Before we get into the meat and potatoes of how to make a meal plan, I'll go over a few things.
- If you currently eat an average diet and would like to know how to transition into a healthy diet that will get you the results you want. Please join my e-mail newsletter to receive "Fat And Greasy To Fit And Healthy." It's my quick start guide on how to transition from eating unhealthy to eating healthy.
- I will go over today's popular diets and why they work, but why you shouldn't use them.
- Finally I will go over all the principles that you need to create your own meal plan.
Why Popular Diets Work
Originally I was going to list each popular diet and tell you why they worked and then tell you the negative effects of each. Then I figured that it would probably result in me getting sued later on down the line. I will say this, all these popular diets work because they either:
- Cause you to go into a caloric deficit by making sure you are eating less than you used to.
- Cause you to eat less carbs or fats. While this does work, you need both carbs and fats in order to be healthy and get the body that you desire. Even if the diet lets you eat carbs but only fibrous carbs, you also need grains and oats and such to get that action movie star body that you've always dreamed of.
- Or they cause you to replace a few of your daily meals with low calorie meal replacements.
The problem with diets is that you need to make it a lifestyle. This is why I use a system that allows me to eat foods that I like and still lose weight. If you were to lose a bunch of weight by using meal replacements, when you finally reached your "goal weight" what would happen? You would say to yourself, "ok I'm skinny now". I'm going to go back to eating the way that I used to.
The problem with this is, while you were losing weight, your body thought you were experiencing a famine. When you return to eating the same amount of food as you normally did then your body will say, "wow I'm glad we survived that famine, I'm going to store all of this extra food that I'm getting as fat so we can make sure we don't die the next time a famine hits." The trick is that you should never drastically increase or decrease your calories. If you decrease your calories too quickly your body will think you are starving. It will cannibalize it's own muscle because muscle is costly to your body. It makes you have to work hard to lug it around and it requires a lot of calories to maintain it. If you increase your calories too quickly after a diet your body will try to store it all as fat as a survival mechanism.
The trick is to slowly ramp your calories up or down over time in order to avoid excess fat gain or muscle loss.
How To Make Your Meal Plan
Determine How Much Protein You Need
The first thing that you should do is determine your lean body weight in lbs. Use this number to determine the amount of protein you should eat in grams each day. This is going to be a constant, no matter if you are gaining or losing weight.
Eat Multiple Small Balanced Meals Throughout The Day
Next, try to eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day instead of 1-3 bigger meals. By eating less food more often you stoke the fire of your metabolism to make it burn constantly. This is also helpful if you are a male, in order to get all of your protein requirements in. For females you should probably eating anywhere from 90-140 grams of protein per day which is much easier to get into fewer meals.
Practice Makes Perfect
The only way to get your meal plan right is to experiment. Everyone is different in terms of carb sensitivity. People with skinny body types are people who are extremely carb sensitive. When they eat carbs their body burns it extremely quickly and efficiently causing them to never gain weight. People who have round body types are people who are carb insensitive. These people are the ones who need to eat less carbs at first because their body is so used to just constantly spiking their insulin levels and using the carbs to store fat.
Finding Your Baseline
So, the trick is to find your baseline. That is the amount of carbs (and fats) that you can eat per day to maintain your weight. By keeping your protein levels constant, utilizing fats sparingly, and increasing or decreasing your carbs you will find your sweet spot and your own personal meal plan. Don't get me wrong you can also cut calories by decreasing spare fats that you intake over time as well. For example my nightly meal consists of pistacios, fruit, peanuts, and a protein shake. Over time I went from eating a few handfuls of peanuts which is probably 2.5-3 servings. Then I started to actually weigh out one serving which cut out around 160-300 calories per day and my next step will be to cut out the peanuts completely.
What Is A Caloric Deficit?
A caloric deficit is the factor which is going to cause you to lose weight. I will explain what it means in the simplest of terms. Your body needs calories in order to run itself to carry out your daily functions. Let's say that your body uses 3,500 calories every day to do your average daily activities. (3,500 is actually the amount of calories that makes a pound of fat, keep that in mind because that number will come up later.) If you wanted to lose weight you start off by either cutting out 100 calories (at first, more later) or by doing 100 calories worth of cardio (or work, force x distance). Your body will begin to lose weight and this is essentially a simple definition of a caloric deficit.
A pound of fat is 3,500 calories. The typical equation is that you are in a 500 calorie deficit and that each week you burn off a total of 3,500 calories resulting in a pound of weight loss a week. The opposite is true for muscle gain, in that you need a 500 calorie increase to gain muscle slowly.
Do I Need To Weigh My Food?
