What A Half-Naked Ironman Kickboxing Superhero Can Teach You About 5 Tools to Track Calories And 4 Ways To Log Your Diet The Right Way.

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Articles, Nutrition

Welcome to next chapter of Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life, in which you're going to learn the 5 best ways to track your diet, 4 steps to logging your diet the right way, whether it's OK to be hungry, exactly how many calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats you should be eating, and get a sample week of eating to support ideal levels of performance, endurance and exercise.

See those grimacing, growling, kickboxing superheroes in the photo above? Those are my 5 year old twin boys. In just a moment, I'm going to tell you an important calorie-counting lesson you can learn from that little half-naked Ironman and Batman.

But let's first start here: I don't count calories.

As a matter of fact, I hate counting calories.

Sure, most dietary advice would have you to believe that to maintain your energy levels, perform like a rock star, stay thin and look younger you need to log every bite of food that comes into your mouth…

…but I think counting calories vacuums the enjoyment right out of eating, and when I make my morning smoothie, it's simply a handful of this and a pinch of that, with absolutely zero attention paid to measuring or scaling.

This is because I feel the same way about counting calories as I do about trumpeting out of the house for a run weighed down like a robot with a heart rate monitor strap, GPS Device, footpod, smartphone and self-quantification wristband. Sometimes you just need to unplug and live simple – paying attention to the way that you look, feel and perform rather than to what your vibrating smartphone is announcing or soaking in the beauty of nature rather than having your eyeballs locked into a tiny screen on your wrist.

However, that being said, sometimes quantification and counting is actually necessary. 

For example, if you want to become a better cyclist, then knowing what it feels like to be pedaling at 300 watts is useful, and the only way you're going to know that is to go out and ride a bicycle for several sessions with a power meter. Pacing in swimming in crucial, and knowing the proper pace to swim a 1:30 100 meter speed for 1500 meters requires you to watch the swim clock like a hawk for at least a handful of swim sessions. Maintaining a high cadence while running will vastly improve your economy and efficiency, but to know what 90 steps per minute feels like when you're running requires you to wear a foot pod for a few runs.

And when it comes to maintaining ideal energy levels, performance and weight, you have to have a decent idea of what you're putting into your body, and knowing that one large egg has 71 calories, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 0 carbs, that you ate 2300 calories on an average Saturday and 1750 calories on an average weekday, and that your carbohydrate percentage is 55% of your daily intake requires you to log your diet for a little while.

scaleBut unless incessant counting, using a kitchen microscale, and being a data hound makes you very happy, you don't need to count calories or log your diet for life.

I've personally counted calories only three times in my life:

1) For 6 months, when I was a big, shiny, gold-flaked bodybuilder eating a high-protein diet, minimal fat diet in an attempt to get myself to a body fat percentage that would allow me to pose on stage in my underwear…

2) For 1 month, when I switched to a “low carbohydrate” diet, and wanted to shift my carbohydrate intake to less than 200 grams per day…

3) For 1 week, when I switched to a ketogenic diet and wanted to see if I could eat 70-90% fat intake on a daily basis…

So why have I counted calories and logged my diet just three times in my life?

Because that's all it took for me to get a decent idea of the calorie, carbohydrate, protein and fat content of my meal habits at that point in my own personal diet. And after that, I simply quit counting and instead paid attention to the way I looked, felt and performed. If I ever make another major dietary switch, I'll count again – even if just for a week to a month – to get a decent idea of the numbers behind what I'm eating. And then, just like I always have, I'll stop as soon as I've wrapped my head around the numbers.

After all, logging your diet day-after-day for years on end is simply overrated.

You'd be very surprised at how much you can learn with just a little logging here and there. You'll be able to take a quick glance at a banana, a slice of watermelon, a handful of cashews or a slice of pizza and have a pretty good idea of it's quantitative nutritional content. You'll also be able to know exactly how many daily carbohydrates you can eat before you noticed some flab in your abs, gas in your gut, or hitch in your step. You'll know how much protein leaves you bloated and how much leaves you sore and underrecovered, and how many omega-6 fatty acids vs. omega-3 fatty acids you're eating.

