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Meal Planning

By Anne Keckler | September 25, 2009

Are you confused about what to eat to achieve your goal? Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply improve your health, there is a lot of misinformation out there. There are diet gurus with books to sell or magazines to push or special foods to promote, and they each tell you something different. This one tells you that you can eat whatever you want, and that one insists that sugar is poison, while the other one suggests that the only way to lose weight is to eat nothing but boiled chicken breasts and steamed brown rice. Ugh! I want to break through the confusion and help you to plan healthy meals that will help you to meet your goals.

Eat Often

Many people typically start their day with a high-carb meal, such as cereal, or none at all. Then they are hungry mid-morning, and hit the snack machine. This is not the way to achieve your fitness goals.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your mother probably told you that, and she was right! Hey, we moms have to be right about something occasionally. But the key is to have a high protein breakfast. By getting protein into your body first thing in the morning, you will keep your blood sugar level more stable throughout the day, and probably eat less. You’ll have fewer cravings, and you’ll be able to think better.

After that high-protein breakfast, you’ll want to continue to eat fairly frequently, to keep your energy level up. But what should you eat, and how much? The American College of Sports Medicine currently recommends 4 to 6 small meals per day. This prevents energy slumps due to low blood sugar, and keeps your metabolism revved up throughout the day.


When you hear that you should eat many small meals, you might picture the kind of meal your mother served for dinner, complete with bread, potatoes, gravy, and large servings of everything. Well, let’s rethink that.

Some women, like myself, for example, only consume 1200 calories per day when losing weight. If you divide that by 6 meals a day, you can see that these “meals” are really just snacks! Even if I eat 4 meals a day, that’s only 300 calories per “meal.” A 12 oz. can of Coke contains 150 calories, so that would be half of my caloric allowance for a meal! Those calories add up quickly, so keep portions small when trying to lose weight, and be mindful of the number of calories in your foods (and drinks!).

If you are trying to gain weight, you’ll still need to figure out how many calories per meal you want to consume, on average. My daily caloric allowance when bulking is 2200, so I divide that by the number of meals I eat per day to get a ballpark figure of calories per meal. Many men will consume several thousand calories when bulking, but the basic idea is the same. Just divide your daily caloric requirements by the number of meals per day, and eat that amount to meet your goal.


I covered macronutrients in a previous article. In a nutshell, macronutrients are the source of most of your calories, and include protein, carbohydrate, and fat.

Protein for Muscle

You want to be sure you get enough protein, whether you are trying to gain muscle, lose fat, or simply maintain your current weight and be healthy. Protein builds new cells, and your body needs to continually build new cells. You’ll need 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. If you weigh 150 pounds and you have 20% bodyfat, that means you have 80% lean body mass, which is 120 pounds. You would need to consume 120 grams of protein each day. You can find protein in significant amounts in meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and beans. The biggest problem with getting your protein from beans or other vegetable sources is that you’ll also get a fairly large amount of carbs. The problem with getting protein from meat is that you can also end up with a lot of fat. You’ll want to make careful choices. Chicken breast meat, eggs (especially egg whites), and whey protein powder are all good, lean sources of protein.

Fat for Satiety and Health

In the 1980’s, low-fat diets were all the rage. We can see how well those worked! A low-fat diet leaves us feeling hungry and dissatisfied. Fat is very important for good health. Still, we don’t want to consume too much fat. The biggest problems with fat are that fat has more calories per gram than protein or carbs, and we tend to have an imbalance in the types of fats we eat. We don’t get enough Omega 3 fat, but we get too much saturated fat and Omega 6 fat. We’ve learned that this balance is even more important to our health than the amount of fat we consume overall. Still, you’ll want to keep your fat consumption reasonably low if you are trying to lose weight, because fat has more calories than protein or carbs. On the other hand, if you are trying to gain weight, you can eat more fat! Just be sure your protein requirements are filled first.

Carbs for Energy

Carbohydrate is your body’s main source of energy, but many Americans eat enough carbs for an endurance athlete, while sitting at a desk all day! The body will store these unused, unneeded calories as fat. The best source of carbs for the average desk jockey is vegetables. A cup of salad each day and a couple of servings of steamed veggies is all you need for optimum health.

Starchy foods, such as bread and potatoes, as well as fruits and sweets, are best consumed immediately before or after an exercise session, and then in moderation.

Basics of Meal Planning

With all of this in mind, then, what should a meal look like?

A serving of protein with one or two servings of vegetables should constitute most of your meals. That includes breakfast. Add some little something for flavor, as long as it fits within your plan and will help you to achieve your goals. I know that I wouldn’t want to live for long on boiled chicken breast and dry salad! Add some pesto, and a very small amount of salad dressing made from oil that is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (such as olive oil), maybe a small treat, like a little cheese, and you can have a satisfying meal.

Have a small, high-sugar, low-fat treat immediately before exercise, and then a high-sugar protein shake immediately afterward. This will give you the energy to have a great workout (thus boosting your workout results), and allow for recovery afterward.

Avoid sugary things at night. You’re going to sleep! What do you need that energy for? If you’re so hungery that it will interfere with your rest, you can have a low-carb protein snack at night.

In the near future, I will provide you with a sample two-week meal plan based on these guidelines.

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Topics: Nutrition | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Meal Planning”

  1. linda reese Says:
    May 21st, 2010 at 7:00 am

    i need help in prepare my meals better. balance out our meats.. we just done and got have fresh beef 650 lbs. and 450lbs. fresh pork and 120 lbs. fresh sugar cured ham. i have everything from 2 inch rib eyes t- bones sirloin roast r 2 inches hamburger homemade sausage pork chops to pork loin to ribs and short ribs. we love salads and veggie.. i went to markert paid almost $20.00 for pork chops that i could see threw and write on the wall. not worth it .. i go get rib eyes costs me 100.00 for my steaks so i went back to my old ways i had a steer and twp big pig slaughter.. all averaGES $2.30 A POUNDS


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