Creating a Daily Meal Plan

I made the decision to figure out exactly how much food I needed in order to get lean, because I was sick and tired of guessing.

My goal was to get lean.  Lean and mean.

When I calculated my daily calorie number, and my daily macronutrient ratio, I still wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to be putting into my body.  I didn’t know where to start.

What was it going to look like?  How many times a day did I need to eat?  Did it matter when I ate certain foods?  Were there any foods that I absolutely had to incorporate into my meal plan?

In this blog, I’ll be giving some tips on how to create your own custom meal plan – One that you’ll be enjoying for years.  With time, you’ll see how easy it is to change and adapt your meal plan to fit your lifestyle.

Creating a Daily Meal Plan

Once you have determined the amount of calories you will be consuming daily, and you’ve determined your macronutrient ratio, it’s time to start developing a meal plan.

It’s important to remember that it’s okay if you are not following these calorie numbers exactly, but you want to remain close.  Stay close to the numbers, and you will succeed in gaining lean muscle tissue, while minimizing fat gains.

Healthy diet

Don’t be afraid to measure your food.  Buy a food scale, they’re relatively inexpensive.  A lot of people hate the idea of measuring out their food, but once you get in the habit of it, it becomes second nature.  You’ll love the control you feel once you know that you’re not spilling over, and eating too many calories.

There will come a time, when you may not need to measure your food exactly.  I usually suggest that my clients begin measuring their food as an awareness tool more than anything.  It’s important to be aware of how much 4 ounces of rice is, or 6 ounces of sweet potato.  Most Americans aren’t aware of how large their food portions are.  Measuring your food is eye-opening.  It’s a game changer.

Pick foods you love, damn it!  Don’t torture yourself. 

For some, a meal plan means eating the same small meal 7 times a day.  You’ll see people lining up their perfectly portioned Tupperware containers on Instagram with the same thing in every container.

Tilapia, brown rice, and broccoli.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT THE SAME SMALL MEAL 7 TIMES A DAY.

You can change it up!  It’s better if you have a wide variety of macronutrients.  Eat different types of protein, carbohydrates and fats.  There’s no honor in eating the exact same food you hate for an extended period of time.

It’s also important to note that you want to pick foods that you enjoy so that you won’t feel like you’re on a diet.  This is not a diet.  We’re being intentional about the food we’re putting into our bodies, in order to get the most out of it.  We’re being flexible with our food choices, and that’s why it works.

A lot of so-called “trainers” and “fitness gurus” might tell you that you need to eat 7 small meals a day.  They might tell you that 6 of those 7 meals must include grilled tilapia, broccoli, and brown rice.  This is a very archaic approach to losing weight, and if you follow a plan like this… you will be miserable, and you will quit.

Food is meant to be enjoyed!  We want the food we eat to fill us up, give us energy, and fuel our busy lives.  You should be enjoying the food you eat every day.  No exceptions.

The best meal plan is the one that doesn’t feel like one. Be flexible. If you can’t see yourself eating in a similar manner in 5 years, you need a different meal plan.

Tools

There are a few tools you can use to keep track of your food intake.  It’s always a good idea to start tracking the food you eat with a daily food journal.

Write down absolutely everything you eat and drink throughout the day, even if it’s something small.  The act of logging everything you put in your mouth will give you a sense of awareness and clarity to what you’re consuming.

You can determine very quickly what your eating habits look like, and at what times of the day you eat or crave certain foods.  You may come to find that you crave junk at specific times of the day, and just being aware of these times can help you avoid the continuation of unhealthy habits.

myfitnesspal screenshot

A very useful tool in creating a meal plan quickly and easily is the MyFitnessPal App.

This application on your phone gives you the ability to track the food you eat daily.  It’s very easy to use, it has a lot of great features, and it’s free!  It gives you the macronutrient breakdown of the food you’re consuming, so you know exactly how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats are in the food you’re eating.

You can scan the bar-code of most items in your local supermarket, and it will pull up the macronutrient profile immediately.  This app also allows you the ability to track your water intake, and your workout times and activities.  You can even set up a profile on the app that will allow you to follow and track your friends eating habits, and they can follow yours as well.  This is a fantastic tool which can aide in the motivation and accountability of healthy eating.

When you are aware of the unhealthy things you’re putting into your body, it will be much more difficult to continue on with unhealthy and sabotaging habits.  You may avoid eating junk simply because you don’t want to log it!

