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Muscle for life

7 Tips for Making Perfect Meal Plans for Weight Loss

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7 Tips for Making Perfect Meal Plans for Weight Loss

If you want to know how to make meal plans that make weight loss as reliable and painless as possible…this article is for you.

 

“I just ate a handful of jelly beans. Is that a problem?”

That was an actual text I sent to a bodybuilder friend years ago. I was completely serious.

I was cutting for the first time and the handful of jelly beans weren’t on my meal plan. I knew very little about how dieting actually works and so I worried that I had somehow set myself back.

Silly, of course, but it illustrates a point:

The sheer amount of bad information out there on weight loss and meal planning can turn even “smart” people into superstitious paranoids.

Well, I’ve learned a lot since then. And I’ve used what I’ve learned to write books and articles that have helped hundreds of thousands of people, and many are getting into the best shape of their lives.

I can do the same for you, starting right here, right now, with this article.

In the next ten minutes, you’re going to learn my 7 best tips for making weight loss meal plans that not only work but are, dare I say, enjoyable.

These recommendations aren’t speculation or theory, either.

They’re practical, time-proven techniques that I’ve learned through personal experience with my own body, through working one-on-one with thousands of people, and through the 4,000+ custom meal plans my team has made for men and women all over the world.

So, if you’re ready to learn once and for all how to create the best possible meal plans for losing weight, keep reading.

Don’t Severely Restrict Your Calories

easy meal plans for weight loss

If you could lose weight slowly or quickly, which would you prefer?

And that’s why many people starve themselves. It’s the easiest way to see lower numbers on the scale. It’s also the easiest way to misery, muscle loss, and yo-yo dieting.

You see, many starvation diets have you eating anywhere from 25 to 50% of your total daily energy expenditure. Do this and you’re going to lose weight, of course. But there’s more to consider…

Much of the weight you lose initially is water and glycogen.

When you hear of someone losing 4, 5, 8+ pounds in one week, it’s safe to assume that 20 to 30% is water loss and a fair chunk is a reduction in glycogen levels.

This isn’t a problem per se, but that that water and glycogen weight will return once food–and carbohydrate in particular–intake returns to normal.

You can lose muscle easily.

The more you restrict your calories, the more like you are to lose muscle. This is especially true if you’re not doing any resistance training, or doing too much, and if you’re doing too much cardio as well.

The big problem with this is more you lose muscle, the closer you get to a dreaded “skinny fat” physique.

Now, there are forms of very-low-calorie dieting designed to maximize fat loss while preserving muscle, but they have several requirements:

  • Basically all calories must come from protein.
  • You must do minimal amount of resistance training (just enough to “tell” the body to maintain its lean mass)
  • No cardio

And you’d better be ready to suffer.

You think you know hunger, cravings, and mood swings? Try eating (and training on) a diet of 150 to 200 grams of protein per day…and nothing else.

Which brings me to my next point…

You feel progressively worse and worse.

If you’re like most people, you’re going to find very-low-calorie dieting to be miserable.

Common side effects are low energy levels, intense food cravings, mental fog, and depression, and the longer you go, the worse it gets.

How to Calculate Your Calorie Deficit

healthy meal plans lose weight

Now that you know the pitfalls of starvation dieting, you’re probably wondering how to do it correctly.

Well, there’s a lot of debate among “gurus” about how large of a calorie deficit is too large.

It gets especially heated when discussing what’s optimal for athletic types following a high-protein diet, as opposed to untrained, obese individuals eating too little protein.

My go-to research on this matter is a study conducted by scientists at the University of Jyväskylä.

Their subjects were 20 to 35 year-old national and international level track and field jumpers and sprinters with low levels of body fat (at or under 10%), and they split them into two groups.

  • A 300-calorie deficit group (about 12% below their total daily energy expenditure),
  • and a 750-calorie deficit group.

Both groups ate a high-protein diet, and after 4 weeks, the athletes on a 300-calorie deficit lost very little fat and muscle while the group utilizing a 750-calorie deficit lost, on average, about 4 pounds of fat and very little muscle.

These findings jive with my experiences both with my body and the thousands of people I’ve worked with.

Mild deficits can work if you’re very overweight, or very patient, but as you get leaner, larger deficits become necessary to maintain appreciable fat loss and don’t automatically cause muscle loss.

This is why I recommend a calorie deficit of 20 to 25% when dieting for fat loss.

