When I first started tracking macros, it all sounded pretty straightforward. My coach had me focus more so on protein and overall daily calories than obsessing over hitting each macro to the gram, which I liked and felt was really doable!
Each day I had a goal for the amount of protein I was to consume and a set number of daily calories to hit. So essentially, once I had reached my daily protein goal- I could fill the rest of my day with anything I liked.
That sounded simple enough. But after my first day few days of tracking, I was a little overwhelmed… How in the world was I going to be able to eat this much protein…and even if I did, how was I going to stay within my calorie range for the day?
I ended my first day of tracking (as well as several frustrating days following) having fallen short of hitting my goals and feeling like I not only needed help but a personal chef in order to be successful.
After a few more failed attempts, I finally realized what the problem was. Each day, I was waiting until the end of the night to try and figure out how to hit all my targeted goals like protein, but at that point, it was already too late. I’d often find myself still needing to hit anywhere from 50-80g of protein and let’s be real here, that’s not very doable at 9pm when you’re tired and want to go to bed.
The Best Strategy is Planning Ahead
This is where making a meal plan comes in. Did you know that you can make your very own meal plan either daily or weekly to help you to hit your macros? Yes- a plan customized to YOU, by YOU, with foods that you actually like can be available to you each day with just a little bit of preparation.
Have an important event? Great, you can plan YOUR meal plan around it! Hate eggs? Hate fish? Hate broccoli? It’s okay! Skip the things you dislike and replace them with things you’ll actually eat (and enjoy).
With this approach, you can enjoy the foods you eat while also hitting your nutrition targets to reach your fitness goals too, and not only that- but you won’t find yourself dependent on anyone else to tell you what to eat.
Here’s how you do it: The Fitbliss Approach
Let’s get right into it! This strategy does take some practice, but stay with me here because once you’ve got it down, this whole flexible dieting thing becomes a breeze!
NOTE: If you need help calculating macro goals for your body and your goals, click HERE to read our blog post on setting up macro goals or HERE to fill out an application to do a consult with one of our expert coaches today.
For the sake of example, I’m going to give us some daily nutrition goals to work with. It’s important to note that individual goals vary, and these are just an example:
Daily Calorie Intake: 1700
Daily Protein Intake: 125g
Note: At Fitbliss Fitness, most of our clients utilize a strategy focused on hitting total calories and a minimum protein goal for the day rather than strict macro counting of carbs and fats. We have found that when it comes to big picture goals, overly stressing individual macros to the gram each day can potentially do more harm than good and isn’t as sustainable. Plus, in our decade-plus of experience, we find people naturally balance their macros when left to eat based on preference.
However, there are some important things to look for when it comes to your carbohydrate and fat consumption:
- Make sure you are consuming at least 30 grams of fat per day. This is KEY to operating an optimal level as a female and maintaining overall hormone health. A quick rule of thumb for daily fat intake is multiplying your bodyweight x 0.25 to get a minimum daily fat intake in grams.
- Carbohydrates are NOT your enemy! As long as you are staying within your daily calorie goals, and hitting your minimum requirements for protein and fat intake- feel free to fill the rest of your day with carbs. Especially if you are an active woman, this will be key to fueling your body with the energy it needs to perform at it’s best.
- Being a little more flexible and allowing carbohydrates and fats to fill out the rest of your nutrition interchangeable allows for so much more flexibility in your day and A LOT less planning and finding yourself needing to find random snacks to hit your daily macro requirements dead on.
If you do prefer to follow more of a strict macro tracking approach, fear not! Follow the same steps as below, but complete for carbohydrates and fats as well!
STEP 1: CONSIDER YOUR DAY
- What do you have going on today that involves food?
- Are you going on a date tonight?
- Do you have a busy workload?
- Will you be home most of the day?
Ask yourself these questions and consider what you have going on before making your plan. If you have a date night and want to be able to have more calories for dinner, you’ll likely need to eat smaller, more protein-dense foods in the morning and afternoon in order to save up calories for a dinner out. Check out our post on tracking while eating out for more guidance.
STEP 2: START WITH PROTEIN IN MIND
The hardest macronutrient for most people to hit is protein, which is why we are starting here. If you build your meal plan around protein-rich foods first, you’ll find more success in hitting your goals.
Take your protein goal for the day and divide it up among how many meals/snacks you’d like to eat.
For example, let’s use our sample goal of 125g of protein and say that we want to eat 3 meals and 3 snacks during the day. We’ll take 125/6 to get a goal amount of protein to shoot for in each of these meals/snacks. 125/6 = right around 20. So a good rule of thumb is going to be to have 20g of protein at each of my meals and snacks.
Now that you have that guideline in place, let’s start adding some foods our diary! We like to use My Fitness Pal, but any food tracker that you feel comfortable with is okay.
Start by plugging in foods that sound good to you for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and your snacks. Utilize the lists below to incorporate some protein into each meal. Remember to use foods that you would actually eat!
Here are some good ideas to get you started:
- Greek yogurt
- Egg Whites
- Light string cheese
- Light Cheese
- Beef/Turkey Jerky
- Lean Ground Beef/Turkey
- Lean Steak
- Pork Loin
- Ultra-Filtered Milk
Okay so right now we’re sitting with 98g of protein for the day! That’s a great start, now let’s add in some “must-haves” and come back to this in a bit.
