Below you’ll find the system for eating that I personally use and that I’ve developed over the years as I traveled, and lived in different cities with different food options. I created it because I wanted to make staying in great shape as streamlined and easy as possible no matter where or how I was living.
The best way to approach this is to read through the whole thing from start to finish. Then after you’ve had a chance to get a full understanding of how it works come back to the beginning and create your own diet plan using the step by step process.
Front Loading the Work
In my experience the most important aspect to success with dieting is to have a realistic plan made right from the start that you know you can follow and you know it will work. The plan needs to take into account your eating preferences and current living situation. This eliminates indecision and doubt later on and essentially eliminates the need for you to think “what should I eat now?” ever again. It might take you 30 minutes to an hour now, but it will save you countless months of frustration, confusion and lack of results later on.
Look ahead to your work schedule, and the type of life you want to live and keep that in mind as we go through this exercise and define your eating plan.
Baseline Diet and the 80% Rule
The eating plan I use is based on the concept of a “baseline diet”. A baseline diet is defined as the perfect diet for you, your goals, and your situation. If you follow it, you will get lean. That is fact.
Throughout this exercise we will be creating your personal baseline diet. However, after we create it you don’t need to follow it 100% of the time. You know as well as I do that following anything 100% of the time is not realistic. As much as we plan, and as much as we will try to anticipate things that will screw up our plan, we will never be able to follow the baseline diet for 100% of our meals. And you don’t need to try to.
Firstly, it would be boring as hell to even try and secondly it is not at all necessary to be 100% consistent. If you follow the diet 80% of the time or more then you will see good results.
If you follow the diet plan 80% of the time what does that look like in the context of a week?
|Wednesday||diet||PARTY AT WORK||diet|
|Saturday||Still sleeping||diet||NIGHT OUT|
|Sunday||Still sleeping||CHOCOLATE CAKE||diet|
This essentially means that you can eat crap up to 4 times a week and still make good results.
You will go out drinking with friends, or eat an entire pizza occasionally, or eat chocolate cake at a café on a date. That’s fine and that’s life. The reason we define your baseline diet is so that after you have those big nights out or dates you know that as long as you are following the diet 80% of the time you’ll be fine. You just get back to your baseline diet. Just get back on the train.
Step 1: How to define your baseline diet in terms of calories and macronutrients?
First you need to define your calorie and macronutrient breakdown. There are various calculators available online where you can input your body weight, gender, and body fat percentage and you will get a good estimate of your required macronutrient and calorie needs. However, for your convenience I have made the below 6 charts.
Charts 1 to 3 give you the calorie and macronutrient breakdowns for an ideal diet aiming to cut fat on males between the below common ranges of body fat percentage and weight. 10% to 26% body fat and 160 to 210 pounds body weight.
Charts 4 to 6 give you the calorie and macronutrient breakdowns for an ideal diet aiming to cut fat on females between the below common ranges of body fat percentage and weight. 20% to 36% body fat and 120 to 170 pounds body weight.
If you fall outside of the chart you can send me an email at email@example.com or comment below and I’ll be happy to calculate and send you your baseline diet breakdown or help you with any other aspect of this process.
MEN (CHARTS 1 – 3)
WOMEN (CHARTS 4-6)
This chart gives you the information you need to set your baseline diet in terms of calories and macronutrients for both workout days and non-workout days.
Now that you know your calorie and macronutrient breakdowns, that’s great. But we don’t eat macronutrients we eat food.
Step 2: How to define your baseline diet in terms of food?
So the next question is how do you convert the calorie and macronutrient information into food?
As an example let’s look at the breakdown of a 180lb male at 20% body fat.
|Male 180lbs at 20% body fat|
|Day||Protein (grams)||Carbs (grams)||Fat (grams)||Calories|
Step 2a: Create Two Empty Sample Meal Plan Tables
The first step for him is to create 2 empty tables as shown below that he will populate with food items, quantities and macronutrient calories. I find Microsoft Excel works well for this. You can create your own tables using the template below or email me and I’ll send you the exact excel sheet that I use.
One table is for your workout days and the other is for non-workout days.
