Eating for Your Fitness Goals: How to Create a Personalized Workout Meal Plan

New year, new you! This year, you are going to stick with your resolution to become a healthier and happier person. Maybe that means dropping a few (or a lot) of pounds, finally getting those abs of steel, or completing a big race, like a half-marathon. You may assume that the path to better health leads straight into the gym; but while fitness is an important component of good health, your workout meal plan may actually be a bigger factor in your overall success!

According to Dr. Shawn Talbott, a nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition clinic, “As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.” Yes, diet is that important. It is far easier to cut 417 calories out of your diet each day by simply not drinking a can of Coca-Cola with each meal than it is to burn that same amount of calories through exercise.  (You’d have to run roughly four miles every single day just to balance out your soda habit!)

As you begin to plan for your healthier lifestyle, your diet must be a part of that equation. Start by identifying your overall fitness goal – lose weight, build muscle, etc Different goals will require different meal plans. Once you have a goal in mind, it’s time to begin crafting a specific workout meal plan to help support your goal. (You might also want to check out this helpful article on how to ease into your New Year’s fitness plan.)

Creating a Workout Meal Plan to Lose Weight

One of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight. While the concept of “calories in versus calories out” is at the heart of losing weight, you also want to create a meal plan you can actually maintain. Eating a lettuce leaf with a glass of lemon water will help you drop weight quickly, but that kind of diet isn’t sustainable at all.

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Focus on crafting a diet that is both hearty and healthy. Get rid of refined sugars, which can be found in highly processed foods. Add more veggies, lean protein, and whole grains into your diet. Switch out the cans of soda for glasses of flavored water. Cut back on the fast food and make meals at home.

Count your calories. Dr. Talbott suggests eating 10 calories per pound of body weight. If you weigh 180 pounds, that means you can eat 1,800 calories a day

Adding a fitness regiment to your weight loss plan will help you burn additional calories, improve your cardiovascular fitness, and help you gain muscle. Having trouble motivating yourself to hit the gym? This article can help!

Creating a Workout Meal Plan to Gain Muscle

Maybe losing weight has never been a problem for you. Instead, you dream of sculpted arms, washboard abs, and killer glutes. Fortunately, a goal to add muscle mass means you get to increase your daily calories.

That isn’t an invitation to head to your nearest All-You-Can-Eat buffet. While you can eat more, you still need to eat for success. According to Shannon Clark at BodyBuilding.com, a person looking to increase muscle mass should eat around 15 to 17 calories for every pound of body weight. Someone who weighs 185 pounds would need to eat 2,775 to 3,145 calories a day.

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Many of those calories need come from lean protein sources, such as fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, nuts, and leafy greens. Clark recommends eating one gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you have trouble eating getting enough protein throughout the day, consider snacking on a protein smoothie in the morning or afternoon.

Because building muscles requires so many calories, you may also want to consider dividing your diet into four or even five smaller meals a day.

Creating a Workout Meal Plan to Improve Your Cardio

Will this be the year you finally finish a 5k? What about a 10k, a half marathon, or even that big Kahuna – a full marathon? If you plan on upping your cardio workload in the new year, make sure you feed your body enough calories and the right calories.

Long cardio workouts will require you to eat more calories than a sedentary individual, but don’t assume this means you can eat without limit. Remember, the average person only burns 100 calories per mile. Even that five-mile run means you can only add 500 calories to your diet. That’s equivalent to roughly two candy bars.

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Not that you would dare dream of filling your calorie deficit with candy bars, right? Instead, you’ll want to add complex carbohydrates to your pre-workout meals. Consider a breakfast of steel-cut oats mixed with natural honey and fruit for breakfast, a sandwich on whole wheat bread for lunch, or a nice helping of brown rice with dinner. Your body will turn these carbs into glucose, a sugar it can burn for energy when you begin exercising.

It’s important that you eat enough calories to fuel your body for long aerobic workouts, even when you are also trying to lose weight. If your body runs out of glucose to burn, it will start burning fat and also your muscle mass!

To get the right amount of calories, stick with the 10 calories-per-pound-of-bodyweight rule and then add in the extra calories you plan to burn during your workout. Figuring out how many calories you burn in a specific workout can be tricky. Different exercises burn different amounts of calories, and a lot will depend on your capacity (how hard you work).

Many cardio machines, as well as fitness watches can give you a general idea of your calorie burn for your exercise session.

Additional Tips for Creating a Successful Workout Meal Plan

Knowing the right way to eat and actually implementing that knowledge are two very different things. That’s the reason why 80% of Americans end up failing at their New Year’s Resolutions by the second week in February.

That won’t be you, as long as you use these helpful tips to create and stick with your workout meal plan.

Create Your Plan

This should go without saying, but you actually need to take the time to sit down and figure out what your specific meal plan is going to look like. How many calories should you be eating in a day? What meals can you put together that will taste good, keep you full, and help you meet your fitness goals?

Write it all down. There are plenty of online tools that can help. If you’re really struggling, consider hiring a nutritionist to help you.

Keep a Food Journal

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It is easy to wander off the righteous nutrition path if you don’t hold yourself accountable. Make it a habit to record all of your meals – snacks included – each day. Bonus points if you show it to an accountability partner each week.

Count Your Calories

One of the easiest mistakes to make on your new eating plan is to underestimate how many calories you are truly eating. This is especially true if you eat out often or indulge in processed foods. Fast food restaurants and food manufacturers love to stuff extra sugars and fats into foods to keep you coming back for more. Many different apps and online resources make it easy to track your calories and macronutrient ratios each day.

Give Yourself Cheat Days

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Splurges are the spice of life, but only if they are truly a rare occurrence. If you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or cross that 10k finish line, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your beloved ice cream forever. Grant yourself one cheat day or three cheat meals a week.

Drink Water

As you focus on your eating, don’t forget about hydration. Water is the stuff of life. It will make your life much better if you drink around two liters each day. Drinking lots of water also means you won’t be washing down tons of sugar and calories in soft drinks, coffee shop confections, and alcohol.

Pre-Make Your Meals

One of the best ways to ensure that you eat the right amount and right types of food is to pre-make your meals for the entire week. You’ll need to carve out time to shop and prepare your meals on the weekend, but once you do, your life will be so much easier. Instead of coming home late from work and ordering pizza because you don’t have the energy to cook, your tasty and healthy dinner will be waiting for you in the fridge. Pop it in the microwave, and you will be that much closer to achieving your fitness goals.

Exercise

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Nutrition may be the biggest part of the fitness equation, but that doesn’t mean you can skip the gym. Exercise improves your cardiovascular fitness, builds muscles, keeps your bones strong, and makes you feel and look great! The best fitness plan combines great nutrition and a well-designed exercise plan.

If a public gym isn’t always an option for you, consider building your own gym at home. At Marcy, we offer high-quality fitness equipment at great prices for every level of exerciser.

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