Find the Best Macronutrient Ratios For You

meal plans for weight loss for men

Now that you know how to optimize your calorie intake, let’s talk about macronutrients.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the word, here’s how the dictionary defines it:

A macronutrient is any of the nutritional components of the diet that are required in relatively large amounts: protein, carbohydrate, fat, and minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous.

The macronutrients we’re most concerned with here are protein, carbohydrate, and fat, and the most important–the one you must get right–is protein.

How Much Protein You Should Be Eating

meal plans quick weight loss

A protein is a molecule comprised of amino acids, which are the “building blocks” of the body.

There are many different types of proteins in the human body and they perform all kinds of functions.

Some are used to build tissues, hair, and nails; others are used to facilitate biochemical reactions; others still are involved in various types of cell signaling (hormones are proteins, for instance); and more.

Muscles are built from “muscle proteins.” The body is able to synthesize some of the requisite amino acids but others, known as essential amino acids, must obtained from food.

The protein you eat provides these essential amino acids. Eat too little and your body will be deficient in essential amino acids, which impairs its ability to build and repair muscle tissue.

This is true whether you exercise or not.

The basic processes whereby cells die and are replaced require these essential amino acids, which is why low-protein dieting is associated with greater muscle loss as people age.

Regular exercise, and resistance training in particular, increases your body’s need for essential amino acids and thus protein.

This is the fundamental reason why athletes need to eat a high-protein diet to optimize body composition and maximize performance.

How much protein is needed, though?

Well, let’s look at some dietary research done with athletes.

First, a study conducted by scientists at McMaster University. They found that a protein intake of 1.3 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (.6 to .8 grams per pound of body weight) is adequate for stimulating maximal protein synthesis.

They noted, however, that protein requirements are higher in the case of frequent, intense training, which applies to anyone lifting heavy weights 4 to 6 times per week.

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario came to the same conclusion:

1.6 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight seems to be enough for athletes, but higher amounts can be beneficial depending on other factors such as total energy intake, carbohydrate availability, exercise intensity, duration and type, dietary protein quality, training history, gender, age, timing of nutrient intake, and more.

As you can see, athletes and us physically active folk should meet a “bare minimum” intake of 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but there are circumstances that dictate more.

This research agrees with old school bodybuilding advice that has been kicking around for decades now, which is eating 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight and eating slightly more when in a calorie deficit.

If that sounds excessive to you, it’s not. Here’s a quote from a study conducted by scientists at AUT University:

“Protein needs for energy-restricted resistance-trained athletes are likely 2.3-3.1g/kg of FFM [1 – 1.4 grams per pound of fat free mass] scaled upwards with severity of caloric restriction and leanness.”

That is, if you’re weightlifting regularly and restricting your calories, you should be eating anywhere from 1 to 1.4 grams of protein per pound of fat-free mass (which is everything in your body that isn’t fat). And the larger the calorie deficit and leaner you are, the closer you need to be to the 1.4g lb/ffm number.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you’re worried that eating high levels of protein is bad for your kidneys, don’t worry, this myth has been conclusively debunked.

Exact needs are hard to quantify so I choose to err on the side of being a little high. There’s no downside to eating a little more protein than your body needs but there is to eating too little.

My standard recommendations have always been 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight when bulking and maintaining, and 1.2 grams of protein per pound when cutting.

(In the case of obesity, protein intake can be reduced to 1 gram per pound of lean mass.)

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How Many Carbs You Should Eat

meal plans lose weight

Now that you know how much protein you need, let’s talk carbs and fat.

Ask Google how many carbs you should eat, weed out the idiots, and you’re left with a lot of contradictory answers.

Many well-respected health and fitness authorities argue that low-carb dieting is some sort of panacea. Many others rail against it as just another fad. Many still are in the middle saying “it depends…”

Well, in this article, I explain the science and logic behind my position, which is this:

If you’re healthy and physically active, and especially if you lift weights regularly, you’re probably going to do best with more carbohydrate, not less.

And yes, that applies to both building muscle and losing fat. The reality is a relatively high carbohydrate intake can help you do both.

How Much Dietary Fat You Should Eat

meal plans for weight loss and muscle gain

Remember when low-fat dieting was all the rage? When you could buy fat-free just-about-anything and the news story after news story denounced dietary fat as the reason we’ve gotten so fat?

Well, that pendulum has swung hard in the other direction.

Now we’re told that carbohydrates are the real enemy and that we should be eating copious amounts of dietary fat every day if we want to be healthy, lean, and strong.

