Benefits of a food log

Want to See Results? Keep a Food Log

We've all heard the saying failure to plan is planning to fail. As trite as that is, it is even more true when it comes to bodybuilding. When I sit down talking shop with young bodybuilders, one thing that almost always comes up during a conversation about the athletes contest prep is how they "grew into their show" and how they are so amazed by that. Nine times out of ten I can clarify the magic of their prep very simply by asking how detailed their nutrition and supplement plan was during their prep, how many meals they ate each week, and if they could tell me exactly what they ate three weeks out on a Tuesday. The answer of a successful prep is always the same because during prep everyone has a very detailed outline of what they follow. I'm sure someone reading this is thinking: What if they follow IIFYM? Well simple, then they may not know exactly what they ate 3 weeks out on Tuesday but I bet they have records of their macros on that day. With that information and meticulous plan they can tell me exactly how many meals they were eating per week, what they were eating, and often times even what time they were eating which meal. Now when we start discussing their off season plan, that is where the wheels fall off. Most athletes plan becomes a lot more broad and when I ask what they ate three weeks ago Tuesday their answer is something very scientific like: I don't know exactly but I ate a lot...

Why is it that during prep everyone keeps track of exactly what they are eating? Simple: To monitor progress and make sure that the plan that they are following is yielding the results they are looking for. If an athlete comes to me and says: I am struggling to gain lean body mass what should I do? The very first thing I am going to ask them is what is their current diet. If they cannot answer exactly what they have been eating during this unsuccessful portion of their off season I cannot see where their hole in the plan is and thus I cannot help them outside of suggesting that they start to follow a plan, record what they eat, and keep track of the results that plan is yielding and come back in a month. Now if that same person has an accurate recording of what they have been doing I can now look it over and make suggestions of areas to change and with that they have a new plan to follow. From there just like in prep they can follow this new plan and monitor progress and with that data keep making changes as needed to make sure that they are continuously seeing improvement.

When thinking about how to make sure you have a successful off season, I suggest you take a look at what makes prep the time of the year that athletes make the most change. When you look at that you will see that the greatest common denominator between every successful prep is the planning that is done and redone throughout the prep to ensure maximum results are achieved. If that planning and organization is what yields the best results time and time again during prep then why is it that as soon as prep is over athletes decide the best plan is to just fly by the seat of their pants and eat "a lot?" Think about it, even if you are seeing results in the beginning how do you make adjustments to your plan when the results slow or even stop if you don't have an accurate account of exactly what you have been doing? How do you make adjustments on a plan that has no plan? Simply put you need to know what you are currently doing day in and out to accurately be able to make changes and be sure that they will yield better results than what you are currently doing.

What I suggest to start seeing the results that you want to see during the off season is to not only have a plan in writing but to also keep a food log where you record everything you eat. Doing this will keep you 100% accountable for your actions in regards to whether or not you are following your plan. You will be able to use this log to see if you followed the plan to perfection, if you had any cheat meals, if you missed any meals, etc... and at the end of the week/month you can look back on that log and have a better understanding of why you see the changes you see or don't see in progress pics. If you followed the plan to the letter and don't see much change then you can accurately make assumptions on what needs to change to see results. If you missed a ton of meals or had a bunch of cheats and don't see the results you were wanting you will know without question why. Bottom line is nothing negative can come from keeping this log as it will keep you honest and accountable for why you are or are not seeing the same success in your off season as you are in prep.

Dusty Hanshaw
IFBB Professional Bodybuilder

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