Consistency is the name of the game. The best way to stay consistent is by eating the foods you like while covering the fundamentals of nutrition at the same time.
This is the part where we’ll create some staple meals based on the foods YOU like to eat.
Step #1: Know Your Numbers
So how do you know what to eat?
The first step is to figure out your dieting numbers, more specifically your calories and macros. As you learned earlier, these are the two most important things about nutrition.
The last thing you want to do is go about your
nutrition blindly. At the bare minimum, you’ll at least need an idea of how many calories you’re consuming and burning. You wouldn’t drive across the country without knowing your car’s gas mileage (or maybe you would). You get the point.
There are dozens of ways to figure your numbers, but you’re here to simplify, so instead of doing a bunch of math, here is a calculator that we put together to do the work for you.
Some things to note:
If you know your body fat percentage, enter it. This will produce more accurate results as it takes your current percentage into account. If you don’t know it, no problem. The calculator will simply use a different formula to figure out your numbers.
All calorie calculating formulas (and there’s many of them) are not perfect. All of them. There’s no need to try and find the perfect set of numbers using the perfect calculator.
Going back to the point above, keep in mind that the resulting numbers are just guidelines. As long as you come within ±10% of your daily calorie or macro numbers, you’ll still make progress
Step #2: Understand Macronutrient Combinations
Here’s a trick that will change the way you think about food for the rest of your life: think of each individual food as either protein- dominant, fat-dominant, or carb-dominant.
Forget about labeling food as “good” or “bad”, or “healthy” or “unhealthy”. Going forward, you’ll label of each food with their (main) macronutrient component.
Chicken breast, for instance, is a protein-dominant food; olive oil is fat-dominant; and potatoes are carbs.
New to this whole method of macro-labeling?
Here’s a useful diagram of more examples that might help you out.
Step #3: Write Up a List of Your Favorite Protein, Carb, and Fat-dominant Food Sources
Try to have at least 5 foods for each category. Write them down on a piece of paper (or the accompanying “My Personal Meal Plan” worksheet if you bought the Premium Package).
Step #4: Make Some Meals
Now that you’ve got a list of your favorite foods, it’s time to create
meal templates that you can use over and over again.
Each meal will be made made up of a combination of two different macronutrient components. The result is a meal that gets classified in one of three categories: P+C, P+F, or P+F+C.
Macro Combo #1: Protein + Carb Meals (P+C)
These meals consist primarily of protein and carbohydrates.
Fats will be kept minimal. There will likely be a few grams of naturally occurring fats, but don’t sweat it.
You’ll have most of these meals on TRAINING days.
Macro Combo #2: Protein + Fat Meals (P+F)
These meals consist primarily of protein and fats.
For these meals, carbs will be kept minimal. There will likely be a few grams of naturally occurring carbs but again, don’t sweat it.
Macro Combo #3: Protein + Fat Meals (P+F+C)
Last — but certainly not least — the third combination that consists of, well, everything.
These are your “all other” meals that you’ll have on both training and non-training days.
Some examples include ice cream, pizza, steak with a side of mashed potatoes, etc.
Sample Meal Plans
To help put things into perspective, here are a couple sample meal plans.
Note that these sample meals only show food choices and not portion sizes. Assume that they are within Cal O’Reilly’s allotted calories.
Some Guidelines for Your Meals
Divide up your calorie protein targets according to the number of meals you’ll have per day.
Let’s look at a real life example of Ashley, one of my coaching clients.
Calorie Target: ~ 1,900 calories
Protein Target: ~ 118g
Fats: ~ 53g
Carbs: ~ 239g
Ashley prefers to eat 3x a day, so we’re left with the following meal template after doing some basic math (fats and carbs are greyed out because remember, they are dependent on the individual’s preferences):
Calories: ~ 633 calories/meal
Protein Target: ~ 39g/meal
Fats: ~ 18g/meal
Carbs: ~ 80g/meal
With these numbers, she can then put together a number of meals based on the foods she chose in Step 3.
One thing to keep in mind about this is that it will take some time and self-experimentation to “get things right”. I recommend tracking your foods using an app like MyFitnessPal, On the Regimen, or My Macros+.
Tracking your food for at least a few weeks not only gives you a better idea of what you’re consuming, but also increases overall awareness of choice when consuming.
A protein source will be the core of each meal
Oh look, one of the SIMPLE guidelines.
By having protein with every meal, you’re ensuring that 1) you’re hitting your protein target to help maintain (or even build) muscle mass and, 2) you’re getting its satiety and metabolism-boosting benefits.
The carbs and fat content of your meals will vary
Ultimately, the ratio between these two macronutrients isn’t that important. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: eat more carbs on your workout days (especially pre and post-workout), and less on non-workout days.
For other meals, keep your preferences in mind. If you’re a carb lover, eat more carbs and less fat. If you prefer foods high in fats like nuts, eggs, etc., then simply eat less carbs.
Have veggies whenever possible
This kills two birds with one stone as it ensures that you have both fiber and micronutrients in your diet.
Notice that I use the words “whenever possible”. It’s important to eat your veggies, but it’s not something you should stress out about. If you’re not feeling it, then don’t force it.
That’s pretty much it. You’ll want to track, test, and modify your meal templates depending on how your numbers add up at the end of the day. After a little self-experimentation (and a lot of patience), you should be able to figure out what works for you in a matter of 1-2 weeks.