How Can a Meal Plan Support Your Goals
Personalised nutrition is at the heart of what we do. We believe nutrition is the foundation for a life of health and wellness, as well as playing an integral role in the achievement of health, wellbeing and fitness goals. Whether that’s having more energy, clearer skin, building muscle or losing weight, nutrition is a key component, and we’re here to answer the question how can a meal plan support your goals in an effective and easy-to-manage way.
How does a meal plan work?
We wholeheartedly believe in a science-backed approach to nutrition, so the calculation behind each client’s meal plan recommendation is derived from a formula that takes into account their personal metrics, activity level and current health and fitness goals in order to calculate their calorie target.
We break down our clients’ overall calorie intake into what are known as macronutrients. ‘Macro’ because they are required in large quantities by the body.
There are three main macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat, all of which are used by the body in different ways and provide varying amounts of energy per gram.
Energy balance refers to the relationship between energy in (calories consumed through food and drink) and energy out (calories used in the body for our daily energy requirements).
The number of calories your body requires will depend on a number of factors, including your age, weight, height, body composition, and how active you are.
Tracking is a very valuable way to keep track of your overall consumption/ nutrition, for some.
Meal plans for a fat loss goal
When we are looking to lose weight, we need to be thinking about the energy balance – that’s calories consumed vs calories expended. In order to lose weight, it is recommended that you consume fewer calories than you are expending. This is called being in a ‘calorie deficit’.
We would usually recommend a 20% calorie deficit for gradual and sustainable weight loss. That means, for example, if you were expending 2000 calories per day, we would recommend consuming 1600 calories, which places you in a 20% calorie deficit.
When it comes to dropping body fat, people often opt for one of two methods – a balanced approach or low-carbohydrate, which often means removing/greatly decreasing your consumption of starchy carbohydrates (rice, potatoes etc.) and focusing on veggies instead.
The choice between the two is often down to personal preference. One is by no means superior to the other in the long run, as you will be consuming the same amount of calories, which is the vital consideration.
However, on a low carb diet, you may see quicker results in the short term. This is largely due to the fact that when carbs are stored as glycogen in the body, you also store water. Therefore, when you reduce your carbohydrate intake, the initial drop in weight you may experience will likely be mostly water weight.
Meal plans for muscle gain
If you are looking to increase muscle mass, you will likely need to be in a slight calorie surplus, meaning you’re consuming more calories than you’re expending (or vice versa). To maximise muscle growth, rather than solely increasing body fat (although some increase is inevitable), you will need to pair a calorie surplus with a challenging, progressive training plan.
When it comes to macronutrient split, a balanced approach is often a good starting point. However, protein should be your first consideration. This is because eating the correct amount of protein is crucial when it comes to building muscle, as in its absence, your body will not have the amino acids it requires to build and repair muscle, meaning muscle growth will be impaired.
We would not usually recommend a very low carbohydrate diet when looking to gain muscle. This is because carbohydrates consumed are metabolised into glucose, and then excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and can be quickly converted back into glucose if required.
Glycogen stores within the body are limited, and depletion has been found to negatively impact exercise performance, namely through feelings of fatigue and exhaustion. When levels are extremely low in muscle stores, the body is forced to revert to utilising protein to produce glucose, which can lead to muscle damage and even overtraining if sustained for a period of time. Not ideal for your goal!
Fat will then make up the remainder of your calories, and it should not be forgotten due to the wealth of useful roles it has. For muscle gain, in particular, ensuring you are consuming plenty of polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, mackerel, nuts and seeds), is key. This is because they are thought to be essential for recovery due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Reducing inflammation is important when performing at your peak, as it helps reduce muscle soreness post-training (the dreaded DOMS), allowing you to recover more quickly and be ready to go again in no time!
The Benefits of Meal Prepping
Meal prepping makes sure you’re well prepared! Sounds obvious, but preparing meals in advance has so many benefits.
