I am a big fan of workout tracking!
I track the exercises I perform and the reps and sets I do.
I also like to track my body measurements, my weight and I do also keep track of my macros, but mostly in my head.
The body measurements I use are waist, chest and arm circumference..
If you are not familiar with tracking this probably sounds like a lot to you. But it actually doesn’t take that much time to do.
Eventually, you get really efficient at doing it. Also, after some time you will be able to track the food in your head.
The Power of Tracking and Logging
The value of having all this information at hand is tremendous. In terms of the training, it keeps you on track with your strength progression. You will clearly know when to add more weight to the bar, or if you are stalling you will know for how long and can adjust accordingly.
Also, having all your historical lifting data can be fascinating and serve as inspiration.
Having your body measurements and weight enables you to discover much faster if you are gaining unwanted and unnecessary fat.
E.g. by either 1) having added too many surplus calories, or 2) estimated your maintenance calories too high. Obviously, you want to lower your calories a bit if your waist circumference has increased and your weight is increasing too fast.
Beginners and intermediates should really not expect much more than 1 kg muscle per month. So if you gain that weight in 1-2 weeks that is a clear sign your calories are set too high. The reason for tracking waist circumference is simply because a lot of fat is stored around this region – especially for men. See WebMD for a small guide on this.
Tracking To Ensure Optimal Strength And Muscle Gains
Tracking calories and macros ensures you are getting your nutrition right to fuel consistent strength and muscle gains. Check out my “Ultimate Strength Training Diet Plan” for more information regarding this topic.
Ultimately having relevant data enables you to generally look at things more objectively and to ensure progress. It enables you to detect any problems and to perform course corrections accordingly.
I would say that it simply allows you to do much better and informed decisions because they will be based on data rather than feelings or emotions.
You really don’t need to track as much as I do, but at the very least I would recommend you to keep a workout log. I think many people underestimate the power of having one, and you are resting in between the sets anyway so you might as well be writing things down.
If you are feeling a bit more ambitious start tracking macros, bodyweight and waist circumference. Together with a workout log, these things give you enough data to make clever and data-driven decisions.
Implementation: Workout Log
Keep a workout log and have it with you every time
you go to the gym.
You can have an excel spreadsheet on your phone, or you can use a notebook.
However, if you are like me and don’t take good care of your notebooks I would recommend that you use an excel spreadsheet or keep the data digital in any way.
Implementation: Body Measurements
I recommend weighing yourself and measuring your waist early in the morning and putting all the data in an excel spreadsheet. Rather than focusing on the daily numbers you want to do weekly averages and look at the trends. This will eliminate wrong decisions based on natural fluctuations. If you want to do other measurements like chest and arms, then a biweekly measuring is sufficient.
If you want to add even more data points to increase the accuracy of your data, then you can get a fat
percent caliper. These are not particularly accurate in measuring your fat percentage, but they are good for tracking changes.
Another thing is to take photos of yourself. If you make sure the lighting stays the same and you do same poses, this will also work very well to keep track of changes. In order for this to work, you, of course, have to show some skin on the photos.
Implementation: Tracking food (calories and macros)
You need to get a calorie tracking app for your phone and a food scale. I recommend my fitness pal because you get access to a database of food products that is unbelievably big. Normally you can just scan the barcode of whatever food product you are about to consume, and you get all the data you need. But don’t worry if the food doesn’t have a barcode because you can search information on any imaginable food.
While you track your food I want you to pay attention and get familiar with the macros in the kind of food you eat the most. You can test yourself by guessing before you read the nutrition labels and use a calorie tracker to get a good feeling.
When starting out getting familiar with nutrition information can be overwhelming, but just take it slow. It will take some time but it is worth it. It will make it much easier for you to eat exactly what you want while still gaining strength and muscle and keeping fat to a minimum.
For more information you can check out my post on tracking macros the easy way.
Tracking And Logging – A Necessary Tool
I have heard some fitness experts calling out this approach of tracking everything as being obsessive and giving it the name “quantitative syndrome” referring to that all we care about are the numbers. And while I think these arguments have some merit, it is just much more effective to make data-driven decisions.
Of course, it would be great if you could just listen to the body and get everything right. But the truth is that it is extremely difficult to do and for most people probably impossible.
Additionally, the food industry has been engineering foods for many decades into high-jacking our senses and making us want to eat more. This is great from a business perspective for the big food companies because they make more money. But it is not so great if you want to control your calorie intake.
You need to have the right tools to combat this.
However, at the same time being obsessive and especially caring too much about tracking food is also not a way to live. So, what I am saying is you should find the “golden middle way” that has the benefits from both sides.
That is having a relatively accurate foundation to make data-driven decisions while still being flexible and for example having no problems eating out or eating a piece of birthday cake.
If you want to learn more about tracking calories and macros you should sign up for The Awesome Nutrition Guide.
It is for free and is awesome so what are you waiting for?