Today marks just about 2 1/2 weeks in to eating for macros on a plant-based diet. If you missed my first post, have a read here to catch up the on the why and how of what I’m doing.
Thoughts on Flexible Dieting So Far
I’ve pretty much got the hang of it now and have been very consistent day-to-day. I’d have to say, I’m actually really, really enjoying eating this way! I’m sure the positive results are helping that opinion and while I know there will be times days when I don’t adhere to my macro goals, on the average day, it’s no problem and I’m finding it to be completely worth the bit of extra work. I’m definitely looking leaner and have been feeling really strong in the gym.
Of Course Nutrition Matters
I always understood nutrition was the key to reaching your goals but for some reason I just didn’t care to fully commit to it up until a few weeks ago. It’s almost like I thought it I didn’t apply to me, or I thought I worked out hard enough so it didn’t really matter. Ha! I knew in the back of my mind that wasn’t true, of course. While I ate a very healthy diet, I indulged whenever, in whatever, without thinking anything of it. Well, that all adds up!
My goal is slow and steady progress, so like I said in my first post, not whole lot has changed but I have been very consistent and I think that is making all the difference in the changes I’m starting to see. I’ll wait a few more weeks to post before and after pics since the results are fairly subtle so far. I think the increase in protein and getting a consistent amount of protein on a daily basis is making a huge difference for me.
Put Performance First
I think it’s best to approach IIFYM with performance in mind first, rather than appearance, so as to maintain a healthy relationship with food; to really think of food as something that can empower you, give you energy and build a strong body, while still allowing for enjoyment. I want this to be something that’s sustainable long-term, so I’m not doing anything extreme or too strict. I’m eating the same foods as before, just in difference proportions and at the right amounts. It feels good.
A Better Way to “Count Calories”
One of the things I really like about this is that calories aren’t the most important factor of what you eat. If you were eating to stay within a certain calorie range, you could fill up on 2000 calories worth of cookies and call it a day. But what would your macro and micronutrient intake look like? Not too good, would it? All fat and carbs, no protein and little fibre, vitamins and minerals. If instead, you’re aiming to fill those calories up with a good balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates, as well as considering micronutrients, wouldn’t you say that’s the better option? I don’t pay attention to how many calories I’m eating, but by hitting my macro goals, I naturally stay within the right calorie range for my goals.
What I Learned From 2 Weeks of Vegan Flexible Dieting
1. Enter all your food for the day in the morning, or even the night before.
When I was just getting started on this, I was entering things as I went and ending up with random amounts of macro by the end of the day. For example, only having protein left or only have tons of carbs. I figured out pretty quickly that it’s ideal to enter everything you plan to eat for the day into My Fitness Pal in the morning, or even the evening before, so you can make adjustments as needed and enjoy a normal, realistic day of meals.
As I get my breakfast and lunch ready at night for the following day, I enter everything in to make sure I’ve budgeted nicely throughout the day. Then I can see what’s leftover and have a good idea how to proportion my dinner, what snacks to add or if I should eat more or less during the day. Most days, I’ve left enough to have a healthy dessert as well.
2. Don’t go overboard at breakfast time.
I definitely used to go a little crazy with my breakfasts without even knowing it. Even though they appeared to be a very small portion, the fat and carbs were typically really high. Nutrient-dense foods like chia, hemp, coconut, nuts, oats, dates, almond butter and banana really add up quick and before I knew it I was eating 600+ calorie breakfasts.
I’ve learned I don’t need to have every ingredient in to every breakfast and can pick and choose day-to-day to create a more a balanced meal. Also, I used to eat way too many dates. Haha. 3 at breakfast, a few in the afternoon and more for dessert and your sugar intake is through the roof! I’m still eating dates, just much, much less of them.
3. Portion size is everything.
This has probably been the biggest change for me over the last few weeks. I guess I used to think, “oh, it’s just plants, I’ll just pile it all in, it’s no big deal….”. If a recipe suggested 8 servings, between my husband and I, that usually meant 4. That and I just generally underestimated how much I was eating most of the time. I figured I was active enough for it not to make that big of difference but it does a make a difference, a huge difference!
Measuring my food has really helped me manage my portion sizes and I’m learning to better estimate how much I’m consuming. I don’t worry about portion sizes for leafy vegetables or things like peppers, carrots or cucumber, this is more for grains, starchy vegetables, nut butters, seeds, fruit and other denser foods. I won’t measure forever but it’s giving me a good idea of what portion sizes are appropriate for me and my goals.
4. I need supplements to get this much protein.
I’m definitely relying on protein powder to get the amount of protein I’m shooting for. I mean, you can only eat so much tofu, beans and tempeh. On average, I’m using these products 2-3 times a day to reach my protein goals without going over on carbs and fat. Many higher-protein plant foods are also high in carbohydrates and fat, so it can be tricky to keep those macros in the right range while still getting enough protein.