Track the food you eat, and become aware of the nutritional value of the foods you consume.

Sample Meal Plans

Below I have listed a few meal plans that you can use as examples to help you write up your own meal plan:

** Keep in mind; I am not a registered dietitian/nutritionist.  I’m giving very general guidelines and practices that have worked for me, and my clients.  My hope is to give you a few examples to help guide you.

Meal Plan #1:

  • Meal # 1:
  • Instant oatmeal – fat: 2g, carbs: 33g, protein: 4g
  • Medium sized honey crisp apple – fat: 0.2g, carbs: 17.2g, protein: 0.3g
  • Meal # 2:
  • 1 and ½ scoops of natural peanut butter – fat: 12g, carbs: 6g, protein: 5.2g
  • ½ whole grain bagel – fat: 1g, carbs: 26g, protein: 5g
  • Meal # 3 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein powder (2 scoops) – fat: 4g, carbs: 16g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of frozen strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 4:
  • 6 ounces of grilled chicken breast: fat: 3g, carbs: 1.5g, protein: 33g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • Meal # 5 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein powder (2 scoops) – fat: 4g, carbs: 16g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 6 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g

Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 42.7g, carbs: 223.7g, protein: 178.5g
  • Fats: 384.3cal, carbs: 894.8cal, protein: 714cal = 1,993.1 calories consumed

Meal Plan #2:

  • Meal # 1:
  • 5 egg whites – fat: 0.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 20g
  • Instant oatmeal – fat: 2g, carbs: 33g, protein: 4g
  • Meal # 2:
  • Whey protein powder (1 scoop) – fat: 2g, carbs: 8g, protein: 20g
  • Medium sized honey crisp apple – fat: 0.2g, carbs: 17.2g, protein: 0.3g
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter – fat: 8g, carbs: 4g, protein: 3.5g
  • Meal # 3:
  • 7 ounces of grilled chicken – fat: 3.5g, carbs: 1.8g, protein: 38.5g
  • 4 ounces of sweet potato – fat: 0.1g, carbs: 22.8g, protein: 1.8g
  • Meal # 4 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 5:
  • 5 ounces of beef (95% lean) – fat: 15.2g, carbs: 0g, protein: 22g
  • 4 ounces of whole wheat pasta – fat: 3g, carbs: 82g, protein: 14g
  • ½ cup of marinara sauce – fat: 1g, carbs: 5g, protein: 1g
  • 4 ounces of broccoli – fat: 7.2g, carbs: 7.2g, protein: 4g
  • Meal # 6 (before bed):
  • Casein protein powder (1 scoop) – fat: 1.5g, carbs: 11g, protein: 25g

 Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 48.2g, carbs: 240.7g, protein: 194.6g
  • Fats: 433.8cal, carbs: 962.8cal, protein: 778.4cal = 2,175 calories consumed

Meal Plan #3:

  • Meal # 1:
  • 1 English muffin – fat: 1g, carbs: 25g, protein: 4g
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter – fat: 8g, carbs: 4g, protein: 3.5g
  • 4 egg whites – fat: 0.4g, carbs 1g, protein: 16g
  • 3 tablespoons of salsa – fat: 0g, carbs: 1.5, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 2:
  • 5 ounces of grilled chicken breast – fat: 2.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 27.5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g
  • Meal # 3:
  • 5 ounces of beef (95% lean) – fat: 15.2g, carbs: 0g, protein: 22g
  • 5 ounces of fajita peppers (green, red, yellow) – fat: 0.3g, carbs: 8.5g, protein: 1.3g
  • 3 ounces of onions – fat: 0.1g, carbs: 7.7g, protein: 0.9g
  • Meal # 4 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g
  • Meal # 5:
  • 5 ounces of grilled chicken breast – fat: 2.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 27.5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g

 Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 59g, carbs: 184.1g, protein: 162.7g
  • Fats: 531cal, carbs: 736.4cal, protein: 650.8cal = 1,918.2 calories consumed

Again, It doesn’t really matter when you eat the food items

Based on current research, the concept of “nutrient timing” isn’t particularly important for people trying to look and feel better.

The total amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates you eat, over the course of the day, is more important for body composition and performance than nutrient timing strategies. 

We’ve been told lies regarding this for a very long time:

“Don’t eat carbs after 6 PM.”

