How To Create A Meal Plan For Your Goals

November 12, 2017

Let's make this simple!


Creating a meal plan can be a challenge for beginners and advanced trainees alike, and whether it’s designed for weight loss or muscle gain. Honestly, I am not surprised as there are countless fad diets and nutritional strategies circulating on the internet, making it baffling for those who have never really looked into this world. Self-proclaimed nutritionists and DIY dietitians say silly things and attach ”healthy diet” labels to absolute nonsense. I am pretty sure you have heard things like ”juice cleanse” and ”detox diet”, as well as methods where you can only eat different leaves for days, then only fruits for days, then only this for days, and only that for days. It is very sad that plans like these exist, as those who have been trying different methods will try these fads as well in desperation, because everyone has a friend who lost weight with one of the magic diets. What’s good for them isn’t necessarily good for you.


None of the creators of these fads would say that, with these diets, the sudden weight loss is mostly water (due to the depletion of carb storages, as every gram of carbs (glycogen) has 3-4g of water bound to it) or, if it’s not water-related weight loss, then it is due to the fact that following any kind of diet will force the person to monitor the amount of food they eat, so they will restrict themselves… and this is the main reason for the weight loss! The main determinant of weight loss/gain is our energy balance, so the amount of food we eat in case of a diet. To be clear, I am not talking about abnormal cases where some kind of hormonal issue is in the background – however, the number of these cases is really low. From this point of view fads could be useful but, let’s be honest, it is not really likely that we do any good to our system if we drink, let’s say, cabbage juice only for days. This is without mentioning the fact that it makes a difference if the weight loss comes from our fat storages or from our muscles.


So, the main determinant of our weight loss/gain is the amount of food we eat (assuming that we don’t change our physical activity). I don’t necessarily mean daily intake, but rather weekly or monthly intake, as nobody loses weight straight away after eating a bit less for a day or so.


Certainly the quality of the food is also important, as it makes a difference if we take the same amount in from Nutella or broccoli.


In the following section, I will introduce you to two different methods to calculate your daily intake and create a meal plan for yourself, which supports your goals and yours alone. The first method is amazingly useful for those whose goal is to create a plan which can help you achieve a healthy body weight, without complicated calculations and calorie tables.The second method goes on a little bit and could be used by those who have other goals in mind and want to take their body transformation to another level.


Method One


Using this method, your measuring tool will be your hand! It is always there with you, proportionate to your body, and its size never changes – perfect!


Portion sizes:


1 portion of protein = 1 palm


1 portion of vegetables = 1 fist


1 portion of carbs = 1 cupped hand


1 portion of fats = 1 thumb


Step 1.  –  Protein (meat, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, etc.)


For women 1 portion, for men 2 portion




Step 2.  –  Vegetables (broccoli, spinich, salads, carrot, etc.)


For women 1 portion, for men 2 portion




Step 3.  –  Carbohydrates (grains, starches, beans, fruits, etc.)


For women 1 portion, for men 2 portion





Step 4.  –  Fats (oils, butters, nut butters, nuts and seeds)


For women 1 portion, for men 2 portion






Using this method, with 3-4 meals a day, women would consume about 1200-1500 calories and men about 2300-3000 calories.


You can individualise this plan, if needed.


For active women, 4-6 portions from each food group  1500-2100 calories


For active men, 6-8 portions from each food group 2500 – 3100 calories


If you need more because you:

  • are larger in stature

  • aren’t feeling satisfied at meals

  • eat less frequently throughout the day

  • are very active

  • are trying to gain muscle

  • aren’t getting any muscle-gain results



For men, start adding a portion of carbs and/or a portion of fats to some of your meals.


For women, start adding half a portion of carbs and/or half a portion of fats to some of your meals.


If you need less because you:

  • are smaller in stature

  • are feeling full at meals

  • eat more frequently throughout the day

  • are not very active

  • are trying to lose weight

aren’t getting weight-loss results




For men, start removing a portion of carbs and/or a portion of fats from some of your meals.


For women, start removing half a portion of carbs and/or half a portion of fats from some of your meals.


Method Two


Step 1 – Calculation of daily calorie needs

(You can skip this step if you already know your daily requirements.)


There are different ways to calculate this (like Harris-Benedict, Sterling-Pasmore formula) but experience shows that those are not really accurate, so

I will present you with a short chart to use for your calculations.