1. Sticking to healthier foods
Think about it, you’re out and about at lunchtime, and various shops or restaurants have various options, many of which may be expensive and not that great for productivity in the afternoons. Prepping your meals at the start of the week means you already have food that removes the lunchtime decision, which can often be a random one.
Most “meal deals” become the go-to when out and about. Often, they are loaded with sugar, very calorie dense (provide a high amount of calories, without much volume) or simply just don’t really satiate you (make you feel full) afterwards, meaning not only a slump in the afternoon but you’re more likely to reach for snacks you may not need.
2. Saves time
The thing that can put a lot of people off prepping meals in advance is the time it takes to make what can be upwards of 5 meals per week. However, think about how much time you spend looking for something half-decent to eat when you’re on the go. That time spent searching, queuing etc. can add up. With meals prepared in advance, you may find that you can spend lunchtimes on a walk or at the gym: quality time for yourself and your wellbeing.
3. Keeps you on track with the numbers
Prepping meals simply means choosing what you eat. At Fresh Fitness Food, all of our meal prep delivery plans are reviewed by a nutritionist, and we tailor meal plans to our clients’ goals. It’s similar to the meal prep you perform at home – you are in control. Having the option to weigh out ingredients for meals you enjoy means you know what you’re putting in your body – total calories, macronutrients – often planning ahead with what you are consuming can mean you stick to your nutritional goals.
4. Saves money
Doing small food shops every evening, ordering takeaways or grabbing things on the go quickly adds up – often at a very alarming rate! Bulk buying ingredients and purchasing for fewer recipes will likely help you reduce your food spend over time.
5. Minimises food waste
Rather than giving in to enticing offers and buying countless things you may not actually require, you are making sure you are only purchasing the ingredients you need. This will help to avoid the need to throw away unused, out-of-date items.
6. Reduces your ‘what to cook for dinner stress’
Often an overlooked point when it comes to meal prep, but if you sort out your dinners too, you’ll reduce decision fatigue. Think about it, at the end of a long, busy day, often the last thing you will likely want to do is raid the fridge, plan & prep a meal.
The role of healthy eating in hitting your goals.
Everyone has unique needs, and it’s important to identify an eating pattern that supports yours. It’s important to find something that works for you as an individual and something you can stick to in the long run. Eating is a highly personal experience, and it involves more than just fueling your body or sitting down to nutrients on a plate. Eating means something different to everyone.
A healthy diet is a balanced diet which ensures we obtain all the nutrients we require to function optimally.
Our diet can be broken down simply into being made up of macronutrients and micronutrients. All of these components have crucial roles within the body, which is why consuming a balanced diet is important.
- Macronutrients are the components in our diet required in relatively large quantities (hence the name macro) to keep the body functioning optimally. They include protein, carbohydrates and fat.
- Micronutrients are only required by the body in small amounts and are composed of essential vitamins and minerals e.g. vitamins A, C and D, iron and zinc. They play vital roles in the functioning of our body’s systems, and deficiencies can lead to detrimental effects on our health.
How to avoid misinformation
There is so much information out there on what typically constitutes a ‘healthy’ diet, and it certainly can be confusing. Often, recommended ‘healthy’ diets are not quite as ‘healthy’ as they seem.
Any diet which masquerades as ‘healthy’ but promotes an unhealthy mindset is one to be avoided. We should allow ourselves to take pleasure in the foods we are eating. Depriving ourselves of certain foods or food groups and being restrictive is more likely to lead to binge eating patterns, and overeating, making it difficult to sustain your diet in the long run, and encouraging a cycle of negative thought patterns around food.
If you deprive yourself of consuming meals that you find pleasurable to eat, you are more likely to continue to eat even though you are full, because you still do not feel satisfied. Have a little bit of what you fancy and enjoy it.
So, our top tip would be to create balanced meals, and to focus on the tasty and nutritious foods you are able to include, rather than focussing on ingredients and food groups you should remove.
We’re on hand to make life that bit easier and do the work for you. Just give us a few details about you, your lifestyle and your goals, and we’ll do the rest. Get started today with code BLOG50 and get £50 off a 5-day trial. Order here.