Meal Plan or Macros: Which is Right For You?

Meal Plan or Macros: Which is Right For You?

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With flexible dieting becoming increasingly popular– people have been abandoning the meal plan to give counting macros a try. I have helped hundreds of people calculate their macros and have watched very few actually utilize them. Those that do, tend to see results. Those that don’t, I have seen venture off to find an alternative, which usually ends up being a meal plan with a coaching element.

Do I think one is superior to the other? No, not really. I think that one is more suited to an individual than the other and neither is a magic pill. You still have to do the work.

The Meal Plan

Meal plans vary in personalization. You can get a generic meal plan online or get one that comes along with a fitness program you’ve purchased. Or you can work with a coach to get a more personalized plan. You should use a meal plan if:

You have little self-control

If you know you can’t handle eating just two Oreos or stopping after a single serving of ice cream, you probably want a meal plan. Meal plans usually don’t have things like cookies, pizza and ice cream on them, but generally people allow for a self-induced “cheat” meal. If you are working with a coach, they can work in some treats for you so you can enjoy yourself and still stay on track.

You need structure, like a lot of it

Some people need more than just a little direction, they need to be told what to do. You appreciate rules and you feel a lot more comfortable with a black and white setup than having to make decisions within shades of grey. Having a meal plan to tell you exactly what you’ll be eating, calms you.

Food stresses you out

Maybe you have an irrational fear of carbs or fat. Or the whole macro math thing doesn’t make sense to you. Maybe the thought of playing around in an app to hit a specific set of numbers stresses you out. Having a meal plan to lay everything out, tends to take the guesswork and stress out of things.

You don’t want to think

One of the best things about having a meal plan is that you literally don’t have to think about it. You know what you need to buy at the store and what to prep in advance. You know what you’ll be eating and sometimes even when to eat it. It’s a no brainer approach to eating and takes the thinking off your plate so you can just put your head down and work.

Counting Macros

Flexible dieting appeals to more independent people who like the idea of being able to indulge now and then while still hitting their goals. You can use various online calculators to figure out your numbers or work with a coach to calculate them for you. Counting macros is for you if:

You have discipline/self-control

For some people eating just one cookie, a single cupcake, a sliver of pie or a single serving of nuts is basically impossible. For a flexible dieter, you’d rather eat two Oreos than none at all. You love the fact that you can have anything in the world your little heart desires, as long as it fits (and you don’t spend all day eating like an asshole). If you go “off plan,” you just have to make a few adjustments and everything will be okay.

You like freedom

Flexible dieting or is supposed to be just that– flexible. You don’t like being told what you can and can’t eat – or how much of it. Instead, you like the option of being able to work in a treat everyday if you choose. You can eat as clean as you like while still working in a “dirty” food now and then.

You enjoy puzzles

Sure it can be a pain in the ass to vary your food and serving sizes enough to make everything fit, but you don’t mind playing food Tetris now and then. You like that you can plan out a week of food in advance if you want, or wing things on the fly. After awhile you can look at something and have a good idea of the macronutrient content. It’s like seeing the matrix, and once you start you can’t stop.

You need structure, but don’t like rules

Very few people can “intuitively eat” and also smash their goals (Seriously, I have no idea how those people do it). For the rest of us mere mortals, we need a bit of structure. I personally love having structure — but I hate being told what to do. Counting your macros gives you guidelines to follow but allows you the freedom to choose what you eat.


Interested in trying flexible dieting but have no clue where to start? Check out Krissy Mae Cagney’s ebook Flexible Dieting 2.0. It will teach you a lot about the science behind counting your macros as well as how to calculate them for your specific goals. Use my code XTALROSE for a discount!

As far as meal plans are concerned the majority of Ashley Horner’s programs also come with a meal plan. Her gym, American Sled Dogs also offers online nutritional coaching and personalized meal plans.

Which do you prefer to follow? Macros or a meal plan?

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Chrystal Rose
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