How to Create Your Perfect Meal Plan | Erin Stern

January 12, 2017

You’ve crunched numbers, divided food into 6 small meals per day, and downloaded every single calorie counting apps. You religiously log your meals, and hit the gym almost every day. Yet, nothing happens, no progress! What’s worse, you’ve spent hours and quite a few dollars on setting yourself up for this diet. And, you’re exhausted! You’re going back and trouble shooting, “maybe it’s the extra 50 calories in the avocado,” or “maybe I should only have 3 oz of chicken”? Maybe it’s the fact that meal planning is part science and part trial and error. It requires a lot of detail, but not in the way of counting calories and measuring everything you eat. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Here’s a link: This will tell you how many calories you need, just to stay alive. As a general rule, don’t go below this number. You’ll add calories based on your activity level and goals. For example, if you’re active and want to gain muscle, you might add around 1,000 calories to this number. If you have a fast metabolism, you’ll add even more. Weekly progress pictures, measurements, and self-feedback will help with this adjustment.
  • Meals should be adjusted according to activity levels. If you’re eating 1,800 calories every day of the same foods, your body may plateau. You might also be overfeeding yourself on rest days, and not getting enough fuel on training days. Add carbs when you’re more active, add healthy fats and lower carbs when you’re less active. Protein should stay the same.
  • Have protein with every meal. If you’re hungry all the time, increase your intake of lean meat, leafy greens, and water. It’s almost impossible for the body to convert protein into body fat, and you’ll feel fuller longer.
  • Fuel your body before and after training. I try to get 30g of protein and 30g of carbs before and after training. On a heavy leg, back, or HIIT day, I’ll have more carbs post-workout, and another carb/protein meal after.
  • Fudge a little. Measure your proteins and carbs, but don’t measure green veggies. Don’t worry about low-calorie condiments like mustard or salsa. Don’t worry about sodium. If you’re drinking water and sweating in the gym, you need salt.
  • Be aware of what you’re eating, but don’t obsess. You don’t necessarily need 6 small meals per day. You can do 3, if it fits your schedule better. A treat every week is okay, too. Nothing should be off-limits, but you should make healthy choices.
  • Give your body time to rest and digest. Try to eat your last meal 2-3 hours before bed. Also, kick out “diet” from your vocabulary. This may make you withhold food during the day, only to overeat at night. Eating too much at night can lead to fat gain. Try to fuel your body, and eat more when you’re most active.
  • Keep a food journal. Yup, write it down. Try it for a week, and you’ll notice patterns or sticking points. Apps are great, but I think they can overcomplicate things.
  • Opt for whole, unprocessed foods. Generally, these will fill you up, and won’t be full of chemicals.
  • Tweak as needed. This is where the trial and error comes in. Listen to your body, and make notes of your results. No one will know your body better than you – and once you learn how it responds and works, you will accomplish all of your goals!

I love BetaTOR, as it helps me maintain my strength and muscle when I’m leaning down! It’s also great for maintenance and gaining! Thanks for reading – until next time, train hard, y’all!

- Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Figure Olympia

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