What is flexible dieting?
Aside from being a total game changer, if you are new to this macro counting game, you may not know what exactly flexible dieting actually entails.
Rest assured my nutritionally aware friends, unlike what is often broadcasted on social media (my own accounts included) flexible dieting is not an all the junk food I can fit into my daily diet in one day challenge. It is human nature to post the highlights of your day on Instagram and facebook, but the pictures of jellies, chocolate and pizzas are not in fact what flexible dieting is all about, there are plenty of meals not quite instagram worthy at the time that get devoured and are wholesome and nutritious. Flexible dieting simply means eating a wide variety of foods with no foods out of bounds. This is a guide on how to do flexible dieting right! But first….
What are macros?
Macros are the short term word for macronutrients, which basically consist of protein, carbohydrates and fats. You can use macro calculators online to work out macros to suit your goals but personally I recommend tracking your normal food intake over a week or two on an app such as my fitness pal, just to see where you are at the moment metabolically presuming your weight is fairly stable. By doing this you will get an average idea of what your maintenance macros are at present. You can then play around with them to suit your goals as discussed below.
Tailor your macros to suit your goals
You need to know your goal before you can tailor your macros around it. For the purpose of this discussion, your goal will most likely be either muscle growth or fat/weight loss. To put it quite simply, to grow muscle you should be working with a calorie surplus, and to lose fat or weight, you should be working off a deficit. If you simply want to maintain, hold your macros steady if they are at a level that you are comfortable with, otherwise reverse diet them up to the level you want, and your body can handle. Flexible dieting is a great option as it means you can incorporate your favourite foods into your diet daily in moderation according to your macro allowance.
Count your macros
Counting your macros helps you create an understanding about portion sizes and their calorific/macro value. It also gives you better control of your results as if you know what you are eating, you can make adjustments accordingly. This is especially important for those in competition prep and will help you to avoid eating too little or too much in this period.
The majority of your diet should consist of nutritious foods
As mentioned previously, flexible dieting is not all about eating as much pizza as possible in one meal. The bulk of your food should be nutritious and contribute to your health and well being. Think fruit, vegetables and complex carbs with a sprinkling of fats from sources such as salmon, meat and nuts or avacados.
When the calories get low, volume is your friend
If you are dieting down, voluminous foods will be your new best friend. These foods are low in calories but high in satiety, meaning you get more for your macro buck. Vegetables and even some fruits are great examples of voluminous foods. They also tend to be high in fibre so don’t overdo them unless you want to spend your free time sitting on a toilet!
Hit all your targets, including fibre
Although you don’t want to overdo the fibre, you also want to make sure you are hitting a high enough intake to keep you regular and your digestive system health in check. I shoot for roughly 30g a day.
Allow treats in moderation
This is where flexible dieting becomes famous on social media. Allow yourself some treats mindfully. Including treats will keep you on the straight and narrow and the whole point of flexible dieting is that it allows you to incorporate it into your lifestyle long term as it is not overly restrictive.
Don’t begin to diet on poverty macros
Saving the best till last, I cannot emphasise this point enough. If you are scraping the proverbial macro barrel, reverse diet and get your macros to an acceptable level before you attempt to diet. This will give you a cushion to take macros away from and make the dieting process much smoother for you, while also keeping you healthy and nourished. Build up your metabolism first; your body and health will thank you for it! While on that point, if you are just coming out of a dieting phase, add those calories back in nice and slowly to prevent any rebound and unnecessary weight gain.
Flexible dieting has been a total game changer for me and is very sustainable long term. I still place a lot of focus on nutritious foods in my diet but don’t ever feel restricted or like my food is dull or a chore!