Meal plans suck. I’m talking about following a set of foods that you eat repeatedly (m-f = chicken & broccoli). They can work if there is a certain purpose in mind but they can also drive you crazy and take the fun out of eating. If enjoyment is not a concern, a meal program with prepared meals may help you become more productive. The reality is that if you’re looking for change it’s going to take some time to fix what you’ve done.. But it’s worth it. Life is way more fun being fit! Like wayyy more fun. AND I want to help YOU.
Maybe your current situation is not limiting you from too much..
But is your health slowly declining and you’re tolerating it? Why? I know too many 80 Year old+ people still living active lives and pursuing adventures.
I ENJOY every meal that I eat while staying lean, healthy, and energetic all year round. I am not boasting but I hope it might spark a little bit of inspiration. And You can trust that I was not blessed with genetics. I have obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in my family. This equals more motivation for me to control what I CAN CONTROL. I also promise that I do not out-exercise all of my calories, I may create an environment that uses food in my favor. With flavor.
I promise that I won’t rant too long without providing a few resources or solutions for you.
What’s the most effective diet? The one that is sustainable; the one that is a lifestyle and that you enjoy how it makes you feel.
“Oh great, a meal plan in my favorite health magazine with someone who has a perfect body on the cover. This must have worked for them!”
There are different categories of people and programs that I suggest with many variables. People expect you to give them a “program”. It’s cliché but there is no “one size fits all approach”. A couple common examples that I see with women:
1. You have a damaged metabolism – “metabolic damage” real or not, many women don’t eat enough and your body needs “x” amount of calories in order to maintain at an optimal level. Your metabolism will slow down and adapt to how you feed it. Dieting too much can affect hormones, digestion and more. Not providing your body with what it needs is stress.
2. You are not eating enough – Too much or too little. Well, if you cut Calories too hard while exercising intensely you’ll overwhelm your adaptive abilities and actually end up fatter, as you burn muscle tissue in response to the incredible stress.
3. You are inconsistent – Being afraid of fat and eating too many highly glycemic carbs or even too much fruit or fruit bi-products. Track your food or keep a general idea – See this portion guide as a tool.
4. You’re missing structure and support – This is a combination of having a foundation along with standards and common goals. Who is your team or influencers? Who’s habits are you adapting to?
Many men and women eat out too much without being familiar with how much hidden fat and sugar is in their food. We think that because we go to the gym and put in our time that we can eat like we are a professional athlete. Inconsistency is probably the biggest problem. Too often we take it by chance to eat when it’s “time to eat” or to fuel instant gratification.
There is hope for all of you! Spend a few minutes looking up testimonials or people that have made significant changes and kept them. Find out what it takes and use that is fuel to make it believable.
So where to start?
Step one should be aiming to get 3 portions of protein, vegetables, and healthy fat while drinking half of your bodyweight in water – every day. Next step aim for at least .5 grams of protein to every pound of bodyweight with 25-40 grams of fiber. Easy but it takes you paying attention. If this is simple for you, move on to customizing for your needs. Click to download (Portion Guide – AMB)
Find an estimate of how many calories you are burning every day (your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE. This general approach should get you close to the required amount of nutrients. Make sure you are aware of foods that you may be intolerant to (more on that below).
Think big picture like over the whole week. An inconsistent day here and there isn’t going to throw you off track too far. Determine how many calories that your body needs. For many people, this seems tedious and they would prefer an “eat how you feel” approach. Keep in mind; This is for people who are sick of playing the guessing game and are ready for results.
Macronutrient calculators on myfitnesspal and other online sites can make a prediction but this typically doesn’t take into consideration if someone is insulin resistant, has a damaged metabolism or inconsistent activity levels. It’s true that there should be a general minimum of calories probably 1500 for most women and 1800 for most men (that is very general and that is a minimum). Here is one for example: http://macronutrientcalculator.com/
Meet flexible dieting; this is a common trend that is growing and gaining popularity due to the fact that it allows people eat a major variety of foods as long as it meets the required macronutrient numbers. People that combine this with resistance training and intense exercise will have a much better experience from a program like this. If you are not as physically active, you’d probably do better teaching your body how to use fat as energy better. Exercise changes the way your body uses food – there are beneficial adaptations that promotes building of lean muscle tissue. And stress affects how your body uses food as well.
