There are various ways to structure a meal plan when following a flexible dieting plan. The boring and generic ‘cookie-cutter’ meal plans are a thing of the past. Being flexible with your diet while still adhering to your macronutrient target is essential. Out with the old and in with the new as we kick off 2018 by outlining some key recommendations in creating a successful meal plan.
Macronutrients refer to the primary substances (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) that are utilized for growth, energy, and bodily function. Identifying your body type is essential to determining the appropriate macronutrient ratio for you since different body types react differently to carbohydrates. For example, a person who is an endomorph shouldn’t have a high carbohydrate intake as their body may be carb-sensitive. It would be optimal for them to monitor their carbohydrate intake and adjust the food combinations in their diet to arrive at an appropriate macronutrient ratio for their diet.
As with anything else, succeeding at a new goal begins with laying a strong foundation. The same goes for identifying what is appropriate for your new diet plan. Each individual is unique and different body types will have unique reactions to various macronutrient ratios. It’s even possible that you may have a mixed body type. If you are unsure as to which body type you are, here are the definitions of each one:
Ectomorph: High tolerance for carbohydrates, naturally thin with skinny limbs and a fast metabolic rate.
Mesomorph: Moderate tolerance for carbohydrates, naturally athletic and muscular with a moderate metabolic rate.
Endomorph: Low tolerance for carbohydrates, naturally thick and broad with a slow metabolic rate.
Structuring a flexible diet plan requires a moderate amount of planning. First, you must establish a target. There are many ways to structure a meal plan. We’ve outlined a step-by-step process for you to follow as a starting point:
- Determine how many calories you need to consume each day to maintain your body weight. Using a calorie calculator will help you get a more accurate result.
- If your goal is to lose weight, the next step is to subtract calories from your daily maintenance. A good starting point is to reduce your daily caloric intake by 250 calories. After two weeks, further reduce your intake by 250 calories. Once you’ve hit a 500-calorie deficit, there is no need to take it further than that. If you make too drastic of a jump in reducing your caloric (i.e. past 500) intake, your body will not only burn fat but will also start feeding off your muscle – which is not ideal.
- Determine your body type to figure out your ideal macronutrient ratio (i.e. what percentage of your diet should come from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates). For example, if you have a Mesomorph body type, you will most likely require a macronutrient ratio of 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 30% fat.
- Once you have determined your macronutrient ratio, you will need to calculate the number of calories coming from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. For example, if your maintenance weight is 3,000 calories, 900 calories (30%) would come from proteins, 1,200 calories (40%) from carbohydrates, and 900 calories (30%) from fats.
- To determine the number of grams you will need to consume of foods that provide each of these macronutrients, you’ll need to break it down even further. Every gram of protein and carbohydrates consumed equals 4 calories. Based on the above example, 900 calories divided by 4 equals 225 grams of protein and 1,200 calories divided by 4 equals 300 grams of carbohydrates. Fats, on the other hand, contain 9 calories per gram; therefore, you will need to divide 900 calories by 9 – this means that your diet should include 100 grams of macronutrients from fats.
- Now that you have your caloric intake down to the grams needed from each macronutrient, it’s time to figure out which foods you will need to eat to help you reach that macronutrient target. Utilizing an application like MyFitnessPal will assist you in keeping track of the foods you are consuming. Simply search the product or scan the actual item to add it to your ‘daily summary’.
- Balance is critical to a healthy diet. You don’t want to burn out by eating boring/repetitive meals. That’s why incorporating a ‘flexible diet’ will help you stay on track. For example, a standard chicken, rice, and vegetable meal will contain 22 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, and 30 grams of carbohydrates. With a flexible diet, you have the option to replace that meal with a McDonalds’ Grilled Chicken Wrap as it would contain close to, if not the exact macronutrient breakdown.
- In addition to your macronutrient intake, you need to ensure your micronutrient intake is also taken care of. Micronutrients are commonly referred to as vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, A, D, E and K, as well as all the B-Complex vitamins.
- Lastly, ensuring you are meeting your required daily fiber intake is also essential for a healthy, balanced diet. The average human being should consume anywhere from 30 to 40 grams of fiber per day. Choosing high-fiber rich foods will assist in healthy cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar, and assist in digestion. Here are a few recommendations of high fiber foods:
- Chia Seeds
If your New Year’s resolution is to become more fit, follow these recommendations to help you on the path to achieving your fitness goals. Although these ratios are the recommended starting point for most body types, don’t hesitate to experiment as everyone’s body responds differently to various food combinations.
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