Flexible dieting is currently the most talked about nutritional outlook in the fitness world, and something you've probably seen on social sites hashtagged as #IIFYM. So what exactly is flexible dieting and why are so many people using it?
Why Clean Eating is Flawed
First off, we must examine the typical approach to dieting known as clean eating. I will recognize that there are different approaches to nutrition than just clean eating and flexible dieting, however this article is only going to focus on these two since they're the most popular.
Clean eating is essentially focusing on eating the most nutritionally rich foods, eating “healthy” foods only, and avoiding foods that are labeled “unhealthy.”
There are a lot of issues within that statement. First: there is no descriptive definition for healthy. If you were to ask the most hardcore clean eater in the world what is considered healthy, if you push and ask enough, even he will be left answerless.
Second: what makes food unhealthy? Low nutritional value, high cholesterol, high calories? There is no doubt that some people with pre-existing nutrition based conditions will benefit from eating certain foods, based on the opinions of a physician. Although, for the majority of people who do not have previous health conditions, the type of food eaten is not a deciding factor for progression.
What Flexible Dieting Is
Now, what exactly is flexible dieting?
It is essentially a flexible approach to dieting. Shocking, right? The main backing of it is "a calorie is a calorie". This means that caloric intake is the real reason for progression. To be known, a calorie is a unit of energy used by our body, so does it make a difference where the calories come from?
All calories are broken down into three macronutrients: fat, carbs, and protein. These are what is meant to be tracked.
Let me ask you this, what is heavier, one thousand pounds of rocks or one thousand pounds of feathers? I hope you said they both weigh the same, because that's the same thing with food.
Just for demonstration purposes, let’s say on one side, we have a hamburger from McDonald’s. On the other side, we have a bowl of brown rice and tuna. Let’s say the hamburger has 15 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of protein. The bowl of brown rice and tuna also has 15 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of protein. Could they really be the same?
Your body will not discriminate. There are no sensors in your brain that put food deemed unhealthy to fatty cells and healthy foods to muscle cells. All are made up of calories, and all are used for energy. Also, following a flexible dieting approach, binge eating is essentially eliminated, due to the fact that you are not eliminating the foods you want to eat. Simply eating in moderation and within your daily caloric intake.
So, your set on converting to the flexible dieting side, how exactly do you start?
Just a disclaimer: everyone is different. No two people are exactly the same, and that also goes with everyone’s calories. Some people are bigger than others and have a naturally slower metabolism, while others are the exact opposite. What you do for a living is also a huge factor. Obviously, a construction worker will burn much more calories than a graphic designer.
How to Determine Your Macronutrients
First: you must determine your basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate is how many calories you need to survive. There is an equation to find it out, but let’s be honest, using a BMR calculator is much easier. Simply plug in your information into this BMR Calculator.
Second: Determine your activity level. There are five main ones:
- Sedentary: Inactive, does not work out, sitting down all day at computer. BMR x 1.2
- Lightly Active: works out 1-3 times per week. BMR x 1.375
- Moderate: works out 3-5 times per week. BMR x 1.55
- Active: works out 6-7 times per week, very serious. BMR x 1.725
- Very active: works out every single day, high intensity, and very demanding job. BMR x 1.9
Third: Multiply your previously determined BMR by your activity level (the BMR calculator linked above will have taken care of this step for you already). The number you get is how many calories you will need to eat every day to maintain your current weight. To gain weight, I recommend starting by increasing your calories by 300 each day, and to lose one pound per week, decrease your calories by 500 calories.
Protein: Now that you have your calories, what are your macros? Let’s start with your protein. People tend to disagree with how many grams of protein people should eat. I stick to a simple rule: 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you are, however, very heavy, you’re not going to need as much protein. I would recommend using your lean body mass. To find that, you will need to know your body fat percentage, than, use the formula LBM= weight-(weight x body fat percentage as a decimal.)
Fat: Multiple your weight by .4 to find your fat. Do not fear fat. It is an essential macronutrient, and you need it for proper functioning. The same rule applies with the protein, if you are really overweight, use your lean body mass.
Carbs: After you find out how much fat to eat, take your determined fat and multiply it by 9 (the amount of calories in one gram of fat.). Secondly, multiply your protein by 4 (the amount of calories in a gram of protein,) and add both those number together. Then, add the two together, and subtract it by your daily calories. Take the calories you have left and divide it by four (the amount of calories in a gram of carbs.) that is how many carbs you need to eat.
That is it, if you followed those simple steps, you have determined you macronutrients. That simple.
When determining flexible dieting it's important to remember these key statements: a calorie is a calorie, there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy, and do not knock it until you try it.
I understand, if you lived your entire life believing that the only way to lose weight or gain weight is by clean eating. It is time to investigate other options.