Basically by following your Numbers, we’ll say: 2000 Calories 40/30/20
40% Carbs = 200 grams
30% Protein = 150 grams
30% Fat = 67 grams
Divide in 4 Meals (you could do 3 or 5)
200/4 = 50 grams of protein per meal
150/4 = 38 grams of carbs per meal
67/4 = 17 grams of fat per meal
If you have a deficit at the end of the day, add in what you need for the last meal (example: Need: 80 grams of carbs, 35 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fat = shake with banana, two dates, coconut milk, yogurt, and protein
Achieve this total with any food you want, ideally 80% quality and whole foods. The weight loss or muscle gain comes in increasing/decreasing your caloric balance with a combination of eating more/less or exercising to burn more calories. This goes into further detail based on how active and energy-efficient you really are.
Sounds too good to be true? Can you eat whatever you want? For body composition, and performance essentially yes. For health, quality matters. Not all carbs are equal; there is a better time for starchy carbs (complex carbs) compared to fast digesting carbs – During/recovery of a workout.
Quality of food matters a lot for long-term health. It would make more sense to use real food compared to processed or refined foods that can have an inflammatory effect.
Days with higher intense activity, increase carbs and decrease fat. The theory here, is that you can create metabolic flexibility. This is a great thing for performance.
To help you understand the basic idea of metabolic flexibility, remember these two simple facts:
Under high intensity exercise —> use carbs
under lower intensity exercise —> use fats
We can push this a bit by altering insulin levels. Insulin is probably the one hormone under the most control through nutrition.
Increased insulin —> use carb metabolism for high intensity exercise
Low insulin —> burn more fat during low and moderate intensity exercise
What I do like about the idea of flexible dieting and following my macros is that I do get to eat very satisfying foods that support my performance. I typically end my day with the majority of my carbohydrates so that could be plantains, ice creams and shakes with dates, bananas, etc.. Keep in mind, I am pretty active and I do a lot of activity that requires glycogen from carbohydrates.
Biggest downfall: it glorifies eating empty food that the body has to deal with. By no means, do you need to eat 100% clean or even 85% clean but you should eat with purpose. What goes in your body is going to have an effect on your health, skin, and aging. Some foods make you less healthy, while contributing to inflammation. Putting inflammation on inflammation is not a good idea. Think excess inflammation from lack of sleep, stress, under-recovery, etc..
What about the low carb approach?
Many people find great success training themselves to eat a fat and vegetable based diet. I was doing something similar with a high fat and lower carb diet as well. I found that I could maintain a similar approach with less eating. If I wasn’t as physically demanding, the higher fat diet may work better for me. You have to weigh out your priorities and find out which you respond best to. I could write a short book on why I think that this approach is best for the majority of the population. The major benefits are stabilized blood sugar, less insulin spikes and healthy hormone levels. Ultimately this can teach your body to use fat as fuel which is more energy dense. You can go completely extreme and go into a ketogenic level which is when your body goes into a survival mode and produces ketones from fat as energy. So why doesn’t everyone hop on this?
You have to take into consideration what the body uses as fuel. If you are doing glycogen demanding activities through-ought the day, especially at an intense level, your body will go to call on readily available energy – If glycogen (primarily from carbs) is not present, next fuel source is muscle tissue. Your body does not know the difference. Many people can go periods and perform at even a slightly above average level for a period of time but overall you are compromising your hormones from a stress response as well as risking a catabolic state of using muscle as fuel. (Oh helllll nawwww).
An occasional “re-feed” or spike of carbs every few days should keep you balanced out. But if you are a professional or competitive athlete – you will do better with carbohydrates to help support your training.
If this is the route you prefer; try staying low carb and eating fat, protein and vegetables. If you know that you will be performing anaerobic training multiple times per week – add in a couple carbohydrate rich meals at the end of the day or post-training.
I don’t think we should be too extreme on either side. Eat based on your demand. No reason to demonize a natural food group. Anything can be abused.
The proof is in the pudding
I have worked with and read 1,000’s of client’s meal plans and feedback from attempting programs for 3 months or more or only to gain weight. Maybe they became stronger and vanity with aesthetics shouldn’t be their focus – but it’s reality.
I’ve also seen people that are happy and healthy with a sustainable diet that eat paleo, intermittent fasting, flexible dieting, vegan, vegetarian, keto, and more. These diets happen to support these people’s daily lives.
It’s going to take some research, interest, and experimenting. Heck, it’s probably best if you try and find a way to get fascinated with it for a month or two. Food journaling for 2-4 weeks has a significant benefit.
