Part 1 of this article discussed exactly why being less strict on your diet and allowing yourself some flexibility and leeway with regard to food choices will actually lead to BETTER long term results, and a much healthier relationship with food.
If you missed that or want a recap, you can read it here –
We also looked at how you can determine exactly the right amount of calories, along with the protein, carbohydrate and fat you need to lose fat healthily, the flexible way.
If you remember our example of Fiona, a woman with a sedentary job, but training hard 4 times per week, weighing in at 68.2kg (150 pounds), here ideal fat loss macros came to 150g protein, 60g fat, and 130g carbs, for a calorie intake of 1,650 calories.
We said that using a tracking app or website, Fiona should aim to hit these numbers within about 5% each day (3 grams for you RBT members). That would mean getting between roughly 142 and 158 grams of protein, 57 and 63 grams of fat, and 123 and 137 grams of carbs.
Sounds doable, right?
Within that, she could eat almost whatever she wanted.
You Can’t Rely on Junk Food
The phrase “eat anything you like” is a little misleading.
With flexible dieting, no foods are banned or prohibited, but you do need to exercise moderation.
On the above numbers, Fiona could probably fit a small ice cream, a packet of chips, some popcorn, or a glass of wine into her macros every day without too much trouble.
However, to hit that amount of protein, without going overboard on carbs and fats, she’d also need to eat lots of lean meat, fish or low-fat dairy.
To ensure a healthy fibre intake, she’d need foods like beans, fruits and whole-grains.
Additionally, were she to only get her carbs and fats from sugars and junk foods, she’d be pretty damn hungry, hence why low-calorie, high-volume foods such as vegetables are crucial when flexible dieting.
So it’s not quite as easy as one might think!
The beauty to flexible dieting is, however, that while you can’t go to town at the all-you-can-eat buffet, or make yourself sick with a binge day once a week, you can incorporate your favourite foods on a daily basis. Here’s how….
Set a Budget
The idea of a budget is immensely helpful when transitioning to flexible dieting.
Give yourself an allowance of “junk” calories every da.
This could be for foods like the aforementioned ones, or cake, more alcohol, frozen yoghurt, etc.
Looking back at Fiona’s numbers, this would mean she could have around about 165 calories each day from junk food. That might not sound a huge amount, but the idea is to satisfy her cravings, while still eating plenty of nutrient-dense foods and without sacrificing results.
Taking the Budget Further
If the idea of “only” getting 10% of your calories from junk doesn’t appeal to you, as you feel it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy a craving, you could look at employing a weekly budget.
To do this, instead of working out a daily junk food allowance, you look at your calories for the week. Fiona’s comes out at –
1,650 x 7 = 11,550 calories.
This would give her a weekly junk food allowance of 1,155 calories (or 1,100-1,200 for convenience.)
Rather than getting into the habit of saving all of these for one day, and potentially regressing into some sort of binge/ restrict cycle, this would be better split over two or three days, so –
2 days with 550-600 calories of junk. Or
3 days with 365-400 calories of junk.
Setting a weekly budget is fine if you have an event on the weekend and you know that it won’t exactly be all whole foods or you might have an extra couple of glasses of wine though if this is you, and you have a coach please discuss with them first, it doesn’t simply mean you can binge every weekend, you simply stay with in your macro’s.
Are You A “Macronator”?
The term “macronator” was coined by bodybuilding coach and powerlifter Dr. Layne Norton, and is used to refer to someone lucky enough to be on high macros when losing fat.
Generally, the more muscle mass you have and the more active you are, the more calories you can eat and still lose fat.
While not common, some women can lose fat eating in excess of 2,500 calories per day.
For these girls, a higher budget of up to 20% of calories per day could be used for treat foods.
Well, on a higher calorie intake, you’ll be eating more by default. That means more good stuff – meat, eggs, dairy, fruits, veggies, pulses and grains, so it’s far easier to cover your nutritional bases. Additionally, you might actually find it tough to get in all the calories you need from purely “clean” food. Therefore, at a calorie intake of 2,000 and above, a 15% daily budget is fine, and at 2,500 and above, you can ramp that up to 20%.
This normally happens in the reverse dieting component of your plan, so after you have dieted down and reached a certain threshold with your calories and macros we hit a point where we start to ad calories back in. Over a period of 12-16 weeks with your coach guiding you adding the macros in weekly you are bumping your calories up weekly allowing you train harder and therefore your metabolic rate is lifting and YOU may become a MACROnator, but again listen to your coach on these suggestions.
Hold on, what is “Junk?”
The notion of “junk” and “clean” foods, or “good” and “bad” is a little misleading.
