Meal Planning 101: How To Make Enjoyable, Effective Meal Plans?

Meal Planning 101 How To Make Enjoyable, Effective Meal Plans - fitzabout
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Updated: February 12, 2023

Meal planning is the process of organizing and preparing meals and snacks in advance, usually for a week or a set period of time.

The goal of meal planning is to have a clear plan for what to eat and to have the necessary ingredients on hand to prepare the meals. Learning how to turn your numbers into a meal plan that you can follow every day.

What is Meal Planning?

Meal planning is the process of creating a weekly menu that best suits your nutritional needs. This can reduce stress and save time by getting rid of making decisions during the week. And thanks to the amount of flexibility you have in both the foods you eat and when you eat them, it’s easy to do.

Let’s quickly recap the things to keep in mind:

  • Depending on what you’re doing with the cutting or bulking diet, stay within 50-100 calories of your target calories.
  • Get most of the calories from the nutrient-rich foods listed below:
    • Greens (chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and spinach)
    • Avocados
    • Brussels Sprout
    • Bell peppers
    • Baked potatoes
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Mushroom
    • Berries
    • Eggs
    • Low fat yogurt
    • Seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower)
    • Lentils and Peas
    • Beans (kidney, navy, garbanzo, and pinto)
    • Almonds, Peanuts, and Cashews
    • Whole grains (barley, oats, quinoa, and brown rice)
    • Halibut, cod, scallops, salmon, shrimp, and tuna
    • Lamb, lean beef, and venison
    • Turkey and Chicken
  • Eat as many or as few meals per day as you want, although I recommend eating every 3-4 hours, as you’ll probably find it most enjoyable.
  • Eating protein more often is better than eating less often, and each protein meal should contain at least 30-40 grams of protein.
  • Consume approximately 30-40 grams of protein and 40-50 grams of carbohydrates 30 minutes before training.
  • Consume 30-40 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight after your weightlifting workout.
  • Consider eating 0.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight 2 hours after the weightlifting workout.
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Those are the rules.

The process of meal planning

What are the basic steps of meal planning? Let us now look at the process of meal planning.

I recommend making a long list of nutritious foods that you love and that you can eat every day. You can break them down into breakfast foods, snack foods (mainly quick and easy sources of protein and carbs, such as Greek yogurt, cheese, nuts, fruit, and so forth), and lunch and dinner foods.

You should create these lists in a spreadsheet on your computer with separate sheets for each food type and then create columns for food, amount, protein, carbohydrate, fat and calories, like this:

Build these lists using ‘www.calorieking.com‘ to see the different foods you like.

Once you’re happy with your meal list, it’s time to start making the actual meal plan. As you know, the primary goal is to finish within 50 calories of your target number.

I use formulas to automatically calculate “CALS” and “TOTALS” so I can easily see how things are looking as I play around with different foods and meals.

Start by entering the pre-workout and post-workout nutrition numbers, since these are “fixed”.

Once you’ve got your pre-workout and post-workout nutrition in, you’re free to “spend” your macronutrients however you please. If you love a big breakfast, put this together and see what it leaves you with for the rest of the day. If you prefer a lighter morning and a bigger lunch or dinner, go that route and see how it looks.

As you can also see in my example above, I have entries for “meat,” “vegetables,” “carbs,” and “sweets” because I add them based on what I feel like eating. I change daily. One day my vegetables might be peas, the next green beans, the next a mix of peppers and mushrooms, and so forth. I have simple options for allocating “veggie carbs”.

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You may have also noticed that I have included fish oil in my meal plan. Don’t forget to count the calories in any supplement you take.

As you play with the foods and your numbers, you’ll quickly see what works and what doesn’t.

For example, overly fatty foods usually don’t work because they eat up too much of your daily allotment of dietary fat in one go. Most people will have more fun eating a variety of low-fat foods throughout the day than one high-fat meal that leaves them little fat for everything else.

Bulking and cutting meal plans

Following are the several examples of custom meal plan:

1. Bulking plan for 80 kg male

Macro breakdown: total calories = 3077, protein = 179.1g, carbs = 448.2g, fat = 71.9g.