Typically, I use protein powder daily after workouts and as an afternoon snack. I also like to blend a few spoonfuls of Vega Performance Protein in Mocha Flavour into my morning coffee, so good! My favourite products are Vega Performance Protein, Vega One, Organic Hemp Protein and Organic Brown Rice Protein.
6. It’s all about being prepared.
In order to “hit your macros” each day, you can’t really get away with just winging it. It definitely takes some planning, a bit of food prep and just more consideration as to what you’re eating. That being said, as long as you’re conscious of creating meals and snacks that are well-balanced to being with, it’s pretty easy to reach your daily numbers.
Taking time on Sunday to meal plan, grocery shop and do some prep will make all the difference if you want to make this work. It also helps to add all your favourite meals and recipes into My Fitness Pal ahead of time to make things quicker.
7. IIFYM isn’t about eating a bunch of junk food.
Wait…I thought IIFYM was all about eating ice cream, chips and french fries, so long as it fits your macros? Well, no, not exactly, that’s just not going to work. You still have to eat healthy. You can enjoy your favourite foods on occasion and in moderation, but you still need to eat a well-balanced, varied diet made up of mostly whole, nutrient-dense food.
What makes it realistic as a long-term lifestyle though, is that nothing is off limits. It’s all about fuelling your body in a way that allows you to perform yet still reduce body fat and build muscle, and not go crazy while doing it. That means you still need to eat lots of vegetables, some fruit, drink lots of water, get plenty of fibre and just use common sense. It’s about how you feel too, so you still want to eat a wide variety of whole foods to ensure you’re getting plenty of micronutrients.
Making It Realistic for the Long-Term
All that being said, there will be days when I won’t not stick to my numbers at all, but those days will be less numerous than they used to be. Unexpected events, dinners out, trips, parties, whatever it may be, I’m going to enjoy them still. That’s life and for my goals, I don’t need to get too intense about this, especially since my goals are performance-based. Like I said earlier, slow and steady progress is what’s going to work best for me. Besides, you need treats to lift heavy weights, no getting around that.
Following Up on the Calcium Issue
To follow up with last weeks issue of not getting enough calcium, for the last 7 days, I was on average only 5% under the RDA instead of 20. This is mainly due to using fortified almond milk again. I use about 1 cup per day, most of that in my morning chia and oatmeal and the rest in my coffee. I’m going to add a multi-vitamin, that plus the variety of whole foods I eat, I should be set for calcium. My sugar intake has remained low, fibre has been about 60 grams per day and I’m still getting plenty of iron, vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium.
Vegan Flexible Dieting Meal Plans
Below I’ve listed 4 days of my meals from the past week. I haven’t included measurements since that would depend on your needs but it gives you an idea of how I’m achieving 160 gram of protein per day by eating mostly whole food.
The days listed below are pretty typical except I don’t plan on continuing to the processed meat-substitutes I’ve added to my diet recently. I didn’t eat them before but have been including them to help meet my protein needs the last two weeks. I’m not really a fan of their ingredients and while I don’t mind eating them in moderation for the short term, I plan to make some adjustments so I can do without them. I’ve also been using liquid stevia to sweeten my breakfasts. I wasn’t using any sugar alternatives before but I’m ok with using this in moderation.
