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It’s your best friend’s birthday. You’ve already planned your diet for a typical day and are more than half way through your macros when they unexpectedly ask you to come out to dinner.
Suddenly everything that was tracked and planned is reconsidered. You frantically try to adjust things to make a night out with friends fit within your nutritional goals, and you guestimate your potential food intake.
Before you know it, you’ve gone over your dietary fat goal, your fibre intake isn’t looking very good, and your carbs are through the roof. What do you do?
Some people would say “relax bro, just call it a cheat meal”. Others would suggest taking a Tupperware of food with you, or just having a long black or water to still enjoy the company of others. Pfft, no thanks. Seriously if you think sitting at a table with friends who are enjoying a meal together, while you sip on water is considered a good time, please slap yourself.
A cheat meal or relaxed meal is an easy compromise if you are happy with your results and are progressing well. However if you are closing in on a photo shoot, competition, or need to make weight for an event, it is best to stick to your plan.
I once went to a buffet restaurant with a food scale because I had a nutrition coach who I had to report to. I didn’t want him to lower my intake if my results were not as expected due to not tracking correctly. That is probably next level commitment, and I can’t see myself ever doing that again. In retrospect it was potentially more socially awkward than bringing my own food with me, but at the time it seemed reasonable.
Moving forward, I discovered that hitting my daily macronutrient goals is important, however not completely essential.
While we focus on specific protein, carb, fat, and fibre goals on a daily basis, what we are actually doing is micromanaging a weekly caloric intake.
Guess what? It is totally acceptable and viable to focus on your caloric intake over a week, rather than daily. What does this mean? Well basically, if you go over your carb target today, you can always just pull it back accordingly tomorrow to maintain your weekly intake.
In the scenario of your best friend’s birthday dinner, all “damage” can be reversed the following day, or even over a couple of days.
Now there are a couple of things to consider.
Notice I said we are micromanaging your weekly caloric intake. Not macronutrient intake. While calories dictate weight gain or weight loss, macronutrients are the ultimate regulator of muscle gain and fat loss.
Due to this, it would be ideal to hit your daily protein target as consistently as possible. In addition to this, I would suggest aiming to hit your daily micronutrient targets too. This essentially means eating a reasonable amount of fruits and vegetables. However if you have a once-off lower fibre intake, I wouldn’t stress about it.
When it comes to carbs and fats, there is room for compromise. That’s exciting because most of the foods we enjoy with friends contain both. Dietary fat and carbs can be totally manipulated on a daily basis and fluctuations wont affect your goals if you stay on track with your expected caloric intake by the end of the week.
Essentially what matters most is daily protein intake, weekly caloric intake, and sufficient macro and micronutrients for health, energy, and effectiveness towards a specific goal. If by the end of the week your carbs are higher than planned, your fat intake is lower than planned, but your protein and total caloric goals are on point, you’re still in a good place.
If you go over your carbs or fat by 1000 calories in a day, you could eat 1000 calories less the following day, or even 500 calories less over two days, or 250 calories less over four days.
Is this something I would suggest? Generally no. Hitting your macronutrient goals on a daily basis will keep you on track and stop you from trying to play catch up. If you have a daily caloric intake of 2,500 and you need to make up for a 4,000 calorie splurge, you aren’t going to have a good time over the following days!
However when those unexpected social situations come up, don’t stress. Just enjoy yourself within reason, and plan the rest of your week around it.
If I go over my daily macronutrient goals I will often put the additional food into the following day on My Fitness Pal. I then simply work around it the next day. This makes it really easy to stay on track over the week.
Consider this the next time something comes up, you decide to eat extra carbs to fuel a heavy leg session, or you’ve regretfully given into that late night hot cross bun.
Once again it’s a win for flexibility while striving towards continued results with minimal compromise to your lifestyle and balance!