Breakfast

IngredientsQuantities
Whey protein1 scoop
Whole milk1 cup
Banana1 large
Oats1/4 cup
Peanut butter2 tablespoons
Multivitamin1 capsule
Fish oil1 capsule

Macro breakdown: calories = 664, protein = 41.9g, carbs = 64.8g, fat = 28.6g.

Snack

IngredientsQuantities
Whole grain bread2 slices
Peanut butter2 tablespoons
Jam1.5 tablespoons
Apple1 large

Macro breakdown: calories = 548, protein = 16.2g, carbs = 85.8g, fat = 16.3g.

Lunch

IngredientsQuantities
Chicken breast4 ounces
Rice1/2 cup
Vegetables
(cauliflower, beans,
onions, asparagus,
zucchini, string,
cucumbers, carrots)
3 ounces
Butter1 teaspoon
Lemon juice1

Macro breakdown: calories = 493, protein = 34.4g, carbs = 74.1g, fat = 6.7g.

Dinner

IngredientsQuantities
Chicken breast4 ounces
Sweet potato8 ounces
Peas3/4 cup
Butter1 teaspoon
Cinnamon
(for sweet potatoes)
1 pinch
Multivitamin1 capsule
Fish oil1 capsule

Macro breakdown: calories = 471, protein = 35.4g, carbs = 62.5g, fat = 9.1g.

Pre-workout

IngredientsQuantities
Whey protein1 scoop
Rice milk1 cup
Banana1 large

Macro breakdown: calories = 346, protein = 24.4g, carbs = 61g, fat = 2.5g.

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Post-workout

IngredientsQuantities
Whey protein1 scoop
Rice milk1 cup
Banana2 large
Dark chocolate3/4 ounce

Macro breakdown: calories = 555, protein = 26.8g, carbs = 100g, fat = 8.7g.

2. Cutting meal plan for 91 kg male

Macro breakdown: total calories = 2166, protein = 230.6g, carbs = 206.9g, fat = 46.2g.

Breakfast

IngredientsQuantities
Egg white4
Salsa2 tablespoons
Oats40g
Cinnamon, stevia, nutmeg, vanilla extract
Whey protein1 scoop
Almond milk250ml
Multivitamin1 capsule
MagnesiumCapsule
Vitamin C1g
L-carnitine1000mg

Macro breakdown: calories = 445, protein = 47.4g, carbs = 34.9g, fat = 12.5g.

Snack

IngredientsQuantities
Greek yogurt (0% fat)200g
Strawberries100g
Chia seeds1 tablespoon

Macro breakdown: calories = 175, protein = 22.7g, carbs = 18.4g, fat = 2.5g.

Lunch

IngredientsQuantities
Shrimp200g
Brown rice (cooked)250g
Vegetables steamed
(broccoli, cauliflower,
asparagus, bell paper,
string beans,
carrots, onions)
100g

Macro breakdown: calories = 505, protein = 54.3g, carbs = 61.4g, fat = 4.7g.

Dinner

IngredientsQuantities
Seitan160g
White potato200g
Spinach60g
Carrot1/2
Cucumber1/2
Celery1 stalk
Balsamic vinegar3 tablespoons
Butter1 teaspoon

Macro breakdown: calories = 447, protein = 39.2g, carbs = 48.3g, fat = 6.4g.

Pre-workout

IngredientsQuantities
Whey protein1 scoop
Almond milk
(unsweetened)
250ml
Apple1 medium
Peanut butter2 tablespoons

Macro breakdown: calories = 418, protein = 31g, carbs = 39.4g, fat = 18.6g.

Post-workout

IngredientsQuantities
Whey protein1.5 scoop
Glutamine5-7g

Macro breakdown: calories = 176, protein = 36g, carbs = 4.5g, fat = 1.5g.

The calories and macronutrients differ slightly from the formula, and this is because we are able to work with the exact amount of exercise people are doing each week. And thus make their intake numbers as accurate as possible.1

Sources
  1. Source: Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body. By Michael Matthews. Available here: https://amzn.to/3S7dyYD

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