What really goes into creating a diet plan you can stick with? You know calories play a role. But macros? Macro and microcycles? Where do you start?
To make your journey into healthy eating easier, I’ve broken down the four main components to any successful diet plan. Once you’ve learned how to work with them, you’ll understand the fundamentals of creating a successful diet plan you stick with long-term.
1. Counting Calories
The first step to any successful diet plan is calories. Before anything else, you need to determine how much energy you use in a day, aka your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).
If you were to eat your TDEE, you’d theoretically maintain your ideal weight forever. But because of differences in our digestive systems, poor eating habits, insulin resistance, and decreased satiety hormones, just eating the right number of calories without regard to quality doesn’t always work.
You can get a rough calculation for your TDEE here.
2. Macronutrient Planning
Macros reflect the types of foods you eat – Carbs, Fats, and Proteins ring a bell? Once you’ve determined your calorie goals, it’s time to figure out what amounts of which nutrients will support your goals.
Here’s where different diets come into play. While any diet can reflect your calorie goal, each diet plan handles the amount of macros you consume differently.
And more than anything, macros are about making you feel good so you stick with your diet plan. They often don’t directly impact weight loss other than by reducing stress and increasing diet compliance.
Feel sluggish after carbs? The Keto diet priorities fats and moderate proteins, eradicating nearly all carbs. So if you’re a fast oxidizer and need slow-burning fuel sources to help maintain energy levels through the day, Keto’s a great choice.
The High Carb diet alternatively places carbs at the head of your plate. This diet works best if you’re a slow oxidizer and break down energy sources quickly. Since carbs convert to energy fastest, you do well with more daily carbs to fuel your body.
There are endless options out there – dive in and play around with the macro split that’s right for you.
3. Periodize with Microcycles
While setting your daily calorie intake in a deficit initially helps lose weight, everyone knows the dreaded plateau. Your body’s amazingly skilled at adapting to survive – as soon as you start eating less than your TDEE, your body begins adjusting.
With long-term, static calorie deficits, your body realizes it needs to operate on less food and becomes more efficient about its energy use. Avoid the dreaded plateaus and adjust your calorie intake by periodizing with macrocycles.
Try the Zig Zag Cycle. This is great for those seeking aggressive fat loss, operating three days in your chosen deficit, with a one day break before returning to the deficit. These refueling days prevent your body from adjusting to your new calorie level, extending your diet plan’s benefits.
Or, try the Undulating Model. This cycle has a rhythm of one day in your deficit, and one day off. If you tend to find it challenging to stick to a diet long term, this might be the choice for you. By alternating between deficit and break days, you make it easier to stick with long-term. Just make sure your average weekly calorie intake still supports your goals!
4. Macrocycles Planning
Microcycles are effective at staving off negative metabolic adaptions, but they don’t work forever. Macrocycles organize your microcycles’ days or weeks into months and years to achieve and maintain your long-term goals.
One fundamental macrocycle is Linear Periodization. Linear Periodization follows a simple program of slowly raising or lowering your calorie deficit in a linear progression.
A general fat loss linear periodization schedule could look like:
Week 1 & 2: 20% deficit
Week 3 & 4: 25% deficit
Week 5 & 6: 30% deficit
Week 7 & 8: 35% deficit
Warning – staying in a strict linear deficit for longer than 6-8 weeks is not recommended and can lead to severe metabolic depression – plan diet breaks or combine it with Pyramid Periodization.
Pyramid Periodization basically combines two linear schedules, decreasing your calories for 6-8 weeks before turning around and increasing your calories until you’re back at 100% of your TDEE, avoiding any negative metabolic adaptations.
With these four systems, you now have the power to create your own long-term successful diet plan. And if you see any negative effects from your diet plan, seek guidance from a medical professional, before trying a different diet plan.
Liked what you read? Check out my other articles posted here on Trusted Nutrition.