What gives?

Well, dietary fats play a vital role in the body. They’re used in processes related to cell maintenance, hormone production, insulin sensitivity, and more.

If fat intake is too low, these functions can become compromised, which is why the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults should get 20 to 35% of their daily calories from dietary fat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many fitness folk leave it at that and think that anyone, under any dietary conditions, should never go below 20% of calories from fat.

What they’re not realizing, however, is those percentages were worked out for the average sedentary person, who often eats quite a bit less than someone that exercises regularly.

For example, I weigh about 190 pounds, and if I were the average, sedentary type, my body would burn about 2,000 calories per day. Based on that, the IoM’s research says my body would need 45 to 80 grams of fat per day. That makes sense.

But I exercise 6 days per week and have quite a bit more muscle than the average person, raising my total daily energy expenditure to somewhere around 3,000 calories per day.

If we were to blindly apply the IoM’s research to that number, my recommended fat intake would jump to 65 to 115 grams per day.

Do I really need that much more dietary fat simply because I’m muscular and exercise regularly?

The short answer is no.

Based on the IoM research, here’s a good rule of thumb for setting your fat intake:

If you eat 0.2 to 0.3 grams of dietary fat per pound of body weight, you’re giving your body everything it needs.

This will work out to be 20 to 35% of your basal metabolic rate.

Eat Foods You Actually Like

meal plans for fast weight loss

There are far too many myths regarding foods you “can and can’t” eat when you’re trying to lose or gain weight.

Well, when you want to lose weight, how much you eat is what matters most…not what.

So long as you stick to your your daily targets for calories and macronutrients, your body will respond accordingly. The foods you eat just don’t matter in this regard.

Now, this knowledge doesn’t give you a license to eat as much junk food as possible. Your body needs micronutrients in addition to macronutrients to stay healthy, vital, and disease free. Pop Tarts, sugar-laden cereals, and other heavily processed foods just won’t cut it.

So, when you’re working out your meal plan, “saving” a relatively small percentage (5 to 10%) of your daily calories for something “bad” (of little nutritive value) isn’t a problem.

But when you’re stripping your meal plan bare to “squeeze in” a 1,200-calorie banana split, you’re taking it too far.

Eating too many high-calorie processed foods also means your meals will be quite low in overall food volume, which makes them less filling. This also means your stomach will be empty for longer periods of time, which elevates ghrelin levels, further stimulating hunger.

So, follow this rule of thumb and you’ll do great:

Get 80 to 90% of your daily calories from relatively unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, and you can do whatever you want want with the remaining 10 to 20%.

For instance, I get the majority of my calories from a variety of nutrient-dense foods:

  • Avocados
  • Greens (chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach)
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mushrooms
  • Baked potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Berries
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower)
  • Beans (garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto)
  • Lentils, peas
  • Almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice
  • Salmon, halibut, cod, scallops, shrimp, tuna
  • Lean beef, lamb, venison
  • Chicken, turkey

And I “spend” a small portion of my daily calories on something sweet like chocolate or frozen yogurt.

This style of dieting is known as flexible dieting, or “If It Fits Your Macros,” and it’s a phenomenal tool for long-term dietary compliance, craving management, and overall lifestyle enjoyment.

And let’s face it–there’s something perversely gratifying to eating ice cream every day while dieting.

Make Your Meal Schedule Work for You

diets quick weight loss

Read some generic magazine or blog article on losing weight and you’re likely to come across some version of the myth that eating more frequently helps you lose weight faster.

Well, it’s true that breaking down and processing the food you eat causes a “metabolic boost.” This is known as the “thermic effect of food” and it can be quite significant (about 25% of the energy contained in carbohydrate is used to digest and process it, for example).

People have extrapolated from this the theory that eating frequently would keep your metabolism revved up all day, resulting in higher levels of total energy expenditure. Well, it may sound plausible but research shows it doesn’t play out like that.

A study conducted by scientists at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research involved the analysis of scores of studies with a variety of eating patterns ranging from 1 to 17 meals per day.

Researchers found no difference in 24-hour energy expenditure between low- and high-frequency eating.

What they found instead is that small meals cause small, fleeting increases in metabolic rate and larger meals result in larger, longer-lasting boosts, and it all balances out in terms of total energy expenditure by the end of the day.

The bottom line is there is no metabolic advantage to eating 3, 6, or 9 times per day, and you should do what fits your preferences and schedule.

