How to plan meals with confidence!
Coach Josh here. Today, I’m going to try to demystify and clarify the meal planning process. There are a lot of really good apps out there that allow you to look at your macros, enter your food and track it... and that’s really great. But what happens is people start entering their food, then realize they’re really far off their macros and they play this game of "chasing the nutrients” Does this sound familiar: “Oh god, I've got 2 hours left of my day and I’ve got to get 60 grams of fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates. What could that possibly be?!”
It’s a little bit of a cat and mouse game.
But there IS a way to succeed and it's called planning ahead! It can be a large topic with a lot of subtopics that fits into an entire book, but I’m gonna give you a 50,000 ft view about how meal planning can work in your favor and how you can plan with confidence so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. This is the way I designed a nutrition plan for me:
Start with a goal.
You have to know whether you are trying to lose body fat, build muscle, maybe little bit of both, maybe a recoup and stay the same weight. Whatever it is, you have to know your training goals. Your goal will help you decide what macros you’re going to eat. Without talking to you, I can’t know your fitness goals, but this is a generic assignment in which you can't go wrong if you don’t know where to start.
Your macro prescription
Basically, you aim for 30% protein-35% fat-35% carbs. You take a generic macro prescription like that and you decide how much energy you eat/how many cal you’re supposed to eat. It has to do with how large you are, how active you are and what your activities are composed of. Let’s say you’re a normal person, so you’re consuming 2000 calories a day (therefore, 30% P-35%F-35%C). This is your macro prescription and you’re going to run about 145 grams of protein, 145 grams of carbohydrates and 86 grams of fat. That’s your daily macro nutrient goal. You’re not ready to look at the recipe yet! Take your nutrient goal and go across 5 days and plan about 5 meals a day. That’s what I plan- I’m just starting with what I know.
I know I need 5 meals a day. Within those 5 meals and based off the daily macro-nutrient goal, I’m gonna need 4 servings of protein, 3 servings of carbs and 4 servings of fat. WHEW! Still not ready to google a recipe just yet. I take those servings and run them against my shopping list- the most nutrient dense foods I can find, because I want to get in the best shape as quickly as possible. I can’t do that by eating pasta and twinkies, so I’m going to make my choices as impact fully as I possibly can.
So I’ve got my shopping list and I’ve decided to get my protein from chicken, legumes and smoothies everyday. My carbs are going to come from sweet potatoes, quinoa, and berries & apples. Now, you start to see the themes coming out. Oh my gosh! "Berries and apples... well, he’s drinking a smoothie, are the berries and apples going to go in the smoothie?" YES. YES THEY WILL. Well, they might! I’ve got 4 servings of fat and I’m going to get those from avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nut butter and yogurt. As you see, nut butter and yogurt could go in the smoothie too. It’s starting to become more clear, right?
NOW I hit the recipes.
I get online and look at all my favorite recipe sites. Let’s say I need a good recipe with sweet potatoes and chicken, or chicken with legumes, like lentils… or whatever you want. Then you start to mix and match different flavor profiles, different kinds of food themes. These should make you happy and happy to eat them, because you need to eat them a lot, right?
When I’ve got my servings and looked at recipes, then I test them and enjoy. I prepare about 5 days at a time- I like to go 5 days because that’s my work week. I have a lot of structure in my work week and that structure helps me eat all my meals and eat them on time. I use My Fitness Pal or another food tracker and enter in the food, just to make sure I'm going on plan. You can see that if you plan ahead, you don’t have to make that many choices during the week. You’re not playing catch up constantly, trying to get back to those macronutrients.
To sum up, you begin with the end in mind, you get your customized nutrition plan, you get the recipes that you like and it’s a win-win-win-win-win. It’s a matter of staying on the path and not forgetting your food at home. Even if you do, you have this plan to guide you back. For example: I need a serving of chicken and greens, so I’m going to do a Cobb salad for lunch. BOOM, I’m back on plan.
So there you go! This is Coach Josh from Training for Warriors Portland, hoping to add a little clarity to your meal planning situation. If you have any questions, you can reach out or make a comment. Here to help you to bring out the warrior within!