But you can become that kind of diet sleuth within just a few months – and not by incessant logging for life.

So here's what this all has to do with the half-naked kickboxing superhero boys…

…have you ever seen a child count calories?

Absolutely not!  Children happily rely on their built-in nutrition intuition.

For example, when my boys gear up to kickbox, go on a hike, build a fort or ride their bikes up and down our culdesac, they are in complete blissful ignorance about how many calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat they've eaten.

They're happy as clams simply wandering into the kitchen and eating real food when they're hungry. And guess what? They have all the energy they need to accomplish their massive amounts of energy output each day. We have yet to find either of our boys passed out in the backyard from hypoglycemia due to having cut short their carbohydrate allotment for the day, experiencing extreme growth stunts from inadequate protein intake, or slipping into neural fatigue and loss of mental drive because they failed to count their fat intake for the week.

They just eat real food and enjoy it. And you should too.

But somewhere between childhood and our adult life, we become convinced that to optimize our weight or performance, it is for some reason necessary to count and track every tiny morsel of food that slips between our lips, and this simply isn't true. Ironically, I've found that in most cases, the folks who stress the most about counting calories also struggle the most with disordered eating, weight issues and hormone imbalances.


The 5 Best Ways To Track Your Diet

Now as you've just learned, there is some self-education value to logging your diet, even if it's just for a little while. So if you were going to log your diet, what's the best way to do it, and what values should you pay attention to? Even though the world of diet logging software and apps is constantly evolving, at the time of this writing, I'd choose 5 top tools for tracking your diet:

1. Meal Snap

Meal Snap is an iPhone app that allows you take pictures of the meals you eat, and then magically tells you what food was in your meal and estimate how many calories you ate. The range it gives you is fairly broad ( an egg, an orange, a banana, and a small container of yogurt gives a value of 269-404 calories) but the convenience of simply photographing what you ate is unparalleled. Even though you shouldn't be eating many packaged foods, if you combine this with the FoodScanner app for scanning foods and spitting out nutrition data based on bar labels, you've got a pretty decent one-two combo.

2. TrainingPeaks

The nice part about TrainingPeaks is that it not only allows to log workouts, create workout routines or work in close conjunction with a coach, but it also allows you to log your food, create meals, select from a food database that combines crowdsourced foods with the USDA food database, and get a variety of metrics that track how your food intake correlates to your activity intake. This is the method most of my coached athletes and clients use to track their diet.

3. SuperTracker

The USDA recently launched SuperTracker, which has the useless feature of allowing you to compare your diet intake to the US government's food recommendations, which is a rather humorous activity if you realize how ridiculous those recommendations are. However, it is completely free, and it spits out some fairly impressive detailed analyses of your vitamin, mineral and nutrient intake. This is the software I had my wife Jessa use when she logged her diet for a week to be analyzed for our Inner Circle members, and we actually identified a few “holes” in her dietary intake, such as excessively low calcium, Vitamin D and potassium intake. This was valuable information we wouldn't have been able to gather with other free software programs.


4. MyNetDiary

MyNetDiary is another free website for diet logging, but also provides mobile calorie counting apps for iPhone/iPodAndroid phones and tabletsBlackBerry and iPad. The mobile apps can sync to your website profile, and their 520,000+ food catalog is one of the largest and most precise nutrition databases in the world, with hundreds of foods added by both members and the MyNetDiary. There are also paid upgrades to have the option for Withings body weight scale and FitBit linking, personal health data uploading, the ability to share data with your trainer and coach, etc. Here's one of my recent logs from MyNetDiary, taken on a day for which I wanted to verify that I was eating about 100 grams of carbs to keep my body in “ketosis” (screenshot of my daily fat/protein/carb intake from MyNetDiary above).

5. Azumio Argus

Azumio-Argus-screenshot-2I've always been a big fan of the Azumio body-tracking apps, and their new Argus iPhone app (screenshot right) is pretty amazing as a single, unified health and fitness data hub which allows you to track all your health data in one place, including hydration status, activity, sleep cycles, weight, workouts and more. You can even take pictures of your meal, tag the food groups represented, and the app will spit out data about your eating habits – without you having to input portion size or specific ingredients. This is the app that I'm now using with my high-end Black Box Coaching clients to allow me to monitor their status 24-7, and it is incredibly useful for me as a coach.


