“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.” -Alan Lakein
The current trend in CrossFit and in the general fitness world is nutrition plans. Bodybuilders have been onto this for decades and it seems to have finally caught up with the fitness world. Being a former bodybuilder myself, I cannot believe it took this f*cking long for everyone to realize that nutrition is actually an important part of health and fitness.
If you have not noticed, there are a ton of people trying to capitalize on this market. By far, the greatest service I have seen so far are the companies offering meal prep services where you can tell them your desired meal size in macronutrients and they will weigh and pre-package everything for you for the week. This is a bit costly, but if you can afford it or if you are short on time, this is an absolute life saver for people. As with anything trendy, there are also people who try to take advantage of this trend and scam and steal people’s money. In my opinion, these people are the nutrition “gurus” or diet template folks. Before I expand on this, let me preface part of my rant by saying that there are a few credible coaches out there, but please do your research before throwing your money at that company. Just because your favorite athlete or fitness model endorses them, does not mean you will reap the same benefits or attention. Remember, these are their star clients. Of course they will give them 110% of their time. You, on the other hand, are just another form of income. It is a harsh statement, but also a reality of the industry.
Now, before I get into a few tips on how to set up your meal plan, let me give a few tell tale signs that you are being scammed by your “coach”:
- Their diet program is a template. Number one automatic sign of a scamming piece of sh*t.
- Their diet specifically outlines what you have to eat.
- Their diet has a guide for how to make your own adjustments. This is exactly where your money should be going for a coach. The end goal should be that you can make your own adjustments based on your first hand diet experience. But if the template includes some bullsh*t like every 2 weeks, remove 200 calories. You are being ripped the f*ck off.
- The diet does not take your exercise schedule, weight, or body composition into consideration. If the diet is for a specific weight range, it is crap.
Onto the meal planning.
- Find your Basal Metabolic Rate using this link: BMR Calculator
- Use the Harris Benedict Equation to find your general caloric range
Most of you should be in one of the top 3 categories. The only people who fall into the final 2 categories are people who train multiple times a day and/or folks who have jobs like construction, then go to the gym afterwards.
3. If you have followed the above steps, you now have your total calories for each day. We will now break this down even further by establishing how many macronutrients (protein/fat/carbs) will make up these total calories. The starting ratio that I recommend is 40/40/20 or 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates, 20% fat.
Let’s use my numbers right now and set up my meal plan.
Stats: 205lb Male, 32 years old, 5’7″
BMR (using link above): 1976.45
Harris Benedict Adjusted BMR: 1976.45 * 1.55 = 3063.49, which we will round up to 3100 calories.
Using 40/40/20, this means I will have 1240 calories from protein, 1240 calories from carbs, and 620 calories from fat. We will now break this into grams since that is the easiest form of measure. Each gram of protein is 4 calories, each gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories, and each gram of fat is 9 calories. For my drinkers out there, each gram of alcohol is 7 calories.
Carbs and Protein Calculation: 3100*0.4 = 1240/4 = 310g protein and 310g of carbs, which is roughly 1.5x my bodyweight.
Fat Calculation: 3100*0.2 = 620/9 = 69g of fat
4. Now that you have your numbers, you need to assess how you will distribute them throughout your day. The easiest way to do it is to take your total macronutrients and divide them over the course of however many meals you plan on eating. For example, if I wanted to eat 6 times a day, I would take 310/6 = 52g of protein and carb and 11g of fat per meal. In an ideal world, this would be all we needed to do.
However, we are ATHLETES. Athletes require some form of specialization in their meal plans because we need to optimize our performance. Pre and post workout nutrition is another complicated subject on its own, so I will get into that for a later blog.
For the purpose of this blog, we will return to how to set up your day. Using step number 4, try to get a general range of how many of each macro you will need for each meal. Now, if you currently have pre and post workout shakes, make sure you subtract that from your totals and re-calculate what you’ll need around each meal. For example, I drink about 100g of protein shakes, so I would subtract this from my 310 total up above.
The sources of your macros do not really matter so long as your hit your numbers. Remember ,your body has no idea if it is digesting a chicken breast or a rib eye steak, all it sees is proteins, carbs, and fats. However, for the sake of simplicity in setting up your meal plan, it is much easier to choose sources that are predominantly in one category. For example, a chicken breast is a protein source and has very little fat. A rib eye steak is also a protein source, but also has a high content of fat. If you specifically need 50g of protein and 11g of fat in your meal, a rib eye might not be the best choice because you will probably get 11g of fat in your rib eye way before you hit the 50g of protein. Let’s break this down further by looking up the nutrition data of a rib eye (I normally use Nutrition Data but myfitnesspal is a popular app with a huge database of foods that cuts the step of looking up the data out).
As you can see here, you can only eat about 3oz of rib eye, which yields 24g of protein. Given that I needed 50g of protein, this would now mean that I have to find 26g of protein from another source that essentially has no fat. While this is not impossible, it is a pain in the ass to do.
While we are on topic, let me give everyone a quick history lesson as to why bodybuilders prefer chicken breast and egg whites as their main sources of protein. Contrary to popular belief and other myths out there, there are no magical properties from these “bodybuilder” foods. The main reason these foods are chosen is because they are the easiest to calculate and fit into your schedule. Just like everyone else who works out, spare time is a luxury that bodybuilders do not necessarily have. When preparing for a show, each macro needs to be calculated and accounted for. Sure, they could have that tasty rib eye at one meal, but then it throws the rest of the day out of whack. As humans, we are creatures of habit. Having a routine is the easiest way to make your day more efficient. Therefore, eating the same thing every day and preparing a ton of it in advance is the most efficient way for bodybuilders to get their hectic schedules under control and maximize their time. So the next time you hear some elitist fitness enthusiast blast the bodybuilder and their chicken breast, shake your head at their ignorance and give them a nice karate chop to the throat as your pass them.
OK folks, there should be enough information here to get your meal plans started. In my next post, I will discuss pre, intra, and post workout nutrition.