A Full Day of Eating in a Caloric Deficit During the Vegetarian Challenge

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Let me just start by saying, I love binge watching “what I eat in a day” videos on YouTube from fitness professionals; whether that’s body builders, powerlifters, runners, cross fit lovers, or vegan athletes, give me all of it. I especially love cheat day videos, watching Youtubers get their ‘treat yo’self’ on. Stephanie Buttermore is my favourite. 

While most of the time I should be working or literally doing anything else productive, I opt for sneaking in some eating videos. I think it stems from a general curiosity on how varying diets support different fitness goals. 

Although I’m a big fan of YouTube as a platform to give more in-depth narratives around fitness routines, diets, and general lifestyle content, I had a very fleeting thought about starting a channel myself – until I remembered that I hate being on video.

Maybe this will change in the future, but for now, I prefer to hide my awkwardness behind words rather than in front of a camera. With that being said, I thought it would be interesting to capture and share a full day of eating while I’m in the midst of a 30-day vegetarian challenge.

While I thought this challenge would be, well, challenging, I’m finding eating vegetarian more enjoyable and easier than expected. Since I’m still including animal by-products in my diet (dairy, eggs), I haven’t hit any major roadblocks hitting my protein goals. On the vegan-only days, a high protein intake was a bit tougher, but after I did a bit of groundwork; educating myself on the correct protein combinations (to get all 9 essential amino acids in a day), it was a breeze.

Before we dive into the good stuff, I just wanted to share what my current aesthetic fitness goals are. I’m trying to maintain my current weight, but also looking to shave off a bit of body fat while continuing to build lean mass. My rough way of actualizing this goal is to look at my week holistically rather than on a day-by-day basis. What I mean by this is that I’m eating intuitively throughout the week and listening to my body. Some days, I eat in a deficit and others in a surplus – which usually evens out after examining my total energy intake and expenditure at the end of the week.

Calories

With that being said, I’m going to share with you my calorie targets: my maintenance calories (those I need to maintain my current weight) sits roughly around ~2,150. 

To eat in a slight deficit (weight loss of ~0.5-1lb per week), I need to eat ~1,900 calories per day + calories burned from exercise.

To eat in a slight surplus, (weight gain of ~0.5-1lb per week), I need to eat ~2,400 calories per day + calories burned from exercise.

Instead of eating the exact same calories every day, I try to be nimble and adjust how much I’m consuming based on my body’s needs. Some days I have an insatiable appetite and others, I can go until late afternoon without eating anything – the hunger just isn’t there. It really depends. I don’t track my calories and macros every day, nor do I really need to. However, I do still enjoy tracking and journaling about my food and how different splits impact my energy levels, moods and training…especially when I’m in scientist mode and experimenting with new diets.

Macros

When it comes to macros, the only one I pay attention to is protein. I don’t care about fats and carbs. However, when I do track, I naturally lean towards a higher carb/lower fat ratio. Carbs give me all the feels: high energy, good cognitive performance, fuel in the gym. Whereas fats, well, they just don’t really do it for me. This is highly individualized so if you’re looking to figure out your ideal macro splits then I’d recommend experimenting; see how different splits effect your energy levels.

The topic of protein intake is confusing and a point of contention among fitness professionals. There’s numerous studies that range from 0.7g/kg of body weight all the way up to 3.3g/kg. So how do you know how much protein you need?

Eric Helms and Menno Henselmans are two of the most credible fitness professionals I’ve been able to seek out; both use science and the latest studies to back up their claims. Eric & Menno both agree that if your goal is to build lean mass and lose body fat that 1.8 – 2.7 g/kg is a good range to aim for.

When doing research and before writing a post like this one, I usually like to cross check across multiple sources and read through some of the latest studies; I owe it to you, the reader to present multiple sides. Eric Helms recently did an interview with Jeff Nippard on The Smartest Ways to Get Lean in 2021 and recommends > 2g/kg and while cutting (and building lean mass), and fitness YouTuber Mike Thurston recommends the ~2kg/g formula.

So with all the recommendations and scientific data, I opt for closer to the 2.2-2.3g protein/ kg of body weight. Here’s what my intake would look like with those goals in mind:

So my for my weight of 63kg (139 lbs) x 2.2g protein = 138 g/day

So my for my weight of 63kg (139 lbs) x 2.3g protein = 144 g/day

Some days I go a bit under and some a bit over; this is more of a guide than a gospel, but hope it can provide a good guideline for you.

What I Eat in a Day

Here’s my rule of thumb: If I’m trying to eat in a deficit, I eat more high-volume foods (higher on the satiety index) to fill me up and if I’m trying to eat in a surplus, I eat more calorie dense foods (ie. nuts, multiple bowls of cereal, oils, etc.). Since I’m not eating any meat, I’ve been keeping a running list of proteins to include in my daily diet. Note that some of these proteins aren’t considered “complete” (AKA include 9 of the essential amino acids), however, by blending different sources, you can hit all 9 within a 24-hour period.

My Vegetarian Protein Sources:

Nutritional Yeast 
Tempeh/Tofu 
Eggs & egg whites
Vega Sport protein (chocolate) 
Beyond Yourself whey protein isolate
Spirulina 
Quinoa
Lentils
Raw nuts + seeds (chia, pumpkin, almonds mostly)
Peanut butter
Pita & hummus – complete proteins if combined together
Rice & beans – complete proteins if combined together

And that’s pretty much it. So now that we’ve covered the protein side of things, here’s a snapshot of what I eat in day (in a deficit) and the associated calories and macros:

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you may be confused as to why my meal frequency has plummeted from 6 to 4 meals. Since I’ve been eating more whole and nutrient-dense foods, I haven’t been as hungry. To be honest, a day like this would be a struggle to eat. When I’m eating in a deficit, this type of plan would be ideal since I’m filling myself up with lots of veggies, fiber, and volume.

I still have ~2 weeks left to go in the challenge and will share my overall findings when I write my wrap-up article post-challenge. I’m enjoying it so much that I may even continue into March. I hope you enjoyed my full day of eating post. For follow-up questions or future post suggestions, feel free to email me or message me on the gram. Thanks for reading! 🙂 

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