Post-Holiday Fitness Series: Meal Plan
In the first article of the Post-Holiday Fitness Series I provided you with my current workout plan along with how-to videos. In this next article we’ll discuss structuring a meal plan to achieve the proper amount of protein intake and fuel your body consistently throughout the day. Of the many changes that you can make to lead a healthier lifestyle, in my opinion, changing what you eat on a daily basis will have the most impact on your overall health.
Recording Your Current Food Intake
To understand where you’re able to make changes, you need to record your current food intake. The reality of what we eat and when is usually different than what we tell ourselves. For the next 3-5 days record everything you eat or drink and what time you’ve consumed it at. This includes your morning coffee, your mid-day square of milk chocolate, the after-work glass of wine and anything else you consume.
By just completing this food diary exercise, you will likely immediately identify basic areas where you can begin making changes. Before changing to a completely different meal, start by immediately making smarter choices.
Here are a few simple changes you can begin making today:
- Order mustard on your sandwich instead of mayonnaise.
- Ask for salad dressing on the side.
- Switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate – the higher the percentage, the better.
- Use brown rice and sweet potatoes instead of white rice or Idaho potatoes.
These small changes will have a significant impact of your daily caloric, fat, carbohydrate and sugar intake.
Choosing A Meal Plan
Now that you’re ready to take the next step from making simple changes in your diet, it’s time to determine what type of meal plan you will follow. There are an endless number of different meal plans that you can choose to follow, depending on what your overall goals are. If your goal is to lose fat while increasing lean muscle, the easiest meal plan to understand and follow is the slow-carb diet that Tim Ferriss provides in his book The 4-Hour Body. I highly recommend that you buy this book to understand much more beyond just structuring your meal plan.
To get started quickly, Tim recommends 5 basic rules to the slow-carb diet:
Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains. If you have to ask, don’t eat it.
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already do this; you’re just picking new default meals.
Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed.
Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more bodyfat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are excepted.
Rule #5: Take one day off per week and go nuts. I choose and recommend Saturday.
Sample Meal Plan
Over time I have shifted my meal plan from being a strict low carbohydrate diet to now including complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes or brown rice, with a portion with 2-3 of my meals per day.
For those that have read The 4 Hour Body, you will notice that this is a departure. Remember: each of our goals are different. I have monitored my body’s response to making changes in my diet and this current meal plan provides me the energy that I need while increasing lean muscle and reducing body fat percentage.
- 7:30a – 2 scoops Syntha6 protein (highly recommended: chocolate peanut butter)
- 10:30a – 4 eggs (3 egg whites, 1 whole egg), spinach, 2 slices turkey, grape tomatoes, olive oil and 1 packet of oatmeal
- 1:30p – Chicken breast, sweet potato, roasted brussel sprouts
- 4:30p – Handful of raw almonds / protein bar
- 7:30p – Quick chili w/ground turkey, black beans, spinach and garlic
- 10:30p – 1 scoop Syntha6 protein
I follow this strict meal plan including adhering to strict timing 6 days a week, while leaving a single day for a cheat day to consume anything I want.
Others choose to only have a single cheat meal per week and I have done the same in the past. However, currently I find that having between 2 cheat meals to a full cheat meal per week allows me to stay strict on my meal plan while enjoying some downtime each week whether it is a favorite home-cooked meal, going to dinner and a movie or meeting friends for drinks after work.
The Timing of Protein Consumption
My goal every day is to consume approximately 195-200 grams of protein each day, which translates to 1g of protein per pound that I weigh. This is broken down over 6 smaller meals per day including a protein shake within 60 minutes post-workout and a slow-released protein shake immediately before bed. The reason for taking protein before bed is so that the body does not begin to fast over an average night’s rest of 6-8 hours. Since the majority of muscle repair occurs while you sleep, slow-release protein helps my muscles to heal faster thus allowing me maintain a grueling workout plan.
Again, it’s important for you to remember that your goals may be different so ensure that you do additional research and consult with your physician especially if you’re taking any medications or have pre-existing medical conditions.
In the next article we’ll discuss the ever-interesting world of fitness supplements and vitamins. If there are any questions you have or other topics you would like to see covered in this series, please let me know in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my free weekly newsletter where I cover tips, tricks and hacks that will help keep you motivated.
Photo Credit: micagoto