Do you know what you put into your body?

No, I’m not talking about vaccines. I’m talking about food and if I were a bettor I would say that most of us think we have an idea and I bet that idea is wrong one way or another.

I say this because I thought I had some idea what I was eating in terms of macronutrients. Using a food journal, I found that I was on target for the number of calories I was eating, but I was miles away with the macronutrient breakdown.

My food diary is the newest tool in my 90-day fitness journey that started on July 5th. I want to improve my body and health so I went on a three month course on building muscle and losing fat. As I wrote earlier, I once weighed 340 pounds, which means I was morbidly obese. I have lost 170 pounds over the course of a few years from lifestyle and diet changes. I made this diet change to keep my body in a fat burning state without doing a lot of exercise. Back then, my goal was to reduce the scale as much as possible while staying healthy.

For five years I kept my weight off primarily through dietary choices. But now I have a new goal, which is to build muscle. Building muscle requires calories and the right combination of macronutrients. That’s because the exercise breaks down muscle, and the growth we see is what happens as the muscle repairs and gets stronger. This growth primarily requires protein and carbohydrates.

I’m no longer used to enjoying carbohydrates. When I lost weight, it was low carb and high protein with no regard for fats, with the exception of the bad fats, which I avoided. I was eyeing calories and trying to stay in the 1,500 to 1,800 daily range. It worked for my body.

Now I’m trying to build muscle and I need more calories and good carbohydrates for my body to burn. Notice that I said good carbohydrates – there is a difference between the carbohydrates you get in refined foods like white bread and the carbohydrates you get in an apple, which is fiber. So I started a food journal to help me track calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, and protein.

The food diary – it’s actually an Excel spreadsheet – took some pretty simple math to show my true macronutrient breakdown. That’s because fat has more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates. It found I was consuming an even number of grams of protein and fat every day. In terms of calories, this means that my diet was high in fat.

In order to build muscle, according to my research, I need about 40% of my daily calories from protein and 30% each from fat and carbohydrates. So I cut my fat intake significantly and increased the number of my meals so that I could get the right amount of calories, protein, and carbohydrates to build muscle.

I also listen to my body. I started having trouble finishing my three-mile walk in the morning before eating, so I switched it over and started eating half a protein bar 10 to 20 minutes before my walk. The same day and each day after that, I finished my walk with some of my best times and with more energy. And while it might just be a coincidence, after adjusting my diet to the 40-30-30 ratio, I’ve also noticed a reduction in delayed muscle soreness in the days following my workout.

Well, I’m certainly not a nutritionist, but I know that the foundation of good health, weight loss, and muscle building is good diet – that is a diet like the types and combinations of foods you eat, not the restrictive eating plan the diet. Keeping a food diary can open your eyes to what you eat and it can help you adjust your diet to meet your goals.

Like I said, mine is a spreadsheet. I just pocket the number and off I go. It has become just as important a tool to me as the dumbbells I use during my workout, and maybe more as I spend more time eating than exercising.