All food is broken down into carbohydrates, fats and proteins. So any meal you have is going to be a ratio of these three nutrients, and depending on how you construct it, your body will respond differently. Strategically building your meals to meet your daily needs is the most efficient thing you can do for your body. It’s a way of setting it up to either perform or recover, based on your upcoming demands. I think we can all agree that you need more energy when you workout or need to focus intently compared to laying on the couch watching TV, and your meals should reflect that. When you build your meals mindfully (considering your tasks ahead), you’re setting yourself up for maximum performance or a quicker recovery. When we eat, we are really fueling to body to facilitate these tasks. So when I meal prep, I tailor my meals according to my week ahead. Which is why it’s more helpful for me to think of each macro in terms of their output:
- carbohydrates = short term energy/cognitive functions
- fats = long term energy
- protein = rebuild/regeneration
Of course they provide so much more than just these things, but essentially these are the results we’re conscious of. Each person thrives on a unique ratio of these nutrients so it’s necessary that you find the range that works for you. I was able to discover a good balance for my body by tracking my food through myfitnesspal.com (I don’t pay attention to the calories!) They have a helpful view of the macro breakdown for each day or even a summary of the week. After a week or two you can start to get an idea of where you fall. This is what I like to call your “base meal”. Each meal should fall pretty close to this range on average.
Here’s where I want to caution you before moving on. It’s important that you start with a healthy ratio. If you notice that your carbohydrate ratio is at 70% or you’re getting 10% from fat and you don’t feel optimal – aka you’re sluggish, unfocused, have trouble falling asleep, etc. – then you should focus on reconstructing your base meal first before trying to optimize it. I agree with this recommendation of 20% carbohydrates, 65% fat and 15% (1), which is what I used as a target when I started out (transitioning to 35% carbohydrates, 50% fat and 15% protein which worked better for my body). But again you need to find what works for you.
When you have your base meal numbers then you can work on optimizing it to fuel the various activities throughout your day. Some key activities I focus on are these:
- Pre-workouts – carbohydrates
- Post-workouts/ recovery day – proteins
- Busy work day – fats
- Productive mornings – carbohydrates
- Long periods without opportunities to eat – fats
Hopefully you’re starting to get the picture. When I plan out my day I view it as a whole and note where these events fall. Then I prep my meals accordingly. If I workout in the morning, I know afterwards I’m going to need fats to keep me energized and proteins to rebuild my muscles/cells. The days that I work in the kitchen are long hours of constantly moving without refueling. Which means I need a meal greater in fats beforehand so I have energy for the long haul. When I workout at night, I’ll increase the amount of carbs for dinner because it keeps me awake and energized which means I’m able to perform really well during my workout. Essentially, the percentages of my meals/snacks are tipped toward the macro that will benefit these activities the most (maybe +5-10% or so).
When we build our meals to work for us we’re no longer burdened by poorly timed hunger, the 2pm slump or achy muscles. It helps your body thrive and work properly. So whether your goal is to lose weight or reduce stress on your body, finding a balanced eating plan is essential to meeting these goals.
Let me know if you have any questions/comments/concerns by leaving a comment or emailing me. I love hearing from you!
(1) – paleoleap.com