A hard truth:
No matter which diet you choose, caloric intake matters. Eat too many calories and you’re sure to gain weight. Eat too few calories, and you’ll lost weight and muscle. Any diet relies upon you eating the correct number of calories for your body and your goals.
For those who are sedentary, this equates to about 10 calories per pound of body weight. For those who are active, this is closer to 11-12 calories depending on activity level. And for advanced athletes (think Games athlete), that number is closer to 13 or 14 calories per pound of body weight.
What is Flexible Dieting?
This diet focuses on the nutritional profile of your food over the course of the day as well as total calories consumed. There are two ways to view foods: By their macronutrients and by their micronutrients. Macronutrients refers to how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates are in food while micronutrients looks at the vitamin and mineral composition of food. Flexible dieting focuses heavily on macronutrients and on fiber intake.
How it works:
First, total calories must be determined. For a 180lb male recreational CrossFitter who wants to maintain bodyweight but change his composition, 2160 (180 x 12) calories would be a good starting place. Typically, a person will eat 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So, our male will likely eat between 144 and 180 grams of protein per day depending on his goals. The rest of the day’s food is divided between carbohydrates and fat. About 25% of intake should be fat so in his case, 60 grams of fat. And the remaining calories become carbohydrates so he would be given 225 grams of carbs. This is just a starting point and adjustments are made based on progress.
Tools for Success:
Most flexible dieters hire a coach which can cost anywhere from 50 to 150 dollars a month. The coach determines and adjusts macros based upon the client’s progress pictures and feedback. The coach also holds the dieter accountable which many find is the motivation they need to stick with their diet.
To track nutrients, many use the My Fitness Pal app or the My Macros+ app. This is important because foods may comprise of one, two, or three types of macros. For instance, peanuts are primarily a fat source but also contain a small amount of carbohydrates. By tracking food intake with an app, dieters are able to ensure that they know the true number of macronutrients eaten throughout the day.
This Diet is Good For:
Athletes who are trying to add muscle, lose fat, or maintain body weight but change composition. People who do well with planning ahead will find great success. Those who enjoy having some structure but the ability to make choices will enjoy this diet.
This Diet is Bad For:
People who tend to become obsessive or who have issues with their body image. The diet requires that you weigh yourself daily as well as take pictures once a week and for some, that can become bigger than the overall health goal.
Criticism of the Diet:
Recently, there has been public criticism of the diet as many think there is not enough focus on micronutrients. Critics say that flexible dieting allows for and even encourages eating processed foods and junk foods so long as it fits the macro count for the day. While this certainly can be true of some flexible dieters, others have countered this claim using the hashtag #rffym (real food fits your macros) and posting pictures of healthy foods consumed throughout the day.
We like this diet for the right person. Those who track their progress learn a lot about how their body responds to food and find that it’s easy to adjust portions to make almost anything fit their macros. Focusing on selecting nutritional foods ensures that vitamins and minerals are consumed while still making room for the occasional treat.
Stay tuned for overviews of the Paleo diet, Renaissance Periodization Diet, and Zone Diet so that you can make an educated decision about which diet will work best for you.