Since you’ve Mastered Your Macro’s in our previous series, it’s time to dive into our next topic: meal planning. How you set up your meal schedule should be tailored to fit your individual goals. Have you started gaining weight without any change in how much you eat? Then learning how your "Meal Protocol" affects your body's response will give you the next piece of your answers. This article will review the three types of meal protocols that you need to consider on your journey!
Establish Your Protocol in 3 Easy Steps
Step 1: Step on a Scale to Verify Your CURRENT Weight
Regardless of what multiplier you will be using to calculate your caloric need, your current weight will be necessary. This allows you to determine the appropriate "quantity" of food you should be eating. The more you weigh, the more you need to survive, so getting enough calories to function begins with having an accurate weight measurement. Most weight loss programs ascribe to 1200-1800 calorie diets, while most bodybuilding diets create astronomical caloric excess the digestive system can't handle. By personalizing your goals to your current weight, you can avoid shocking your system too much in either direction...because drastic changes cause drastic stress responses that lead to increased fat storage in most cases. For the basics of how much you likely need based on your weight, check out our other article.
Step 2: Establish a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Specific Goal
What is it you are trying to achieve? Having a "SMART" goal ensures that you are motivated by it and have a higher likelihood of getting there. Most people want to lose weight/fat, some want to just maintain, and others want to gain weight/muscle mass. Decide which of these primary goals to build around, and refine it. Realistically, a person can lose 1 to 2 pounds or gain up to 0.5 pounds of healthy weight per week, so be very specific with your goal based around your past health history (i.e. Lose 25 lbs I've gained since I stopped taking care of myself).
Do the math set a reasonable time limit for your goal. Want to lose that 25 lbs? Plan for 25-50 weeks. Trying to gain 10 lbs of muscle? Give yourself at least 20 weeks, etc.
Step 3: Choose the Right PROTOCOL for Your Goal
Now that you have a goal in mind, let's focus on the way your meals should be set up throughout the day. There are three different nutrient timing patterns that contribute to how your body will respond.
Ascending Dietary Protocol - Smaller meals in the morning with larger meals in the evening promote weight GAIN. Most people eat minimal amounts for breakfast or skip it entirely. This often contributes to unwanted weight gain because there are more calories near the end of the day when the body is least active and least prepared to deal with calorie load in a positive way. This protocol is great for those trying to build muscle and put on weight since muscle tissue repair happens when we are resting and requires an excess of calories to increase in size and strength.
The ascending protocol is about progressively increasing calories through the day for moderate gains, not binging in the evening for fat storage! Be careful with this protocol, because your first meals should only be slightly smaller than your average meal size in the morning.
Balanced Dietary Protocol - Evenly distributed meals throughout the day are best for MAINTAINING a current size or weight. This type of eating is best for when you want to fix a health issue or prevent future bodily changes. In this protocol, the body gets a steady stream of nutrition throughout the day to fuel its processes; while never perceiving an excess or deficit to respond to.
The balanced dietary protocol for weight maintenance is about minimizing change. People using it are more likely to benefit from modifying their macro percentages toward their goal than changing their protocol entirely.
Descending Dietary Protocol - Larger breakfasts, with moderate mid-day meals and smaller suppers encourage WEIGHT/FAT LOSS. This is the protocol that almost everyone trying to lean out or lose weight should be doing. It shifts the bulk of your calories to when your body NEEDS the most nutrition. Going from being unconscious while you sleep to dealing with your daily grind is energy-intensive. Align your higher food intake with this transition.
The descending dietary protocol is about front-loading your caloric intake. It stimulates your metabolism to burn energy during the day when you are more active; instead of storing it (usually as fat) as you sleep at night to catch up. Having the energy when it is needed allows us to feel good doing the things we love during the day and appropriately rest when the evening comes.
So what have we learned here? More than likely, you have been unintentionally eating like a typical American and having your biggest meal in the evening (dinner); not realizing that this is an ascending protocol for WEIGHT GAIN! By simply rearranging your meal sizes to the appropriate times of the day, you will prevent something simple from holding you back. Know the amount you should be eating through the day, know the specific goal you wish to attain, and execute the proper protocol to make it happen!
Regardless of your goal, you should never be skipping breakfast or eating light/unbalanced portions to start your day. Progress is about balancing the system to reduce stress-induced fat storage, so starting the day right and continuing meals according to the correct protocol for you will boost your energy and better get the results you've been looking for.
As always, thank you for reading our article, and stay tuned for more information on how to optimize your diet to SEE YOURSELF CHANGE!