Flexible Dieting 101: Everything You Should Know

Discover the secrets of flexible dieting and how it can help you lose weight, build muscle, and live a healthier life!

The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s only getting bigger. There are so many diets out there, but what is the best one?

Flexible dieting is the future of healthy eating. It’s easy to follow, sustainable, and doesn’t require hours of time to prepare or cook food. Flexible dieting helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing your social life.

Without Wasting Any time Let’s Get started with your Flexible Dieting!

What Do We Mean by Flexible Dieting?

Flexible Dieting

The days are long gone when eating boiled food was a mandate for achieving your fitness goals. Flexible dieting has created a revolution in the fitness industry by simplifying nutrition for fat loss and even muscle building. The core idea of Flexible dieting is: “No foods are bad. And your body is concerned with the nutrients, not the source”

  • It is not merely IIFYM (If it fits your macros)
  • Can it yield the same results as a strict diet? – Yes!
  • Is it superior to other diets? – No!
  • What is the best part of flexible dieting? – Adherence
  • Who is it for? – Intermediate to advanced dieters

However, people still doubt the efficacy of flexible dieting and believe a stringent diet of so-called ‘superfoods’ will always yield superior results. In this article, we’ll educate you regarding everything you need to know about flexible dieting.

The Real Reason Why Most ‘Diets’ Fall Flat

Reason Why Most 'Diets' Fall Flat

If you have ever followed a stringent diet or know someone who has, you know what happens in the end: it fails! The failure rates of ‘diets’ is 98% and these are the two primary reasons for that:

1. Seeking Perfection

Like it or not the word ‘diet’ has a stigma attached to itself: it has to be perfect, else it is useless. 

People think that when they’re on a diet, it has to be perfect or it won’t work. But this can backfire because if they slip up just a little, they feel like they’ve completely failed. So, they give up on the diet and start eating a lot. 

You know, like when you eat one cookie and then end up eating the whole bag because you think your diet is ruined anyway. For some people, like bodybuilders or athletes, a strict diet is needed. But for most people, trying to be perfect just leads to failure.

2. Having a short-term vision

Next reason for the failure of diet is focusing only on the short-term goal. People aim to lose a lot of fat in a small period of time by following extreme diets and then return back to their old activity and eating habits. As a result, all the fat also bounces back. 

If you wish to get lean and stay lean for the rest of your life, (painful words ahead) you have to follow your fitness regime for the rest of your life. And this is nearly impossible with a strict diet. 

If you can stick to a Keto, Paleo or Intermittent Fasting diet effortlessly there is no reason to try something else. For everyone else who is having a hard time dieting, Flexible Dieting can offer a solution.

Definition of a Flexible Diet – Theoretically

Definition of a Flexible Diet

Flexible dieting is technically not a ‘diet’ wherein you are limited to a specific type of food like in the case of a Keto or Paleo diet. It is a way of eating where the goal is to provide proper nourishment to the body without being too anorexic about food. 

One of the biggest rewards of flexible dieting is that it promotes a healthy relationship with food and does not demonize any particular food or macronutrient. As the name suggests this form of eating can be highly personalized:

  1. Dieting for a photoshoot? – Macronutrient accuracy can be increased.
  2. Bulking during the offseason? – Focus can be shifted towards just getting adequate protein & calories

Is it effective as a strict diet?

World-renowned coaches like Dr. Eric Helms, Dr. Layne Norton, Dr. Mike Israetel promote flexible dieting, yet people doubt its effectiveness and wish to complicate nutrition. Even the current Mr. Olympia, Shawn Rhoden is an advocate of flexible dieting. And why not, as time and time again research has always shown that there are no magic diets or foods, and the key mechanism behind every diet is- Energy Balance:

If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight (muscle & fat) and if you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight (muscle & fat).  By optimizing nutrition, training, and supplements fat gain during muscle building and muscle loss during cutting can be minimized. Flexible dieting is simply based on this mechanism of energy balance.

Like mentioned earlier, flexible dieting is highly personalized. If your goal is to build maximum muscle, then your flexible diet will be a lot different from someone who is merely aiming to lose fat.

Flexible Dieting is not IIFYM! (if it fits your macros)

Flexible Dieting

People often consider Flexible dieting and IIFYM as the same thing which is a big misconception. IIFYM is an eating style that focuses solely on hitting the macronutrient goals, it is a great strategy but it requires a certain level of nutrition experience and mental effort (if you are randomly eating foods, you constantly need to do macro calculations). This can result in inaccuracy and a lot of mental fatigue for beginner dieters. IIFYM is a type of Flexible diet. Whereas flexible dieting works on a spectrum with something for everyone based on their goal and nutrition experience.    

Types of Flexible Diet Strategies

Types of Flexible Diet

1. Ad Libitum

Ad libitum is Latin for “at one’s pleasure” or “as you desire” In nutrition, this means free feeding with no restriction on amount or type of food. This way of eating is for absolute beginners who desire to make a healthy shift in their lifestyle. It puts no constraint on eating Hence it is completely suitable for novice dieters. A person can continue his/her current eating habits and make minute changes as per their goals.

