You can also listen to this as a podcast episode below. Or subscribe to Body Upgrade Hour with The Fitness Maverick podcast for free on Spotify, Google, Stitcher or Radiopublic.
“Can you do me a food plan?”
If you’re a qualified health and fitness professional, chances are you’ve been asked this question a few times. This is a question I get asked almost every day.
Guess what my answer always is?
NO! This isn’t to be rude, and I’m not trying to put myself out of business. “NO”, because quite frankly they just don’t work. Here’s why, and here’s why you’re searching for the wrong solution if you think another food plan will get you a step closer to your goals. So read on if you’ve ever considered asking for a food plan, or are currently on a diet plan of any type, because this could save you a lot of time, money and frustration.
Here I’m also going to tell you what you should be doing or seeking instead.
Throughout my years of coaching, talking with clients daily, and constantly manipulating their training and nutritional plans, it’s clear that writing out a diet plan like the following for example DOES NOT WORK:
- Breakfast: 40g Oats, 1 cup almond milk, ½ cup mixed berries, 1 heaped tsp ABC butter, 1 scoop protein powder
- Snack: 2 boiled whole omega 3 eggs, handful fresh blueberries
- Lunch: Palm size portion of grilled chicken, ½ cup boiled mixed rice and quinoa, 1 cup mixed Mediterranean Vegetables pan fried in 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- Snack: ½ cup organic set yogurt, half an apple or sugar free apple puree, cinnamon to taste, 2tsp flax and pumpkin seeds
- Dinner: Palm size portion of grass fed beef, 200g boiled and mashed sweet potato, mushrooms, large green salad
- Snack: 2 squares 70% dark chocolate
Note, do not copy that diet plan it’s just off the top of my head as an example.
Now, that may look like a pretty good diet plan to many of you, it may even look a little more interesting and sustainable than many other diet plans you’ve seen out there, and that’s great. It might even give you a few ideas. You’re welcome.
But let’s put aside the argument of which diet is the best for a few minutes. Forget low fat, low carb, gluten free, paleo, plant based, and so on. We’ll knock that on the head right now…. NONE OF THEM ARE THE BEST! It’s all relative, and there are advantages and disadvantages to most commonly mentioned approaches out there. It’s less about the diet and more about its delivery I want you to focus on today.
What I’ve learned is that the science of human behaviour and psychology, will ALWAYS win over the science of nutritional biochemistry.
A highly qualified nutritionist, dietitian, or even myself could sit you down, ask you all the right questions, do all of the tests under the sun, maybe throw in there a complete blood profile, vitamin and mineral tests, genetic tests and so on, and put together the best possible food plan ever created that covers all of your unique nutritional needs.
BUT IT WON’T WORK!
Because what’s even more important than gaining nutritional knowledge; another knowledgeable human giving you all of their knowledge in a food plan; are developing your own nutritional skills and habits. Or said professional guiding you to develop and harness those skills and habits.
For the average person when we follow rigid prescriptions of food like the example food plan above, a lot can go wrong. No matter how much you wanted the food plan, and you spent the time and money to get a kick ass one put together, meal plans are tough to follow, and life often gets in the way.
Life is not rigid or prescriptive, so why should your meal plans be?
- We don’t always start the day or week prepared.
- We get busier than expected, or something unplanned comes up.
- It’s someone’s birthday, or there’s a party to go to.
- You want to be able to go out for a meal one day without feeling guilty.
- You’ve got a lunch meeting.
- Sometimes we just don’t feel like or have time for a snack.
I’ll mention here just briefly that due to the psychology of human behaviour, it’s interesting you’ll be much more likely to stick to a plan of any type if you’ve paid for it, versus just got it off a friend or found it on the internet. Besides from the fact that the plan you found for free was not done specifically for you, and is most likely terrible, by paying someone for a plan you’ll have a higher level of respect for the plan and want to get your moneys worth. The plan has a higher perceived value. The guilt factor by not sticking to something you’ve paid for is also very powerful. But I digress, back to the point.
