I’ll bet you’ve read the latest nutrition information, or been told what you should or shouldn’t eat by people who claim to be experts. You’ve probably heard of counting your calorie intake with some online tool, getting your macronutrient ratios right, or nutrient timing. They’re all fancy terms, but absolutely impossible to measure accurately, and they’re hard work in practice. The reality is your goals are probably quite basic, like fat loss or muscle gain, so your eating plan should be just as simple and easy to follow as well.
There is a far easier and more practical way to measure your food portions than trying to calculate your calorie intake for every meal you eat. And all you need is your hand! The best part, you never leave home without it, so you’ll always be able to measure how much food you should be eating.
OK, so what is this magic calorie intake measurement strategy?
I can’t lay claim to inventing this method, the team at Precision Nutrition are the brains behind it, but it’s the best I’ve seen for so many reasons. Here’s how it works:
- The size of your palm is the equivalent of one serving of protein
- Your fist is the equivalent of one serving of vegetables
- One cupped hand equals one serving of carbohydrates
- And your thumb is equal to one serving of fats
That’s it! It doesn’t get much simpler than that, does it? So how do you transfer that to what should be on your plate? Well, every meal, including breakfast, should incorporate roughly the same ratio of macronutrients on your plate. Here’s how it works:
- Men eat two palm-sized portions of protein such as meat, fish and eggs, while women eat one
- Men eat two fists of veggies, women eat one
- Men eat two cupped handfuls of carbs, such as brown rice, sweet potato or mixed berries, women eat one
- Men eat two thumb-sized portions of fats, such as avocado, olive oil and nuts, while women eat one
Now, I’m not suggesting for a second that men need twice as much food as women. There are many reasons why everyone will need different amounts to the guidelines I’ve set out above, which I go through in more detail below. But this is a starting point for you to make adjustments based on your body and lifestyle.
Reasons for changing the amount of food you eat
By following this basic formula for 3-4 meals per day, men and women will get roughly the right calorie intake in their diet. But of course, we all have different lives with different energy requirements. So there will be days when you have to make alterations to this plan. This is one of the reasons why strict meal plans don’t work. Life just gets in the way and you have to be flexible. So here are some reasons why you may need to add more food to your plan:
- You’re a bigger person
- You don’t feel satisfied after you finish your meals
- You eat less than 3-4 meals during the day
- You are burning a lot of energy because you’re so active
- Your goal is to put on muscle
If you’re a man, add a portion of protein to one or two meals. If you’re a woman, add half a portion of protein to one or two meals.
Conversely, there will be times when that plan is too much food. For example:
- You’re a smaller person
- You feel full and can’t finish meals that size
- You’d rather eat 5-6 smaller meals per day
- You’re very inactive
- Your goal is to lose weight
If you’re a man, remove a portion of carbs and/or fats from one or two meals. If you’re a woman, remove half a portion of carbs and/or fats from one to two meals.
As you can see, this system is much easier than weighing your food and using an online tool to calculate your calorie intake, and is just as accurate. And unlike strict meal plans, it gives you the freedom to choose what foods you eat. Just make sure those foods are whole foods, and not something from a box or the local takeaway store.
Finally, every person on Earth is different. That includes the way you digest food, utilise the energy from your food, store energy as muscle and fat, and evacuate your food down south!
So you’ll need to experiment with the portions of your meals until you start seeing the desired results. You may get lucky and see awesome results from the start. Or you may need to make adjustments every four weeks or so if you’re not tracking towards your goals. For example, if you want to build muscle and you’re not seeing any gains, you may want to increase how much protein you’re eating. Conversely, if you want to lose fat, you may want to decrease your fat and/or carb consumption.
Making lifelong and sustainable changes to your eating habits, and understanding how your body reacts to different types of food, takes time and experimentation. Stick with the plan, make adjustments where needed, and before long you’ll be on track to achieving your goals in a way that will stay with you for the rest of your long, active and healthy life. All without needing to spend unnecessary time working out your calorie intake.
Over to you…