Day 1 Flexible Dieting Meal Plan
• Chia Seeds, Mixed Berries, Unsweetened Almond Milk
• Black Coffee with MCT Oil
• Chopped Veggie Spicy Peanut Brown Rice Salad
• Organic Extra Firm Tofu
• Protein powder blended with Frozen Mango
Snacks During Day
• Pre-Workout: Peanut Butter and Banana, Post-Workout: Vega Performance Protein, Red Leaf Lettuce with Peppered Tofurky and Cucumber, North Coast Naturals Vege PRO-7, Chickpea Protein “Cookie Dough”
Day 2 Flexible Dieting Meal Plan
• Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Mixed Berries, Unsweetened Almond Milk
• Black Coffee with MCT Oil and a bit of Vega Performance Protein
• Lentil Taco Salad: Lentils, Onion, Refried Beans, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Pepper, Carrot, Cilantro, Avocado
• North Coast Naturals Vege PRO-7 blended with Frozen Mango
Snacks During Day
•Post-Workout: Vega One Shake, Edamame, Banana with Cinnamon and Hemp Seeds, North Coast Naturals Vege PRO-7, Chickpea Protein “Cookie Dough”
Day 3 Flexible Dieting Meal Plan
• Lentil Taco Salad: Lentils, Onion, Refried Beans, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Pepper, Carrot, Cilantro, Avocado
• Broccoli, Brown Rice, Kale, Spicy Sauce, Tempeh
• 1/2 Banana, MCT Oil, Cocoa Powder, Stevia (Blended)
Snacks During Day
•Pre-Workout: Almond Butter and Banana, Post-Workout: North Coast Naturals Vege PRO-7, Edamame, Cucumber and Red Pepper, Simply Peanut Butter Chocolate Vegan Protein Bar
Day 4 Flexible Dieting Meal Plan
• Oats, Organic Brown Rice Protein, Hemp Seeds, Chia Seeds, Unsweetened Almond Milk
• “Cheezy” Broccoli Cauliflower Rice made with Roasted Red Peppers, Hemp Seeds and Nutritional Yeast, 1/2 serving Cajun-Style Vegetarian Sausage
• Fat-Free Spicy Baked Fries, Spinach Salad with Red Pepper, Carrot, Crispy Tempeh, Hemp Seeds, Dijon Dressing
• Banana with Unsweetened Coconut, 1 Medjool Date, Cocoa Powder and MCT Oil
Snacks Throughout Day
• Post-Workout: Vega Performance Protein, Almond Butter, Hummus with Cucumber, Broccoli and Carrot, Baked Purple Yam, Vege PRO-7
Notes on the Meal Plans
That was 4 days of what ate this past week. As you can see, each day is pretty similar but that changes week-to-week as my meal plans changes. There are other staple foods I haven’t listed about that are considered “free foods” and I use for flavouring my food without using too much salt.
Staple Macro-Friendly Flavourings
- fresh lemons and limes
- sriracha, hot sauce
- all sorts of herbs and spices
- a selection of vinegars and mustards
- liquid stevia drops
Other Must-Have Foods Lately
- hemp seeds for a low carb source of fat and protein
- MCT oil for an energizing source of fat
- organic brown rice and organic hemp protein for a source of protein
- various flavoured protein powders
- tempeh and tofu for a low carb source of protein
- banana, sweet potato, potato for fat-free source of carbohydrates
More Notes on Plant-Based Macros
Carbs Are Easy
Carbs are always easy to get, fat is fairly easy and the protein still takes some work to hit my goals. I used to eat salads or grain-based meals all the time without bothering to add a protein source, now I ensure I eat protein at every meal. Basically, if I’m just conscious of it, it’s not a problem.
I’ve also been really good about drinking a protein shake right after my training sessions. I usually not able to eat breakfast until at least 90-120 minutes after I finish so it’s been good to have some protein right away to help start the recovery process.
Supplements I’m Using
Go-To Snacks and Meals Lately
- Simple dijon vinaigrette made with dijon mustard, ACV or balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice and a bit of stevia
- Chickpea protein “cookie dough” made with chickpeas, Vega protein, liquid stevia drops and peanut butter or powdered peanut butter depending on if I have fats left
- Frozen mango blended with vanilla protein and banana with chocolate sauce made from MCT oil, cocoa powder and maple syrup.
- “Cheezy” Broccoli Cauliflower Rice, it was low calories but had a 10 grams of protein per serving, which is awesome. You can find the recipe on Blissful Basil.
- I’m still getting used to tempeh, I didn’t eat a lot of it before because I’ve never really been a fan but as long as it’s nice and crispy, I don’t mind it.
- Oil-free oven-baked fries. Simply place cut potatoes in a pot with cold water and bring to a boil, boil 5 minutes, drain, add spices and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. There’s no need for oil when you’re making baked potato or sweet potato fries. I actually prefer them without as they tend to puff up and get nice and crispy when you go oil-free.
- Protein pudding made by mixing Vega Performance Protein with a little water or mixing it into dairy-free yogurt
2.5 Weeks in the Books
There we have it! Those are my experiences after 2 and a half weeks of 100% commitment to IIFYM! Seriously, I am loving it! I can’t get over how quickly my body is responding to the change. I’ll share some photos in another few weeks once the changes are more pronounced. Performance wise, my workouts have been amazing. I’ve had a ton of energy, I feel lighter and I’ve hit a ton of personal records recently. If that’s not motivation to keep going, I don’t know what is!!
I’ll check in again in another 1-2 weeks to let you know how I’m doing! What do you think of all this? Let me know if you have any questions!
Want to give it a try? Check out this post:
More Flexible Dieting Posts:
- Week One Experiences – A Snapshot of How I Eat
- Week Two Experiences – Tips, Tricks and Sample Meal Plans
- Week Six Follow Up and Experiences – Tips and Tricks
- Best Plant-Based Flexible Dieting Foods – Part 1
- Best Plant-Based Flexible Dieting Foods – Part 2
- Best Plant-Based Flexible Dieting Foods – Part 3
- Nutrition Tips for Vegan Athletes
- Best Tools for Flexible Dieting Success