Losing weight is no easy feat. You stick to strict diets and reminisce about the times when you could take another bite of a cheeseburger with fries and barbecue dip. You even do sports and notice impressive results but all the food restrictions might make you too miserable to feel jubilant about your body changes.
There are so many diets that deprive us of our favorite food, making us crave even more. Then a reasonable question pops up – “Is there any diet that will not deprive me of my favorite meals and still help me lose weight?”.
Here enters a flexible diet. This type of diet has gained huge popularity due to its adaptive nature which allows men and women to indulge in their favorite delicious meals with no regrets whatsoever.
Does this mean you can eat whatever you want and lose weight? No. Like any other diet, this one requires attention to caloric intake, macronutrients calculation, and the right food choices.
This article will cover the benefits and drawbacks of a flexible dieting lifestyle.
What Is Flexible Dieting Bodybuilding?
A flexible diet is more regarded as a lifestyle. Unlike a typical diet, it doesn’t involve strict restrictions. In addition, you are welcome to consume any food you like. But how is it possible to lose weight if you eat whatever you want?
The point is that a guide to flexible dieting consists of only two essential actions: your calorie and macronutrient needs calculation.
This means you should determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and macronutrient needs before you start your diet.
There are many ways in which you can do the above-mentioned calculations: you can head to online flexible diet calculators. If you don’t trust online resources, you can calculate everything by hand.
Read More: Zig Zag Diet: Is This The Solution For Restrictive Fad Diets?
How Do You Calculate The Total Energy Allowance?
Total energy expenditure consists of resting energy expenditure (calories you burn during rest) and non-resting energy expenditure (calories you burn during certain activities) (2).
The total energy allowance calculation tells you how many calories you burn in a day.
One of the most reliable ways to calculate your daily energy expenditure is the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation.
According to the equation, you can calculate your total daily energy expenditure in this way:
- Men: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) + 5
- Women: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) – 161
Once you get the number you should multiply it by an activity factor to evaluate your total calorie needs:
- Sedentary (little or no exercise): x 1.2
- Slightly active (1–3 days per week): x 1.375
- Moderately active (6–7 days per week): x 1.55
- Super active (every day): x 1.725
- Extra active (twice or more per day, elite athletes): x 1.9
The process of calculation doesn’t end here. After you receive a personal caloric intake per day, you need to subtract a percentage of calories from your total daily energy expenditure. In this way, you will end up with a caloric deficit. On average, subtract 20% from the daily energy expenditure.
For instance, if you calculated your needs to be 2000 calories per day, you should subtract 400 calories daily. This will double your chances to lose weight.
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How Do You Calculate Nutritional Macros?
When you completed the first calculation and determined your calorie deficit needs, then you gradually move on to macros calculation.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients or macros are essential nutrients that are needed in large quantities for our body to remain healthy. Macros provide the body with energy, prevent certain diseases, and let the body function properly. There are three types of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fat (4).
- Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram, typically 45–65% of total daily calories
- Proteins: 4 calories per gram, typically 10–35% of total daily calories
- Fats: 9 calories per gram, typically 20–35% of total daily calories
Various websites that focus on flexible dieting provide “macro calculators,” where users can indicate their height, weight, age, and activity level to get a custom macronutrient distribution.
Despite that, you can calculate macros on your own. To do this, you should break down your total calorie needs into percentages of protein, carbohydrates, and fat based on your specific goals.
The range of flexible dieting macros can be tweaked depending on your lifestyle and weight loss needs.
Usually, if you desire to shed weight then you should restrict the intake of carbs while a professional bodybuilder or an athlete can opt for a higher carbohydrate range.
The flexible diet also allows tracking the fiber intake, even though it’s not a macronutrient. Fiber is vital to weight loss and maintenance of healthy weight. Men are advised to consume 38 grams of fiber per day, while women should aim for 25 grams (3).
Is Flexible Dieting Good For Weight Loss?
Flexible dieting is vital for weight loss since different studies have shown that people who have diverse food choices get higher chances to lose weight unlike those who stick to stricter diets (1).
With certain diets you can get fewer nutrients and vitamins that your body needs. However, the most common reason for people to choose flexibility is that severe diets may adversely affect psychological well-being.
This happens because your body gets used to certain food. When you eliminate the consumption of this food you may find it stressful which leads to either a negative mood or other consequences.
Even though a flexible diet makes the process of losing weight more pleasant, you should still control your cravings and concentrate on healthier products.
If you maintain a caloric deficit but choose to eat fries and burgers every day, you are more likely to get digestive issues.
Another essential point to acknowledge is that a flexible dieting lifestyle itself will not bring you the desired results if you don’t include workouts. Yes, you can get a slim body with calorie deficiency and a macro diet plan for weight loss but if your goal is to shed fat and build lean muscles then you must add intensive exercises. Therefore, the combination of a flexible eating plan and active training will make your body not only slim but toned, lean, and healthy.
