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When it comes to dieting, like any other part of a weight loss journey, the overarching goal is to get your body into calorie deficit. This will trick people into thinking that all they are allowed to eat for the next 6 months is boiled chicken breast and steamed veggies. And while this is certainly one way you can get lean, a diet that sucks all the fun and enjoyment out of food is not the only way to achieve your goal physique. Your diet controls the calorie intake side of the calorie deficit equation. It’s the single most important aspect of attaining the physique you want. You are not going to burn fat if you are taking in too many calories no matter how good your training and supplementation is. There are calories in pretty much everything you eat and luckily we live in a time that the internet is able to tell us how many calories there are in the food you are eating in real time. This means that as long as we set a goal calorie intake that puts our body into calorie deficit and we are accurate in our tracking and recording then we can be more ‘flexible’ with our diets rather than just eating chicken and broccoli. This idea of ‘flexible dieting’ means we can still enjoy our food, eat out occasionally and still achieve our fitness goals. Flexible dieting is a method of dieting that allows you to eat what you want, as long as your daily food consumption stays within your goal calorie and macronutrient goals. But before we discuss flexible dieting it’s important that we first understand the calories in our food and where those calories come from.
The only way you are going to know how many calories you are putting into your body is to count them. Up until a few years ago this would have meant carrying a food diary everywhere with you and manually adding up how many calories is in the food you have eaten, informing you how many you have left to eat. However, because we now have handy dandy smart phones, and the awesome people at My Fitness Pal have an amazing app that is free, we can now count calories very easily and accurately. It’s simple, every time you eat something add it into the app and it will keep track of how many calories you have eaten for the day. It even keeps track of your protein, fat and carb intake and let you know how much more you can eat before you have hit your goal that you have set.
This number is going to change for every single person depending on their weight, goals, activity level and metabolism. For the first week you are going to establish a baseline, this is how you are currently eating. This is going to let you know how many calories you are currently eating to maintain the body you now have. For the first week do not change your eating habits at all, just faithfully track all the food you are eating. After a week of consistent, accurate tracking you will have enough data to determine your average daily calorie intake right now using a very useful function in My Fitness Pal. Go to More>Nutrition> Calories> Weekly view> Net. This will tell you how many calories you are eating in an average day. If you want to stay the same then keep eating this many calories, but if you want to change and lose body fat then you are going to have to tweak that number to get into calorie deficit. Avoid dropping your calories too low to begin with, you want to move them down gradually. You can set your goal calories in my fitness pal by going to the goals section. The key here is to lower your calories slowly as to preserve the most amount of muscle. Pay careful attention to your body, if you are losing weight then stay at those calories, if you are not then drop them down by another 100 calories for a week and revaluate to see if you are losing weight then. If you are already losing weight, then you do not want to drop your calories further as they can result in losing muscle mass.
For the first week I eat 2900 calories (down from 3000) and I notice I am losing weight I would keep it at that level for Week 2. At the end of week 2 my weight loss has slowed so I will lower my calories down by another 100 and eat 2800 every day that week. At the end of that week I will repeat that process every week that I am trying to lose weight until I have achieved a body composition I am happy with.
It’s really important to listen to your body, and revaluate after each week. Be honest with yourself, if you have over eaten in a week, and not lost weight then don’t drop your calories just yet. You ate over your calories, of course you are going to not have lost weight! Fight the urge to drop your calories too quickly and try for quick results.
So that takes care of how many calories I should eat, so what type of foods should I eat to reach my calorie goal? Macronutrients or ‘macros’ are the three different types of calorie containing nutrients that occur in the food we eat. When setting up any kind of diet, it’s important to understand what the different macro’s do in your body, and important to know how many of each you want to eat.
These are your bodies preferred energy source, they are the energy source we use when we are training. It is false to say that eating carbs will put on fat, or that eating carbs will stop weight loss. It’s important to intake enough carbohydrates to fuel your training sessions but its true that excessive carbohydrate intake, over and above your calorie goal can lead to them being stored as fat for an energy source.