The truth, is that you don't need to necessarily weigh out your food. As long as you are eating the same amounts each day and you are doing as you set out to do (I.E.: maintain weight, lose weight, gain weight) then you are fine. The issue comes down to further down the line when you are really trying to dial in your diet and get super ripped. That's when you need to be a little bit more meticulous with your food preparations and get things down to the exact gram.
IIFYM or If It Fits Your Macros is the idea that you can substitute a whole food for a processed food of equal value in your diet. For example let's say that you eat 50grams of carbs with your lunch. You could substitute the bread, rice, oats, or whatever with two chocolate chip cookies. While this is possible it is also important to note that you can't necessarily get away with this as much when you first start working out. Especially if you started out overweight. If you are a skinny body type then this can work for you. However, for people who started out overweight you need to give it some time. You must first lose some body fat and gain some extra muscle in order to change your body's hormonal response to said stimuli. Two years ago when I attempted to go on a "bulk" I got extra fat while eating only whole foods in excess. Last year I had a little bit more muscle mass on my frame and and was able to not get as fat while eating food that wasn't as nutritionally sound while attempting to gain weight.
What happens if I'm Dieting And Suddenly I'm Eating Only A Small Amount of Food Each Day And Not Losing Weight?
If this happens, or you begin to get the signs of death face (sunken in eyes, people ask if you've been sleeping enough.) then it is time to enact this simple procedure. It is called reverse-dieting. What you do is increase your carbohydrate intake slowly over time. Add in 25 grams of carbs to your every day diet and watch the scale. Make sure that your weight is not increasing or not increasing by very much. Week after week slowly increase your caloric intake until you now have ground to stand on. Then you can continue your diet as usual by dropping those carbs that you added to your diet, slowly.
Some Principles To Remember When Making Your Meal Plan
The way that I eat is that I don't necessarily weigh much of anything for a majority of the time. Unless I am leaning out for the summer and need to really know how much I'm eating each day. For the most part I know how much protein I should have each day, I kind of freestyle the fats but don't let them get out of control, and I eyeball the carbs. I'm going to give you the secret of how I eyeball my carbs so that you can do the same and begin your meal plan journey.
25 Grams Of Carbs
- 2 Pieces Of Bread
- Half Cup Of Oats
- 1 Serving Of Cereal
- 1 Hamburger Bun
- 1 Hotdog Bun
- Half A Bagel
- Half A Pita
- 1 Tortilla
- Half Cup Of Noodles Or Pasta
- Three Quarters Of a Potato
50 Grams Of Carbs
- 4 Pieces Of Bread
- 1 Cup Of Oats
- 2 Servings Of Cereal
- 2 Hamburger Buns
- 2 Hotdog Buns
- A Bagel
- A Pita
- 2 Tortilla
- Full Cup Of Noodles Or Pasta
- One And A Half Potatoes
Unhealthy people have unhealthy habits. What I mean by this is if you used to eat a bagel with cream cheese as a snack, you were eating carbs and fats without any rhyme or reason. Over time, begin to have a reason for your carbs and fats. Instead of a bagel with cream cheese eat a bagel sandwich with lean turkey and cheese. Make it a club sandwich if you wish by putting on a serving of bacon and a minimal amount of bacon. Make sure that you are not just eating carbs or just fats. Now that you know what each of the 3 macronutrients do, Use them to your advantage. Always incorporate the trifecta of carbs, fats and proteins. This will help keep your glycemic index low so that you aren't spiking your insulin levels unnecessarily. If you are going to eat just one choose a protein snack, such as beef jerky because protein helps to increase your metabolism momentarily. Is calorically costly to digest and will help you build muscle or maintain your existing muscles if you're trying to lose weight. Not to mention that protein helps you feel full. Did you ever notice that you can eat all the mashed potatoes that you wanted but never went back for turkey? Food for thought.
Pulling It All Together
Here's what you need to remember. You know what you used to eat. If it was extremely unhealthy, all you need to do is clean it up little by little and it's an improvement. Most improvements will cause weight loss. It's all about ramping off calories over time. You can start by eating a double cheeseburger (homemade). Then over time you can slowly decrease the calories of each individual meal. For instance use 1 slice of cheese instead of 2. Use less mayo instead of as much as you want. Use 1 serving of bacon instead of 3-4 servings. etc.
In terms of carbs, let's say you know you started off eating a specific meal with 2 cups of rice when you were unhealthy. Over time cut that down to 1.5 cups, then 1, then maybe a half cup. Then if you really need to replace the rice with a fibrous carb that doesn't really have calories such as broccoli or lettuce. Just watch the scale adjust when you hit a plateau in your weight loss.
Hopefully this is all starting to make sense to you but if not, there will be tons of other resources and tips on this website to help you on your journey. Just make sure you check out the "How to Lose Weight Section" and use the search feature on the site to find things you're interested in.