One of the key things we work on with people who are serious about getting fit and healthy is a meal plan. At which point, the classic question comes in: “Is all this really necessary?”
It’s a fair question, so let me explain why it’s necessary, which will also cover why diets and nutrition are so important.
Why a meal plan or a diet? Can’t we just eat whatever we want and not worry about it? In short, yes you can. You can eat whatever you want and not care, but the trouble is – there are consequences to that decision.
Yes, I know, there are people out there (ectomorphs) who seem to be able to eat anything they want and stay lean. It’s a small percentage of the population, but that over-active metabolism type does exist. By contrast, they also have trouble putting muscle on and later in life the consequence of not having to manage their food choices does in fact catch up with them.
So for the rest of us, the ones that can’t eat whatever we want and stay fit (90% of us), a meal plan makes sense. Again, ‘Why?’ you ask.
The easiest way to explain it is predictability. It’s about controlling variables to get a result, predictably. It’s not about starving, making sacrifices and living some sort of Spartan life of misery. Far from it. In fact, one of the biggest complaints I get when someone starts a plan is, “I can’t eat all of this food.”
We here this simply because people are so used to eating low quality junk food that has little to no nutritional value, but a large amount of calories in a smaller package. Real healthy food is often bulkier because of fibre and water.
If we want to get a result, like dropping body fat, gaining muscle or just generally being healthier, we need to find a predictable way to do that. If you eat terrible, unhealthy food but start working out, you will in fact, get some results at first and that’s awesome. However, the reality is, over time you can’t out train a bad diet.
Let’s say you wanted to be healthier and more lean. One step is to get your body moving. Strength training using resistance or weights, is the fastest way to get muscles working and growing stronger. Those muscles will need fuel to grow and adapt to the changes, so another step is nutrition. People ask which one is most important and the answer is: both.
In order to get results, you need to establish a consistency in the two elements: training and eating. This allows your routine to become predictable and then results are simply a by-product. If you start training with resistance or weights three times a week, you will start to see a predictable result in strength and fitness gains.
If you add in a meal plan, where you measure each thing you eat with a weigh scale, cups or teaspoons as you cook and prepare your food, then we have yet another predictable component that will yield a result. You can then start to observe results. If you set your caloric intake based on your BMR plus your activity, but keep a 500 calorie deficit, you should see fat drop and muscle grow. Some people respond better to higher protein, higher carbs or higher fat, but without measuring and being consistent, you will just be guessing. It’s important to remember that once you find out your magic zone of results, you don’t need to pay such close attention to it all, because you will know what your body needs.
Once you start to establish predictable elements, then you can play with the variables. You can add more cardio, more rest, more or less intensity, heavier weights as well as more or less repetitions. You can try different proteins, carbs and fats to see which ones your body responds better to.
It’s critical to remember this process takes time. You are an ‘experiment of one’. Your work schedule, sleeping patterns, family life, work load, stress levels, digestion, genetics, gender, age – all of those things matter. But if you just eat whatever comes around and work out whenever, well then your results will continue to be random, on, off and unpredictable.
To get results, you need to control the variables and that is why a meal plan, is awesome.