Let’s see an example for how to calculate daily energy needs.


Our example is a gentleman who wants to lose weight, and does some form of physical activity three times a week, one hour duration per session. He is a waiter in a restaurant.


In his case, we will multiply his bodyweight by an amount between 26 and 31, so his daily calorie needs will be somewhere around 2080-2480 calories.


Which value will we use? On training days, we will use the higher (2480) number and on non-training days, the lower (2080) value.


Step 2 – Proportion of macronutrients


After we have calculated our daily needs, all we will have to do is decide how much to consume from each macronutrient (protein, carbs and fat).


The proportion of these will depend mostly on the body type, goal and individual particularities, but as a starting point we can use the following numbers:


Ectomorph: a person with a lean and delicate build, narrow hips, small joints, stringy belly muscles, thin build, long limbs à 30/50/20 (protein/carbs/fat)


Mesomorph: wide clavicles, narrow waist, thinner joints, long and round belly muscles à 30/40/30


Endomorph: blocky, thick rib cage, wide joints, hips as wide (or wider) than clavicles, shorter limbs à 35/25/40


Let’s assume that the waiter used in the example for Method One has a mesomorph body type. As a side note, these classifications are not clear either, and in many cases there is an overlap between the main categories, so you should always choose the one best describing you, even if it is not a perfect description.


So, the waiter’s training day meal plan…


Total calories: 2480

Protein: 30%

Carbs: 40%

Fat: 30%


For the calculations, we need to know that 1g of protein contains (approximately) 4 calories, 1g of carbohydrate also 4 calories, and 1g of fat 9 calories. According to these, the daily amounts are the following:


Protein: 2480 (daily calories) x 0.3 (30% protein) = 744 calories

744/4 (calories in 1g of protein) = 186 à he should consume 186g of protein daily.


We use the same method for the carbs and fats too:

Carbs: 2480 x 0.4 = 992/4 = 248

Fats: 2480 x 0.3 = 744/9 = ~83g


So, on training days:


Protein: 186g

Carbs: 248g

Fats: 83g


Now we need to decide how many meals a day he will have.

Let’s stay in the grounds of reality and calculate it as four meals a day. All we need to do is divide these numbers by four, so we get the amounts for each meal.


Protein: 46.5g

Carbs: 62g

Fats: ~21g


Using the amounts above, let’s work out how much of certain foods our waiter should eat. I will make it simple this time and use chicken breast and brown rice.


We will need a kitchen scale and we will weigh everything raw/dry.


The official data says that 100g of chicken breast contains 25-30g protein. We will use the lower value, as our chicken breast may have some added water – this is where the quality of your ingredients can be important. We need 46.5g of protein from chicken breast, so 46/25 = 1.84×100 = 184. We need 184g of raw chicken breast to cover our needs for 46.5g of protein. Let’s also note that the chicken breast has some fat too (3-4g per 100g) besides the protein, so our 184g of breast already adds ~7g of fat to the menu.


We need 62g of carbs form brown rice.


100g of brown rice (depending on the type) contains about 50g of carbs. Always check the label on the packaging for the exact numbers. We need 62g of carbs from the rice, so 62/50 = 1.21×100 = 121.


We need 121g of dry brown rice. We don’t really care about the rice’s weight after we cook it, as we already know what is in it.


Only the fats part left, and we need 20g of that. We already have 7g form the chicken breast, so we only need 13g. If we marinated or brushed the breast with some oil before we cooked, then that amount will probably cover our needs. If we just grilled it without any marinade, then we can make some nice leafy salad as a side dish and drizzle it with a small spoonful of olive oil.



There you go. Done and with great macros.


We can have the same meals (same macros) for every meal as the most important factor is the total intake, but if we have a bit more serious goals (like a fitness competition) then the timing could be the next important determinant. In that case, we can divide the total daily carbs amount in a way that we consume 2/3 of the total amount before and after our training session, and the remaining smaller portion could be consumed in the separate other meals.


The method above is absolutely suitable for a basic meal plan. As I mentioned earlier, we can try to make the most precise calculation, but it will only ever be approximate until you know how much it will need to be adjusted according to your body’s response.


Of course, individual goals, attributes and life situations can change up the whole plan however, as a basic concept, the method above can be applied perfectly.


Feel free to comment or let me know if you have questions.


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