If your meal plan is not good enough, your workouts will never produce the desired results, no matter how hard you work. This is not an exaggeration at all. And even the most perfect training program will fail when your diet does not match your goals.
It is impossible to give a universal recipe for an ideal meal plan for the simple reason that there are too many variables that depend on the individual. However, the main points are the same for everyone and based on them the individual food programs should be built.
Step 1: Calorie intake
In general, your goals are either to lose weight or to gain muscle/strength. In the first case, you should aim for your daily intake of calories to be in deficit – about 20% below what is required to maintain your current weight. In the second one, you need to eat about 250 calories a day more than you need for maintenance (twice as much from women).
Maintaining the calorie level
To keep your weight the same, you need to consume a certain amount of calories every day. This amount is your caloric supportive level.
There are different ways to calculate this level, most of them are quite complex. One of the easiest is to simply multiply your weight (in kilograms) by 28 or 36. If you are taking an active lifestyle or have a rapid metabolism, use the higher value; In case you do not move too much or your metabolism is slow – the lower one. And if you are somewhere in the middle or you are not sure, multiply any intermediate number, for example, 32.
Then, set your goal:
Reducing body fat – as it has already become clear, you need to eat fewer calories than you need for maintenance. This creates a calorie deficit and your body is forced to burn the accumulated fat reserves for energy.
Here is an example using the above 20% reduction. Let’s say your caloric maintenance level is 2,500 calories. 20% of them = 500 calories. Therefore, 2500 – 500 = 2000 calories – so you need to eat a day to start burning fat.
Increasing muscle mass – unlike your previous goal, you will need to consume more calories than your supportive level – this is called a calorie surplus. However, new muscles cannot emerge from anything – they have to be made up of something and that can only be the food. In most cases, the calorie excess should be about 250 calories for men and about half that for women. So, if your maintenance level is 2500 calories, you’ll need to eat 2750/2625.
How can you be sure, however, that your calorie intake is accurate enough, whatever your goal to pursue? However, the examples are given here use somewhat relative values and inaccuracies may occur. There is a very easy way to check if everything is OK. Measure your weight every morning before you eat or drink anything; Then calculate the average weight for that week and watch how it changes over the next few weeks.
When your goal is to lose weight, you need to lose between 250 grams and 1 kg weekly (depending on how much fat you generally need to remove). If you lose less weight or do not lose weight at all, reduce your daily calorie intake by 250; If you lose weight faster than normal (which is also not good), increase your calories by about 250.
When you want to gain muscle, you have to increase the intake with about 250 grams per week. If you are gaining weight more slowly, eat 250 calories a day more, and when weight is gaining faster, reduce calories by approximately 250 calories.
Step 2: Taking Proteins
For middle-aged and healthy people, the recommended daily intake of protein is between 0.8 and 1.5 g at 900 – 1000 g body weight (1 g of protein contains 4 calories). If this seems to be inadequate, just take 1 – 1.2 g of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight. High protein foods include chicken and turkey meat, other low-fat meats, fish, eggs (especially proteins), protein supplements, milk, and nuts and legumes (to a lesser extent).
Step 3: Fat intake
Fats should account for between 20 and 30% of the daily calories consumed, and you should keep in mind that 1 g of fat contains 9 calories. Here is an example – say, you need 2000 calories a day according to your diet plan and you want 25% of them to come from fat. 25% of 2000 is 500 calories; Divide 500 to 9 and you will receive (rounded) 55 – as many grams of fat as you need to consume daily in this case. The following foods contain healthy fats in significant quantities: fish, fish oil, nuts, seeds, olive oil.
Step 4: Carbohydrate intake
The most common recommendation on carbohydrate intake is as follows – first determine how many calories you generally get from protein and fat; The difference between them and the required daily intake of carbohydrates.
As well as proteins, carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. It is advisable to get the necessary carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, rice, potatoes and legumes.
The above is the most important thing in preparing and maintaining a diet. As long as you eat the right amount of calories at the right ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates, there is no need to worry about anything else.
In fact, there are a few more tips to help you:
Drink plenty of water at frequent intervals.
Get the right proteins, fats and carbohydrates from high-quality foods; Junk food is not a recommended source.
Include supplements such as fish oil and multivitamins in your menu. Creatine can also help you, and special protein foods and shakes are a convenient and delicious way to fill your daily dose.