Your bodyweight is important, sure – but energy, immunity and muscle mass (not to mention your sanity) can too often fall by the wayside. Now, perhaps more than ever, hanging on to your strength is crucial. Here’s the thing: there’s a reason why diets are synonymous with deprivation. When weight loss is the foremost goal – as it often is – we tend to fixate on what we can’t have and less so on what we need more of to ensure that our bodies are able to function at their best.
As a goal, “weight loss” alone is fairly meaningless. Take boxer Anthony Joshua. At 110kg and 6ft 6in, his body-mass index makes him technically “overweight”. That’s plainly ridiculous. But it illustrates a point: if you’re only focusing on eating less and dropping kilos, you’re not truly working on achieving the powerful body you want.
Many weight-loss plans target water mass over fat mass, because it produces a bigger shift on the scales. After a week spent starving, you might be lighter, but only because you have expelled water. Not quite the kind of weight loss you were after. This is why creating your own meal plan for muscle gain and fat loss with the correct calorie and macronutrient amounts for your body is so important.
So, for men who are serious about getting in shape, there are plenty of reasons to eat smarter: raising your immune system, elevating your energy, boosting endurance and getting stronger – particularly if recent events have necessitated a gym hiatus.
‘Diet is a key piece of rebuilding strength,’ says Brian St Pierre of Precision Nutrition. ‘Without sufficient macronutrients and micronutrients, you won’t be able to recover adequately or perform at your peak.’
And that kind of strength will benefit not just your workouts, but your focus on work, your mental resilience and everything in between. Will you lose fat on this programme? Absolutely. But far more importantly, you will do so without weakening your body in the process.
Step 1: Diversify Your Fuel
Some crash diets slash entire food groups as a way to shock your system into weight loss. But the big surprise is how quickly it piles back on again. To strengthen your entire body and support lasting change, you need to eat a range of nutrients, says St Pierre. Here’s exactly why each is important in your meal plan for muscle gain and fat loss. (Don’t worry, we’ll translate the science into delicious meals later.)
Step 2: Calculate Your Portions
This involves a little bit of maths for a whole lot of progress. You don’t need to follow this to the letter to see results, but adjusting your intake of proteins, fats and carbs will reap rewards when you’re back in the gym, no gains lost. Use this guide to ensure that the fuel you fill up on is fit for purpose.
- Set Your Calories If you want to maintain your current bodyweight but add strength and muscle mass, your total daily caloric goal should be about 15 times your bodyweight in pounds. So, if you weigh 160lb, that’s 2,400kcal per day.
- Prioritise Protein You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: spreading your protein intake evenly throughout the day is crucial for maintaining muscle mass. The oft-cited target of 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight is the gold standard. So if you weigh 160lb that’s 160g of protein, or 40g per meal with two 20g snacks.
- Fill in Your Fats You need to derive at least 20% of your calories from fats in order to maintain your hormone levels, says St Pierre. That might equate to roughly 500kcal, depending on your size.
- Pile on the Carbs Start with a base of 20% – if that sounds low, there’s space to build on it. St Pierre recommends diversifying the carbs you eat, making sure to include lots of micronutrients. You can tinker with this percentage as you adapt the diet to suit your tastes and specific needs.
- Start Experimenting! You might notice you have some calories left over. How you allocate them is up to you. St Pierre advises trialling a few different systems, adding more fat or more carbs until you find a balance that satisfies your stomach and your taste buds. If you’re not sure where to start, split the remaining calories equally into carbs and fat and see how that feels.
Step 3: Turn Maths into Meals
All this talk of measurements and macros, but what does that look like on a plate? Take the numbers you calculated in Step 2 and turn them into a plan for creating easy daily meals. Because you have enough to think about.
Step 4: Now Build Your Meal Plan for Muscle Gain and Fat Loss
How you choose to enjoy the Strong Man Plan is up to you. Once you have your portions sorted, you’re free to mix and match at will. Click through the gallery below to see what a typical day’s eating might look like for our 68kg man.
Step 5: All The Gear…
There are a few fundamental pieces of kit that will make the process of designing a meal plan a whole lot more efficient. Check them out:
5 Recipe Ideas for Your Meal Plan for Muscle Gain and Fat Loss
Now you know how to structure your nutrition, here are 5 recipe ideas varying in calories to help you fit your macro and calorie goals to build muscle and burn fat.
Quick Honey Mustard Chicken Meal Prep
1 lb skinless chicken breast tenders (or breast cut into strips). Marinade: 1 1/2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons stoneground or Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon onion, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 1/2 tablespoons avocado oil
2 cups lettuce, chopped, 1 1/2 cups purple cabbage, shredded, 1 cup raw broccoli florets, chopped. 1/2 cucumber, chopped, 4 tablespoons sliced almonds, 4 tablespoons low mein noodles, 8 tablespoons low-calorie (no oil) balsamic dressing
- Set oven to 400F/204C.
- Mix together the chicken breast tenders with the seasonings and set aside.
- Mix together the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
- Set a nonstick skillet on medium heat and spray with olive oil. Add the chicken tenders and sear on each side for about 3 minutes, or until the outside is browned.
