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Putting it Together: Guide to Meal Planning Part 4

  • LiveWell360 Staff
  • September 13, 2015

In this series on meal planning, we have now covered the basics, protein in Part 1, carbohydrates in Part 2, fats in Part 3. Its time to put it all together into a daily meal plan.

In this part of the series, I will give you a meal plan example so that you understand how you can take this information and put together your own meal plan options that work with your tastes, schedule, and daily life.

I typically use Fitday for my meal planning because its quick, easy, FREE, and I have all of my “custom foods” (i.e. foods that they do not already have in the database) stored so I can zip right through my meals for the week or day.

Once you get the hang of it, it won’t take you long to put together your meal plans because you will get familar with what fits and what doesn’t.

For the purposes of this article, I am going to use an Excel type spreadsheet so that you can see how the calories and ratios add up for each meal and for the day.

Before we get started on the actual plans, here are some tips to remember when putting together a meal plan of your own.

Where can I find nutritional information if it is not in Fitday?

For general food nutritional information, visit Calorie King. This site is a great resource. You can search for pretty much any food and get the calories, fat, protein, etc for it.

Meal Plan Structure

Divide meals into 4-5 meals (roughly equal) throughout the day. It’s better to include larger meals earlier in the day, rather than later, if need be.

Protein

ALWAYS include a whole food protein source with every meal, such as meat, fish, cottage cheese, eggs, etc. Protein powder can also be used as a substitute, but you should rely mostly on whole food choices rather than “convenience foods” for the bulk of your calories.

A constant stream of protein to the body is essential because it slows digestion and increases sataity, helping to eliminate insulin spikes (and binge triggers), and promotes constant repair and rebuild of muscle tissue.

Aim to spread your total protein intake evenly throughout the day.

For example, if your total intake for the day is 130 grams, and you have 5 meals, then you would include approximately 26 grams of protein per meal. (I explain how to figure out your daily protein intake in Part 1 of the series.)

Food Pairing

Choose starchy carbs paired with protein and some fats for meals earlier in the day, then switch to fibrous carbs with protein and more fats later in the day. Save simple carbs for your first meal of the day or immediately before/following your workout.

For your last meal of the day, its best to eat a combination of protein and fats. The fats will help to give your muscles a steady stream of protein through the night, aiding in the repairing of muscles as you sleep.

Pre/Post Exercise Nutrition

This is a whole other article in and of itself. There are many different opinions through the fitness industry regarding fasted aerobics, etc.

For the purposes of my readers, i.e. those looking to achieve fat loss, general wellness, etc, not so much individuals looking for pre-competition type meal plans, I will keep this simple.

The best case scenario is if you can take in a combination of protein and simple carbs (example would be protein powder and skim milk or juice) approxmately 15 minutes before your workout, you will perform better in that workout versus if you were fasted.

Granted, some people have problems eating that close to a workout, so if that is you, as long as you have something in your stomach within 3 hours prior to your workout you should be ok.

Fasted workouts not only zap your energy levels right out of the gate, but also leave the window open to muscle burning rather than fat burning – which is not what we want.

Post workout, the main goal is to restore glycogen levels and and repair muscles. Again, for general fat loss and wellness purposes, its best to get in a solid meal of protein/carbs, with a focus on simple/starchy carbs, less focus on fats/fiber, within 30-60 minutes of the workout in order to get the glycogen refilled and the protein to the muscles asap (the fat/fiber would slow this process down).

Hydration

Drink plenty of water.

Measuring Portions

Many people get confused with how to best measure foods. Here are the basics.

  • Use a scale, especially when dealing with high calorie foods.  Measuring cups can be deceiving and its easy to overshoot your measurements, without realizing it. Check out this video for a visual explanation.
  • Measure oatmeal and rice dry, instead of cooked, whenever possible.
  • Weigh meats raw and boneless.

The following example meal plan is set up for a 30 year old female. She is 5’-6”, weighing 150 lbs. Her best life goal is to lose 20 lbs of fat.

Using this step by step formula, she has figured out that in order to achieve fat loss of 1.5 pounds per week, she must take in 1537 calories per day (She is at an activity multiplier of 1.55, so she would take her maintenance calories of 2287 and deduct 750 calories to get 1537).

Again, this plan is merely an example, to show you how to create one for yourself.

So that is meal planning in a nutshell. I hope this has cleared up any confusion you may have had and offers you the tools to set up a plan that works for you.

As I mentioned before, any best life goal is going to take effort and hard work, but once you dive in, it just becomes part of your daily life. So jump in and start planning, and I guarantee that if you follow these steps that I have detailed above, you will see results.

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