One of the most common questions I get in regards to Keto is this - "Do I need to track every thing I eat?"
The answer is... it depends.
Benefits of tracking
The idea of tracking on your Keto journey can seem daunting to anyone just starting out.
However, there are some benefits to it, including:
- Accountability - tracking ensures your body will stay in ketosis by monitoring and keeping your carbohydrates below 20g per day.
- Insight - do you notice certain foods cause you digestive issues, joint pain or bloating? When you track, you can easily go back and reference the foods you consumed. This is a great way to help pinpoint foods that may not agree with you.
- Data - you can track various data points and make informed decisions on ways to optimize your Keto diet. If you're a visual person, you may find graphs with weight loss progression to be very motivating.
- Control - tracking your food gives you an idea of how much you need to eat in order to hit your goals.
- Results - if faster weight loss is desired, tracking will likely set you up in the best way for success. Calories matter.
- More work - you have to track every food or ingredient you consume. There are carbs hidden in many things.
- Faulty information- Sometimes, the entries in tracking apps like MyFitnessPal are wrong or outdated. You may be counting completely different macros -- always double check on foods if you're unsure!
How and why I track
A controversial topic that I fully embrace is in regards to tracking with a more lax approach to food choices. This is sometimes referred to as a "Dirty Keto." A majority of my diet is almost always from the low carb food list, but I will include things that purists will call less than ideal -- gluten or fast food, for example. As long as I am within my calorie and 20g carbohydrate limit, I allow myself the option to have these foods.
It is not ideal to get your 20g of carbs from fried chicken, but if that's going to keep your carbs low enough and prevent you from an all out binge, choose and enjoy your chicken.
If you struggle with moderating foods like this, I would recommend that you try an approach that focuses on low carb options and removes carb-heavy foods.
Keto without tracking
While some may argue you that you need to track to follow Keto, that isn't true. It may set you up for the best possible results (in terms of weight loss), but you can also achieve ketosis by consuming ONLY very low carbohydrate foods. If you go this route, I would recommend eating until your satisfied and stopping when full.
Here are some benefits of Keto without tracking:
- Simpler - Gone are the days that you weigh out every single ingredient. Just stick to low carb food choices.
- Peace of mind - If your head spins when you forget to track, it may not be the best approach for you. Some do not do well when it becomes this involved.
- More in tune with your body - Have you been shoveling food when you aren't even hungry? Food cues like true hunger can do wonders for weight loss, compared following a more linear eating plan.
...and a few cons:
- Giving up the flexibility to eat higher carb foods in smaller quantities is necessary. It's way too easy to overeat and possibly break your state of ketosis.
- Results may be slower than anticipated. Calories still matter -- if you're eating more than your body needs, you will gain weight.
- There's a chance you are jumping in and out of ketosis. Which isn't completely a bad thing. A major reduction in carbohydrates alone will improve your health, though you may not experience some of the other wonderful side effects of ketosis, such as improvements to mental health and energy.
This way of eating is similar to the LCHF (low carb, high fat) movement, if you've ever heard of that!
At the end of the day, the best way to follow Keto should be gauged by how you feel and if you can make it a lifestyle. Make it work for you and your life. We're all different!
Do you track your food on Keto? Comment below!