Pro Tip: Along with having a goal for how much protein to incorporate into each meal, some people like to set a protein goal by time of day. For example, “I’m going to try and have 80g of protein by 4pm” can make it easier to not find yourself at the end of the day with a lot of protein to eat.
STEP 3: KNOW YOURSELF
Is there something that you enjoy eating every single day? Maybe it’s a fun-sized snickers bar after lunch, a bowl of captain crunch in the morning, or even just a banana. Whatever it is, if there is something that’s a “must-have” in your day, let’s plan for it! Throw in a mini snickers, breakfast cereal, or the banana.
Similarly, if there are snacks that you find you enjoy having or you know you’re going to want such as some type of dessert-track it! You may not be able to fit in everything or will have to swap for a lower calorie option, but laying out your plan will help you to see what has to happen to make it work. This meal plan should work for YOU!
Pro Tip: You can usually find more “macro-friendly dessert options if you search for them. For example, if you like ice cream and can fit it into your day, that’s great! Ice cream like Dreyer’s Slow Churned tends to have fewer calories than Ben + Jerry’s. There is also a whole subset of low calorie frozen desserts like Yasso Bars, Halo Top, and Skinny Cow. You have lots of options that can curb your dessert craving while saving on calories for something else.
STEP 4: Stop & Check.
Okay so now you’ve added in some “must-haves” and you have a great foundation for your daily protein goal, so it’s time to clean things up a bit. You realize that you still need about 35g of protein for the day. It looks like hitting this is going to take deleting something else to stay within your calorie goal. You decide to go with the yogurt pretzels you had added in at lunch (use 220ish cals). By deleting these, you’re able to add in a protein shake and still have 60 calories left over to use on something else to finalize your day! A serving of beef jerky sounds good to you so you track it and see that you are right on point with your goals! HOORAY!
STEP 5: Follow and be as flexible as needed.
Now that you’ve created a meal plan, all that’s left to do is follow it. You can go about your day not worrying about what you should eat, because you have a custom plan tailored for you, ready to go!
But what if something comes up??
As we all know too well, even with a plan, sometimes things come up! Maybe your boss decides to buy lunch for the office or you forget one of your snacks at home-but don’t stress! With a few quick swaps to your day, you can make this work! Delete what you won’t be eating and start adding in things again until you’ve hit your goals. You’ve got this!
STEP 6: The other step you need to consider once you’ve nailed 1-5.
Okay, so there’s something we haven’t even touched on yet. And that is micronutrients and fiber! Hitting your calorie + protein goal for the day consistently is your first step in becoming a successful flexible dieter- but a healthy, balanced diet also takes into consideration fiber as well as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Calcium. Give yourself a few days or even a week to adjust to tracking consistently and hitting your goals before you toss this into the mix, but once you’re successful there, it’s time to look at the big picture!!
Fiber: At FBF, we recommend clients have 15-20g of fiber for every 1000 calories they are consuming each day. Here are some helpful food suggestions that can help you to hit this goal:
High Fiber Foods:
- Old fashioned oats
- Certain Protein Bars
We also have our clients aim to get 100% of their daily Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Calcium through the foods they consume. The cool thing about My Fitness Pal is that you can check where you’re at for the day on these micronutrients at any time. Here are some foods to help with your micros:
Vitamin C Hacks:
Vitamin A Hacks:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Romaine Lettuce
- Soy Milk
- Breakfast Cereals
Just as you did with your protein, go through your day, utilizing foods from this list until you hit your daily fiber and 100% of these micronutrients- you’ll be glad you did ;).
HABITS FOR LONG TERM SUCCESS:
Go grocery shopping. Like regularly! No- you actually won’t be successful if you have no food at your house ever. Even if you’re a fly by the seat of your pants type of person- greek yogurt and eggs in the fridge can make a world of difference
Remember, focus on protein first. Make this your main priority each day and as you start to get it down, the other macros, your fiber, and daily micro goals will become easier and easier.
Let it be okay if you’re not perfect day 1. Maybe your first day in, you try things and end up a few grams short on your goal due to an unexpected event. This does not mean you should throw in the towel! Learning a new skill takes time. Focus on daily improvements over perfection. Every day that you try, you’ll learn something in the future to help you be successful.
Hire a reputable, science-based coach. Working with a coach is one of the best ways to not only receive guidance on your nutrition goals but have the help and accountability you need to be successful long term. If you work with the right coach, it’s an invaluable investment that can serve you for life! If you’re looking for a coach who can not only help you to reach your goals but teach and empower you every step of the way, click HERE to fill out an application: (insert link)
SO WHAT NOW?
Maybe you’re feeling motivated and ready to start building your meal plan for the week! Or maybe you’re still feeling a bit overwhelmed, either way… that’s okay! Know that in reality this all takes 20 minutes at most, and remember, you won’t be doing this forever!!
Soon, you’ll have established a routine and will know exactly what types of things you can eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in order to hit your macros. So maybe it takes you 20 minutes the first few days you try it, but then you’re down to just 5, and before you know it, you don’t even have to pre-plan at all! The investment in learning and empowering yourself to know the nutritional content of your food is worth it!
If you would like some meal plan ideas to get started, at Fitbliss Fitness, we have an EBOOK with over 50 daily meal plans and delicious macro-friendly recipes! This is a great place to get started and find new ideas. (insert link + photo for ebook).