Boost Performance Using a Food Log

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Fatigue getting the best of you in the last quarter? Are you more injury-prone lately? Having trouble packing on some needed LBs? Before you get frustrated and blame your training, pick up a pen and write down your daily eating habits.

Why? A shortfall in your athletic performance or body composition may stem from a shortfall in your diet. Read on to learn the value of keeping tabs on what you eat.

Despite what you think, you probably don't realize what you're eating, when and how much. A food log reveals good habits and choices and exposes excesses and missing nutrients. It also shows how your dietary intake impacts athletic performance. For instance, if you're a runner prone to illness, the problem may stem from eating too few calories, as low intake of calories, carbs and protein can suppress your immune system. Or, if you're a basketball player who runs out of steam in Q4, maybe you're not hydrating enough. Losing one to two percent of your bodyweight in fluid during practice or a game affects your play. When you don't have enough fluid on board, sprints slow down and shooting percentages decrease. These are connections a food log can uncover.

After your food log is analyzed, the results can form a base on which to plan dietary changes. You will be able to determine and create better eating patterns and gain insights into when and why you eat. A food log, however, is only as valuable as the information within it. Follow these tips to maximize the data you track.

1. Record what you're actually eating, not what you think you're supposed to be eating. If you're keeping a food journal to find ways to improve your diet, changing your eating habits when you begin logging defeats the purpose of keeping it in the first place.

2. Write down what you eat and drink as soon as possible. Waiting only means you're more likely to forget things.

3. Be specific. Details are important for an accurate analysis of your diet. Include brand names and flavors [e.g., Nature Valley peanut butter granola bar], types of food [cheddar cheese, sirloin steak] and other nutrition-related modifications noted on food packaging [2% milk, baked Tostitos, Diet Coke]. On days you're recording your intake, use measuring cups when possible.

Here's part of a sample food log.

5:30 a.m.
2 (4 oz each)
snack cups of applesauce
Rushing to practice
24 oz
bottle of Gatorade
7:15 a.m.
large banana
hungry after practice
7:30 a.m.
Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal
at home
2% chocolate milk

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