For example, if your goal is to lose fat you can continue with what you are eating currently and simply replace your one meal with a salad. On the other hand, if your goal is to gain weight you can add 1 additional meal consisting of some calorie-dense foods like cheese or nuts or even a serving of mass gainer.

2. Calories Counting

Once decent dietary awareness is achieved, calorie counting can be introduced. This method incorporates the foundation of every diet i.e. ‘Energy Balance’. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight (muscle & fat) and if you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight (muscle & fat). It does not put any constraint on the type of food in the diet and macronutrient profile, the total amount of calories consumed throughout the day is what matters.

It is suitable for beginners and intermediates whose primary goals are either weight loss or weight gain. Note: these two goals are different from fat loss or muscle gain. Calorie counting is favorable for people trying to get lean. Because when people talk about increasing weight they desire most of it to be muscle weight, for which the next method is more suitable.

3. Protein & Calorie Counting

This method is for people who wish to achieve a more muscular physique. The goal here is to get adequate protein and enough calories as per your goal. If you wish to maximize your strength and muscular potential 2.2 to even 2.5 grams of protein per Kg body is advisable. The higher end of protein intake is recommended during a fat loss phase. Carbohydrates and fats can be adjusted as per.

4. IIFYM Classic

IIFYM aka ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ is perhaps the most popular flexible diet strategy in the world. Major credits for the popularity go to Fitness YouTubers and influencers. IIFYM puts a constraint on daily macronutrient intake but not the type of food one eats. It allows a person to achieve high levels of fitness goals without compromising on taste.

Suppose on an IIFYM diet a person aims to consume 200g Protein, 250g Carbohydrates and 80g Fats per day, and by the end of the day, he/she has only eaten 50g  Carbs, remaining 200g can be compensated eating rice, oats, pizza, chocolates or shakes as per person’s desire. IIFYM is surely worth giving a try but it does have the following limitation:

  • Lack of micro & phytonutrients: Since IIFYM primarily focuses on macronutrients, there is a risk of missing out on key micronutrients due to poor food choices. A hundred grams of rice and a pack of chocolates might have the same macronutrient profiles but there is a huge difference in micronutrients and fiber content.
  • Inaccuracy: This is an extremely common problem people face trying IIFYM i.e. error in calculating macronutrients. People frequently complain of not losing weight despite being in a caloric deficit, the truth is: they are actually not in a deficit and are simply miscalculating macros.
  • Mental Fatigue: As there is a lot of random food consumption on an IIFYM diet, there is a lot of calculation required. This task irrespective of nutrition experience adds up to a lot of mental stress.

5. IIFYM (Alpha)

This is how I recommend my clients to eat, it is how they achieve results and are able to maintain it for lifelong. We take advantage of flexibility in IIFYM, yet add a little structure to the overall diet to increase accuracy and reduce mental fatigue. Firstly, we make sure there are some fixed meals like a serving or two of fruits for micronutrients and a serving or two of nuts for healthy fats. Next, instead of solely focusing on daily macros, we aim to hit macros per meal, keeping it possibly as similar as planned.

For example, if a person has 70g carbs in lunch for which he is supposed to eat 10o gram rice, he can replace that with some other food item having a similar macronutrient profile like 3 rotis, 4 slices of bread and even a burger. This strategy works far better than regular IIFYM.

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  • Flexible dieting is sustainable and personalized
  • Doesn’t demonize specific foods
  • Focuses on energy balance and nourishment
  • Not a strict diet like Keto or Paleo
  • Various strategies available
  • Calorie counting
  • Protein and calorie counting
  • IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)
  • Promotes a healthy relationship with food
  • Can be tailored to individual goals
  • Popular and effective choice

What is the flexible dieting method?

“Flexible dieting” is a popular weight loss program that’s based on a sensible theory. Also called If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), it promotes the notion that there are no “bad foods” and allows you to choose any food, as long as it fits within your macronutrient needs.

Is flexible dieting sustainable?

There are many benefits to this approach, the most obvious one being its sustainability! Flexible dieting is an amazing tool that has helped many of our clients reach their goals and maintain them. Flexible dieting is also incredibly useful for anyone wanting to gain lean muscle.

Is flexible dieting good for bodybuilding?

If your goal is to lose weight, flexible dieting by itself is going to work great,” says Campbell. “But, you’re not going to change your body shape without resistance training. Without it, you’ll just be a smaller, puffier version of yourself.”

How do you create a flexible diet plan?

Start a flexible diet plan like this: Calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) based on your current weight and exercise. Calculate your macros in ratios that help you reach your desired goal. Track your food intake and try to meet your daily TDEE and macro limits.

Is Keto a flexible diet?

While it is true that most flexible diets allow for a moderate or even high carbohydrate intake, and ketogenic diets are very low in carbohydrate, one could still follow a ketogenic style diet while flexible dieting, by tracking their macronutrients, just ensuring that they consume a low carbohydrate/high fat.

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