One philosophy towards having someone make dietary changes is to implement the least amount of work to get them towards the goals they are after. Diet “success” comes from consistency in the long term. Implementing too many drastic changes generally means it won’t be sustainable and therefore, they won’t see (or keep) the results.
This is some of the reason behind the rules of the 800g Challenge. By not requiring people to eliminate any foods, they get better adherence in the long term. In addition, the rules provide for user autonomy in making choices and flexibility day-to-day to make it a real, livable dietary intervention.
This is step number one in a person’s diet. While no single number or diet approach can be perfect for everyone, the 800g Challenge comes in at only 500-600 calories when someone eats mixed fruits and veggies. That is significantly less than what most people are eating (particularly those that are exercising). And, there is almost universal agreement that fruits and veggies are good for our health. So when people aren’t doing it, we must ask, what are they eating?
Particularly for the active population, the next step from the 800g Challenge is to add sufficient protein. This has been dubbed the Lazy Macros approach (800g Challenge + Protein)
A Macros Diet (where you weigh and measure everything you eat to hit certain protein, carbohydrate, and fat gram totals) is a great educational tool and is also great for those who love it and thrive with it. It certainly takes the guesswork out of how much to eat, it gets results, and it allows for any foods in the diet (hello, sustainability!). However, most people don’t want to weigh and measure food … forever.
Yet in our modern and busy lives, processed and convenient food is everywhere pushing our diets to (generally) be high in carbohydrates and fat. It IS useful to have some daily checkpoints to stay on track. The 800g Challenge serves that purpose, but it is lacking any protein guidance. And protein has some pretty important uses: it is a necessary part of a diet for athletes looking to maximize strength and performance, and it helps with satiety.
So How Much Protein?
A range of 0.7-1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day (g p/lb BW*d) is a good general recommendation to build lean muscle mass, as well as prevent sarcopenia. (If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, you can use your target weight).
But how do you know if you should be 0.7 versus 1.0? Generally, people that are smaller, less-muscled, and less active would be closer to 0.7 and those larger, more muscled, and more active would be closer to 1.0. But, it’s better to start at the level that best approximates your current protein intake and increase as necessary.
Suppose someone was 150 pounds; their protein intake could be one of the following:
• 0.7 – 105 grams of protein/day (g p/d)
• 0.8 – 120 g p/d
• 0.9 – 135 g p/d
• 1.0 – 150 g p/d
Generally, the 0.8-0.9 multiplier works well for those weightlifting and training at high-intensity regularly. Even for those looking to put on mass, it is not recommended to eat much above the 1 g p/lb BW*d. Why? When you are eating that much protein, the rest of the diet generally suffers. And as protein intake climbs, plant matter intake (fiber) should also increase to attenuate the potential negative effects of protein putrifying in the colon (putrefaction).
How to Implement
A simple strategy to hit your Lazy Macros is to split the total quantity across three main meals. This means ~270 grams of fruits and veggies per meal + ⅓ of your protein quantity (~35-50 g/meal for most people).
While you can space it however you want, the more “routine” your meals are, the less tracking you have to do. What may be considered a “boring” diet by some, actually is a way to reduce decision fatigue and the overall work to track on every single number.