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Meal Planning for Lifters

Nutrition is vital and what many consider the largest factor in achieving your goals. However many of us forget this fact due to our busy work and social schedules coupled with living in a time poor society. Knowledgeable, informed and structured meal planning however will get you the nutrition you need to for proper and sustained growth, adaptation and development of your muscles and to ensure your time in the gym is not wasted.

Meal Planning is NOT Rocket Science

Meal planning, while important to get right, is not rocket science. You wouldn’t build a house without plans, so why are you living your everyday life without one? Meal plans give you structure and help to coordinate your eating so that you can spend more of your time and concentration on other things. While meal planning is not as hard as it seems, it does require a bit of effort from you at the beginning and some calculations. Here is an easy 6 step guide to creating the perfect individualised meal plan so you’re getting the right amount of carbs, protein and fats.

Step 1 - Crunching the Numbers

The first step is of course finding out how much energy, carbs, protein and fats you actually need. This will provide the basis for what foods to choose and how much you will be eating throughout the day. Proper calculations of energy, carb, protein and fat requirements are a headache as there are so many factors involved including age, sex, activity levels and weight goals. Luckily, Mr Supplement has taken the hard work out for you. Have a look at the following tables to figure out roughly the numbers you need:

Weight Gain

 

Total Energy Intake (Calories)

Carbohydrates (g)

Protein (g)

Fat (g)

Weight

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

40-50

2968

2694

408

370

186

168

66

60

51-60

3253

2990

447

411

203

187

72

66

61-70

3524

3271

485

450

220

204

78

73

71-80

3795

3553

522

489

237

222

84

79

81-90

4067

3835

559

527

254

240

90

85

91-100

4338

4117

596

566

271

257

96

91

 

Weight Loss

Total Energy Intake (Calories)

Carbohydrates (g)

Protein (g)

Fat (g)

Weight

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

40-50

1968

1694

271

233

148

127

33

28

51-60

2253

1990

310

274

169

149

38

33

61-70

2524

2271

347

312

189

170

42

38

71-80

2795

2553

384

351

210

191

47

43

81-90

3067

2835

422

390

230

213

51

47

91-100

3338

3117

459

429

250

234

56

52

 

Weight Maintenance

Total Energy Intake (Calories)

Carbohydrates (g)

Protein (g)

Fat (g)

Weight

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

40-50

2468

2194

309

274

123

110

82

73

51-60

2753

2490

344

311

138

125

92

83

61-70

3024

2771

378

346

151

139

101

92

71-80

3295

3053

412

382

165

153

110

102

81-90

3567

3335

446

417

178

167

119

111

91-100

3838

3617

480

452

192

181

128

121

Note: The following tables are based on the Schofield Equation with the factors 18-30 year olds, who are moderately active and who are not considered overweight in terms of BMI. All figures for energy and macronutrients are estimates only and if you are training consistently at a high level of intensity, you may need to increase these amounts.

Step 2 - Breaking it Down

The next step is to break down your energy needs into the number of meals you have per day. General consensus is that you should be having 5-6 or more meals per day, rather than the typical 3 meals per day. In this author’s opinion, having 6-7 meals is ideal as it splits up the amount of food you’re eating so that you aren’t going through extended periods without food which can wreak havoc on your blood glucose and insulin levels. Having more meals a day will ensure that you aren’t too full trying to meet your requirements in 3 meals. The proportion of your total energy requirements required for each meal differs between individuals, but as a general rule of thumb:

Main Meals % of total calories Snacks % of total calories

Breakfast                                  20                                Snack 1                       10
Lunch                                        20                                Snack 2                       10
Dinner                                       20                                Snack 3                       10       
Snack 4                       10

Step 3 - The Real Planning

Now that you know roughly how much energy you need with each meal, the real meal planning starts. First, some golden rules to follow for any meal plan:

  • Avoid Take-Away Foods – They are high energy foods full of fat and sodium, which can wreak havoc on your diet and training.
  • Protein Protein Protein – Incorporate protein into every meal to ensure that you’re meeting increased protein demands from training and helping to increase satiety so that you don’t pig out and binge between meals. To busy to make a protein-rich meal or go out to find something descent? Consider a protein bar or shake which is a convenient and effective alternative.
  • Carbohydrates Are Good – Have some carbs with every meal too. It’ll help maintain your blood sugar levels and with protein absorption. If you are in a pre-competition phase, you may choose to decrease the amount of carbs you are ingesting.

Planning your meal now involves looking at nutrition panels. Not all foods contain nutritional information, so you may like to invest in either a book containing food composition data or visiting websites such as www.calorieking.com.au to view nutritional data on their database. Better yet, use a food analysis program such as Foodworks for better accuracy. Another tip is to get a grasp on serving and portion sizes. Investing in a set of kitchen scales will help you better calculate the energy, carbs, protein and fats you’re having as your idea of a serving size may differ to what’s on the product.