The more you understand you and your body, the more you can manage stress. How many people are tolerating poor digestion issues that are beyond inconvenient!?
Plan of action:
Why it is necessary to have a consultation and come up with an individualized plan?
The coach/client both need to be aware of eating patterns, habits, activity level, health history, and stress levels just to name a few. There are too many factors and variables to take a shot in the dark. Why not fix it for good?
Step one begins with creating awareness and getting a snapshot of what a typical week looks like, not just a day of eating. It’s easy to eat good for a day or two. Here’s your trophy. The magic is in building consistency.
Step two is in addressing deficiencies, which sometimes requires nutritional testing. For example, based on your habitat, you could have grown up avoiding common vegetables that act as the primary source of required vitamins and nutrients. Know for sure. See examples and reach out to me if you need some suggestions in AZ or LA. People absorb nutrients differently and this can effect a cascade of events from hormones to sleep and digestion.
Step three is adding in positive habits without overwhelming the individual. For example, I find it best to slowly fix and upgrade the current habits and meals of the individual.I think one of my biggest strengths is in looking at a meal or recipe and determining if there is a better alternative ingredient that you can upgrade for a healthier response while still enjoying the satisfaction.
Example from a client:
Overall summary: Fat loss is a goal for this client; I would suggest limiting fruit to later in the day or minimizing until blood sugar is balanced. Fructose is the primary sugar in fruit and the body can only store so much in the liver. What is not used (unless under high activity) is stored as triglycerides. Fruit is not bad, but most fruit is not going to support an environment that burns fat as energy. Timing can matter when it comes to performance. Ideally you would not consume fast digesting sugars in the middle of the day or before a cardio or aerobic based exercise. Before or during a high intensity workout can benefit performance but still is not required when fat loss is a goal. Add in more vegetables for volume and fiber, this will help with satiety. Use lemon, vinegar, and oil or whatever it takes to get used to eating more vegetables.
Even this can take careful approaching. It’s easy to tighten that up even more. Imagine how intimidating that might be.. “Wow, that is so unrealistic, I can’t do this”. For many people you have to give them a few points that they can take home of where and why they have been spinning their wheels.
If someone eats fast food 10+ times per week, you can’t take that away without some stress, displacement and confusion. Which is a recipe for “this diet doesn’t work”.
Step four and beyond is about experimentation and consistency. It’s going to take some time for things to stick and that likely will take weekly goals of adding in new habits. Sometimes it’s accountability that we need, once the habits are built and you get addicted to feeling good, willpower is not needed as much. From here it’s about fun and setting goals for performance and progress.
The “all or nothing” 21day or 30 day diets may show some immediate gratification but most people end up feeling deprived or confused unless they have a very strong and patient supporting group.
Progress > Perfection
In general we can all agree that balance is key, 75-80% of the time eat food that is real and has something to offer the demand that you create.
You have probably heard about the outliers that have made every diet look possible. And it’s easy to cherry pick what’s great about paleo and vegan. It’s also easy to pick out the negatives of the same. Macronutrient and flexible dieting is great for performance because it is assurance that your body has the raw materials, which it needs. But someone please show me someone that is older than 70 years old that consistently eats more than 4000 calories and is healthy?
Can you find success with: Carb cycling, Intermittent fasting, IIFYM (if it fits your macros), vegan, low-carb, keto, paleo, south beach diet?
Yes, if that fits in your lifestyle, makes you happy and you put in the work.
I think it’s fair to say for longevity purposes that the people living the longest quality lives – are living a quality lifestyle, managing stress and focusing on quality foods without overconsumption. Typically more caloric restriction with an emphasis on nutrient dense foods. The more the body has to produce insulin- the faster it ages.
This is a general statement and obviously there are many variables. On a serious note, it makes sense to eat foods that contribute to well being. We know that degenerative diseases including cancer are more likely to feed on a diet of higher stress, processed foods and nutrient deficiencies.
Reading this is probably not going to motivate you. You have to find a strong enough reason that motivation is on autopilot. That takes redefining your regular, discovering your WHY. Disease or obesity in your family? Break the chain.
Raising you standards is the answer, you wouldn’t pour garbage into your gas tank of your car and many of you fancy people surely wouldn’t put unleaded in your luxury car. So why cant you take the time to be more present and aware of the effect that food has on you? And depriving yourself of flavor and satisfaction is not the problem!
Life is an adventure. Don’t watch it from the sideline.
If someone like support and help, you know where to reach me. I do offer menu and recipe designs, consultations.