Those are food guidelines/mindful eating, flexible dieting/if it fits your macros (IIFYM) and a fixed meal plan. Each has their own benefits and you can crossover between for example have a meal plan Monday to Friday then eat mindfully or track your macros on the weekend… I’ll explain more.
First, let’s learn a little more about the methods.
Guidelines of what to eat and when. It’ll include meal timings, what food types (protein, carbs, fats) each meal should be made up of and rough portion size guidelines. It’ll be up to you to choose what to cook for each meal to fit the guidelines.
Method of adjustment: When it comes to adjusting your diet to either gain weight or lose weight, be that muscle or fat, I will advise to increase or decrease portion sizes by eye.
Pros: eat fairly flexibly each day, don’t over-obsess with calories/weighing foods, learn to improve your diet independently
Cons: Will have to spend time thinking about what will make up each meal and plan you’re shopping/cooking.
Results: guarantees results 40-60%, you’ll see improvements initially but after a few weeks it becomes a bit of a guessing game making it ineffective when trying to dial in on more demanding goals. Good for someone who just wants to improve health, bad for someone who wants a six pack or big muscles.
Calorie and macronutrient targets that you must hit daily, e.g. 2500 calories 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fats. You will have to download an app called MyFitnessPal and input everything you eat on a daily basis – the app will tell you how many calories you’ve consumed and the macronutrient breakdown and it’s your job to steer your daily food consumption towards hitting the targets I give you. This method can also come with food guidelines as described above.
Method of adjustment: When it comes to adjusting your diet to either gain weight or lose weight, be that muscle or fat, I will give you new adjusted calorie and macronutrient targets to hit.
Pros: eat 100% flexibly each day, including eating out from restaurants. Learn about the macronutrient contents of foods.
Cons: each time you eat you WILL have to get out your phone and spent 5 minutes plugging what you just ate into the app (this time does reduce after a couple of weeks as the app remembers foods and gives you frequent and recent options). For home cooked meals you will have to weigh out portion weights if you’re to accurately input the values into the app. Be aware not to fall into the habit of making unhealthy/inefficient choices and justifying it by saying ‘it still fits into my calorie target’.
Results: Guarantees results ~60-80% initially, ~100% if you get good at it (it’s an art!). Good for someone who wants a six pack or muscles.
A meal plan that’ll tell you exactly what to eat, what time of day to eat it and the exact grams of each food you should be cooking for each meal.
Pros: you don’t have to think, simply buy the food, cook it, and eat it. Cost-efficient, you know exactly how much of each food you’re eating each week and can buy the exact quantity, all from the supermarket. Consistent routine reduces stress.
Cons: zero flexibility, you eat the same thing at the same time of day every day for 4-8 weeks (although you can make changes to foods on a weekly basis provided they’re a similar macronutrient structure). Weigh out all foods when cooking. You don’t learn that much. You become dependent on having a diet plan. If you’re really busy and one day and you can’t cook meals the night before or in the morning before leaving the house then your pretty much screwed.
Results: Guarantees results ~100% from the outset. Good for someone who wants a six pack or muscles.
For the best learning experience, my recommendation and the underpinning tool of progression in my 12-week transformation is to start with food guidelines for 4 weeks to get into healthy eating habits and a routine. Then move to food guidelines while making it fit your macros by using the app, this will gain you competency with food types and macronutrient contents of foods. At which point if I was to then give you a meal plan you’d have the knowledge to use the meal plan as a base diet and make smart decisions daily if and when you may need to divert from the meal plan, without completely relying on the trainer for guidance.
I personally use method 3. But I will never forget to prepare meals ever. I’m very structured in my day and like to always know what I’m eating and when. I’m very busy so for me method 2 would be one more thing to have to think about. I eat for function, not for taste. However, I also have all the knowledge from methods 1 and 2 so if needed to, I can swap foods around knowing my substitute will still closely fit my targets without having to think about it too much.
If you’d like to learn how to master all three of these approaches and be in complete control of your diet and weight sign up to my 12-week transformation here for the ultimate learning experience.