, so track what makes sense and not just what your app says. Furthermore, in a diet phase or prep, to optimize your accuracy it may be helpful to limit your dining out, be selective about where you go, and/or what you choose to order.
When using a tracking app, a lot of the food is crowd sourced. You or anyone else can add food to the catalog. This is awesome because you can add recipes, custom foods, or add something that might not already be in the app. But not everyone enters their information completely or accurately.
One of the most impactful errors in tracking can be tracking a food that’s macros are incorrect. Even worse, tracking a food that has no macros and just calories. To avoid this, double check the food you chose. Are there macros there? Do those macros make sense? Don’t be me and blindly chose a salmon that’s calories made sense but said it only had one gram of fat as opposed to 11. That is 90 calories from fat that I was off twice a day, every day, during prep. And I wonder why I did not see much progress *face meets palm*.
Tracking As You Go
Within the first weeks or months of tracking, most people will not be able to “track as they go” and hit their macro targets. By track as they go, I mean they have no plan; they just eat and track their food as they go about their day. This results in several common situations like having excess macros at the end of the day, running out of macros by noon, or having just whack ratios.
Instead of eating with fingers crossed that you end up hitting your macros, in the initial period of a flexible diet plan ahead and pre-track. This means entering in your macros ahead of time, planning and measuring your meals so they fit. After you have been tracking for some time, you will probably be able to track your day as you go and hit your macros with relative ease. However, this comes after weeks or months of pre-tracking, planning ahead, and learning what is in your food so you can make choices that align with your goals.
Every once and a while, take an audit of your tracking. How accurate are you really being and in what ways could you dial it in? When in a cut or prep, you are already putting in so much time and effort, why not make the most of it with accuracy and consistency? For more on how to flexible diet effectively, check out our website for more articles, articles, and to download our Foundations of Food Education eBook!