A Dietitian’s Review of the 21 Day Fix and BBG Meal Plan + Macros | Katie Proctor

 

When it comes to getting great results from a health & fitness program, nutrition is key.

You can exercise every single day of your life, but if you’re not focusing on high-quality nutritious foods, you’re not going to reach your goals.

You’re just not.

Gone are the days where it was all about calories in, calories out. Yes, that matters, but where the calories come from is even more important. First and foremost you want to make sure your macros (protein/fat/carb) are in the right proportion. And that they are not coming from junk. There is a whole macro-counting movement out there (if it fits your macros = iifym) whereby people meet their daily requirements by indulging in McDonald’s and PopTarts. Yeah, I’m not into that. My macro-counting movement is based on whole foods and clean eating so you’re fueling your inside optimally.

When it comes to achieving my own health & fitness goals, I am numbers and results-driven. Maybe it’s because I’m a dietitian, but I know that evidence/facts speak for themselves.

I’m not interested in diets. I want a long-term approach to eating more healthfully and more mindfully.

That’s why I took it upon myself to compare two of the most popular workout program’s accompanying meal plans – 21 Day Fix and BBG – to show you exactly what I mean by balancing your meals and your macros. 

I’ll start out with a quick summary of each eating philosophy {with pros and cons of each} and then do a side-by-side comparison of a day’s worth of food with the nutrient breakdown. The results actually shocked me.

21 Day Fix Nutrition

Beachbody program that comes with a booklet {including a food list and recipes} and colored containers to correspond with food groups and serving sizes. When I took the “test” to calculate my calorie needs, it came up sub-1500 and I’m just never going to consume that few of calories, especially on a rigorous fitness regimen. I recommend that all of my coaching clients follow the 1500-1800 calorie range for this meal plan, because they’ll still see results.

For that calorie level, the meal plan is broken down as follows:

4 green Non-starchy vegetables
3 purple Fruit
4 red Protein (meat, eggs, protein subs)
3 yellow Starches (grains, legumes, starchy veg.)
1 blue Fats e.g. cheese, avocado, hummus
1 orange Fats e.g. nuts, dressing, coconut
4 tsp Oil, nut butters, etc.

Here’s what I like and don’t like about this approach. I like that the 21 Day Fix takes the guesswork out of serving sizes, because most people grossly underestimate the portion size of certain foods, like grains, oils and nut butters, yet overestimate how many vegetables they are actually getting. I love the way the food groups are divided for the macro counting approach. For example, legumes (like beans and lentils) as well as starchy vegetables (like potatoes) are in the same category as grains like bread and pasta.

Beans and many vegetables are still carbohydrate-rich.

And carbs aren’t a bad thing, but you need to be aware of this to balance your diet properly.  The 21 Day Fix automatically helps you do this by lumping all these foods in the same category so, once you run out of yellow containers, you need to offset that with protein and fats.

I do personally find the blue vs. orange vs. tsp “containers” to be slightly confusing. It makes sense based on the serving size and caloric density of certain foods e.g. nut butter should be eaten by the tsp. whereas whole nuts should be eaten in the orange container, but I do like having defined “groups” to put foods in that don’t overlap. Over time, it’s easy to remember which foods belong where because the provided food list is pretty short, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around this at first.

BBG Nutrition

Lengthy PDF, created by an Australian personal trainer {this is important – the serving sizes are often expressed in grams}. The PDF has a lot of information, but I’m really just interested in the daily intake recommendations. This guide is also broken down by food group and serving size, but no containers for reference. For the same calorie level as referenced above for 21 Day Fix, the breakdown is as follows:

5 veggie Starchy + non-starchy veg, legumes
2 fruit Fruit
2.5 meat/protein Meat, eggs, lentils/beans
6 grain Whole grains
2.5 dairy Milk, yogurt, cheese
2 fat Avocado, nuts, oil, margarine

What I do like about this eating approach is the baseline calorie level. I think that 21 Day Fix starts some people out too low, but the “default” recommendation for BBG is in the 1500-1800 calorie range, which is more practical. No adjustments needed here.

I like the focus on serving sizes/food groups, but there is more of a reliance on eyeballing or measuring the servings. If you don’t know gram equivalents, it can take some extra effort, too. The biggest difference here – that I don’t like – is the categorization within the food groups and the overall balance of the macronutrients. Like the 21 Day Fix, some foods appear in two categories (notably: legumes), not really a huge deal once you memorize the pattern.

But, there is a required category of dairy – which we don’t “need” – and would be hard to modify for someone who is dairy-free without defaulting to “vegan” milks/yogurts/cheeses as replacements, which can be heavily processed. But what really caught me by surprise was the required 6 servings of grains, and the fact that starchy vegetables, like potatoes, and legumes were all included in the veggie category. If you’re going to tell someone to eat veggies, make sure they’re eating ACTUAL veggies.

Also…margarine???

But really, I went into this with an objective mindset, and the observations stated above are after much assessment – not just my initial reaction. I used my standard day’s worth of food on the 21 Day Fix meal plan and modified it according to the BBG guidelines to compare.

  21 Day Fix Meal Plan BBG Meal Plan
Breakfast ½ scoop Shakeology, 2 Tbsp. flaxseed, ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 banana + rice cakes w/ ¼ avocado ½ scoop Shakeology, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 banana + rice cakes w/ ¼ avocado
A.M. Snack Apple + 2 tsp PB Apple + 2 tsp PB
Lunch ½ cup quinoa, rotisserie chicken + 2.5 cups veggies + ¾ cup edamame 1 cup quinoa, rotisserie chicken + 1 cup veggies + 1 slice cheese
P.M. Snack ½ scoop Shakeology, ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt + ½ cup oats
Dinner 2 eggs + 2.5 cups veggies + 2 tsp oil 2 eggs + 1 cup veggies + ½ sweet potato + ¼ cup rice


Modifications to make 21 Day Fix meal plan BBG-compliant:

  • Decreased servings of vegetables at each meal from 2.5 cups to 1 cup; made 1 veggie serving 1/2 sweet potato
  • Removed flaxseed from morning shake and oil at dinner – not enough fat allowed to incorporate them
  • Increased quinoa serving at lunch and swapped edamame for cheese, so I could get in another serving of dairy
  • Switched my afternoon snack to be grain-centric
  • Added rice at dinner

And now…the macronutrient breakdowns vs. my goals (40% carb, 30% protein, 30% fat)

21 Day Fix Macros

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BBG Macros

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The difference in macros is glaringly obvious when you lay them out side by side like this. It’s difficult enough as it is to get enough protein, but the grain and carb-centric BBG meal plan makes it even harder. Carbs are not evil and in fact are absolutely necessary. And both meal plans are well within the acceptable range for each macronutrient for a healthier lifestyle. But I think the difference is important to point out, because the meal plan you need depends on your goals.

I have tried several of the BBG workouts and they are fast and effective, just like the 21 Day Fix, with more emphasis on low intensity steady-state cardio (LISS). But I have to say the clear winner for me when it comes to meal plans is the 21 Day Fix. It is a better balance of carb/fat/protein for performance and fat loss.

And as a practicing dietitian, it would be unethical for me not to disclose my relationship as a Beachbody coach, the creator of the 21 Day Fix program. However, I evaluated both of the meal plans objectively with the guidelines provided and am sharing the data with you all so you can make the decision that is right for you.

If you are interested in dialing in your nutrition and specific macronutrient breakdown, send me your goals and we can customize a plan that will help you achieve them!

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