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  • Darren Baker

Flexible Dieting

How much you eat is more important than what you eat” – is this a true statement?

Well yes….. and no.

So what have we heard so far in the world of diet and nutrition? Carbs are good, carbs are bad, fat is bad, fat is good, high protein is bad, high protein is good, and sugar will pretty much kill you.

In fact we commonly go round in circles when it comes to this subject. A good example is in 1992 the US Government released the Food Pyramid healthy eating guide which listed the main items to consume were bread, cereal, rice and pasta. These items are fine, but there are different types of these foods, some better than others, and you certainly cannot eat large amounts of them – unless you wish to gain weight. Therefore this healthy eating guide created a great deal of confusion. In 2005 the US Government admitted that this information was outdated and subsequently launched a new version, and guess what – it was still confusing.

Today we are still debating what is good and what is bad. Personally I stick to the science and what I have personally tested on myself.

So back to our main topic, what is flexible dieting, also known as If It Fits Your Macro’s (IIFYM)

Well if you are up to date with my posts you will know how to count calories and balance your macros. Flexible dieting is my number three best principle to lose weight.

Flexible dieting is based on meeting your macro levels for the day but does not necessarily focus on what you eat to achieve this.

Science backed fact:- a calorie is a calorie and that does not change if that calorie comes from broccoli or a doughnut. So the burning question is:-

If you are on a 1,800 calorie fat loss diet can you still lose weight from eating 1,800 calories worth of doughnuts, chocolate and crisps?

The answer is yes! – but keep reading before you start stuffing doughnuts down your throat.

Professor Mark Haub decided to test this theory; he lost 27lbs in 2 months on a diet of Doritos, Oreos, Little Debbie snacks, Mountain Dew and Twinkies. This became known as “The Twinkie Diet”.

Mark did also drink protein drinks and take a multivitamin on a daily basis.

Why did this work? because he did not exceed his target fat loss calories proving his theory of counting calories is the key to losing weight. The calories can come from any food source, provided that they are not in excess of your daily quota.

So if you want to lose weight, calculate your calories as we have already covered, and as long as you are in a calorie deficit you will lose weight regardless of what you eat to gain those calories.

Now it’s time to throw that spanner in the works… come the “buts”.

1. Quality Calories A calorie needs to be of a certain quality when it comes to optimising body composition. So if you are aiming to lose fat and gain some muscle tone, or build muscle and minimise fat gain, what you eat does matter. This is where macronutrients are important. You need to ensure you eat enough protein for muscle growth, and eat enough carbohydrate to maintain training intensity, and eat healthy fats as they are important for hormone synthesis.

2. Micronutrients Although the food we eat is predominantly protein, carbs and fat it is also our source of essential micronutrients (vitamins & minerals). The problem with many processed foods, fast food, sweets and sugary foods is they are extremely lacking in micronutrients. So if you eat a large amount of simply termed “junk food” you could develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This is where the popular term “you are what you eat” should be attributed.

We should also take note of research that has linked chronic diseases with high sugar diets, and the cancer risks from consuming low quality processed meats. Trans fats are still linked to, well pretty much every nasty thing that can happen to our bodies.

I am sure the topic of good and bad foods will continue to be debated well into the future but I do not believe carbs, fats or sugars are bad for you in moderation as they are all welcomed by the body in their respective forms and then are utilised as a single form of energy – “ATP”(the energy currency of life). With this in mind we can now explore the realms of flexible dieting.

A Shining Light – Flexible dieting is a great approach to help stick to you diet program.

I recommend you consume at least 80% of your diet from nutrient dense foods (foods high in nutrients and lower in calories). If you then feel that you are wavering on your fat loss diet you can add a treat – but ensure it is within your set calories. Remember, the body will accept whatever forms of calories it receives, it just has to be able to burn them all (as per your calorie target).

I personally eat good nutritious food every day as I truly enjoy it more than junk/processed food. As a family we eat fantastic nutritious meals every evening that are so good they seem like cheat meals. Do I eat rabbit food every day to maintain my six pack? Hell no! If I fancy a treat, I have it so it never feels like I am on a fat loss diet.

Another great example of how to use flexible dieting: if you are going out for a meal with family or friends you can pre plan and estimate the calories that will be consumed in that meal.

So a simple thing you can do is go online to see if the restaurant has a menu with calories listed (in the technological world we live in this really is no hardship). If they do, I choose my meal and allow for the calories in my fat loss diet. If they do not list calories I check MyFitnessPal to see if the meal is listed, or I make an estimate of how many calories I think are in that meal and add them. I can then alter my breakfast and lunch for that day to take account of the extra calories I will be consuming in the evening. I can go to bed all warm and fuzzy knowing that I have had a great night without compromising my diet principles!

Think of your calories as a budget that you have to spend on food in the day. For example, I have 1,800 calories to spend each day. If I am expecting to “spend” 1,000 calories on one meal I would have 800 calories left to spend during that day. Those remaining calories are best spent on lower calorie and high protein foods so that you will remain satiated. If you constantly go over your dietary budget and are unable to burn the extra calories consumed, the potential debt is not of a financial nature, it’s of a fat nature – and that’s going to take a considerable amount of overtime and effort to clear!

What are your thoughts on Flexible Dieting? Any questions or comments.

Be Happy, Be Healthy, Enjoy Life


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