40 40 20 Diet Meal Plans – Introduction
What is the 40/40/20 Diet Meal Plan and why is it effective?
Most diets focus on one thing – the number of calories you consume.
For example, diets that put you into a calorie deficit force your body to burn fat for fuel and are useful for weight loss.
In contrast, diets that put you into a calorie surplus lead to weight gain, providing your body with the energy it needs for muscle building.
However, while the number of calories you consume is important, where those calories come from matters, too.
We get calories from the three main food groups – protein, carbohydrates, and fats – also known as macronutrients, or macros for short.
Controlling your macro ratios may help make your diet more effective.
This article delves into the 40/40/20 diet so you can determine if this macro mix is right for you.
What Is the 40/40/20 Diet Meal Plan?
The 40/40/20 diet is less of a diet and more of a set of guidelines that you can use to lose, gain, or maintain your body weight.
It is thought to provide an optimal mix between macros, providing your body with the fuel it needs to function at its best.
With the 40/40/20 diet, your diet and meals should consist of the following:
- 40% protein (4 calories per gram)
- 40% carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
- 20% fat (9 calories per gram)
Regardless of how many calories you consume, your macro ratio should be the same, with 40% of your energy coming from protein, 40% from carbs, and 20% from fat.
The 40/40/20 diet is a variation of the If It Fits Your Macros diet, known as IIFYM.
This diet allows you to eat whatever foods you want, provided they fit into the 40/40/20 framework.
This is also known as flexible dieting.
That said, for the purposes of health, eating clean or natural foods is generally better for you than processed foods.
The Benefits of the 40/40/20 Diet Meal Plan
Is the 40/40/20 diet the right eating plan for you?
Consider these benefits and then decide!
A flexible eating plan
With no set menus, you can eat whatever you like on the 40/40/20 diet providing it fits your macros.
For example, you could have a big green salad with avocado, chicken, and a baked potato or a cheeseburger.
In the eyes of the 40/40/20 diet, both meals are equal.
High in protein
The average American diet is low in protein.
In contrast, a whopping 40% of your calories come from protein when you follow a 40/40/20 eating plan.
Protein is highly satiating and has a high thermal effect, making it useful for fat loss and weight control.
It’s also vital for muscle building and recovery from exercise.
Eating more protein is arguably what makes the 40/40/20 diet so effective.
High in carbohydrates
While low-carb diets can be effective, they can also make you miserable.
Cutting things like bread, rice, pasta, and fruit from your diet can leave you with low energy, disrupt sleep, and affect your mood by lowering dopamine levels.
Knowing you can’t eat carbs can also trigger cravings.
Rather than restrict your carb intake, the 40/40/20 diet encourages a significant carb intake, so you won’t suffer the pitfalls of a low-carb diet.
All those carbs also provide plenty of energy for exercise, making 40/40/20 eating especially good for active individuals and athletes.
Sensible fat intake
For many years, fat was viewed as a dietary devil, responsible for everything from obesity to heart disease to cancer.
This led to an increase in the popularity of low-fat diets and low-fat foods.
However, fats aren’t the evil we once thought they were and are actually critical for health and longevity.
Some fats, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, are even deemed essential.
The 40/40/20 is neither high nor low in fats.
Instead, it prescribes a moderate fat intake, meaning you can consume enough without worrying about weight gain.
Good for any goal
Most diets are one-trick ponies that are only good for one thing – weight loss.
40/40/20 is different because it can be modified for any body composition goal: weight loss, weight maintenance, or weight gain.
For example, assuming your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is 2,000 per day, you can use 40/40/20 like this:
Weight loss (1500 calories per day)
- Protein – 150 grams/600 calories
- Carbohydrates – 150 grams/600 calories
- Fat – 33 grams/300 calories
Weight Maintenance (2000 calories per day)
- Protein – 200 grams/800 calories
- Carbohydrates – 200 grams/800 calories
- Fat – 44 grams/400 calories
Weight gain (2500 calories)
- Protein – 250 grams/1000 calories
- Carbohydrates – 250 grams/1000 calories
- Fat – 55 grams/495 calories
You can use 40/40/20 with any caloric intake.
While it’s straightforward enough to work out how much of each macro you need to eat, there are plenty of free online calculators you can use.
40/40/20 Diet Meal Plan Drawbacks
There is no denying that 40/40/20 dieting works.
However, there are several drawbacks to this style of eating:
No set 40/40/20 meal plan to follow
With 40/40/20, it’s up to you what you eat.
There is no official 40/40/20 diet to follow.
That means you’ll need to start planning your own meals, deciding what and how much to eat.
While this task is definitely doable, it will require work.
Diet menu planning is not always easy, and you’ll need to adjust the contents of your meals to hit your calorie and macro targets.
This puts you firmly in charge of your diet, but that may be too much responsibility for some people.
You’ll need to track your macros and calories
Once you’ve got your calorie and macro targets, you must track your food intake to hit them.
Calorie and macro tracking can be time-consuming and is not always convenient.
You’ll need to weigh and measure your food, making adjustments on the fly to ensure you hit the specified macros and calorific intake.
You can use an app to make this easier.
However, calories and macro tracking may still involve more time and effort than some people prefer.
No focus on food quality
All food sources are equal on the 40/40/20 diet.
You can eat candy, potato chips, takeouts, etc., and still hit your macro targets.
Unfortunately, hitting your macro and calorie goals doesn’t mean your diet is healthy.
The 40/40/20 diet puts all your focus on the math of nutrition and away from food quality.
It’s as easy to eat unhealthily on the 40/40/20 diet as it is healthily.
While you can lose or gain weight regardless of what you eat, you’ll undoubtedly look and feel better if your meals are nutritious.
However, this is not taken into account on the IIFYM 40/40/20 diet.
You’ll have to prepare all your own meals
Eating out or at someone else’s home is almost impossible on 40/40/20.
Instead, you’ll need to commit to making all your own meals for the duration of your diet.
Other diets are more flexible, as you can follow them even if you didn’t prepare the meal yourself.
For example, for keto, you can just have a steak and salad with no bread or potatoes.
40/40/20 is more rigidly structured, so you may not be able to stick to it in some settings.
This can lead to anxiety and stress when eating should be one of life’s pleasures.
Like many diets, 40/40/20 will work, providing you stick to it.
However, that’s the rub – adhering to these strict macros won’t always be easy, and you may come to a point where you don’t want to do it any longer.
When this happens, you’ll probably regain the weight you’ve just worked so hard to lose.
The best diet will always be the one you can follow indefinitely.
Not for a week or a month but for as long as it takes you to reach your target weight and then for as long as you want to maintain it.
Hitting those macro targets day in and out takes work and won’t always be convenient.
If you can’t see yourself doing 40/40/20 a year or more from now, there is no point starting.
40 40 20 Diet Meal Plan – Wrapping Up
The 40/40/20 diet can be very effective.
It provides a good mix of macros that ensures you have plenty of energy for exercise, protein for satiety, exercise recovery and muscle growth, and adequate fats.
It can be modified for any body composition goal, from fat loss to bodybuilding.
However, doing the 40/40/20 diet involves a fair bit of number crunching.
You’ll need to design and adjust your meals to ensure you are not only hitting your calorie goals but also consuming the right amounts of protein, carbs, and fats.
This can take a lot of work.
The 40/40/20 diet should produce excellent results if you can stick to it.
But, if you want a less labor-intensive diet plan, you should look elsewhere.