If something is too damn complicated, good freaking luck following it consistently.
This ESPECIALLY rings true for nutrition.
For any nutrition plan to work, you HAVE to be consistent. That means doing the things you’re supposed to do MOST of the time, like 80-90%. But if something is way too complicated either because the plan OR methods are or YOU’RE actually the one overthinking it and making it too complicated, you’re going to have real trouble actually making the plan and nutrition become part of your lifestyle and actually work for you.
A big thing many people struggle with and make entirely too complicated is counting macros and measuring/weighing their food. So they don’t quantify their food at all and this hurts because it’s ESSENTIAL that you eat consistent amounts of food if you want to eat for strength and performance and not support unwanted levels of body fat.
You should not be playing freaking food Tetris every damn day because you have 13g of fat, 2g carbs and 10g of protein to play with at the end of the day and you should not be spending 30 minutes of your day trying to calculate and log all the macros in that breakfast casserole you just enjoyed.
You should however make a daily plan of your meals ahead of time and you should keep your meals and counting the macros for those meals as simple as possible.
People don’t want to count macros because they believe it’s cumbersome or tedious. So make it easy! Right now I’m going to show you how.
1. Plan your macros ahead of time, rather than tracking as you go.
The first thing I suggest is to make a daily meal plan. Seriously DO NOT try to just “wing it” by eating casually throughout the day and tracking your macros as you go along. More than likely, you will be left at the end of the day with some crazy macro combination and next thing you know, you’re eating plain egg whites or taking swigs of olive oil to make up for the difference. It’s not fun and good luck keeping up with that for more than a day or two. It gets old, I promise.
Here’s what you do instead:
Each day you should have a plan of how much you’re going to eat, what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat your meals. Write it out so that when you’re preparing your food for the week or even getting ready to make just a one-off meal, you can eat according to the plan. And lastly, make it simple and just have it apply to every day for the week. You’re just trying to build consistency. Don’t worry about nutrient timing, eating less on rest days, fasting or whatever until you can get into the habit of following a basic daily plan. Those things are low on the totem pole of importance.
Here’s how 150g protein, 180g carbs, 88g fat would broken down to 5 meals:
Meal 1 7am – 30g protein, 1 cup veggies, 22g fat, 30g carbs
Meal 2 11am – 30g protein, 1 cup veggies, 22g fat, 30g carbs
Meal 3 2pm – 30g protein, 1/2 cup veggies, 22g fat, 30g carbs
Meal 4 5pm – Training Shake 30g protein, 30g carbs
Meal 5 7pm – 30g protein , 1/2 cup veggies 22g fat, 30g carbs
The macros are split evenly throughout the day with the exception of the training shake which doesn’t have fat.
Now all you would have to do is plug in whatever foods you want to eat that meet the plan and if you can follow your plan every day for at least 2 weeks, then I’d say you’ve earned the right to add some complexity.
2.Prepare simple meals
For beginners I suggest to make your meals and foods as simple as possible rather than making complicated dishes (Please re-read that, if you want results let’s keep things simple at first). It will help make the food on your plate really easy to weigh and measure. Use the list of example foods I gave in the Eating for Strength video and e-book to craft your pates.
Here are some examples of my meals:
What do you notice? The food and meals are so simple, I could literally take each food off the plate, put it back on the scale and easily weigh and measure it. Making your meals simple like this at first will help with weighing and measuring, be easier to prepare which SAVES YOU TIME and definitely helps with making the macros fit your plan better.
3. Only count the majority macro in foods.
Foods are not perfect. They contain more than one type of macro. Meat usually contains fat. Starchy carbs usually contain protein and sometimes fat. Fats can contain carbs and protein.
Trying to account for all that and make it all fit together with your meal plan like a puzzle can be a HUGE pain in the ass. Food Tetris.
Instead of accounting for the minor macros in foods, I would suggest only counting the majority macro in the food for your meal planning purposes. Think of it as the 80/20 rule for accounting for macros.
Example: if 1 serving (56 uncooked grams) of whole wheat pasta contains 1.5g of fat, 39g carbs, and 7g of protein, I’m just going to count the 39 grams of carbs and forget the other macros.
Vegetables? Ha! I don’t even count them brah (especially if they are green and leafy). They contain so little calories and carbs (mostly in the form of fiber), it’s just not even worth it. As long as you aren’t eating ridiculously large amounts of veggies, 1/2 cup to 1 cup per meal is fine, or cooking them in huge amounts of butter or oil, don’t even worry about counting them (count the oil or butter though).
But Alex, won’t that be wrong or off? Yes, but it doesn’t matter as long as you do this consistently. Remember no nutrition plan is “right”. You’ve GOT to stop worrying about being right and accurate and focus more about being consistent and precise.
The food scale and counting macros are tools and methods to help keep you eating consistent amounts so that when it’s time to make changes and adjustments (which eventually will happen), you can look back at the food intake and make a change.
So stop worrying about trying to make that 0.5 gram of fat in your 99% ground turkey “fit”.
And even if you do eat some foods with a high amounts of different macros in it like a chili or casserole (see point 2 why I don’t recommend that for beginners), just always eat a consistent amount of that chili or casserole and you’ll know what you can tweak if you need to adjust something.
Now we’ve covered all my suggestions and steps, here’s that meal plan revisited filled-in with simple as f*ck foods and their quantities :
Meal 1 7am – Egg whites (276g unprepared) cooked with a cup of sautéed spinach, 40g almond butter, 28g dry oats (about 1/2 cup prepared), 80g blueberries
Meal 2 11am – 5 oz grilled salmon, 1 cup of roasted broccoli, 145g avocado slices, 100g cantaloupe, 100g cooked brown rice
Meal 3 2pm – 5 oz grilled steak, 1/2 cup sautéed bell peppers and onions, 130g cooked brown rice, 145g avocado
Meal 4 5pm – Training Shake: 40g whey protein powder, 30g dextrose
Meal 5 7pm – 5 oz grilled chicken, 1/2 cup kale with 16g vinaigrette, 90g cooked whole wheat penne pasta, 20g walnuts
Now that’s simple AND planned!
When I go to prepare my meals and foods, it’s so simple and I’ve got my plan with what kinds of foods and how much I need to eat committed to heart so I don’t even have to think about it. It’s just automatic at this point. Even if I eat out at a restaurant, I’ve got my plan and I know what fits in that so making choices is way easier.
That’s where I want YOU to get to. And keeping this as simple as possible is going to help you get there so much faster. Are there any strategies you’ve developed to keep things simple and stay on track? I’d love to hear them, leave a comment below.
And to learn more about how to eat for strength and performance without supporting high levels of body fat, go watch my free video at eatingforstrength.com.