Fitness meal plans, or pre-made diets, are something I’ve strayed from for the longest time and I can’t imagine I’ll ever give into creating them for clients.
A few common questions I get on a weekly basis are “what do you eat?” “What do I need to eat to lose weight?” “Can you make me a personal fitness meal plan?” or something in a similar vein.
While the questions are not necessarily bad, they’re just not the right questions, in my opinion. First of all, I’ll just be outright with it – I hate meal plans. I hate them so much that when I see one written out by another trainer, or even when I scan some forums and see someone posting their meal plan, I conjure up feelings of dismay.
In saying that, I want to give some explanation on why I’m not a meal plan kind of guy, and what I believe to be a better alternative.
There are 2 main reasons I do not prescribe a fitness meal plan.
- They are restrictive.
- They make us stupid.
Fitness Meal Plans Are Restrictive
Oftentimes, I believe we get into this mindset that there is ONE way to get things done, and subsequently, we feel that those with the best physiques, or the best trainers, must have a golden meal plan that made them look the way they do.
I’ve fallen into this trap before – way back when I was scouring all the magazines, I wanted to know exactly what my heroes were eating. Then I wanted to emulate this pattern because it was obviously their key to success.
However, when I did this, I began to notice just how restrictive my relationship with food became. Since my favorite bodybuilder wasn’t eating egg yolks in his scrambled eggs, neither did I. Instead of having a few bananas for breakfast, I always opted for oatmeal, because that’s what he was having.
Over time, I realized that I was never straying from this meal plan and my diet became quite boring and even deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. So even though in principle there was nothing wrong with me having different types of foods for my meals, even with a similar macro nutrient breakdown, I subconsciously thought my results wouldn’t be as good.
Another example is a friend of mine here in town. She competes in pageants and as she was preparing for her last one, her trainer gave her a meal plan that included fish and broccoli for her dinner meal.
For 6 whole months, her dinners, for the most part, was always fish and broccoli. When I asked her why, she simply said it was the meal plan her trainer gave her – he never explained that it was just an example meal and that it was interchangeable. Heck, he may have never intended it to be interchangeable, and if this is the case, something is crazy wrong with this situation.
Who’s to say she couldn’t have some red meat and potatoes for dinner every once in a while? Or even some fruit and dairy like quark or cottage cheese as long as her daily macros were met?
In my opinion, fitness meal plans like this can be very restrictive due to our nature of attempting to stick with the plan.
And this leads me to the second point.
Meal Plans Make Us Stupid
I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense. I don’t believe following a meal plan is really making us stupid, but I do believe they keep us in the dark, so to speak. They keep us from learning how to eat and prepare meals for the longterm. You see, if someone is always telling you what to do, and how to do it, you have no reason to do any further investigation – no real reason to actually learn anything.
And this is a major problem.
What happens when you decide you aren’t going to work with a trainer any longer, or that you can’t afford the services anymore? Or what if he just gets sick of you and decides to fire you?
Most people will revert back to their old habits, and their current fitness levels or accomplishments will deteriorate.
In this case, you just spent all this time and effort getting results, but because you failed to learn what was actually going on, you can’t do it for yourself.
In reality, there’s nothing special about a meal plan, the magic is found in setting a macronutrient goal and staying within those calorie parameters.
This is why I never, ever make a meal plan – I always give macronutrient guidelines and recommend that my people hit those macros on a daily basis, regardless of meal timing, or composition.
The Purpose of Macronutrient Guidelines
If a person is accustomed to meal plans and not used to creating meals that fit within their macros, the thought of this can seem rather daunting, but the learning curve is relatively short.
But guess what? Once you figure out how to create meals on the fly that fits within your macros, you’ll never, ever need another meal plan again.
Also, you’ll no longer be a slave to eating the same foods day in and day out, unless you’re like me and actually prefer uniform eating. I’ve found that most people enjoy their diet to be somewhat varied though.
Keeping It Simple
The only thing you need to know, essentially is how to track your intake accurately. Not sure how to do that? Cool, we have just the thing you need, right here at JCDFitness.
Counting Calories – the No-BS Guide – all you need to know about tracking your intake and macros.
After that, set aside some extra time to make some meals and fit them into your macro guidelines as best you can. It’s never going to be 100% perfect. Some days, you will have more carbs, and other days more fat. Sometimes, you might undershoot protein by 5-10 grams.
In the end, as long as you’re consistently getting close to your macro goals and staying within the recommended amounts, you’ll hit your mark. I promise.
Remember – just because I’m not a fan of meal plans, doesn’t mean they don’t work or aren’t effective for some people. I’m all about educating people to be independent and to think for themselves, so the idea of making meal plans just doesn’t make much sense to me for the long-term. But it’s just advice.