Step 2b: Make a list of all the healthy foods you are willing and able to eat
List vegetables, fruits, different meats, whole grains, and oils. List real, natural, non-processed foods only. But only list all of the healthy foods that you will actually want to eat, and that are available in your local area. This is meant to be a realistic list. If you know that you won’t eat broccoli for example don’t put it down. If your local grocery store never has avocado don’t list it. The list is meant to contain only foods you are willing and able to eat.
My list might look like this.
Step 2c: Look up the calorie and macronutrient data of all the foods on your list
After your list is complete you can look up the calories and macronutrient breakdown of all of these foods by going to the following website.
With the list of foods you made and website above you can now start to populate your two blank tables that you made above.
You can populate your table using macronutrient grams or macronutrient calories. Whichever is easier for you. The excel sheet I use is populated by macronutrient calories. You can calculate the macronutrient calories of each food by noting that 1 gram of protein has 4 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories, and 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.
Step 2d: Populate your blank tables with food and quantity
Now is the fun part. You decide what to eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You decide which foods to put together in the same meals and which to separate. However, just make sure that as you populate the table it is realistic for you and your lifestyle. I will keep saying that. This is your ideal diet. It is custom for you and you are responsible for creating it in a way that you can actually follow. If at any time you look at it and feel like you may not be able to follow some aspect you need to change the food/quantity/combinations immediately. It has to be realistic for you. Now keep entering the foods and changing the quantities until you achieve your calculated macronutrient and calorie numbers. You won’t get it perfect, but try to get within 5% of the ideal and you’ll be fine. To be honest when you are eating you won’t be able to perfectly measure your food anyway so there will always be a small margin of error. A 5% margin of error is not a problem.
Here is the filled out table for our sample 180lb 20% body fat male.
That’s it. This is your baseline diet in terms of food.
You are set up with a diet that will get you to your goals. It is made up of foods that you have access to and that you will actually eat.
Step 3: Take a photo of your plan and keep it in your phone
I personally would now take a photo of my 2 tables with my cellphone so that I can always quickly refer to them before going grocery shopping or out to for a meal to remind myself what to buy and what to eat.
One quick note about falling off the plan and getting back on.
As we talked about above. If you can stick to this plan 80% of the time you will be successful. In fact, we only plan to stick to it 80% of the time.
That being said there will be times in life (vacations, holidays, etc.) where it is difficult to even be 80% consistent. Don’t worry about this. The baseline diet plan is here and always will be. After you finish your vacation or other life event you can always get right back on the plan and it will always lead you towards the lean body you want. You don’t need to feel guilty when life happens. Just start fresh tomorrow morning and start making progress again towards your goal. This is a long term strategy.
Step 4: Track your progress and update your plan as your body changes
As a final note. One thing I absolutely insist on is measuring results. Everyone is slightly different and the results you get over time will be unique to you. A reasonable rate of fat loss is 1-4 pounds in the first week then 0.5-2 pounds every week after that. By taking your weight measurement every week and your waist and other measurements every month you will know 2 things.
- Is the plan working?
- Do I need to change anything?
If the plan is working that’s great, keep at it. Just remember that as your body changes over time you will need to update your meal plans to reflect the needs and goals of your new body. If you started at 180lbs and 20% body fat you will have started with a specific calorie and macronutrient plan. If you have now achieved a body of 170lbs and 14% body fat the macronutrient and calorie intake you need to keep making progress will be slightly different and will need to be recalculated. Change the quantities of certain foods in your tables as you like to reflect these changes.
Are you losing fat too quickly or not at all? Ask yourself why. Are you following the baseline diet more than 80% of the time? If not, no worries, try better next week. Maybe swap out some foods you thought you would like but didn’t end up liking. Sleep better. Hit your workouts and keep going.
If you are not losing fat or losing fat too quickly and you are following the plan more than 80% of the time. Maybe your lifestyle is a bit unique. Adjust the calorie intake either up or down 200 calories and see what happens next week.
That’s it. That is the entire diet plan that I’ve used successfully for the last few years.
If you would like me to calculate your personal macronutrient and calorie breakdown or have any other questions at all, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below and I’ll get back to you.