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  • Writer's pictureBrandon McDonald

Finally... How to Make a Nutrition Plan

Here it is, y’all. The culmination piece. I would like to thank my m…

Wait, I’m not getting an award for this? Ok fine.

Step 1: Decide your goals

This can be short term, long term, or some combination. We even have a whole podcast episode breaking this down.

Try using this worksheet to get it written down.

Step 2: Decide how you’re going to track your food intake.

We have come up with 3 options that we believe in. I won’t say one is better than the other, because I think they each have their pros and cons. I do think that figuring out which one works best for you can be some trial and error, and some of it may be dependent on your actual goal. You may like one and use it the rest of your life. You may do some combination of them (like I do), or you may use this for a week to get things figured out and never track food again. (I don’t really recommend that, but you know… you do you.)

3 Main ways to track:

I’ll try to explain these concisely, so with that in mind, know that there is so much more that goes into each of these to actually make them a viable option. It will take effort and learning, but you already know that. Ready? Let’s go!

Calorie counting - CICO (Calories in vs Calories out)

Ol’ faithful here. Counting your daily intake. The most important (and often missed) piece of this is you have to count everything. By everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Your meals, your snacks, your drinks, the oil you cook with, the mint you ate after the meal (ok maybe you can let that slide), but you get the idea.

Everything that goes in your body gets tracked.

To figure out your calories you get to do some math.

Goal weight x 12 = number of calories (GW x 12 = CAL)

EX. I weigh 200, I want to be 180

  • 180 x 12 = 2160

As you go, your calorie goals might change. Just be willing to adjust them.

I’m a big fan of tracking this very meticulously for at least a month. After that you will get a better understanding of the calories in certain foods. After that month, you can decide if it’s right for you to pull back on the reins or keep up the meticulous tracking. Here’s the trick though:

You never really stop counting calories once you’ve gone there. You’ve opened Pandora’s box, and you get to stay there. That’s not bad though! You just get to have a better understanding of your food!

Here are some details to help.

  • Hitting a range of calories. From the example above the range would be something like 2060 - 2260 calories

  • Average it out over the week. Meaning you can have higher and lower days planned in. You just want to work to have your average be in that GW x 12 range.

  • Consistency is king. Be ready and willing to do this for a long period of time. Stack days, weeks, months, and years.

  • Mikes macros - Use a tracking app. I love this one.

  • Be patient.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros:

    1. helps you understand how much you’re eating

    2. When you get good at it, you can be very precise

    3. Your system allows you to know exactly what wiggle room you have

  • Cons:

    1. Too meticulous for some

    2. especially when you start, you have to count EVERYTHING

    3. Can make it hard to enjoy food (it’s all a math equation)

Macro counting

For a more detailed look a this, you can go to this amazing article.

Or, you can dive straight in and just do the Macro Calculator.

With that, I won’t go into too much detail here. What I’ll do is hit the main points:

  • Knowing your percent of 3 macros: Carbs, Fats, Proteins.

  • Use hand measurements to keep track of amounts.

  • Work on a “percentage based” model to track your foods

  • Don’t try in without using this Macro Calculator. It makes the whole process so much easier.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros:

    1. Simpler than calorie counting

    2. You have your measuring tool with you at all times (no scale)

    3. Helps you make sure you are eating balanced

  • Cons:

    1. Too meticulous for some

    2. You can’t always measure (i.e. soup)

    3. Can be less precise until you’re skilled at it

Protein focused (+intuition)

This is the simplest of the 3. Only “tracking” your daily protein. Working to hit your protein goal consistently. Understanding how to listen to your body.

That’s basically it. The hard part; “listening to your body” is a skill that can take time to develop. A lot of people have a hard time hitting their goals because they do too much “listening” and not enough “telling” their body when it’s time to do something. (looking right at myself here…)

With that said, if you have the patience to learn the skill, and learn it well, this might be for you. It isn’t easy reaching your protein goals on a consistent basis, but you should be trying to do that with the other tracking techniques anyway.

The reason this can work is because eating the right amount of protein allows you to allow the other macros to fall in line.

There are a few reasons we recommend this to some people:

  • Protein has a higher “Thermic effect of Food” (TEF) - meaning it takes more energy (calories) to break down and use. Making it more valuable when trying to be in a calorie deficit.

  • It’s more filling - meaning it makes it easier to eat less.

  • Your body needs it - really it needs all the macros, but it’s actually pretty difficult to get enough protein compared to the carbs and fats you need.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros:

    1. Simplest version

    2. Gives you the most info about your body and how it feels

    3. Allows for more life flexibility

  • Cons:

    1. Progress starts slower (which can be hard to keep consistent)

    2. Sometimes listening to your body isn’t the best cue

    3. Too loose of a measurement for some

Step 3: Action GIF

We’ve gone over a lot of this in previous articles, so I won’t dive in here. I’ll just leave you with these general guidelines:

Cook most of your food (helps you know what’s in everything)

  • Slow cooker, precooked protein, and meal prepping are your best friends here.

Eat fruits and veggies

  • Duh.

Eat Whole Foods as much as possible

  • Double duh. But, seriously, getting mostly whole food into your diet goes such a long way. “Nutrient Dense” is another term used to describe whole food. That means a lot of nutrients. We like nutrients. Eat them.

Limit trans fats and processed sugars

  • They taste amazing. I’m not saying they have to go away, but they really need to be limited if you want this to work.

Don’t worry about counting calories you burn

  • It’s a trap. For real. Just move consistently, track what’s going in, and leave it at that.

80/20 consistency

  • Check out this article from Jordan Syatt. He explains it way better than I can.

Plan your fun meals/drinks

  • When they are a part of the plan it is so much easier to know when to say yes and when to say no.

Foods that make your goals hard to accomplish should stay out of the house

  • Dr. John Berardi’s First Law states: If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.⁣

  • If you can’t say “no” when you need to, don’t keep it in the house.

Keep daily activity up

  • Have the cows come home? No? Then I'll keep preaching this.

Add strength training and cardio

  • Yea same same.

Step 4: Know how you’re measuring your progress.

Don’t get stuck in a guessing game. Yes it’s important that you are patient, but you also want to be sure you know if what you’re doing is working.

  • What metrics should you use:

    1. Scale (link)

    2. Circumference measurements

    3. Fat percentage

    4. How clothes fit

    5. How do you feel

    6. pictures

  • How consistent are you:

    1. Tracking your days in a month

    2. What's making it hard

    3. Give yourself grace

    4. Remember it's a marathon

Step 5 (optional): Hire a Coach

Finding the right coach, whether short or long term, can be a big game changer. You don’t have to do this on your own! If you are looking for help, reach out. We can either be that help or point you in the right direction.

Wrap up

Creating a nutrition plan doesn't have to be complicated. That doesn't mean it won't also take some work. Make sure you track (food and progress) and go easy on yourself when you aren't perfect. And, don't be afraid to ask for help!

Listen to Simple(ish) Fitness Podcast anywhere you get your podcast for conversations about your health, exercise, nutrition, and building a healthy lifestyle without flipping your life upside down!


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