Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tools of the Trade

In the software engineering world we throw around a phrase, "You can't improve a process you can't measure" and in NLP we say "If you don't know where you are going, how do you know when you've gotten there?"

Leigh Peele of "The Fat Loss Troubleshooter" posted a fantastic article entitled "The Reality of Calories" which included a video that very graphically illustrates the point:

So what tools do I use to measure and keep track of my processes? As the video showed, a digital scale is essential. If you spend any time whatsoever logging food, you will notice that there is very little consistency in how portions are measured, if you are trying to use the English system. However almost every food label will show the serving size in grams, which is more accurate anyway. Spending a week or two measuring portions to the gram can be a very educational experience.

As far as software/online tools go, I have 3 sites I consider indispensable:

Physics Diet

Regular readers have seen me talk about this site before so I won't go into a lot of detail. Essentially, you enter a weight (and optionally other data like body fat, exercise calories, etc.) and it shows you over time what your weight is doing as well as averages your weight to help smooth out the panic over those day-to-day fluctuations we all have. The site will also use this data to show surplus or deficit calories for a given time period. This is an extremely important function because all intake and expenditure numbers are estimates and one never knows how accurate the estimates are until they have a few weeks of data.


TheDailyPlate is a nutrition tracking site. If you read my post on figuring nutritional requirements, you understand how important it is to track the macro nutrients as well as calories. TheDailyPlate makes this process easy by having a very extensive database of foods, including the ability to search other user-contributed foods. Users also have the ability to create "meals" - a combination of foods eaten regularly such as bacon and eggs for breakfast.

TheDailyPlate will also track calories burned from exercise and automatically subtract those from amount consumed. It includes the ability to set calorie goals and track weight over time as well.

One very nice feature is the pie graph showing calories consumed that day. For those of us that are strongly visual-oriented it is a great way to see at a glance how the intake has been so far.


I was looking around for an easy to use workout log to take with me to the gym and happened to see this site mentioned for online logging on a bodybuilding forum. Aside from a well-designed printable log, the site has some nice features. When designing a workout, one has the ability to choose from a decent array of exercises, either cardio or strength, with the strength broken down by body part. There is the option to completely create your own workout or you can "join" workouts created by others. I saw a decent mix of upper/lower splits, Rippetoe's beginner workouts, 5x5s, etc.

Each exercise is either described well or has a video and as you progress you can look at total reps performed over time, total weight lifted or max weight lifted as a measure of checking progress from workout to workout.

Both TheDailyPlate and Gyminee have a lot of "social networking" options such as chats, blogs, forums, etc. Gyminee also will track weight and nutrition however I have not tried the nutrition feature yet.

As the diet and fitness industry continues to take greater advantage of the internet and online interaction, more and more tools become available to help us in our quest to ride that century or push the iron. I hope some of you will take advantage of these tools to realize your own goals.

1 comment:

Maarburg said...

Nice... all spelled out.. .. too bad there's not one site that does the job of those three. (hint hint)