For instance, if you’re not hungry in the morning or just don’t particularly like eating until lunch, start eating at lunch. No, this won’t cause “metabolic damage” or muscle loss. In fact, it’s the easiest way to follow the “intermittent fasting” style of dieting.

On the other hand, if you’re like me and you like to eat something every few hours, that’s how you should eat.

And if your schedule is erratic, like eating breakfast, skipping lunch, and making it up with a bigger mid-afternoon meal and dinner, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Again, work your meal schedule to fit your needs.

Use Meal Sizing to Your Advantage

meal plans diets

Many people assume that the easiest way to diet is to break up their calorie and macronutrient targets into calorically or macronutritionally balanced meals.

This isn’t true for many people, myself included.

There’s nothing wrong with doing it, of course, but you’re probably not going to find it as enjoyable as tailoring the size of each meal to your preferences.

For instance, these days I like eating several small meals, mainly containing protein, up until dinner. I then eat a larger dinner (about 500 calories) followed by a very large post-dinner meal around 9 PM (about 1,500 calories).

(And in case you’re wondering, this 9 PM meal contains about 250 grams of carbs and no, that doesn’t impair weight loss.)

Other people prefer a very large breakfast followed by progressively smaller meals and ending with a little protein before bed.

The point is, like with meal scheduling, you should tailor your meal sizes to work with your natural hunger patterns and lifestyle preferences.

3 Low-Calorie “Diet Hacks” That Make Meal Plans Better

weight loss meal plans

Many people make dieting harder than it has to be by simply being too “hardcore” about it.

No sugar. No processed foods. No starchy carbs. No red meat. And on and on.

Well, I applaud these “clean eaters” for their discipline, but as far as losing fat goes, they’re making it more unpleasant than it has to be.

That said, even a more flexible approach to dieting has its restrictions, simply because the tastiest foods are often the most calorie dense.

Your average slice of pizza or cup of ice cream has about 300 calories. Nut butters clock in around 100 calories per tablespoon. Whole-fat diary is also loaded too (110 calories for one ounce of cheese!?).

Worse yet, these indulgent types of foods are also very high in fat, which makes them even less feasible when you’re trying to keep your carbohydrate intake high.

Well, despair not. Here are my three favorite ways to break the monotony of dieting and squeeze the most enjoyment out of your calories as possible.

Use PB2 Instead of Peanut Butter

pb2

If you’re like 95% of humans, you love peanut butter.

But what sucks about peanut butter? All the damn fat.

And that’s why God created PB2, which is a peanut butter alternative so good it’s not just a diet hack–it’s a life hack.

PB2 is a powdered form of peanut butter that has almost all of the fat removed. You mix it with a little bit of water and it turns back into a peanut butter-like paste, which is quite tasty, and very low calorie (just over 20 calories per tablespoon–yup, you read that right).

It comes in two flavors: traditional and chocolate, and I’m a chocolate fiend so that’s my preference, but the traditional is quite good too.

If you don’t have any, pick it up at Amazon:

Traditional Flavor

pb2-traditional

Chocolate Flavor

pb2-chocolate

There are plenty of obvious uses for PB2–apple wedges, banana protein pancakes, toast and English muffins, and more–but there’s a whole lot more you can do with it too.

Except when the peanut oil is the main fat in a recipe, PB2 makes a great replacement in peanut butter cookies, shakes, and other sweet treats. It can also be used in savory dishes, particularly in Thai food.

Bolthouse Farms Salad Dressings

low calorie dressing

You’re going to love me for this one.

No matter how fancy you get with your salad recipes, if you can’t enjoy them with a good dressing, they’re just not very exciting.

And, of course, the best salad dressings are caloric nightmares. It’s hard to justify allotting several hundred calories to just a few tablespoons of Caesar or Ranch dressing.

What if 2 tablespoons of creamy, delicious salad dressing were only 45 calories though?

And that’s Bolthouse Farms, who makes low-calorie versions of all your favorites using low-fat yogurt, milk, and cheese.

Yes, 2 freaking tablespoons of good Caesar dressing is just 45 calories.

May your salad game never be the same.

Choose Low-Fat Dairy Products

low-calorie-ice-cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve probably heard that you should cut out all dairy when you want to lose weight, but this is nonsense.

Dairy is delicious and nutritious and makes dieting more enjoyable, and eating it doesn’t impair weight loss in any way, so you shouldn’t cut it out.