“Don’t eat carbs after 4 PM.”

“Don’t eat carbs after (insert any hour in the afternoon here).”

“You only have a half an hour anabolic window after training to get your protein and carbs in!”

The fact of the matter is that your body will absorb and utilize the food in the same way regardless of the time of day that you eat it.  You can eat carbs before bed, as long as it fits your macronutrient ratio.

Remember, carbohydrates are not the reason you will become overweight – the surplus of calories will be.  You need to discover what works best for you.  Do your own research, and do your own experimentation.

Eat the food items that make up your macronutrient ratio on your own terms.  If you don’t like eating breakfast, then don’t eat breakfast.  If you want to eat 5-6 small meals spread out evenly over the course of your day – by all means – do it.

Something to consider: 

There have been studies indicating that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times throughout the day tend to be heavier than those who eat a healthy breakfast and eat four or five times a day. This may be due to the fact that people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later in the day, causing them to eat more than they normally would.  It may also be that eating many small meals throughout the day helps certain people curb their appetites.

Stay tuned!  In the next blog I’ll give you some more tips and tricks that will help you create an easy,  sustainable meal plan.  We’re setting ourselves up to win!

 

Holy Macronutrients!

Macronutrients

Let me tell you a little story…

I have a very close friend who began exercising a few years back. He lost a lot of weight, and added a decent amount of lean tissue to his frame in the process.  He decided that he wanted to compete in his first bodybuilding show.  He got a coach.  And so began the process…

Now, typically, when one decides they’re going to compete in a bodybuilding show, there are a series of steps one must take in order to become “show ready.” Some of these steps involve carefully, and methodically creating a meal plan that will ensure the competitor gets as lean as they possibly can (extremely low body fat %) while hanging on to as much muscle as they possibly can in the process.

The meal plan is a major factor when competing and it can differ in length depending on how lean the person is before they start dieting for the show. These diets can last anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks.  My friend and his coach set in motion a diet plan that would last for 20 weeks.

Traditionally, bodybuilders would undergo a diet that consisted of 6 – 7 small meals throughout the day in order to “keep the metabolism working as efficiently as possible.” Luckily, we now know that there is no evidence to support the idea that nutrient timing or meal frequency enhances metabolic efficiency.  It doesn’t matter if you eat 7 small meals a day, or 2 giant ones.  It’s a matter of personal preference.  Your body will use the food either way.

Regardless of this fact, my friend was still adhering to the traditional style of dieting down for a show, and this meant that he would eat 6 – 7 small meals every day, with an occasional “cheat meal” thrown in. He would literally wake up at 3:30AM (on the dot) to have his first meal.  Talk about dedication.

20 grueling weeks later, he was the leanest he had ever been. He was ready.  He looked somewhat emaciated, but he was as show ready as he was going to be.  He competed in the show, and ultimately proved to himself that he could do it.  I was really proud of him.

That night, after the show, he ate Mexican food until he was sick.

3 weeks later, he had gained 20 pounds. Soon after that, an additional 10 – 15.

I had listened to other competitors discuss the rebound effects associated with competing in bodybuilding shows. The mass amounts of weight gained once they started eating normal food again.  Once the diet had stopped, it was time to eat like mad.  No holds barred.  Anything goes.  Most people found themselves eating tons of junk, because they had spent months depriving themselves of it.

I thought to myself, “Wow, is this the only way to get in the best shape of your life?”

“Was I going to have starve myself for 20 weeks, only to gain it all back (and then some) a few weeks later?”

“Is there no way to stay lean all year round in a healthy sustainable way?”

I started doing some independent research, and that’s when I discovered the idea of counting macronutrients. Once I started implementing the practice of counting all of my macronutrients, and “flexibly dieting,” I knew that I had a system of eating that was sustainable for the long haul.

A meal plan for life. A meal plan for a busy life.

Meal planning for health, and vitality.

Mindful eating with purpose and intent.

We all need a meal plan that is going to help us look our best, and feel our best.

The best part – you don’t have to deprive yourself of the occasional “not-so-clean” food you love. You can fit it in and not gain a ton of weight.  You don’t have to feel shame or guilt because you want to eat a bowl of ice cream once in a while.  Food is meant to be enjoyed.  Life is meant to be enjoyed.