4 Steps To Logging Your Diet The Right Way

Now that you know the five best tools to log your diet, you need to know exactly what you should be looking for as you log. After all, it's great to sit back at the end of the day and see a beautiful analysis of everything you ate, but you need to know how to actually make use of the numbers you're getting. Here are 4 steps to logging your diet the right way:

1. Use your metabolic rate to figure out approximately how much you should be eating.

Most of the diet-logging tools above will allow you to calculate your baseline calorie needs, but you can also use the free calculators at GetFitGuy.com to find out exactly how many calories your body burns at rest to maintain basic life needs such as kidney, lung, brain and heart function. This is called your basal metabolic rate or BMR. There are also calculators at that site that tell you how many calories you burn once you add in your daily activity levels, and approximately how much you should eat to lose fat or gain muscle.

Your personal metabolic rate will fluctuate based on several factors (4), including:

-Genetics. The one factor we can’t directly change. Some individuals have fast metabolisms, and some have slow metabolisms.

-Gender. Due to greater muscle mass and lower body fat percentage, men usually have a 10-15% faster BMR than women.

-Age. Because a younger person has a higher rate of cell division, once you are 20 years old, your BMR drops about 2% every 10 years.

-Weight. Due to increased body tissue volume, an obese individual actually has a higher metabolism than a thin person.

-Height. Tall thin people have a higher BMR than short people of equal weight. If both are on the same diet, the short person will gain much more fat.

-Body Fat %. A lower body fat % usually means a higher BMR due to metabolically active lean muscle mass.

-Diet. A strict diet or severe calorie restiction can reduce BMR by up to 30%. This is one of the reasons why people on a crash diet lose up to 20lbs of water weight, then plateau as their metabolism decreases.

-Body temperature. For every 0.5 degree celsius increase in internal body temperature, the BMR increases approximately 7%. Physical activity significantly increases body temperature.

-External temperature. Prolonged exposure to extremely warm or very cold environments increases the BMR. People who live in these type of settings often have BMR’s that are 5-20% higher than those in other climates.

-Endocrine function. Thyroid glands that produce too much thyroxin can double the BMR, while BMR can drop by 30-40% in individuals with hypothyroidism, or inadequate thyroxin production.

-Exercise. In addition to increasing body temperature, exercise increases lean muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat – even when you’re not exercising.

The actual number of calories burnt by the BMR averages around 2000-2100 calories per day for women and 2700-2900 per day for men, but the total day’s energy expenditure can dramatically increase this number, with very active people burning up to 6000-8000 calories per day.

So how do you determine what your personal BMR actually is? While there are advanced technologies, such as visiting a lab to measure heat output or expired gas exchange, there are also several different formulas that allow you to calculate BMR yourself with the old-school pen, paper and calculator method. Here are three good ones for you propellor-hat nerds out there (I personally stick to online calculators):

1) Multiply. Take your body weight in lbs., and multiply by 15-16. This will give you an approximation of your BMR. If you want to lose weight, multiply by 12-13, and if you want to gain weight, multiply by 18-19. This method is very simple, but doesn’t account for body fat %, and will overestimate caloric needs for someone who is obese (30% body fat or more).

2) Harris-Benedict formula. This formula uses height, weight, age and sex factors to determine BMR. It is more accurate than the multiplying factor, but also does not account for body fat %, and may also be prone to calorie overestimation for obese people Remember, 1kg is 2.2lbs, and 1 inch is 2.54 cm.

Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 X wt in kg) + (5 X ht in cm) – (6.8 X age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 X wt in kg) + (1.8 X ht in cm) – (4.7 X age in years)

3) Katch-Mcardle formula. This formula is the most accurate, and accounts for body fat %. To find “lean mass in kg”, simply multiply your weight in kg by your body fat %.

Men and Women: BMR = 370 + (21.6 X lean mass in kg).