Whole-fat dairy is tough to work with, though. Unless you’re following a high-fat diet, you won’t have much room for whole-fat milk, cheese, and the like.

This is why you should just go with reduced-fat options. For example, skim milk, low-fat mayo, low-fat cheeses (parmesan is one of my favorites), and 0 or 2% Greek yogurt can make all types of meals and recipes viable.

You also need to check out Halo Top ice cream.

Ready for this?

healthy meal plans for weight loss

Yes, that’s a 240-calorie pint of ice cream…with 24 grams of protein…that isn’t made with cancer…and that actually tastes good.

You’re welcome.

My favorite flavors are vanilla and strawberry.

Do Your “Cheating” Right

weight loss food plan

The most common mistakes people make with “cheat” or “free” meals are…

Make these mistakes and you’ll never reach your fitness goals.

Avoid them, however, and you can get into incredible shape while still enjoying your favorite culinary sins.

Think Cheat Meals Not Days

Many people struggling with diets talk about “cheat days.” The idea is that if you’re good during the week, you can go buck wild on the weekends.

Well, unless you have a very fast metabolism, that’s not how it works.

If you follow a proper diet and exercise program, you can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you get too crazy with your cheating, however, you can gain it right back (and more!) over a weekend.

And if you’re bulking, you can gain double the fat you normally would have that week.

If you’re currently including cheat days in your routine and aren’t happy with how your body is changing, you’re going to have to cut it out.

The Best Type of Cheat Meal

The best type of cheat meal is high in carbohydrate and relatively low in dietary fat.

There are two reasons for this:

A high-carbohydrate meal causes less body fat storage than a high-fat meal.

Much of the current hysteria over eating carbs comes from an ignorance of what actually happens when you eat them.

Sure, eating too many carbs can make you fatter, but the same goes for protein and dietary fat. And, ironically, the body rarely converts carbs directly into body fat.

You see, chemically speaking, carbs are very different than the types of molecules stored in body fat cells (lipids), and the process whereby carbs are converted into body fat is known as de novo lipogenesis (DNL).

The first thing you need to know about DNL is it rarely occurs under normal dietary conditions.

When you review the literature on overfeeding, you find that carb intake has to be absolutely sky-high (700 to 900 grams per day for several days for DNL to contribute significantly to total body fat stores.

There are exceptions, such as very large infusions of pure glucose (150% of TDEE) and people with hyperinsulinemia, but the above holds in healthy individuals following a normal type of diet.

That said, eating carbs does affect your body fat in another way–it reduces fat oxidation. In other words, it tells your body to stop burning fat for energy and start burning carbs instead.

This effect applies to any dietary fat that you eat, which is chemically similar to body fat and thus is very easily converted and stored. This means that, when combined with carbs (and, more to the point, elevated insulin levels), basically every gram of dietary fat that you eat is stored as body fat.

And as your body fat mass is regulated by the balance between the amount of fat burned versus stored every day, you can probably see how carbs play into this: eat a lot of carbs and you’ll store all the fat you eat and burn little body fat throughout the day.

The more astute readers might now be wondering if you can “biohack” this by eating a diet very high in carbs and very, very low in fats…and the answer is no.

Not only would that be bad for your health, research shows that when dietary fat intake is too low, DNL ramps up to provide the body with vital triglycerides.

Now, remember that all this doesn’t negate or trump the laws of energy balance.

If you’re in a calorie deficit, regardless of how much or little carbohydrate or fat you eat, you will lose fat. And if you’re in a surplus, you will gain.

My point here is just to enlighten you on how carbs directly affect the physiology of fat burning and storage and how we can apply that knowledge to individual (cheat) meals.

Hence my recommendation of going high-carb and not high-fat when you “cheat.”

There are other benefits of high-carb meals (and even days) as well, which I lay out in this article on “refeeding.”

The Bottom Line on Meal Plans for Weight Loss

meal ideas weight loss

You now have everything you need to create the best possible meal plans for weight loss.

You know you’ve got everything dialed in when…

  • you’re losing 0.5 to 2 pounds per week,
  • you’re not chronically hungry,
  • you’re not constantly battling cravings,
  • you have good energy levels,
  • your workouts aren’t heavily impacted,
  • and neither is your mood.

Use the strategies laid out in this article and you’ll see how easy losing weight can really be.

 

What’s your take on meal plans for weight loss? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Mike P

    best article yet Mike!

