Tracking any time of day is great, as long as you do at some point. But I would like to make the case for tracking in the morning, or at the very least before each meal, in order to save yourself time and help yourself reach your goals even sooner.
The early bird gets the results?
I learned to track all my food at the start of you stay because I was tired of the “10 o’clock surprise”. When I first started tracking my food, I would be finishing my daily tally at the end of the night and frequently realize that I had come in sort of my calorie goal for the day. Other 10 o’clock surprises included the famed “20g of protein short for the day again”, and the popular “that was how many calories??”
When I was finally sick of the 10 o’clock surprise, I started taking a few minutes each morning to write out what I thought I would be eating. Food tracking is not a stone tablet; it’s really easy to delete things or move foods around if your day does not go as you thought it might. By forecasting my food for the day, I could make sure that I would be getting enough to eat and that I would be following my macronutrient ratios. (Remember, macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fat – and eating them in the right ratios is key when you’re working to swap fat for muscle.)
Tracking in the morning for the day ahead also allowed me to “budget” for things like office happy hours, dinners with friends, the occasional cupcake, or other “treats”. By budgeting, I could enjoy these treats without derailing my progress.
(It’s also nice to get the tracking done first thing for the same reasons it’s nice to work out first thing in the morning – it’s a good use of your early-morning half-zombie time, and it takes much less time to enter everything all at once then it does to hunt and peck at random points whenever you remember.)
The fate of the slightly later bird…
Tracking before each meal is another strategy I would recommend if you think that tracking your food for the day in the morning seems, for whatever reason, impossible. Same benefits – you see the stats for what you’re about to consume before you eat it so that you can stick to your plan and avoid running short in any areas – minus a bit of the time savings from doing it in one morning batch.
And that bird’s car?
Remember when we compared food tracking to the data your car might store to help the mechanic know what to repair? Let’s go back to the shop floor one more time: would you rather wait until your car repair is finished and then get a bill, or do you like for your mechanic to give you an estimate before the work begins? I don’t know anyone who would give their mechanic carte blanche to make repairs without ever discussing the potential cost…but tracking after you eat (while you’re building new healthy habits) is like doing exactly that.
So, track whenever you want, as long as you get it done each day – and maybe make things easier on yourself by giving morning tracking a shot.