It’s said by many experts and top level athletes that a training diary is a runner’s most valuable tool. Recording and reviewing every session helps them to look back on their training and assess their progress, how they felt on certain days and which sessions seemed to give them the most benefit. Whether it’s a handy app on your smart phone or a good old-fashioned paper diary and pen, however you log your runs, you will soon have a helpful archive of how you’ve been doing.
The same holds true for your food. If running for weight loss is your main reason for lacing up your shoes, or if you’re looking to boost your performance, keeping a record of your food intake could provide you with some really useful information.
Here are our top five reasons for keeping a food diary:
1. It will make you eat healthier by default
If you’re recording it, you’ll be more conscious of what you’re eating. It’s a happy, unintended consequence of the simple act of recording your food. The accountability you feel from seeing your eating habits written down in black and white will make you want to ensure the notes you keep are of healthy meal choices, rather than those cheeky afternoon snacks from the chocolate machine or last-resort takeaways.
2. It will help you see the effect on energy levels of food you eat each day
By diarising what you eat you will be able to form a picture of how different foods affect you. You might have felt particularly bloated or low on energy on a certain day, and on others you will recall feeling full of energy and having enjoyed a fantastic long run or speed session. Your food diary will enable you to align what you ate with how you felt, and start to assimilate how you feel with the particular fuel you consumed.
3. It could weed out food intolerances
Many of us are unaware that particular foods have negative effects on us or even bring on certain conditions. By logging what you have eaten you might be able to pinpoint any adverse effects on your body and perhaps find one or two components in your regular intake that you might want to remove or find a healthier swap for.
Remember Paula Radcliffe’s disastrous Olympic marathon in 2004? It was later revealed it was a food intolerance that scuppered her hopes for gold. If it can happen to her…
4. It can aid weight loss
A food diary is one of the best ways to boost your weight loss goals. A scientific study we wrote about here showed that participants who used a diary lost an additional six pounds more than those who didn’t. And another published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicines saw 1,685 overweight or obese US adults aged 25 and older keep food diaries, eat a healthy diet and be physically active.
After six months, participants had shed almost 13 pounds, on average. One of the study’s senior investigators said the most powerful predictor of their weight loss was how many days per week they kept their food diary.
5. It will encourage meal planning
By the time your diary is up and running, you will quickly realise the benefits of planning out your meals. Knowing what you are going to eat and understanding the amount of food you eat when it’s all logged in your diary will enable you to forward plan with greater clarity and with healthy choices in mind.
It’s rare that someone will draw up a meal plan that includes 'Go to the nearest burger restaurant and order a large meal.'