One of the questions I get all the time are requests for meal plans. Whether you are trying to gain or lose weight, or just want to see results in the weight room, what you eat will have a big impact on your results and whether you reach your goals.
A quick search on the internet and you will find all sorts of diets. Everything from no carb diets, fasting diets, flexible eating diets, watermelon diets, etc. etc. Let me let you in on a secret. The diet that works the best, for everyone, is… are you ready(?)…
…the one you can stick with.
Seriously. It doesn’t make sense to swear off carbs or eating in the morning if you’re only going to do it for a week and then abandon it. So what I suggest is a DIY Meal plan approach.
How to get Started
So first of all, I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. It’s always a good idea to talk to a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle. Having said that, here is the rough plan I suggest for my athletes on developing a meal plan. They follow it, and then tweak it at home with their parents or their medical professional.
Also keep in mind that I’m talking about athletes in High School or Junior College. Shredding up or loosing 150 lbs is never the goal. The goal is usually to put on muscle, increase strength and power, or to lose some weight while increasing strength. The diet is meant to fuel the body and set it up for growth and sports performance.
With these types of goals and audience in mind, there are basically 4 steps that work:
- Track it
- Clean it up
- Plan it
- Track it
So step 1 and 4 look the same and they are, but they have different purposes. Let’s go over them in more detail.
1. Track it
The first week all I ask is that you track your meals. Download whichever free app you want to keep track of your meals, just make sure you can track your daily calories and macros. There’s plenty of free options, no need to spend money unless you are inclined to. I personally use LoseIt, but any app will do.
The important thing is to keep a record so we can start to see our patterns. By keeping track of the types of food we are eating, daily calories and macro levels, we should learn a lot about ourselves and what things we can change.
2. Clean it up
The next phase is to keep tracking, but clean it up. This is where you start to eat healthy. So basically, stop eating out, stop drinking soda, stop eating fried foods, stop eating junk food and candy. Start eating whole foods with less than 5 ingredients as much as possible. Eat home cooked/made meals. Start drinking water or home made lemonade.
Basically track and eat all the foods that you know are healthy and you are willing to eat. So if you don’t like fish, don’t eat tuna. If you don’t like cottage cheese, keep it off your plate. By doing this we’ll have an idea of what foods you like that can be part of our healthy diet. Your diet will be easier to stick to if it’s filled with the foods you like.
3. Plan it
The time for planning has come, here is where you need your thinking hat on. By now you have 2 weeks of meals for you to look back at. Some foods were good for you, some were not, now it’s time to pick and choose.
But you need some ground rules:
- You’re going to eat 3 meals, 2 snacks.
- You need to eat within 1 hour of waking up.
- All we care about for now is total calories and protein intake.
- You need to drink plenty of water, and maybe a daily vitamin pill.
- You will need to make sure you are getting adequate sleep.
Let’s do the math:
So let’s say that I need 3000 calories and 180 grams of protein.
Divide the totals by 4. That is the amount of calories and grams of protein you’re aiming for per meal.
Divide the amount a second time by 2. This is the goal for your two snacks.
So in our example I need 3000 calories and 180 grams of protein daily. Doing the math and dividing by 4 that puts me at 750 cals, 45 grams of protein per meal.
Dividing by half puts me at 375 cals, and 22 grams of protein per snack.
The next step is to meal plan several meals that meet those guidelines. So I want to plan out three to four breakfasts that match the targets as close as possible. It doesn’t have to match exactly it can be off, but closer the better.
I’ll do the same for my lunches, dinners, snacks. What I’m basically doing is planning meals that match up to our goals so we can assemble them into a daily plan.
Now that you have your list of meals, put it together and make some daily plans out of it. Try to have a heavy day, where you go over your goals but you’re stuffed, and also some light days where you’re short but almost there.
If you did this right, now you have a meal plan made mostly of foods you can stick to because you like them. Also your lists of individual meals can serve as your grocery list, so you know what to shop for at the store.
4. Track it (again)
So you did all this work, made a spreadsheet and everything, now let’s make sure we track our daily intake in your favorite meal tracking app. If you’re like me, when you’re on a roll it becomes addicting and you stay on track. Compare with your team mates and make a competition out of it! The point here is that if you’re not seeing results, you can look back and pin point problems.
If you’re at a more advanced level, here is where you start playing with your macro’s, and changing the amount of carbs and fats you take in. That’s a whole different blog post though as now you’re looking to change your body composition.
Keeping track of your meals will help you figure out what you did right and wrong, and what needs to change
End Goal in mind
Just make sure you remember the end goal. That’s the end goal here, to perform on the field! So as long as you’re working hard, following your meal plan, and getting sleep you should see progress!
But if you fall off the wagon, it’s no big deal. Just get back on it tomorrow. Listen to your body, and change the meal plan as you need to. Above all, consistency is the key! Good luck with your training and remember to be your best!