Within the context of a calorie-controlled, healthy diet, no foods are necessarily any better or worse than any others.
That being said, you do have nutrient-dense and nutrient-deficient foods.
We’ve mentioned these a lot already. Your nutrient-dense foods are your more natural things – the meat, the fish, the fresh produce, the unrefined grains, the dairy, and so on, while nutrient-deficient is, well, everything else.
Once again, eating junk food in moderation will have absolutely no negative impact on your progress, provided it fits your calories and macros. With that in mind though, the majority of your calories should be from nutrient-dense foods.
The Once-a-Week Binger
Ah, that age-old problem – the dieter who eats well all week, but goes out once a week and binges.
This usually happens during a meal out, or drinks with friends. This one day of unrestricted eating can seriously hamper your progress ….. but not if you have a budget.
While this method isn’t as effective, restrained or moderate as implementing a daily budget, it can work if you’re prone to bingeing.
What we do, is take the weekly total calorie intake again (so Fiona’s was 11,550.)
From here, we give her one higher calorie day – perhaps 3,000. This is a lot for her, but isn’t as obscene as the calorie intakes of some binge eaters, or those who “eat clean” 6 days per week and gorge on the seventh.
If we take that 3,000 from her 11,550 calories, we get 8,550.
This, split over the other 6 days is 1,425 calories, so she’d need to hit this every other day bar her one higher calorie day.
Again, this is a less favourable method, but if you KNOW you’re likely to way overshoot your 10% limit on junk food on a night out or at a weekend, it’s a better tactic than letting yourself just gorge without being calorie-conscious.
We don’t advise this when tracking our clients at RBT, we stick to a standard calorie and macro balance all week long but if you need this psychological boost to look forward each week and plan it out inside your weekly budget it won’t hurt your goals and will add variety and possible even a hormonal boost in the right direction.
The Daily Battle
When do you eat your junk food?
The simple answer – any time.
When you eat has little to no effect on body composition and weight loss, as your body doesn’t have an on/off switch, or suddenly reset itself at midnight, so you needn’t concern yourself too much with meal frequency.
However, eating more processed food can do one of two things –
- Makes you crave more.
- Makes you tired
It’s for those two reasons that I would suggest having your junk food allowance before bed.
It’s nice sometimes to sit down after a hard day with some ice cream or cookies, knowing you can eat them guilt-free, that you’ve got all your nutrient-dense foods, your fibre and your protein in, and can now indulge a little.
Also, the promise of these can act as an incentive to stick to your diet during the day, hit your macros and train hard in the gym.
Obviously, if you’re going out for lunch, or even have a breakfast meeting, you might prefer to allocate junk food calories here instead – that’s fine, just be aware you may well crave more in the evening!
Getting Enough of the Good Stuff
Sticking to your budget, hitting your macros and eating foods that make you feel full and satisfied should be enough to ensure your diet is “healthy.”
However, you can also try sticking to a couple of different guidelines –
- Aim for a minimum fibre intake.
Getting at least 12 grams of fibre per 1,000 calories means you HAVE to eat plenty of fruits and veggies.
- Eat at least 3-5 servings of veggies per day.
By veggies I mean green and brightly coloured stuff. Not fries 🙂
- Eat 1-2 servings of fruit
Like the above, make that fresh or frozen fruit, not fruit juice. You could also just eat more veggies instead of adding fruit if you prefer.
The Ultimate Component of Flexible Dieting…..
If you’re sitting there thinking “all this percentage stuff and measuring down to the precise gram sounds horrendously complicated, I’m not sure I’m on board with this” …… don’t worry.
Just as flexibility is mainly used to refer to the fact there are no banned or restricted foods in this type of diet, it also refers to the eating approach as a whole.
Go slightly over your protein one day? Not a problem.
5g over on fats? Just have 5g less tomorrow.
While you don’t want to make a habit of missing the numbers by much (within 5% (3g RBTers) is generally not classed as a “miss”) being a bit out here and there is fine.
The same stands for eating out.
You won’t always be able to find perfectly accurate nutritional information for restaurants, cafes, and food that you grab on the run, so just estimate, and use your knowledge gained from weighing, measuring and tracking to make sensible choices.
Similarly, your junk food budget isn’t set in stone either.
Don’t fancy junk food one day? Then don’t eat it. Crave more the next? Go ahead, just take it into consideration in your macros.
People get far too hooked up on hitting precise numbers and adhering perfectly to the rules of budgeting, but provided you’re eating more or less the right calories, protein, carbs and fat, and picking mostly “healthy” foods, you’re on the right track.
Result Based Training