Take 100 people on a diet; who will be the most successful?
Fat loss comes down to a few basics:
- Eat a sub-maintenance number of calories
- Consume quality foods that keep us satisfied, fueled, healthy, and hormonally balanced
- Engage in a weight training practice
- Sprinkle in some cardio
- Include a lot of movement outside the gym
Maybe that’s a bit too much to unpack at once, but a lot of people lose fat and keep it off, but a lot more people struggle for years. So what differentiates them? Who succeeds and who doesn’t? A study released earlier this year out of the University of Vermont sheds some light on these questions.
Researchers gathered up 142 people and had them participate in what’s called a “behavioral weight control intervention” for six months. They met online once per week with a dietician and were required to keep an online food log.
The participants who lost the most weight were the most consistent at logging their food intake – counting up all consumed calories. Their success wasn’t linked to how detailed their food logs were, but rather how many times per day they logged in and how consistent they were at doing this from month to month.
The researchers concluded that dietary self-monitoring is the number one predictor of fat-loss success. The weekly accountability with the dietician may have also played a role.
14 Minutes Per Day
This was also the first major study that looked at how long it takes to keep a food log. In their first month, most subjects took around 23 minutes per day to log their intakes. Once they got used to it, it took them about 14 minutes.
Counting calories and macros may seem tedious, especially when you first get started. But today, with the myriad of online and mobile apps out there, it’s much easier than it used to be.
One Size Fits All?
Honestly, keeping a food log isn’t fun, but it works equally well for those that have been training for years and those that are new to this game. The value in it for beginners is simply about awareness. Reading labels, calculating portions and counting daily macros for a few weeks/months is like going through a collegiate-level nutrition class; there will be a ton learned in the process.
Those of you that have been training consistently and have a better idea about nutrition can still benefit from the extra accountability that the numbers can provide. It’s a great way to dial down the nutrition to eliminate those last couple pounds or get in great shape when there’s a deadline present.
Like anything else, counting calories can be taken too far. By no means is this something to do everyday for the rest of your life. But there’s little doubt that tracking your food intake works for a specified amount of time.
Get started with a free app, put a little time to figure out how it works, and start tracking.