We need fat in our diet to regulate important bodily functions like nutrient absorption and hormone production. However, due to the high caloric value per gram we want to limit the amount of fat we intake.
Protein is the building blocks of every cell in our body. Our skin, bones, muscles, hair are all made up of amino acids. It’s important to have good intake of quality protein to ensure your body is repairing and recovering. Protein is hard to overdo, but it’s important not to indiscriminately eat it as it will still be used by your body as an energy source if we over consume it.
When we are dieting it is important we are getting adequate amounts of each of these macros to keep our bodies functioning optimally. You want to keep a good level of protein (this means you are more likely to maintain muscle mass while losing body fat) enough fat to keep your hormones functioning effectively and the remanding calories should come from carbohydrates as it is your bodies preferred energy source. You should never completely limit one macronutrient, it’s important to get a good balance. To make this easy we are going to use an example, Fred, a guy who is 80KG eating 2500 calories.
You want to shoot for around 2.25 grams of Protein per Kilogram of body weight to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. This means our old mate Fred would want at least 180g of protein in his diet. Throughout your dieting you want to keep this protein level stable to maintain the muscle mass you have already built.
You want to go for 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight to maintain optimal functioning of your hormones and bodily process. Therefore, Fred who weighs 80 kilograms would want 80g of fat.
You want to make up the rest of your calorie intake from carbohydrates. Fred’s calories from protein would be 180 (grams of protein) x 4 (number of calories per gram of protein) = 720 cal from protein. His calories from fat would be 80 (grams of fat) x 9 (calories per gram of fat) = 720 cal from Fat. So far he has accounted for 1440 calories, the remaining 1060 calories would come from Carbohydrates. 1060/4 (number of calories per gram of carbs) + 265grams of carbs. Fred’s marco goal would be 180P, 265C and 80F. You can enter these goals into your MyFitnessPal.
Flexible dieting is where you structure what you are eating for the day around these numbers without having to have the same meals day in and day out. The idea is to choose foods that add up to this calorie and macronutrient goal.
Below I have attached an example what a day of eating might look like.
One method is to pre add all the food that you know you are going to eat throughout the day, so for me I add in my 3 Youfoodz meals and my breakfast. After this I add in food that I can fit in under my goal amounts that get me as close to my macro goal as possible. It’s okay to be a few grams either side. This will change day to day depending on my meals. Some of them are lower carbohydrate which means I might add more carbs post workout. Some days might be lower fat, in this case I will add some avocado to my last meal. Below you can see the completed breakdown of my goal macros. These change throughout the day and let you know how much you have left. You will notice that I even had room for a Titan Protein bar and some popcorn. The rule is to always prioritise your whole food intake, lean meats, veggies and low GI carbohydrates should always make up the bulk of your calories. But with flexible dieting if you do have room left over after your main meals you can add in these extra’s that fit within your calorie and macro goals. This is also awesome when you enjoy eating out or travel for work because you can add these meals in and build the rest of your day around it to still be within your calorie and macro goals.
Remember when you reach the end of your week to re-evaluate and change your calories accordingly. If you are losing weight already keep the calories stable and if you plateau drop them down by another 100 calories a day for the following week.
Yes, if it adds to your calories. If it does not then do not worry about it, unless you wanted a reminder of what you have taken for the day. I personally do not add my Xenevar (fat burner) or any of my amino acids into my tracking as they don’t add to my calories for the day.
And that’s it guys, this is a very brief overview of nutrition and flexible dieting. The main thing to remember is that it’s a personal journey, and what works for you may not work for everyone. You can play around with your macros when you get more experienced, try higher fat or lower carb diets. The template I have laid out for you is only one option out of the many possible options that could work well for you. The beauty of flexible dieting though is that you can change it, it’s not just one size fits all, as long as you keep your protein level around the 2.2g per kg of body weight, and keep yourself in calorie deficit you can try out different things to help you achieve your goals. If you have any more questions about diet, training or supplementation feel free to hit us up on our Facebook page and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Good luck guys!!
Author Alexander Jeffs aka AJ our National Sales Manager.