I’ll explain how…

Don’t count calories – Count macronutrients

When thinking about losing weight, the old adage “calories in VS calories out” is a little misleading.

It’s a common phrase that most of us have heard before. Unfortunately it doesn’t explain how to truly lose weight safely, and effectively.  If we just attempt to eat fewer calories then we burn, without understanding the basic concept of tracking macronutrients, we’re destined to gain back any weight we might lose.

Yes, it’s true… If you eat fewer calories than your body “burns” daily, over time you will lose weight.  But you will lose a lot of muscle in the process (this is BAD).   You might lose very little body fat in the process (this is also very BAD).

We all have a baseline of calories we can consume that will prevent us from either gaining weight, or losing weight.

When we eat fewer calories than our baseline – we lose weight. Easy enough.

When we eat more calories than our daily baseline allows – we gain weight.

But a calorie isn’t just a calorie. There are different types.

What are macronutrients? Macronutrients can be defined as a type of food (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) required in large amounts in the human diet.

Everything we eat contains macronutrients.

The word “macro” means large, and the body needs these nutrients in large quantities for energy, growth, tissue repair, immune function, metabolism and other essential functions in the body.

Types of macronutrients:

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Protein

Protein consumption is extremely important. You must consume enough in order to adequately build and repair lean muscle tissue.  Protein facilitates a fat-burning metabolism.  Having enough protein in your diet can reduce feelings of hunger pangs throughout the day.  It also slows down the release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream.  This process prevents spikes in blood sugar that are thought to increase fat storage, and deplete you of energy.  It is worth noting that protein will not energize you in the same way that carbohydrates and fats will.

Consuming enough protein daily is why we have the ability to acquire and sustain lean muscle mass. If you are not consuming an adequate amount of protein, your body will not produce nor sustain enough lean tissue to ensure a healthy metabolism.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your most important source of energy, as they provide your body with glucose. Carbohydrates also play a role in the functioning of the immune system, blood clotting, human development and fertilization.  They are critical for anyone participating in a strength and resistance routine.  Carbohydrates come in a variety of forms – the most common being fibers, starches and sugars.

An excessive consumption of unhealthy carbohydrates, such as refined carbohydrates like corn syrup or sugar, can cause obesity, type II diabetes, and cancer. Throughout the years, there have been many “low-carb” diets that promote dramatically reducing the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.  Some have gone as far as promoting the idea that you need to cut out carbohydrates completely.

This is not something I would recommend.

Carbohydrates are going to provide your body the necessary energy to exercise efficiently – cut out the carbs, say goodbye to all your energy. You’ll feel slow, weak, and fatigued.

Of course there are exceptions to this.  Everyone is different.  There are some people who can function just fine on meal plans that call for higher fat content and less carbs.

Fat

Fats, like carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the years. The name “fats” has the power to elicit a negative reaction within people.  We don’t want to be fat, so we assume we need to get rid of the fats in our diets.

But the truth is we need fats in our diets, just like we need an appropriate amount of protein and carbohydrates.

Dietary fats are essential. They give your body energy and they support cell growth.  They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm.  Fats help your body to absorb nutrients and produce important hormones, too.  Just like carbohydrates, there are healthy fats, and unhealthy fats.  Choose foods that provide good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), and avoid foods that provide bad fats (saturated fats, and trans fats).  Keep in mind that fats have more calories per gram than proteins and carbohydrates do.  There are nine calories in every gram of fat, regardless of what type of fat it is.  Fats are more energy-dense than carbohydrates and proteins, which provide four calories per gram.

——————-

1 gram of protein: 4 calories

1 gram of carbohydrates: 4 calories

1 gram of fat: 9 calories

——————-

You can see now why a calorie isn’t just a calorie.

If you were to consume carbs exclusively, or only consume foods with high fat content, your body fat % would increase dramatically. Without a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fat, your body will more than likely be soft, weak, and fragile.

It’s possible to be very thin, and have a high bodyfat %, that’s why protein is so important.

One macronutrient to rule them all, if you will.

If you get a healthy balance of protein in your diet (and you lift all the weights), your body will be firm, strong, and resilient.

In the next blog, I’ll discuss how to figure out how many macronutrients you should be consuming each day.

The Annoying People at The Gym: PART 1

Before I even begin typing out what could be an endless series of blogs, my mind is literally bursting with anger and frustration. I can feel my body getting warm, my heart rate increasing, and my palms getting clammy.  Just the thought of all the dumb shit I see at the gym is enough to give me a self-induced aneurism.