Step 4 - Sample Meal Plan

Have a look at this sample one day meal plan for Mr M, a 61-70 kg male looking to gain weight:

Breakfast                               Calories          Carbs              Protein            Fat

2 Eggs                                           90                    0.2                    7.3                  6.7

Muesli (55g)                                 190                    33                    5.8                   3.9

Skim Milk (250mL)                         85                    12                      9                     0.3

2 Slices Toast                               125                  22.4                    5                    1.7

Peanut Butter (20g)                      125                  3.1                   4.1                   10.5

OJ (250mL)                                    90                   20                  1.3                      0

Subtotal                                    705                  90.7                 32.5                 23.1

 

Morning Tea                          Calories          Carbs              Protein            Fat

Protein Powder                        142                  11                    23                    0.5

Skim Milk (250mL)                   85                    12                    9                      0.3

20 Almonds                             144                  1.2                   4.7                   13.1

Subtotal                                  371                  24.2                 36.7                 13.9

 

Lunch                                     Calories          Carbs              Protein            Fat

Tuna (180g tin)                            134                    0                     30.4                 1.4

12 Crackers                                 174                 25.8                   4.1                   5.1

Baked Beans (130g)                    112                 17.6                   6.5                    0

2 Slices of Bread                          125                 22.4                    5                     1.7

100g Ricotta                                 126                   2                    10.1                   8.7

1 Medium Apple                            68                  14.6                   0.4                   0

Subtotal                                   739                  82.4                 56.5                 16.9

 

Afternoon Tea                       Calories          Carbs              Protein            Fat

Protein Bar                                     366                  28                      40                  10.1

Subtotal                                     366                  28                      40                  10.1

 

Post-Workout Snack             Calories          Carbs              Protein            Fat

Protein Powder                                 142                  11                      23                   0.5

Skim Milk (250mL)                             85                   12                       9                    0.3

Chicken Sushi Roll                           207                 37.8                    6.2                  3.2

Subtotal                                        434                  60.8                 38.2                 4

 

Dinner                                    Calories          Carbs              Protein            Fat

Lean Steak (250g)                       445                    0                         80                 13.8

Baked Potato (150g)                    134                 24.9                      5.3                   0

Gravy (120g)                                 32                   6.6                         1                    1

Mixed Veges (200g)                     116                 13.6                      7.4                  1.4

Subtotal                                   727                  45.1                 93.7                 16.2

 

Supper                                    Calories          Carbs              Protein            Fat

Yoghurt (200g)                               188                 23.8                   10.8                  4

Almond M&M’S® (25g)                   131                 14.9                     2.2                   7

Subtotal                                      319                  38.7                 13                    11

 

Grand Total                           3661                369.9               310.6               95.2


Let's have a look at how this compares with the recommendations in Step 1 - Crunching the Numbers

 

Total Energy Intake (Calories)

Carbohydrates (g)

Protein (g)

Fat (g)

Weight

Male

Male

Male

Male

61-70

3524

485

220

78


As you can see, this meal plan contains a lot more protein, so in order to tweak it, you might consider adding more carbs into your diet. For some, the amount of food in the sample meal plan above might seem like a lot, but remember that all the figures are estimates and you are after all trying to gain weight. Remember to take it slowly so that you do not overwhelm yourself.

Step 5 - Sticking to It

After making a daily meal plan, consider making them for the whole week. This will give you a bit of variety. Here are some extra tips to help make the meal plan work for you:

  • Plan ahead – Buy all your ingredients ahead of time so that you don’t have to rush out to the shops for some missing food or ingredient.
  • Bulk Cooking – Cooking everything in bulk does take time, but saves you time in the long run so that you don’t have to cook daily.
  • Tinned Food – True, tinned food has less nutrients than fresh and frozen foods, but sometimes convenience is paramount. Tinned tuna and salmon are great ways to boost your protein intake and tinned fruits and veges will help you reach your daily target.
  • Fibre - While fibre is great for you, too much can be bulky and uncomfortable during workouts and even throughout the day. Consider fibre supplements in addition to food sources of fibre to share the load.
  • Microwave foods – Microwaving foods has always had quite a lot of flak, but done correctly, more nutrients can actually be retained than say boiling or frying. Plus it’s quick.
  • Don't forget that supplements have been formulated to take out some of the guesswork out of eating right to gain muscle and lose fat. Eating well can be achieved no matter how busy you are,

Step 6 - Tracking Your Progress

Start tracking your progress. This includes changes in weight, difficulties in sticking to the meal plan and how you feel on a day to day basis. Are you still hungry or too full? The faster you address these problems, the better you are able to stick to your meal plan. Remember, creating and sticking to a meal plan takes effort on your part, but with a bit of perseverance and discipline; this author has no doubt that you’ll reach your goals in no time.

"If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got." - Anon.

1 Schofield WN (1985). "Predicting basal metabolic rate, new standards and review of previous work.". Hum Nutr Clin Nutr 39 Suppl 1: 5–41
2
www.calorieking.com.au – Last accessed June 15th 2011

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