Understanding nutritional behaviour is key!
Now this is not a plug for something that I offer, just merely an example. You may already have experienced something similar to this that has worked for the same reason, so you’ll get it.
This is why on the Fitness Maverick Coaching Program a nutritional plan first starts off with setting some key nutritional rules to follow. The fact that you’re reading this right now means that you take the time to do your research, and will most likely have some kind of nutritional understanding. So you may even have some rules you follow yourself. These are just examples of what they might include:
- Get double my bodyweight (in kg) in protein every day
- Eat under 100g of carbohydrates every day
- Don’t eat past 8pm at night
And so on
Again, these are just examples, do not take these literally or look too closely in to them. But you get the idea. Each person is slightly different, and these will vary based on your body type and goals.
Secondly on the Maverick Coaching Program you’re provided with a flexible eating plan, according to your lifestyle. By flexible we’re not talking about that “if it fits your macros/IIFYM” rubbish, we’re talking typically a choice of 6-10 different meal plans based on common scenarios such as:
- “I’ve missed breakfast, now what should my day look like”
- “I’m eating out for lunch”
- “I’m training twice today”
In each scenario it’s obvious that your day is going to deviate from something such as the sample meal plan presented at the top of this article. So you’ll understand how hard it would be theoretically to stick to that meal plan if something came up.
So really this is a step up from the rigid diet plans you typically see. Maverick Coaching clients also get recipe books, and supplement guides, so all bases are covered to ensure there are lots of options to keep things healthy but never boring.
But here’s the real key to success…
We know this is a step up from your typical meal plans. And yes, you’d have a much higher chance of success just possessing these tools. But even if you were provided with every single one of these things by a professional, there’s no guarantee you would stick to the plan for long enough to see some big changes. These changes being improved body composition, more energy, better recovery time between workouts, better digestion, improved skin texture and much more. So you know the benefits, and you know it would be good for you, but still no guarantee.
The key to long-term success is in the way it’s delivered to you. And no that doesn’t mean via horse and cart, in a golden envelope. It means it not just being dumped on you. It’s constant, it’s not just “here you go we’ll chat about it in a months’ time”. It’s constant daily monitoring (accountability) and implementing small daily changes at a time, that when all added up lead to massive changes.
We like to call this “nutritional coaching”, as it’s implementing a plan but also coaching you along the process. And I’ll be honest, it’s very rare to find as there aren’t many good coaches out there that do it as it can be very time consuming for the coach themselves. Trust me I know! It means that coach/nutritionist can’t have hundreds of clients on their books at the same time. But I’m a big fan of any coach that does do it as it shows real caring.
For some of you this could mean you’re a natural and can implement all advice immediately with only minor changes as you go along. Just small adjustments:
“Okay, great, you’re well on track, but this week can you just increase the amount of non-starchy veggies in your diet as that’ll speed things up a little”.
For others it could be the other way around. And rather than just throwing everything at you, it could just be a focus on small daily changes. For example, just ensuring you’re sticking to one or two rules every day for now, and we’re focusing on food swaps and better alternatives:
“You’re doing great, now let’s step it up a notch. Let’s see if we can now swap that 2 litres of diet cola a day for some low sodium carbonated water, such as San Pellegrino”.
It’s a small change that’s barely noticeable, but a positive step in the right direction. Most experienced coaches will know whether you’d be best suited to dipping your toes in a little at a time, or diving right in. You might too.
So, don’t just seek food plans (or exercise plans) if you truly want to make lasting changes. Seek support and coaching. Don’t ask anyone for just a food or exercise plan unless you know you’re going to stick it out, and you’ve got the right personality type to do so.
For those of you that may not want to pay a professional for support, it’s also a lesson on patience, and knowing that the most important part of any plan is sticking to it.
Stay strong, stay on track!