It's important to realize that your BMR does not take into account your activity levels, and this is where heart rate monitors or body tracking devices can be used to determine your total daily energy expenditure. You can also use basic activity multipliers:

-Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
-Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/wk)
-Moderately active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/wk)
-Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk)
-Extremely active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job or 2X day training, i.e marathon, contest etc.)

If you really want to get an accurate BMR calculation, you can visit a sports medicine facility or university physiology lab for a resting metabolic rate test. Prepare for the time of your life as you fast beforehand for a minimum of 4 hours, then lie motionless for at least 20 minutes while breathing through a mask. For a more in-depth analysis of using metabolic testing to determine both metabolic rate and and also exact energy expenditure during exercise, read this article I wrote for Triathlete Magazine.

2. Compare your calorie intake to how you actually look, feel and perform.

Frankly, using any of the methods above to figure out how much you should be eating is just going to give you numbers.

But it's much more important for you to pay actual attention to your body (especially when you take into account what you're going to learn later in this chapter about how little calories actually matter).

For example, I know that based on my calculated metabolic rate and activity levels that I should be eating around 3200 calories per day to maintain weight and energy levels (I have the advantage of having personally managed an exercise metabolic laboratory for three years and undergone multiple metabolic tests, so I know that 3200 calories is a very exact number).

But I also know that my weight drops like a rock, my ribs begin to show, my cheeks get emaciated and shallow and I get horribly low energy levels when I consistently undercut that value by more than 500 calories. In active people this 500-calorie-deficit-feel-like-crap phenomenon is actually quite common. I also know that I begin to gain weight, that I can pinch above my hip and feel an increasingly thicker fold of fat, and that I feel constant and excessive fullness when I consistently exceed that value by more than about 500 calories, which is also common.

So with very simple head math, I know my daily target intake is 2700-3700 calories.

Should you drag out a scale to help you in those initial phases of calorie counting? In most cases, no. Scales don't tell you or give you highly inaccurate body fat percentage measurements, they notoriously fluctuate 5-10% based on your workouts, your blood volume, your plasma volume and your hydration levels, and they simply make you worry and fret in the same way that measuring your food and counting calories makes you worry and fret. In the same way that the most successful athletes I coach rarely count calories, they also rarely weigh themselves – and instead simply pay attention to the way they look, feel and perform.  As a matter of fact, since quitting bodybuilding (a sport for which I need to fall into a specific weight class), I have never owned a scale and I never plan on owning one again.

3. Make microadjustments based on activity levels and goals.

If your activity levels fluctuate during the week (as they should) you'll rarely be eating the same number of calories every day. Continuing with the example above, if I have an easy rest day, I will tweak my caloric intake to simply eat less – and if I have a very active day, I'll tweak my calorie intake as high as is necessary. Magically, if I actually lay in bed at the end of the day, close my eyes, and mentally add up calories, I come very close to my target 2700-3000 on easy days and 3000-3300 on hard days – but this is all accomplished by simply following my hunger and intuition, and not by counting calories or hovering over a microscale in the kitchen as I make my smoothie.

midnight eatingThis microadjusting is easily accomplished by simply eating slightly larger or smaller portions of meals, adding or removing one or two of the snacks or small meals from the previous chapter, or eating during the actual workout on a long workout day. For me, caloric intake is nearly all hunger driven, rather than based on calorie counting. In other words, if I'm hungry after a long day of training, I eat – and on big training days, I'll often get out of bed at 1 or 2am if I wake up hungry, stumble to the refrigerator, and guzzle a glass of coconut milk or a spoonful of almond butter.

Amazingly, in many cases when an athlete is struggling with low energy levels, it's not some complex hormonal issue or micronutrient deficiency. It's simply because they didn't eat enough and they need to stuff their faces with more nutrient-dense fuel on big training days.

So aside from calories, are there other microadjustments you should make?

Yes. If your goals includes implementing the strategies you'll learn about later in this book – such as ketosis, carbohydrate cycling, or intermittent fasting – you'll certainly need to make macronutrient adjustments to your carbohydrate, protein and fat intake, and you may indeed need to initially measure and log to ensure your adjustements are accurate.

