Consistency is the name of the game.
The biggest reason why people don’t see results with their fitness is because they have a hard time sticking to a diet.
I know because I’ve done different types of diets myself.
And ya… most of them suck. There’s no doubt about that.
When diets have a rigid set of rules they aren’t sustainable. It’s simply hard to stick to them. You follow through for a week or two, or maybe even a month.
But after that? Everything goes downhill.
That’s why you have to make your own diet with your own diet rules.
A fully personalized diet that covers the fundamental principles of nutrition so there’s actually science behind what you’re doing.
When there are no rigid rules that you have to follow and no food groups to give up, eating for fat loss or muscle building becomes almost effortless.
Whether you’re a vegan, a meat-loving omnivore, an advocate of Paleo, or an intermittent faster, what matters most is that you eat in a way that works best for you.
Because physiologically, the human body can adapt pretty well under different dietary conditions. It’s why there are people from all over the world that are fit and healthy whether they eat mostly carbs or mostly fats; meat or no meat; veggies or no veggies; and even processed or no processed foods.
In this article, I’ll show you the 3-step method taken straight out of my book, No Nonsense Fat Loss, on how to personalize your diet and put it on autopilot so you can finally have…
Step #1: Create Your Eating Schedule (WHEN to Eat)
Planning and preparation is key to almost everything. We all know that.
When it comes to fitness, knowing when you’ll eat is just as important as WHAT and HOW you should be eating.
By planning out when you’ll eat, it becomes much easier to regulate what you’re eating and how much. In other words, you are taking control of the calories you are consuming.
Your eating schedule will be completely up to you, and will be dependent on two things:
- Your current lifestyle
- Your meal size preference
If you have a busy lifestyle that makes it difficult finding time to eat, then you’ll have less frequent meals:
Two Meals — Skip breakfast, eat lunch and dinner
Three Meals — Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
If your schedule is more flexible and meal frequency isn’t a problem, aim for 3 or 4 meals.
Assuming that you have a “busy” lifestyle, there should be no need to eat more than that (unless, of course, you actually enjoy eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day).
Lastly, keep in mind the number of meals might vary on training/ workout days. Personally, I have 3-4 meals on workout days, but only eat 2 big meals on non-workout days when I’m intermittent fasting.
Decide on a number of meals that you can stick to on a regular basis, and figure out the best times of the day that you’ll have them.
Step #2: Personalize Your Meal Plan (WHAT to Eat)
The best way to stay consistent is by eating the foods you like while covering the fundamentals of nutrition at the same time.
This is the part where we’ll create some staple meals that you’ll eat on a regular basis.
A Prerequisite: Know Your Numbers
So how do you know what to eat?
The first step is to figure out your dieting numbers, more specifically your estimated calorie and macro targets. These are the two most important things about nutrition for fat loss or muscle building.
The last thing you want to do is go about your nutrition blindly. At the bare minimum, you’ll at least need an idea of how many calories you’re consuming and burning. You wouldn’t drive across the country without knowing your car’s gas mileage (or maybe you would). You get the point.
There are dozens of ways to figure your numbers, but you’re here to simplify, so instead of doing a bunch of math by hand, use the calorie and macros calculator my team put together that does the work for you.
Understand Macronutrient Combinations
Here’s a trick that will change the way you think about food for the rest of your life: think of each individual food as either protein- dominant, fat-dominant, or carb-dominant.
Forget about labeling food as “good” or “bad”, or “healthy” or “unhealthy”. Going forward, you’ll label of each food with their (main) macronutrient component.
Chicken breast, for instance, is a protein-dominant food; olive oil is fat-dominant; and potatoes are carbs.
New to this whole method of macro-labeling?
Here’s a useful diagram of more examples that might help you out.
Write Up a List of Your Favorite Protein, Carb, and Fat-dominant Food Sources
Try to have at least 5 foods for each category. Write them down on a piece of paper, and then…
Make Some Meals
After making a list of your favorite foods, it’s time to create meal templates that you can use over and over again.
Each meal will be made made up of a combination of two different macronutrient components. The result is a meal that gets classified in one of three categories: P+C, P+F, or P+F+C.
Macro Combo #1: Protein + Carb Meals (P+C)
These meals consist primarily of protein and carbohydrates. Some examples include: grilled chicken with rice, beef with diced potatoes, and pork chops with quinoa.
Fats will be kept minimal. There will likely be a few grams of naturally occurring fats, but don’t sweat it.
You’ll have most of these meals on TRAINING days.
Macro Combo #2: Protein + Fat Meals (P+F)
These meals consist primarily of protein and fats. Examples: ground beef with almonds, greek yogurt with peanut butter, and egg whites with bacon.
For these meals, carbs will be kept minimal. There will likely be a few grams of naturally occurring carbs but again, don’t sweat it.
