Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I don't do meal plans. I do Custom Flexible Dieting Guidelines.

Pretty average photo from training
yesterday. I thought my shoulders were
looking good though.
I just don't, and I won't no matter how much someone asks or how much they offer to pay me. I just don't feel comfortable telling other people what to eat. The idea stresses me the hell out, to be honest.

If you really do want a meal plan via me, I will crunch the numbers as I always do via my Flexible Fueling system and then forward those guidelines to a real dietitian to talk to you about your food choices. I haven't had one for a while, but I do still from time to time get told "no I want you to do it"... well, that aint gonna happen.

Now if you were considering looking for a meal plan online, or if you were looking to hire a trainer who'll tell you what you are allowed to eat and what you are not allowed to eat, here's what I think you should keep in mind.

What makes for a good meal plan?

Purely from a nutritional point of view, a meal plan is good if it provides everything that you need and no excess. So enough total energy, enough protein, fiber and a good spread of micronutrients suitable to maintain good health, an appropriate weight range, and good performance and results at training.

That's what you need in a meal plan purely on nutritional grounds.

A lot of the time you might see meal plans on offer from trainers or even less qualified "wellness guru" types, and they're kind of a one size fits all proposition with a bunch of healthy foods listed, and the inference is that since they're all healthy foods it's a good plan and you'll be getting everything you need. This is often far from the case as just throwing together a list of "healthy foods" in no way ensures meeting an adequate energy intake for performance at sport or adequate protein for adaptation to training.

Often this is the case with "clean eating" type plans for sale or available for free online. There is simply no consideration given to energy and protein requirements, and they may fall dangerously short of a suitable amount for an active person. Anyone can throw together a list of healthy foods... and most of the time that's all you're getting. A list of healthy foods and perhaps another list of other foods that are banned for no legitimate reason is a long way from being a decent sports nutrition plan that will ensure results. It is probably the opposite.

Now assuming you do have a plan to meet your individual requirements in terms of total energy, protein, and plenty of vitamins and minerals via healthy & nutritious choices, that's great. However, there is more to a good meal plan than simply being nutritionally appropriate.

A good meal plan is one that not only delivers everything that you require, but even more importantly is one that you can stick to long term. A plan that has designated meal times or meal frequency that does not suit you as an individual, you won't stick to for long. A plan that includes mostly foods that you find unappealing, you won't stick to for long.

If you're anything like me and a lot of other people, if you don't like the foods you probably won't even attempt the plan. Because you know it is unworkable. Assuming you do try, you're likely to put off eating for as long as possible and then end up having something else instead and probably way too much of it. Or you might force yourself to try the scheduled meal and lose your appetite half way though as you're not enjoying it. This would mean either you go underfueled defeating the purpose of having a plan in the first place, or again you end up ravenous at some point later on and over eat something that isn't on the plan.

None of this is conducive to good results or to a good relationship with food.

This is a very simple point that seems to baffle a lot of people who for some reason believe they are in a position to give advice to others.

A plan that is "good" in terms of providing everything that you need is worthless if it is not conducive to enthusiastic adherence. If it is unworkable due to meal schedules or food choices... it might be a good plan for someone else, but it's not a good plan for you. The plan needs to fit the person. It is not a failing on your part if you can't force yourself to work with an unworkable situation.

Now if this plan does indeed provide all of the nutritional resources that you require, the assumption is that we actually know what those requirements are. What amounts of various resources such as total energy, protein, fiber and so on. If the person providing the plan can't tell you what those are, then it's just a stab in the dark and they are full of shit. We don't know your requirements, we don't really how much this plan provides... but it's all good food so obviously it does provide exactly the amount you require and no more or less. 

That's unreasonably optimistic, in my opinion.

Certainly though, a competent professional (such as myself) can determine those requirements with reasonable accuracy. So, rather than a plan that is basically an "eat it, it's good for you" proposition that may or may not deliver everything that you need, we can plan to meet all of those nutritional requirements with a variety of our preferred choices of foods that will be suitable to long term adherence. More to the point, we can also create a new plan whenever we feel like it, based on whatever foods we feel like eating that day.

Obviously you can't just abuse the concept and still expect to end up meeting all of your targets, but with a little planning and preparedness you most certainly can produce great and sustainable results with whatever choices of foods best suit you.

This is what Flexible Dieting and IIFYM is all about. In my Flexible Fueling system, I give you the targets and simple guidelines to assist you to build your own plan that you'll be enthusiastic and optimistic about sticking to.

And it's pretty easy.