But even this seemingly more advanced process become simple and intuitive after a period of time, and the end goal should still be to learn to listen to your body. For example, when maintaining a state of ketosis, I measured my breath ketones for 30 days straight, and got a good idea of how I felt and performed when I was in ketosis.  Then I quit the incessant measuring and just listened to my body. 

4. Quit logging

Once you:

A) have a decent idea of the number of calories per day you're eating; and…

B) have dialed in your  approximate percentage of carbohydrates, protein and fat based on the recommendations you'll learn later in this chapter…

Then quit logging. Quit counting. Quit fretting.

Simply start enjoying the quality, real, nutrient dense foods and meals you learned about in the last chapter, and pay attention to the way you look, feel and perform.

Eat an extra meal and eat during your workouts on big workout days, and then eat less on the easy days. Keep things simple, beautiful and clean. You'll be happier.


Is It OK To Be Hungry?

A common inquiry I get from athletes who are trying to dial in weight or ensure they have enough calories on board is the question of whether or not being hungry is a bad thing.

When it comes to eating for endurance, this reminds me of the 1993 video replay of the Hawaii Ironman triathlon. A portion of that coverage was devoted to “Chuckie V“, the crazy 1990′s bad boy of triathlon who sported a mohawk and actually got banned from racing in Ironman Hawaii due to some controversial race antics. Watch the video below for an introduction to Chuckie…

Anyways, during the Ironman coverage, at one point Chuckie is standing on the road stuffing his face post-workout, and he jokes through mouthfuls, “The only thing that sucks about eating…is having to take the time to “breathe.”

How about you?

Are you one of those extremely active people who is constantly hungry?

Do you finish one meal and immediately begin thinking about or planning your next meal?

And is being hungry all the time like this bad or mean something is wrong with you or your physiology?

To answer that question, it's important to understand why you get hungry in the first place. When you eat, the fat cells in your body release a hormone you've already learned about in this book – leptin. Increased levels of leptin reduce your desire and motivation to continue eating or eat more. Within a few hours after you’ve finished eating, your leptin levels drop, and this drop in leptin causes a release of a different homone, ghrelin, which is released by your stomach and pancreas and makes you feel hungry (2).

This is one reason why many people have a harder time controlling their appetite or stopping after they’ve eaten enough: they’re leptin resistant.

Leptin resistance can be a bit of a vicious cycle, because a large intake of calories over a long period of time (i.e. eating too much when you were in college for 4 years) causes chronic hyperleptinemia (high leptin levels) and the appetite controlling activity of leptin eventually become less and less effective.

So it’s actually possible to eat yourself into having a chronically high appetite. Interestingly, another pathway to leptin resistance is by engaging in chronically low calorie intake, as seen in extreme energy depletion such as eating disorders, or exercising individuals who are cutting too many calories.

If leptin is acting correctly, it triggers the satiety signals in a part of your brain called your hypothalamus, and this makes you stop feeling hungry. Leptin can also inhibit the hunger signals from the hypothalamus (6).

The other interesting part of this equation is that those chronically high leptin levels cause chronically low ghrelin levels. This makes your hypothalamus hypersensitive to ghrelin, so that when small amounts of ghrelin are released, you get very hungry, very fast.

In addition to spending much of your life eating too much, other lifestyle choices that can cause a leptin-ghrelin imbalance include lack of sleep, stress, and – even if you’re not over-eating – eating “hyper-palatable foods”, such as processed or packaged foods that were designed to be addictive (potato chips, anyone?).

So is leptin resistance all that can make you hungry?

Absolutely not. Other reasons you get hungry include:

Expecting yourself to be hungry. This 1998 study showed that the memory of what you’ve eaten actually accounts for a significant portion of your hunger, and being full is partially a matter of recalling whether you’ve eaten a meal appropriate for the occasion (5). For the same reason that you might be reluctant to eat dinner foods like spaghetti or steak for breakfast, you may simply feel full after meals because you expect to be full, and you may simply get hungry because you expect to get hungry (which may be why frequent snackers have such a hard time switching to eating 3 times a day).