Read More: Top 10 Superfoods To Boost Your Healthy Diet
How Do I Start a Flexible Diet?
The starting point of flexible eating might look intimidating and some people quit it once they get to calculations. It is okay to get perplexed with all the numbers on the scales and macro tracking. However, with enough effort and patience you can make this diet part of your eating routine and never worry about the food you put in your mouth.
This is the quick flexible diet plan for you to start a flexible diet effectively:
1. Do the calculations
You can scroll ahead and check out how to calculate your total caloric allowance. Think of your goal. If you aim for maintaining the same weight then you can stick to the popped-up number of calories. If you want to lose weight then you need to subtract 20% of the number.
2. Purchase the scales
You can find digital food scales to weigh your food. Yes, at first you will find it daunting but once you get the hang of it, the process of weighing food is going to become an inevitable part of your eating routine.
4. Get the app
There are many online applications that help you track your macro ratio. It is recommended to use the premium versions since this will give you the ability to set various macronutrient goals for different days.
5. Take a photo of yourself
After all the calculations and the app is set up, you should take a photo before starting your flexible eating diet. Then measure yourself and confirm your weight on the application.
6. Track macros
Applications allow you to track the number of macros your body needs. You can experiment and eat as you normally would and see how it affects your results on application. Make sure you have a caloric deficit for weight loss goals. The application can show you whether you ate too much or too little.
7. Healthy food is a must
Indulging yourself in your favorite meals is an amazing part of flexible dieting but it might lead to worse results. Yes, you will shed calories but won’t feel good. To stay healthy you need to select healthy meals and from time to time treat yourself to chocolate, ice cream, or junk food. 80% of your food ratio should consist of healthy meals while 20% can be dedicated to “guilty pleasures”.
8. Don’t neglect sports
As was already mentioned, the caloric deficit will bring mediocre results if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. Walk every day, run, jump, do workouts – everything that allows you to stay active. Your body won’t be just slim but toned which is more attractive.
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Is Flexible Dieting Sustainable?
What is sustainability? It is something that can work for us for a long period of time.
Following restrictive diets can be tough and exhilarating especially when you go out with friends and family. You always need to recall what food you shouldn’t consume which deprives you of enjoying special moments with your beloved ones. That is why people often quit restrictive diets since it negatively affects their mood and relationships with others.
A flexible dieting lifestyle on the contrary allows dieters to have more freedom with food choices, making it easier to stay on track, even at restaurants, picnics, or when limited food options are available.
The adaptable nature of a flexible diet plan makes it easier for people to follow for a longer period of time which proves its sustainability.
Is Flexible Dieting Bad?
Flexible eating is loaded with benefits but it has its downsides too. There are four reasons why a flexible diet is also not for everyone:
- You might get loose at food choices. When users get the opportunity to eat whatever they want with a calorie deficit it pushes them to make the wrong food choices, like processed, junk food. Chips and fries every day seems like a dream for someone who wants to lose weight but it guarantees health issues. Therefore, opt for healthier treats.
- Micronutrients are not mentioned. While the major emphasis is made on macronutrients, micronutrients play a big role in our body functionality as well. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and they are as important as macros (5). Thus, you also need to incorporate micronutrients into your diet.
- You should track every snack and meal. It might be a turnoff for people to track every food that passes their lips. Food tracking can also lead to unhealthy eating habits and obsessive behaviors. This can bring inconvenience into your life especially when you are eating out.
- You need to have an understanding of nutrition and weight loss. Flexible dieting leaves you in charge of calculations and macronutrient ranges, as well as weight loss goals and meal plans. There is a lot of information that educates people about safe weight loss using flexible dieting but it still can be overwhelming for some people. That means you need to research to choose realistic weight loss goals, optimal macronutrient ranges, and nutritious meals.
The Bottom Line
People who want to lose weight or maintain a healthy body may stick to various diets. A flexible diet is a type of diet where there is no “good” or “bad” food notion. You are allowed to consume your favorite meals as long as you track the caloric deficit and macronutrients.
This is a sustainable diet because it doesn’t burden a user with restrictions.
However, food choices are essential in the flexible diet meal plan. People who loosely binge on only junk meals do shed calories but harm their overall health.
Therefore, it is recommended to focus on healthy food choices and indulge in “guilty pleasures” just for 20% of your daily eating routine.
The benefits and drawbacks of a flexible dieting lifestyle depend on food choices.
Besides healthy meals, people are advised to incorporate sport into their regime which can make their bodies toned and lean.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Cognitive and weight-related correlates of flexible and rigid restrained eating behavior (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Trends in dietary fiber intake in the United States, 1999-2008 (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What to know about macronutrients (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What to Know About Micronutrients (2021, webmd.com)