There are a lot of people who annoy me at the gym. A lot.

But there are 2 points I want to get across:

  1. It’s not just me who is annoyed by the actions of these certain individuals.
  2. These particular gym-goers may not realize what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it. They may or may not realize that they are annoying.

So, what exactly are they doing that is just so damn annoying? What unspoken rules are these patrons breaking?

They’re not picking up after themselves.

We’ve all worked out in gyms that have the people who never re-wrack their weights, or who leave resistance bands and yoga mats all over the place. We’ve all seen that bastard who puts 100 lb. plates on the leg press, only to perform 2 sets, and then quickly disappear… weights still on the machine.

What is wrong with these people? Were they raised in a desolate part of the rainforests of Brazil with an isolated tribe of people, the ones who don’t have words for “guilt” or “common courtesy?”  I can only assume that’s the explanation for such overt inconsiderateness.   Why do certain people NEVER feel the need to pick up their stuff?  That’s the first thing we’re taught as a child (one would hope).  If you pick something up that doesn’t belong to you, put it back where you found it.

One could argue that they are making the assumption that the front desk clerk is supposed to pick up their weights/equipment for them. That’s what they’re there for, right?  That’s what they get paid for.

But isn’t that a downright horrible thing to assume? Are you really the person that wants to have such a mentality?  The mentality of: “I’m a paying customer here, and I therefor refuse to pick up the heavy things I’ve inconveniently dragged away from designated spots.”

Screw you!

You may be stupid, but that’s still no excuse for being a total jerk. Re-wrack your weights!  Put up the equipment you’ve used!

They’re hogging machines, or they’re waiting for machines

I see both of these examples on a daily basis, and I want to give a personal trainer’s perspective on each.

I see people hogging machines. All the damn time.  It doesn’t necessarily affect me, as I can give someone a decent workout with minimal equipment.

I’m never going to need the machine they are guarding with their weak and scarce mind.

The reason it irks me on such a deep level is that it displays just how little that person knows. It also shows that that person is an inconsiderate ignoramus.  The fact that they sit on a machine tells me a couple of other things as well.  I can tell that they more than likely use that machine every time they enter the gym.  The preacher bicep curl machine (they so desperately guard) is their go to arm move.

“It gives you that sick arm pump, bro.” They own that machine for 6-8 sets.

My question/message to these people:

Did it ever occur to you, that you can do that particular movement in 100,000 different ways? Did it ever occur to you, that you could use dumbbells, barbells, EZ curl bars, resistance bands, TRX Bands, weight sticks, med balls, or cable machines?  The list goes on and on.  And it’s okay, if you don’t know.  We don’t know what we don’t know.  But if you don’t know, you should be asking, if you care about having a balanced/toned/shredded physique.  You don’t realize it, but you’re spinning your wheels.

The fact of the matter is, it’s not a good idea for anyone to use the same machine every time they work out. It will give them the opposite of their desired effect.

In order to get the most optimal results, you MUST vary your workouts.  Remember, the human body is designed specifically to adapt to stress.  You need to give it new things to adapt to, dude!  Often!!

There is really no reason to wait for machines, either. If you can’t use the leg extension machine – go do some squats, or dead lifts, or lunges, or bench step ups, or leg press, or any other leg exercise.  Don’t be that dipstiff huffing and puffing nearby, waiting for your turn on the leg machine.  You look and sound like someone I don’t want to be friends with.

They’re using multiple machines and or pieces of equipment

My question to these people is – Why?

Why do you need to be using a squat rack, a bench press, a pull up bar, 3 barbells, 2 sets of dumbbells, and a treadmill?

What are you doing exactly? The most complicated and convoluted circuit of all time?  Are you an Olympic athlete who needs to be done in 20 minutes?  Are you trying to break a record for using the most pieces of strength equipment at one time?

The bane of my existence.

I’m all for doing supersets. I love circuits.  But that doesn’t mean I need to 10 massive pieces of equipment to get the job done.

People who do this are either trying to show off, or have some seriously misguided ideologies regarding fitness. There’s a Crossfit box down the street (probably).  Go use all of their shit at the same time.  It’ll make for a killer WOD.

Until next time!

Stay tuned for ‘Part 2’