Changing your weight significantly. There is a theory called “set point theory” that suggests that your body has a specific weight range in which it is comfortable, and this is usually somewhere around 10% of your body weight (4). So if you weight 200 pounds, you have a 20 pound range and can generally avoid any intense hunger pangs if you’re at 190 pounds or above. But whether due to genetics or an internal “help-I’m-starving” signal, when you venture too far outside your set point, your body seeks homeostasis and begins adjusting your metabolism to maintain weight. And part of this adjustment can include craving food.

Burning lots of calories. Let’s face it. Whether due to a naturally high metabolism (I’ve personally been tested and I burn 2500 calories a day just lying on the ground), and/or due to extremely high amounts of activity (you’re an Ironman triathlete like my “Chuckie V” example), your body just needs more nutrients and more calories to keep from self-cannibalization (2).

Having a dopamine or serotonin deficiency. Chronic use of anti-depressants or “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRI’s), in addition to a very low fat diet, inadequate protein intake or a high-stress lifestyle can all lead to disruptions in brain neurotransmitters that help to control cravings or help you be more satisfied or happy with the foods that you do eat (1).

-Gut issues. Parasites, yeast, fungus and bacterial imbalances in your digestive tract can all trigger hunger and cravings (7) – and you'll learn more about that in the upcoming gut-fixing chapter of this book

Finally, due to our inherent survival mechanisms, just the sight or smell of food can make you hungry, even if there’s no physiological need for calories or nutrients, which is why buffets can be a very risky experience if you’re limiting calories.

So is hunger a bad thing?

First, it’s important to understand that in a normal situation, the leptin/ghrelin interaction and the hunger it produces is completely necessary for your survival.

Starting from the time when you were a baby, if you never got hungry, you’d have very little incentive to eat. No eating would mean no nutrients or calories, which severely limits your growth and survival.

But if there is no physiological need for hunger, and you have ample energy stores from food or own fat stores, then there’s probably something wrong if you’re constantly hungry, and here’s what I’d recommend you do:

1) Re-sensitize yourself to leptin. Try 4-8 weeks of completely changing lifestyle and eating patterns that may be contributing to leptin resistance. Here are the top ways to do that:

-Avoid fructose sugars – they tend to be a real trigger for leptin resistance…

-Exercise in moderation, avoiding chronic cardio and stressful marathon-esque workouts, and instead using short HIIT sessions with full recovery….

-Control stress and cortisol – go back and read chapter 9

-Try cold thermogenesis – cold exposure may help with leptin sensitivity, and you can read some practical cold exposure tips in Chapter 5.

2) Avoid hunger triggers. Certain eating patterns and foods have been proven to be correlated with higher amounts of hunger. Here are some tips for controlling those triggers:

-Keep sweets and snacks out of the house or hidden in opaque containers…

-When you’re eating, keep any extra food on the countertop, or put it away (i.e. into the fridge) before you begin your meal…

-Avoid higher carbohydrate or high glycemic index foods which cause a hunger response very soon after a meal…

-Limit your options by having small amounts of food around your house – no big bulk Costco food purchases or easy to grab cans and bags.

3) Know What You Ate. Review what you learned earlier in this chapter about food logging, and use those tools to create some amount of awareness, even if just for a short period of time. Two additional strategies you can use to know what you ate are:

-Not snacking too frequently. It’s almost impossible to keep track of food and calories if you’re snacking 5-10 times a day (as many  nutritionists sadly suggest). Instead, just eat 2-3 square meals, and then, if you have a workout, only eat either before or after the workout.

-Making your own food. The less you eat out at restaurants, have other people prepare your food, or eat out of packages and containers, the easier it will be to keep track of and know what you ate.

Finally, if you want one more reason not to fret about eating when you're hungry, then you should know that in active people, energy restriction and cutting calories actually makes you fat.

That's right.

Chronic calorie reduction in active athletes like gymnasts and runners has been proven to increase body fat percentage. This is because the combination of exercise stress and calorie restriction puts your body into starvation mode, where it becomes more necessary to store fat than to build or maintain muscle. Don't believe that restricting calories can make you fat? Just read this study, in which energy deficits of as little as 300 calories per day below what was required for meeting activity requirements actually decrease metabolism and increased body fat percentage in both runners and gymnasts (8).