  • Howard

    Hi Mike
    Great advice here that I hope people take note of and utilize.To be fair it is so difficult to stick with one nutrition plan with consistency because of the level of information and marketing we are exposed to selling us on the new way to diet. I think a lot of people still believe there is a big secret to be discovered when it comes to nutrition and the science of losing weight and just won’t believe the concept is quite simple if you follow the guidelines laid out in this article. I also find it amazing that many people I have met (mostly women) seem to find it easier to follow a very low calorie diet rather than a follow a much smaller energy deficit. It seems that this mindset of having to deprive and do without is very difficult to overcome and still feels more natural for follow.

  • Alex Wunder

    I went out and got Halo Top yesterday, which was fucking delicious, and I was wondering if I was counting the cals right and wanted your opinion.

    It has 9 g normal carbs, 5 g sugar alch carbs, 6 g protein and 2 g fat

    9 g carb x 4 = 36
    5g sugar alch x .2 = 1
    6 g protein x 4 = 24
    2g fat x 9 = 18

    36+1+24+18 = 79 calories per serving (as opposed to the 60 labeled)

    Is this correct or am I missing something? That’s a 20 cal difference. If I ate a whole pint and used their label without checking that would be 80 calories I wouldn’t have added.

    I probably wouldn’t eat a whole pint but if i did I could have an extra apple or can of veggies for that and during a cut that matters to me! Lol

    • Amazing right?

      The reason why your cals are off is because the sugar alcohol grams are part of the the total carbs grams. Out of 9g carbs, 5g of them are sugar alcohol which equals 1 cal instead of 20 cals (which is the amount your numbers are different).

      Hope that makes sense! LMK.

      • Alex Wunder

        It’s so good. Good to have real ice cream for a change. I also bought both the chocolate and regular pb2. Both on point.

        If you have anymore similar recommendations pleaseeeee dont hesitate to tell. You seem to know what your talking about in terms of good tasting treats.

        But with the halo top the total carbs was actually originally 14 on the label and i subracted the sugar alcohol carbs (14-5) to get the 9 i talked about in my last post. I probably should have notified you that i did that. So to me the numbers are still off. Regardless the product is still a steal for the amount of cals youre taking in though so i dont mind.

        • Nice. PB2 is my go to ATM. I have it every day, haha.

          I definitely recommend you pickup Bolthouse Farms dressing. Zevia is pretty good if you haven’t had it.

          As to the cals, I looked at the nutrition facts, and it makes sense now. The cals that are missing are from the dietary fiber. If they use insoluble fiber, they can’t be processed by the body. That’s where 20 missing cals are.

          Hope that makes sense!

          • Alex Wunder

            I saw the Bolthouse farms in the post with the PB2 and the Halo Top and I’ve never been big on dressing. I always eat my veggies straight up 😉 but as I start reverse dieting I might give it a go just to liven things up.

            When Im back at full cals, I was even thinking of just having a day where I kill 3 pints of the Halo Top at once with the save up method just for the hell of it. I may get sick but fuck it.

            I’m going to give the zevia a go just for fun too because I used to be an avid pop drinker before I got healthy. Should give me something to do.

            Lastly, I saw on forums that fiber is counted as 1.5-2 per gram. Should I adhere to that or just trust Halo Top? Are dietary fiber and functional fiber both insoluble fibers? The topic moderately confuses me.

          • Ah okay. Well it’s always good to know you have options. 🙂

            Your stomach is going to EXPLODE if you hit 3 pints of HT, haha. 1 pint can upset mine and I have a fucking steel gut.

            Zevia isn’t bad.

            I think this answers your fiber question:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/net-carbs/

  • Alex Wunder

    Random thought:

    If I get to a point where i no longer get hungry like you does that mean that my insulin sensitivity has achieved greatness?

    Is there a correlation between insulin sensitivity and reduced hunger cravings for everyone or are you just fortunate?

    • Yeah a combination of really good insulin sensitivity (I have a genetic advantage here too) and probably leptin sensitivity as well.

  • maxpower

    Hi Mike, I’m following your program and losing about a pound a week, but my energy levels and mood have been doing extremely poorly. I’m following your workouts and macros spot-on, which has gotten me to about 10% bf right now. I also took a diet break three weeks ago, which helped briefly, but I feel pretty poorly right now. I’m also struggling with cravings at night.

    What do you adjust if your mood, cravings, and energy levels drop to unsustainable levels during a cut?

    • Great job on the weight loss so far. How long were you in a deficit for leading up to the 3-week break? Did you raise your caloric intake during that break?

