It’s always hard to know where to start a controversial information article like one about flexible dieting.
I could talk about how a bit of moderation and being sensible means you can eat 90% good food during the day, have 10% of your kcals in whatever you fancy, and still look and feel awesome.
Or I could polarise the nuts off it and say “chicken and brocolli is no different to icecream and protein shakes once it’s inside your body”.
There’s already enough bro-science out there talking about “all that matters is calories” and other such hogwash to add to it. And the fanboys will quote study after study to prove their point. And while they’re technically correct (in the sense that if you control for protein and kcal intake perfectly, that is all that matters), in the real world they couldn’t BE more wrong.
See people always jump on one thing when discussing “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) or flexible dieting – you can eat what you want and still be in shape once you control your calories.
Know what the common thread those guys share is? They all have flabby bellies and tits. The dudes who approach IIFYM like that almost ALWAYS look like shit. Hell, some of the most outspoken ambassadors of it that I’ve had the misfortune of meeting just look like fat dudes with big arms.
…so obviously that’s not where we’ll be taking this.
The Basic Premise
Think of flexible dieting as a way of eating set up to avoid failure. A way to plan your day so that you can eat whatever you want, within reason, and still see results. Obviously that doesn’t mean you can eat a tub of ben and jerry’s every night, but a few big spoonfuls is totally cool.
Hell, a good friend of mine has included a daily snickers in his approach and is losing weight easily and consistently for the first time in years (he’s like 1.5 stone down in the past couple of months).
With flexible dieting, you get a certain amount of calories to “spend”. And you have to buy a certain amount of protein with those kcals, but once you’ve done that, and you use 80-90% of your kcals to buy good REAL food, then a little bit of what you fancy is fair game.
What you’ll see as we go on is that this is really just “sensible eating”.
A “balanced” or “moderate” approach to weight loss.
It’s obvious. Simple. And intuitive.
But without a name or brand, I’d never get traction with it. So let’s keep pretending it’s some elite underground ninja nutrition strategy k?
Setting It Up
Like most fat loss protocols, there will need to be an element of calorie control. Food quality matters, but calories count. You can totally get fat off beef, almonds, sweet potato and kale, if you eat enough of it. So don’t just assume “healthy” = “won’t gain weight”.
The starting point for all of this is your maintenance calorie level.
You can use a formula like the harris benedict equation to calculate it, but for most practical purposes, it approximates the following guidelines anyway.
Recommend Calorie Targets:
- Weight Loss kcal = bodyweight in lb x12
- Maintenance = bodyweight in lb x14
- Muscle Gain = bodyweight in lb x16
Recommend Protein Intake:
- bodyweight in lbs = grams of protein per day
- 25-35% of total calories (say 30% to keep it simple)
- whatever is left over
So for example. as a 100kg guy here’s what I get if I’m trying to lose weight:
Calories per day: 2,640
Protein per day: 220g
Fat per day: 88g
Carbs per day: 242g
…and that’s the basic mechanics of it. Super, Super simple. I know what you’re thinking “242g of carbs is A LOT” and it is when you compare it against atkins, the ketogenic diet and other traditional low carb approaches. But hey, are you REALLY going to complain if I tell you that you can eat more carbs and still lose weight?!
But Will It Really Work?
Will a diet where you eat the correct amount of calories for your goals, eat mostly real food and have the chance to enjoy the odd treat really work? What do you think numbnuts??
OF COURSE IT WILL WORK. But the plan only works if you work the plan.
What I mean by that is – if you’re eating 242g of carbohydrates per day, you better be eating at least 80% of those from unprocessed sources like sweet potato, rice, and oats.
BUT, If the odd chocolate bar sneaks in, it’s not end of the world (just like Paul’s ‘snickers a day’ diet).
Look at it another way – 80-90% of the time, you’re eating a good balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg, lean protein, high quality fats and the odd treat here and there. That’s “healthy” by anyones definition of the term.
It’s probably a lot healthier than the stressed out Paleo zealots who’ve almost developed mental problems from their restrictive punitive approach to food. I know which person I’d rather be. What about you?
It’s a hell of a lot better than being an overweight, stressed out, serial dieter who goes thru binge/purge cycles too right?
It’s a way of eating focused on consistency, rather than quick results. Done right, it will deliver sustainable results over 6-8 weeks comparable to ANY other diet, but you won’t get the immediate week 1 gratification of seeing a few kg go off because you haven’t eliminated any carbohydrates (the first 2-4kg most people see when dieting is a glycogen/water dump as a result of removing carbs – that’ll just come straight back on once they’re reintroduced, so you may as well not have lost it in the first place).
>> …and I’m going to cut this blog post here, because in Part2 I’ll be talking about cheat days, refeeds, alcohol, liquid calories and all the other evil things that are screwing up your weight loss efforts, and what you can do to right the ship!