In summary, being hungry is not a bad thing if it is because you have a biological need for more calories or nutrients. In this case, simply pay attention to your body and eat more if necessary.

But if you make the calorie adjustments and you're still hungry, it usually indicates a hormonal imbalance, gut issue, or other biological trouble-spot that may need to be addressed, in which case you should review the lab testing methods discussed in Chapter 7 and pay attention to the upcoming gut fixing chapter. 



Now you have a basic idea of how many calories you need to eat, the best tools for tracking your diet, how to log your diet the right way, and if it's OK to be hungry.

In Part 2 of this chapter, you're going to find out why calories don't even matter that much and what you should be focusing on instead, in addition to learning exactly how many carbohydrates, proteins and fats you should be eating. When you finish Part 2, you'll know exactly what works for 99% of the endurance athletes and extreme exercisers I've worked with.

And in the next chapter, you're also going to learn how to make important nutrition decisions when you fit into some unique scenarios, namely:

-Aging athletes







 And of course, the final version of this book will include a comprehensive meal plan that lays out a full menu for you for every phase of your training year.

But in the meantime, leave your questions, comments and feedback about calorie counting, diet logging, diet tracking, and hunger below!


Links To Previous Chapters of “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life”

Part 1 – Introduction

-Preface: Are Endurance Sports Unhealthy?

-Chapter 1: How I Went From Overtraining And Eating Bags Of 39 Cent Hamburgers To Detoxing My Body And Doing Sub-10 Hour Ironman Triathlons With Less Than 10 Hours Of Training Per Week.

-Chapter 2: A Tale Of Two Triathletes – Can Endurance Exercise Make You Age Faster?

Part 2 – Training

-Chapter 3: Everything You Need To Know About How Heart Rate Zones Work

Chapter 3The Two Best Ways To Build Endurance As Fast As Possible (Without Destroying Your Body) – Part 1

Chapter 3: The Two Best Ways To Build Endurance As Fast As Possible (Without Destroying Your Body) – Part 2

Chapter 4: Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 1

Chapter 4: Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 2

Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 1: Strength

Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 2: Power & Speed

Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 3: Mobility 

Chapter 5The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 4: Balance 

Part 3 – Recovery

Chapter 6How The Under-Recovery Monster Is Completely Eating Up Your Precious Training Time

Chapter 7:  25 Ways To Know With Laser-Like Accuracy If Your Body Is Truly Recovered And Ready To Train

Chapter 826 Top Ways To Recover From Workouts and Injuries with Lightning Speed

-Chapter 9: The 7 Best Stress-Fighting Weapons That Will Make Your Mind-Body Connection 100% Bulletproof

-Chapter 10: The Last Resource You'll Ever Need To Get Better Sleep, Eliminate Insomnia, Conquer Jet Lag and Master The Nap: Part 1

-Chapter 10: The Last Resource You'll Ever Need To Get Better Sleep, Eliminate Insomnia, Conquer Jet Lag and Master The Nap: Part 2

Part 3 – Nutrition

-Chapter 11: 40 Easy Meals For Busy Athletes: How To Fuel Your Body With The Thousands Of Calories Necessary For Endurance and Extreme Exercise, Without Completely Destroying Your Metabolism. 

-Chapter 12, Part 1: What A Half-Naked Ironman Kickboxing Superhero Can Teach You About How to Track Calories And Log Your Diet The Right Way.



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2. Gregerson, T.N., Møller, B.K., Raben, A., Kristensen, S.T., Holm, L., Flint, A., Astrup, A. (2011). Determinants of appetite ratings: the role of age, gender, BMI, physical activity, smoking habits, and diet/weight concern. Food Nutr Res:55.

3. Harris J, Benedict F (1918). “A Biometric Study of Human Basal Metabolism”. PNAS 4 (12): 370–3.

4. Harris, R. (1990). Role of set-point theory in regulation of body weight. FASEB J., 4(15), 3310-8.

5. Rozin, P. (1998). What causes humans to begin and end a meal? a role for memory for what has been eaten, as evidenced by a study of multiple meal eating in amnesic patients. Psychological Science, 9(5), 392-96.