  • Mateusz

    Mike, whenever you recommend dense, fulfilling whole-foods, you always mention potatoes and brown rice. I have been using basmati for 2 or 3 years now, almost every day. I know you well enough to expect that you will say that if it works for me, then I shouldn’t worry. But am I not missing something when going for basmati? I know the micronutrient differences, but if I feel alright, should I worry about it? To justify myself, it is easier to prepare than potatoes (no peeling 🙂 ), tastes great and cooks quicker than the brown one, that’s why I’m such a huge fan of it.

    • Honestly, as you thought, I wouldn’t worry about it haha. If it works for you it works.

      Potato does have micronutrients, that you’re not getting, but you can get those from other food.

      Enjoy it. 🙂

  • Daniel Larouche

    Hi Mike, this is a great article. Unfortunately, I’m a little confused as to what I should eat for a cheat meal. I LOVE pizza’s, but is this a ‘no-go’ for a cheat meal because of high fat? I’m also curious what would be your cheat meal recommendations?

    • Unless you can find a low fat pizza, it probably isn’t a good idea.

      Anything with a lot of carbs works. Pasta, rice, pan cakes, etc. Right now I’m obsessed with an oat meal dish. I get like 250g carbs from it. 🙂

    • Pat

      Daniel – for what it’s worth, my wife and I LOVE pizza too. To keep it in our macros, I typically find thin crust or flatbread style and order it with 3 toppings: bacon and double chicken. Delicious!

  • Jen G

    Hi Mike,

    Great article 🙂 I have your Thinner Leaner Stronger book (which is amazing – and I bought the BLS for my hubby!). I am putting my meal plan together and was wondering if when you are calculating for the cutting or maintenance calories does that take into consideration the calories burned in your workouts? Or is that additional calorie deficit during the day? Not sure if that makes sense??

    I have heard Halo Top is FANTASTIC – but I can’t get it in Canada 🙁

    Thank you 🙂

    • Glad you liked it! Thanks for spreading the word and getting your husband BLS! Hope he likes it.

      The cals from exercise and activity are already accounted for–don’t worry.

      That sucks you can’t get Halo Top! It’s REALLY good.

      YW!

  • Dean Mignola

    Hi Mike, Following BLS for a couple months now and using your Legion supplements (except for the fat burners… just ordered those). Totally love your stuff. I’m making consistent strength gains and enjoy feeling stronger/bigger rather than overly sore after my workouts. About to start my first cut and I’m concerned that I’m going to lose muscle by losing weight too fast. I’m 52years old, 6’1″, 179 lb, 16% BF, and want to get under 10% BF in 90 days. My targets under your program appear to be Cal 1,908, Pro 216, Carb 180, Fat 36. That’s about 1/2 the calories and 1/10th the fat I’m eating now. The thing is… I’m super active. I surf and my main job (termite inspector) involves stabbing eaves with a long pole, climbing up in attics, and crawling on my belly under houses. All extremely physical stuff. Should I start with higher targets or try these targets for a week first?

    • Great to hear you’ve been doing the program and have been using the products! Thanks a ton for the support.

      Those cals and macros seem pretty normal for someone your weight and BF% TBH. However, given your active job, you may want to use a higher multiplier for your activity. Take a look at this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      LMK what you think.

  • Tom

    Got my PB2 in the mail a couple days ago. Love it! Since I’m cutting, I can have 4x as much as the 1/2 tbsp I’ve been having of regular all-natural. Tastes even better than the reviews led me to believe. Looking forward to making the PB Cups you have as a recipe.

    My new favorite “hack”, though, may be this Yonanas machine I just bought. Only used it the first time today, but it blends air into frozen banana to create a sort of cross between frozen yogurt and soft serve ice cream. Added some PB2 and had banana peanut-butter today. Can also add chocolate, berries, whatever. I see the calories on that Halo Top ice cream may be less or about the same, and has more protein. Either way, bananas are crazy cheap and I plan on having them this new way (I already have 2 a day) to satisfy my ice cream/soft yogurt craving on the daily.

    Oh, I’ve also lost only 1.9 lbs of muscle but 10.2 lbs of fat over the last 10 weeks following your advice. Can’t wait to start reverse dieting and then bulking to see if that works just as well. If it does, I’m going to be a beast.

    • Glad you’re enjoying PB2. I’m a huge fan.

      I love the Yonanas machine as well. I recommend here on MFL. 🙂 There’s a lot things you can do with it while keeping it low cal. It’s great.

