Remember when “eating healthy” was as simple as finishing all the veggies on your plate when your mom told you to? Seriously, who likes Brussel sprouts? Today, the fitness community seems to be baffled by the concept of proper nutrition and what it really means to “eat clean.”
We've heard it all before,
Ah, screw it. Just don’t eat donuts for the love of god…
But wait. What if I told you that you could obtain the physique that you’ve been training so hard for AND enjoy donuts as part of your diet? Preposterous? Heresy? A marketing scheme by Dunkin’ Donuts? No, my friends. This is what we call “Flexible Dieting.”
Perhaps you’ve heard someone bring up the phrase “If It Fits Your Macros,” (IIFYM for short) recently and you were wondering what the hell they were talking about. IIFYM is the concept behind Flexible Dieting. Basically, the idea is that all foods are fair game for you to eat and will have no ill effect on your body composition as long as they meet your macronutrient and caloric requirements for the day.
You do this by tracking the calories and macronutrients in the foods you eat and making sure they add up to what your personal requirements are. Many people use smartphone apps like MyFitnessPal to make sure they are staying on point with these all-important numbers.
Now, before you go “full potato” and start getting all of your protein from McDoubles and KFC, let’s not forget another important aspect of nutrition: micronutrients. Although foods like cheeseburgers and baked goods aren’t inherently “dirty” (contrary to what most old-school bodybuilding clean eaters might suggest), they are relatively devoid of the healthy vitamins and minerals that one would obtain from “clean” foods, say, chicken breast, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
This is where you need to apply the concept of balance and moderation (I know, it’s a crazy concept) if you want to pursue Flexible Dieting. It’s really about the good old-fashioned concept of “calories in vs. calories out.” Want to lose fat? Eat in a slight calorie deficit while getting the appropriate amount of macro and micro nutrients. Want to build muscle? Eat in a moderate surplus while doing the same.
“Now, everyone's metabolism is different, and flexible dieting is like a budget. If you have a fast metabolism, you will have a bigger budget for macronutrients. You will be able to fit more fun treats into your diet since you have a higher carb and fat intake. But if you have a slower metabolism, your budget will be much smaller and you won't be able to fit in as much fun stuff.”
Long story short, while comprising your diet of sugary and fast foods is not a sound idea, having a doughnut or pastry alongside your protein shake after a grueling deadlift session will not turn you into a gelatinous blob.
It’s possible to actually enjoy eating. Try it!