6. Suzuki, K., Jayasena, C.N., & Bloom, S. (2011). The Gut Hormones in Appetite Regulation. “Journal of Obsesity”, 1-10.

7. Velasquez-Manoff, M. (2012). An epidemic of absence: A new way of understanding allergies and autoimmune diseases.. (1st ed.). New York, NY: Scribner.

8. Deutz, R. (2000). Relationship between energy deficits and body composition in elite female gymnasts and runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc., 32(3), 569-68.

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

13 thoughts on “What A Half-Naked Ironman Kickboxing Superhero Can Teach You About 5 Tools to Track Calories And 4 Ways To Log Your Diet The Right Way.

  1. Arthur says:

    I had no idea how can I track my calories. Thank you so much for this article, it helps me a lot.

  2. Adele says:

    Really?? 115 lbs and 144 lbs.

    I’m 5’2 at 190 lbs been at the gym for 2 years, 1 full year with a trainer (waste of $) and finally decided – maybe I need to focus on calorie intake, starting at 1800. so I give myself 4 months to see results.

    does that sound reasonable

    1. Yes, it does, but there's a lot more that goes into losing weight than just eating less and exercising. I would look at WHAT you are eating for starters. If you want to go into detail book a consult at bengreenfieldfitness.com/coaching and choose 20 or 60 minutes and we'll get you scheduled.

  3. awf1130 says:


    Just curious, the 3200 calories that you mention. You said that's your resting metabolic rate (RMR) + activity. When you say "activity", does that include your workout that day too, or is that just your day-to-day activity – any training you do would be additional on top of the 3200.

  4. wipergreaser says:

    I am 5'10, 144 pounds and I am trying to lean out just a little. I have been eating around 1800 calories/day along with 16 hour intermittent fasting. But I cannot lose the stubborn bellyful around my waist! I have been feeling low on energy lately. Is the reason for me feeling low on energy because I am not getting enough calories or is it because i am no getting enough nutrient dense foods?

    1. Tough to say without knowing your activity levels…

      1. wipergreaser says:

        I am a male runner at my highschool who is focusing on low intensity runs for about 1 hour every day and HIIT 3 times a week. Also is this a good plan for a 5k runner?

  5. this_is_Reka says:

    I don't think hunger is a bad thing. It is natural, and I'm sure evolution armed us with enough resources to endure it and live with it for prolonged times, while it is motivating us to get active.

    What the bad thing is: that people believe hunger means they have to eat another piece of readily available garbage and they believe that the slightest hunger pang or discomfort means that their blood sugar is dangerously low and they will die within 5 minutes, thank God the vending machine is just 10 steps away.

    The bad thing is that people don't care about what hunger means and what their body needs.

    I'm used to be hungry for really long times (I used to be fat and fighting with it so I went without food for long times – now I fast regularly for health benefits and don't get very hungry) but still I never get into the mindset to eat just to avoid hunger. I eat to get nutrients and if the only food choices are empty carbs I rather stay hungry.

    Looking forward to the rest, you are great in summarising lots of knowledge into concise chapters, and it is very enjoyable even for a non-endurance-athlete. Thanks for your work.

  6. Hemming says:

    Hi Ben,

    As always a very interesting post.

    Regarding leptin levels I think it goes both ways. I’ve realised that after I started on the recovery of my eating disorder I’ve had (much) lower appetite than I had 2y ago. I do eat a very strict diet which obviously makes it even harder to over-eat and the advice about trusting your hunger levels only truly apply when you eat a diet of natural foods.

    I think you make a very good point when saying that some people simply need to eat more to have more energy. This is definitely something I notice myself on a daily basis where I constantly have to remind myself to eat ‘enough’ as I can feel instantly on my energy and mood.

    I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the BMR calculators as I’ve been able to eat 3000kcal without gaining weight (weighing 115lbs).

    1. Good feedback, Hemming – thanks! I do agree that eating disorders can cause the opposite scenario…

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