Macro Combo #3: Protein + Fat Meals (P+F+C)
Last — but certainly not least — the third combination that consists of, well, everything.
These are your “all other” meals that you’ll have on both training and non-training days.
Some examples include ice cream, pizza, steak with a side of mashed potatoes, etc.
Sample Meal Plans
To help put things into perspective, here are a couple sample meal plans.
Note that these sample meals only show food choices and not portion sizes. Assume that they are within Cal O’Reilly’s allotted calories.
Some Guidelines for Your Meals
1. Divide Up Your Calorie Protein Targets According to the Number of Meals You’ll Have Per Day
Let’s look at a real life example of Ashley, one of my online coaching clients.
Calorie Target: ~ 1,900 calories Protein Target: ~ 118g
Fats: ~ 53g
Carbs: ~ 239g
Ashley prefers to eat 3x a day, so we’re left with the following meal template after doing some basic math.
Calories: ~ 633 calories/meal
Protein Target: ~ 39g/meal
Fats: ~ 18g/meal
Carbs: ~ 80g/meal
[Note: Fats and carbs are greyed out to emphasize that you don’t need to worry about them as much as calories and protein. They will be mainly dependent on every individual’s needs and preferences.]
With these numbers, she can then put together a number of meals based on the list of favorite foods you put together.
One thing to keep in mind about this is that it will take some time and self-experimentation to “get things right”. I recommend tracking your foods using an app like MyFitnessPal, On the Regimen, or My Macros+.
Tracking your food for at least a few weeks not only gives you a better idea of what you’re consuming, but also increases overall awareness of choice when consuming.
2. A Protein Source Will be the Core of Each Meal
By having protein with every meal, you’re ensuring that 1) you’re hitting your protein target to help maintain (or even build) muscle mass and, 2) you’re getting its satiety and metabolism-boosting benefits.
3. The Carbs and Fat Content of Your Meals Will Vary
Ultimately, the ratio between these two macronutrients isn’t that important. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: eat more carbs on your workout days (especially pre and post-workout), and less on non-workout days.
For other meals, keep your preferences in mind. If you’re a carb lover, eat more carbs and less fat. If you prefer foods high in fats like nuts, eggs, etc., then simply eat less carbs.
4. Have Veggies Whenever Possible
This kills two birds with one stone as it ensures that you have both fiber and micronutrients in your diet.
Notice that I use the words “whenever possible”. It’s important to eat your veggies, but it’s not something you should stress out about. If you’re not feeling it, then don’t force it.
Step #3: Apply The 80/20 Rule To Everything (HOW To Eat)
By now, you know that you should mainly eat minimally-processed foods a majority of the time.
Now let’s talk about how to actually apply that in the real world.
Here are some suggestions…
Know When You’ll Have Your Favorite Foods/Treats Ahead of Time
Have a work outing coming up this weekend? A friend’s birthday party, perhaps? Or maybe just your weekly Sunday night dinner with your significant other?
If you know when you’ll indulge in your 20% ahead of time, you can plan for it. Let’s say you have a friend’s birthday party coming up this Friday and you’re pretty sure it will involve some late night pizza — because really, late night pizza is awesome. Knowing this, you’ll make sure to minimize the calories throughout the day by mostly eating minimally-processed foods.
Have Your Treats When You’re Really Craving Them
While it’s good to know that no foods are off-limits, you still want to make sure that you’re in control of your diet.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you (always) should. Have your Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and your Pringles, and your hot dogs. But don’t make a habit of eating them every day just because you can.
Let’s say your manager at work brings in doughnuts. Before reaching for one, ask your stomach first if it really wants the doughnut (9 times out of 10 it probably doesn’t care). Don’t eat it just for the sake of eating it.
On the other hand, if you do decide to have the doughnut, no problem. But just know that by having it, you might have to say “no” to something else later.
Everything in moderation — including moderation.
Enjoy Your Foods Guilt-free
All of it.
Whether it’s the whole, minimally-processed foods or the not-so- healthy 20%, always make sure that you’re enjoying what you eat. You should never have to feel guilty about the foods you put in your mouth.
If you do feel guilty about the foods you eat, then it might be time to do some re-evaluation of your diet as a whole.
Here’s a quick summary of everything.
1. The first step is to create an eating schedule that fits your lifestyle and preference. Take into consideration your schedule (workouts, work, school, etc), and how often you’d like to eat. Try to eat (mostly) at the same time everyday, as this sets an expectation and increases your overall control.
2. The next step is to personalize your very own meal plan — one that includes foods that you enjoy eating so you’ll actually look forward to meals.
3. Lastly, apply the 80/20 rule to everything. Some call it “flexible dieting” while others call it “intuitive eating”. I call it “being human”.
A manual for busy men & women that shows you step-by-step how to shed fat, get strong, and feel awesome without giving up ANY of your favorite foods or working out every day.
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