How many meal plans have you tried? How many plans have you tried to follow off a fitness influencer? Do not worry. We all have and it commonly ends with us giving up and feeling lost because there isn’t anywhere saying “yes, do this” or “no, don’t do that” and frankly, there just isn’t enough information provided for us to think for ourselves.
It is hard to find the correct information, purely because those influencers or companies who supply these so-called meal plans don’t know you. They don’t know your health conditions, whether you have hormonal implications, your current weight, your weight loss history, and other crucial details that make you different from anyone else. And yes, that is why (in-person) personal trainers are seen to have the best success rate, because they understand all these details and use this information to create a personalized plan to suit you and your schedule.
So how to get yourself a meal plan without having to get yourself a personal trainer? It’s time to invest your time into you! It’s time to start understanding foods and how they work, and how you can accurately create your own plan and schedule to stick to that is sustainable!
Let’s get started!
For the human body, (depending on daily activity) a typical female is considered to have a diet of 2000 calories. Males 2500 calories per day. Now of course you see the kilojoules (KJ) on say a drive-through menu, or at the bottom of commercials for fast-food restaurants which is all well and good, however it doesn’t specify macros.
Firstly, your macros?
Macros are the individual macronutrients that are specified in grams on the back of a food label. They also are responsible for your muscle growth, muscle recovery, endocrine system (hormones) neurological system, digestive system, and pretty much the source of living healthily and sustainably. So yes, you should know exactly what these are and how much you should personally be consuming, along with micronutrients; which we will get into in another blog.
Going into each macro
Protein is the source that is used to supply energy and is the building blocks for muscle growth and muscle recovery. There are two types: plant based and meat based. Both are very important and are considered by many to be vital to a healthy diet. In another blog we will go through the vitamins and minerals that are crucial to a healthy diet, that are sourced from these proteins. But so far, you’ll need to know that protein is an energy source of 4 calories to every 1gram of protein. So, if you had a container with 300g of chicken breast, (chicken breast has 36 grams Protein per 100g), you would have 108 gram of protein, and 432 calories (of protein) in that container. Calories add up pretty quickly, and you may find that yourself or friends and family around you are quite obsessed with calorie counting. But calories aren’t what you should be counting, macros are! Why?
Let’s look at Carbs (carbohydrates), which are another macro that some can be afraid of which is interesting because 1 gram of carb is 4 calories the exact same to protein, however proteins are absorbed differently to carbs. We can understand that some individuals say “NO CARBS” but then some don’t understand that veggies and fruits are carbs too! So, saying no to carbs is not the way to go, but swapping out your dense carbs for lower carbs can be very beneficial. What do I mean? Okay, I’m about to cook up a stir-fry. White rice has 89 grams of carbs per 100g serving. Whereas 100g of broccolini only has 7.2g of carbs. Because I’m quite hangry, but I’m wanting to keep my carbs down, I’m going to swap the rice for additional broccolini. That way I’m still eating the same in volume, but less in carbohydrates.
Last but not least FAT. Some individuals are so afraid of fat, and completely cut fat out of their diet - Thank you, sugar corporations - which is worrying because some fats are responsible for brain functionality, production of hormones, and support cellular growth. Important fats to consume are your unsaturated fats; such as Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated fats: Omega-3 fats, and Polyunsaturated fats: Omega-6 fats. These can be found in olive oil, fish, nuts, nut oil, and avocados. Fats to eat less of or avoid completely are saturated fats; such as coconut oil, butter, palm oil, dairy, and visible fats in meat products. But remember, fats aren’t bad! Everything in moderation.
Now that you know the macros, it’s time to understand how the body absorbs and uses the sources to create energy.
All macros are turned into energy. However, they’re not all just for energy. It all depends on the ratio of the macros and the energy used by the individual. The body goes through a process where macros are first turned into energy, or stored energy which creates body fat.
Protein is mostly digested by enzymes secreted by the pancreas which turns the protein molecules into amino acids. These amino acids are absorbed through the small intestine and directly through to the blood stream. When in the bloodstream, they are then ready to start protein synthesis to build muscle for muscle recovery. This doesn’t mean create a protein only diet, as excess protein can result in stored fat. This is why it’s important to have balance.
Carbs are always broken down into simple sugars (glucose) and absorbed through the small intestine. They’re then transferred to the bloodstream where they’re carried to the liver and muscles. When the glucose molecules are delivered to the liver and muscle cells they are then stored for energy. However, when there is an excessive amount of carbohydrates, the body converts the glucose sugar into fat, stored in the adipose tissue, which is a process called lipogenesis.
This essentially depends on your individual energy levels. If you are quite an active person then consuming carbs really shouldn’t be a problem, however if you sit at a desk all day and conduct little to no exercise and eat sporadically with no allowance of macro consumption; then you will most likely find the food you eat being stored as fat.
Fats to your body are lipids, which are digested via the mouth and stomach but mostly in the small intestine. The small intestine then produces hormones that release’s pancreatic lipase (from pancreas) and bile (from the liver) which work together to breakdown the fats for absorption of fatty acids. These fatty acids then enter the bloodstream and into the liver where they’re stored for energy. Fatty acids are the second use of energy if the liver doesn’t have enough glucose from the carbohydrates consumed which also if consuming too much and it’s not used for energy will result in stored fat in adipose tissue.
It’s important to understand the types of macros and how they’re digested. Most importantly, you must understand that your body needs all three macros no matter what. Yes, there are diets out there of all sorts. However, the easiest and most sustainable diets is simply to include all three within balance.
In another blog we will go through how to proportion your macros to calories, and how to eventually be able to intuitively eat, without counting!