      Awesome job on the results! Get to your BF% goal and enjoy the reverse diet.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Michala13

    Hi Mike! In this article I noticed that you were talking about the Bolthouse Farms 35 calorie dressing. I have been using the Walden farms products which have zero calories. What do you think about Walden Farms products, and would you suggest them for fat loss?

    • You know I haven’t tried them because the zero-calorie stuff weirds me out haha.

  • Clênia Daniel

    Hi Mike! I’m following my MFL meal plan for the first week and I love how this effectively works well for me, but I searched this article because I would like to “cheat my meal plan” properly. Now I know while I eat high carb low fat foods in my cut, I don’t have to worry too much with the fat storage.
    Thank you for all good information, services and products that you and your team provide for us!

    • Awesome! Happy to hear it, and thank you for your support! 🙂

      Keep up the great work.

  • Adam Rozen

    Mike — I LOVE Halo Top (considering how healthy it is, it should not be even remotely tasty). However, I’ve always wondered something that messes with my daily macros: Halo Top has 60 calories per serving, but 2g fat/14g carbs/6g fat. Given the “9 cal/g fat” and “4 cal/g carbs and protein”, the numbers just don’t add up: 2*9 + 14*4 + 6*4 = 18 + 56 + 24 = 98. I know companies can round up or down and you end up off by a few calories, but how is the simple math off by more than 65%? What am I missing?
    Thanks — you’re about the only person who I can think of that might both (a) know the answer, and (b) be willing to help!

  • Miz Eloise

    ty mike you are a godsend. i used to scoff at people eating ice cream when they have moreuscle mass than me. i was skinny fatter doimg clean eating.

    how about fiber? whats a good amount to consume? i cant live without my barley and rye berries. i get cold hands because i get hungry easily

  • Amin Abaee

    Thank you Mike for your scientitic approach to dieting. May I suggest total fasting, water fasting and dry fasting as alternatives to cutting phase, with potential health benefits. So it would be bulking + fasting.

    • I wouldn’t recommend that. First, you want to have fuel for your workouts. Second, you want to be sure you’re getting enough protein. And lastly, you definitely want to be drinking water, so no dry fasting.

      • Amin Abaee

        I meant fasting + resting, and the cutting phase would be greatly reduced so you could go back to bulking again within a couple days. So maybe that will compensate for lack of protein.
        Regarding water, l’ve read that you can enter ketosis faster without it, as your body needs to burn fat to release water molecules to keep hydrated.

        • Sorry for the confusion Amin.

          I’m going to jump in here and say that you can work fasts into your cuts if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend going for longer than 24 hours more than once per week, and would rather see you do something like Lean Gains instead…

      • Amin Abaee

        Virtually every human being practices dry fasting every single day for nearly their entire lifetime, by sleeping at night. Perhaps part of the reason why sleep is so important for recovery is due to not eating or drinking.

        “During short periods of energy abstinence, the human body will burn primarily free fatty acids from body fat stores, along with small amounts of muscle tissue to provide required glucose for the brain. After prolonged periods of starvation the body has depleted its body fat and begins to burn primarily lean tissue and muscle as a fuel source.”

        “Ordinarily, the body responds to reduced energy intake by burning fat reserves and consuming muscle and other tissues. Specifically, the body burns fat after first exhausting the contents of the digestive tract along with glycogen reserves stored in liver cells.”

        “…After the exhaustion of the glycogen reserve, and for the next 2–3 days, fatty acids are the principal metabolic fuel. At first, the brain continues to use glucose, because, if a non-brain tissue is using fatty acids as its metabolic fuel, the use of glucose in the same tissue is switched off. Thus, when fatty acids are being broken down for energy, all of the remaining glucose is made available for use by the brain.

        After 2 or 3 days of fasting, the liver begins to synthesize ketone bodies from precursors obtained from fatty acid breakdown. The brain uses these ketone bodies as fuel, thus cutting its requirement for glucose. After fasting for 3 days, the brain gets 30% of its energy from ketone bodies. After 4 days, this goes up to 75%.[5]

        Thus, the production of ketone bodies cuts the brain’s glucose requirement from 80 g per day to about 30 g per day. Of the remaining 30 g requirement, 20 g per day can be produced by the liver from glycerol (itself a product of fat breakdown). But this still leaves a deficit of about 10 g of glucose per day that must be supplied from some other source. This other source will be the body’s own proteins.”

        Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starvation_response

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