This age-old axiom was spawned in the world of business, but holds true in many aspects of life.
That includes fitness and nutrition.
The premise is simple.
Those looking to optimize their efficiency and progress need to measure the metrics they look to improve.
Without measuring and tracking progress, some troubling questions can arise.
Which tactic is leading to my progress?
Which approach works the best?
Is progress being made, at all?
A scale is one way to track your progress towards improving diet.
But that only applied to those looking to lose weight.
Not to mention, you can lose weight or weigh little while still eating a poor diet.
Weight is only one metric, and will not determine your ability to maximize athletic performance or fend off nutritional health-related chronic diseases.
If you aren’t properly measuring your outcomes for success, when will you know if you’ve gotten there?
Tracking fitness markers is typically a straightforward task.
There are tests to measure your VO2 max and tracking your weight-lifting numbers is easy.
After all, if you could lift 95 last week, and 100 pounds today, you know you’d improved!
But nutrition tracking is much harder. Other than a scale for those losing weight, how do you best quantify your nutritional health?
Improve Nutrition over the Long-Term
One of the reasons nutrition tracking is hard is because nutritional health, both good and bad results, do not appear overnight.
Nutritional deficiencies and patterns of overconsumption don’t manifest into health concerns unless these poor dietary habits are maintained for a long time.
On the other hand, good nutritional health needs to be maintained, on average, over the course of lifetime to reap the benefits of a healthy diet.
Did you eat enough protein today?
How about on average everyday this past week?
Does your diet, on average, meet the World Health Organization’s recommendation for sugar intake?
Remember, when it comes to good nutritional health, the long-term trend matters the most.
Tracking your sugar intake over the long-term to improve nutrition.
Improve Nutrition Through Goal-Setting and Tracking
To improve nutrition, one of the first and most important steps is to set your nutrition goals.
Set goals that are well-defined and measurable.
I want to feel good is a noble goal, but not good for improving nutrition. This should be an end-result, but not something you judge your success on.
Perhaps you feel good eating sugary foods because it is currently part of your routine, your tastes are calibrated to high a tolerance of sugar density, and the serotonin released in your brain physiologically makes you feel good?
But you’re in it for the long-term.
Instead, track your total sugar intake every day, and see how the trend progresses.
In the short-term, you may, in fact, feel worse!
But your health will be improving.
And importantly, your tastes will slow be re-calibrating.
Soon, those same sweet treats you loved to indulge in will seem too sweet.
You’ll start to notice vegetables taste better, and fruits become incredibly sweet and now satisfy your sweet-tooth.
Now, you go back to feeling how you were before, with the same level of satisfaction and sense of feeling good during meals you felt before, only now you are eating healthier options.
Improve Diet for Good
After you’ve defined your goals, it is important to understand what foods are best to meet those goals.
Goals related to fitness and athletic performance are similar, but may contain some unique characteristics.
For example, those building muscle could improve nutritional performance by understanding the protein requirements for maximizing muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
For most other individuals, it starts with understanding what constitutes healthy food.
Finding the foods you enjoy, and making sure your diet is well-balanced nutritionally well lead to a sustainable diet that becomes your diet.
Intake Health has been awarded SBIR grants from both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to build innovative products for tracking dietary markets of health and wellness with the goal of improving healthspans.