- Pour in the sauce and immediately stir as it will begin to thicken. Remove the skillet from the heat and bake in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. After baking, allow the chicken to cool on a fresh plate with the sauce so it gets sticky.
- Mix together the ingredients for the salad. Enjoy with your favorite low-calorie vinaigrette.
Roasted Veggies & Egg Scramble
Roasted Veggies: 2 medium zucchini, chopped, 1 medium red onion chopped, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, Pinch of sea salt & pepper, 1 tablespoon butter. Eggs (lightly beaten): 6 whole eggs, 2 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder. Pinch of sea salt & pepper. 6 tablespoons reduced fat cheddar (optional). Garnish: green onion.
- Set oven to 420F.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and add the veggies. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with sea salt & pepper. Spread out on the baking tray and roast for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Set a nonstick skillet on medium high heat and once hot, add butter, let it melt, then pour in the eggs. Take the skillet off the heat as you pull the eggs from side to side using a spatula until the eggs are cooked through.
- Evenly divide the eggs and veggies among meal containers. Top with cheese, green onion and season to taste with sea salt & pepper.
Healthy Red Beans & Brown Rice Medley
1/2 lb dry red kidney beans, 1/2 lb dry white (cannellini) beans, 2 tablespoons avocado oil, 1 yellow onion diced, 2 celery stalks diced, 1 poblano pepper (or green bell pepper) diced, 3 cloves garlic minced. Seasonings: 1 1/2 tablespoons The Fit Cook Cajun seasoning (or low sodium cajun seasoning of your choice), 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, pinch of sea salt & fresh cracked pepper, 8 cups (2 quarts) low sodium vegetable broth, 2 bay leaves. 4 cups cooked brown rice, sea salt & pepper to taste. Garnish: fresh green onion.
- Place beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to let stand for at least 8 hours or overnight, then drain and rinse the beans.
- Cook rice according to the instructions given and then set aside. Pro-tip: try frozen brown rice as a time-saver.
- Set a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat. Once hot, add avocado oil onion, celery and poblano pepper. Cook for about 2 – 3 minutes until the onions turn brown and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and seasonings and cook for an additional 1 – 2 minutes.
- Add red and white beans and stir thoroughly to ensure every bean is covered in oil and seasonings. Then add the broth and bring to a gentle simmer. Once it is simmering, add the bay leaves, then lower the temperature and partially cover and cook, while stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours. For the final 20 – 30 minutes of cooking remove the lid so more of the broth can evaporate.
- Continue to cook until a majority of the broth has reduced and the beans have become like a stew. Season to taste with sea salt & pepper.
- Spoon brown rice into bowls and ladle red bean mix over the rice. Garnish with green onion, serve and enjoy.
Spicy Shrimp Burrito Bowl
1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil, 1 bell pepper, sliced, 1/2 medium onion sliced. Shrimp: 1 1/2 lb raw jumbo shrimp, 1 tablespoon chilli powder, pinch of sea salt & pepper, 1 1/2 cups (frozen) brown rice cooked, 1 cup no salt added black beans, 2 teaspoons cumin (optional), Juice from 1 lime, 1/2 cup frozen corn (optional), 1/2 cup red enchilada sauce.
- Set a carbon steel skillet on medium high heat. Once hot, add oil and the bell pepper and onion. As the veggies cook in the skillet, Add a pinch of sea salt and season the shrimp in another bowl. Once the veggies have deep sear marks, remove them from the skillet and place it back on the heat.
- Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook until the shrimp is plump and white, about 6 – 8 minutes, then remove them from the skillet.
- In a microwaveable safe bowl, add the cooked frozen rice and the black beans. Mix together then cook in the microwave or oven for 2 – 3 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, lime juice and even cumin if you desire more flavor.
- Bring it together! Evenly divide the rice mix among the meal containers, then the shrimp and veggies. If you desire a bit of sweetness to offset any spice, add a tablespoon or 2 of frozen corn to each serving.
- In a small sauce bin or container, add a few tablespoons of the enchilada sauce.
2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 medium onion diced, 3 garlic cloves, 1 lb 93% lean ground turkey, 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning, 1 medium eggplant cut into 1/2-inch pieces, 1 carrot chopped, 1 yellow/orange bell pepper chopped, 1 medium zucchini chopped, 1 can (14.5oz) diced (fire roasted) tomatoes, 4oz – 6oz water, 5 tablespoons tomato paste, Sea salt & pepper to taste. Garnish: 8 tablespoons parmesan, shredded (2 tablespoons per serving), freshly torn basil (optional).
- Set a large skillet on medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil and onions. Cook for 3 minutes before adding the garlic. As a timesaver for meal prep, I like to use frozen garlic. Cook for an additional 1 -2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the turkey to the skillet and chop it up as it cooks. Add the seasoning to the turkey and continue chopping it up finely in the skillet.
- Carefully fold in the chopped veggies, then the canned tomatoes and the water (as needed). Add the tomato paste and stir everything together. Reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook for 25 minutes.
- Season to taste with sea salt & pepper, then garnish and enjoy!
- Evenly divide the recipe among 4 meal prep containers.
All recipes courtesy of fitmencook.com