From Luke: Flexibility is key… To a successful diet
Over the past couple of years, flexible dieting, IIFYM, or macro tracking has become a very popular nutrition technique for those looking to add size and cut down alike.
What is Flexible Dieting?
Flexible dieting isn’t quite a diet per say, its more of a way to work towards your health and physique goals all the while enjoying your favorite foods. This flies in the face of the
traditional “clean eating” diet where all foods that have been deemed “dirty” by the fitness industry are eliminated for a period of time. This can be achieved by tracking the foods that you eat daily so that you can eat whatever you want, just so long as you don’t eat more that your than your protein, carb, fat, and calorie goals for the day.
Some love it, while some totally hate the idea, refusing to go against the grain of traditional dietary guidelines when it comes to health and fitness.
I’m all about old school but there’s plenty of other things to stress about in life that eating shouldn’t be one of them. If you didn’t notice from my many recipe articles, when it comes to nutrition I’m a big fan of flexibility. I mean, what’s more enjoyable than leaning out all the while still having room for a little cheese, bacon, and ice cream?
Of course with that being said, I flexible dieting should be used to eat junk food all day. Sure, tracking everything you eat makes it possible to get ripped on a diet of ho-hos, protein powder, and pizza, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. You have to remember you only have one body and it has to last you your whole life! You can be completely shredded and still have a bunch of underlying health problems due to filling your body up with crap rather than feeding it the fuel it needs to operate to maximum capacity.
That’s why I like to adhere to the 80/20 rule for my diet. With 80/20 eating, 80 percent of my food intake comes from whole, nutrient dense and testosterone friendly foods such as eggs, beef, potatoes, avocados, bananas, etc. The other 20 percent will come from whatever I want.. usually condiments such as ketchup or barbecue sauce to add some flavor to usually bland foods or the night time snack of ice cream. I’ve found this to be the best way of eating, combining both nutrition and flavor.
Now even in my 20% there are still some foods that I’ll refuse to eat such as flax products, foods high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (most nuts and nut butters, vegetable oil, sunflower oil), soy products, and foods containing gluten (as much as I can, if its a pizza party I’ll splurge). These foods have been shown to be less than beneficial in my journey towards health so I’ll eat these as little as possible. Everything comes with experimentation so I’ve found what works best for me.
How I Discovered of Flexible Dieting
Flexible dieting was a discovery I made for myself back in 2012 when prepping for my last bodybuilding competition.
At that point it was something I had never heard of and was nothing I deliberately did as an experiment of anything like that. My discovery of flexible dieting was actually the result of a moment of weakness that turned out to be quite the enlightenment.
I was maybe a month in a half or so out from the date of my contest. At this point was still an avid follower of the typical strict, rigid, bodybuilder way of eating. If you’ve ever done a physique competition of any sort or even just tried to adhere to a 100% strict way of eating, you’ll know that by this point you are HUNGRY and just about anything that isn’t chicken and yams sounds like Heaven.
It was after a long day of work and had been a couple weeks since I had had any sort of cheat meal and I was craving peanut butter like none other. So I open up the jar and eat a teaspoon. And that teaspoon tasted pretty darn good so I had another. And another. Next thing I know half the jar of peanut butter was gone along with a sleeve of unsalted rice cakes and some honey too.
At this point, I’ve known some competitors to lose it and feel like they had failed. Some have starved themselves the rest of the evening and done a day of no carbs the following day, some have simply said forget it and took the whole rest of the day as a day of bingeing (which sounds way more enticing than starving or carb depleting to me), and some have even gone as far as “punishing” themselves by doing massive amounts of cardio to try and counteract the excess of calories consumed by burning it all off in a long stair stepper session.
None of the above options sounded too healthy to me, so rather than doing anything crazy I simply logged what I had ate into my macro tracker app I had downloaded on my phone at that time. And surprisingly, though this was a very fat and carb heavy meal, I still had enough calories left in my day to eat one more meal before bed and not exceed the numbers I was trying to hit. Sure my fats were higher than normal (this is before I understood the importance of dietary fats for overall health), so I simply reduced my carbs and for the day to balance everything out and hit my daily caloric goal.
The next morning when I woke up, much to my surprise my little break from my bodybuilder diet food had had no negative impact whatsoever. So this got me thinking that maybe it wasn’t the foods that mattered, it was the calories. So then it became an experiment.
Rather than 8 egg whites and a half cup of oatmeal it became 4 whole eggs and a couple slices of Ezekiel bread with sugar free raspberry jelly. And rather than strictly brown rice and yams, I added russet potatoes and white rice in to change things up. And some days I’d save up extra calories for the evening and indulge in some candy or ice cream and still stay within my daily caloric range. It’s not that any of the foods I mentioned are inherently good or bad, it’s just that none of I looked up to in the gym and those who had helped me with previous contest preps supported eating outside of the norm during contest prep time.
I continued my flexible eating experiment all the way into my contest time and actually showed up on stage in the best contest shape of my life.
Now that’s not to say that I attribute eating different foods to the level of leanness that I brought to the stage, I’m sure I would have came in just as ripped sticking to the rigid eating plan I had written up for myself. Flexible dieting just made those last weeks leading up to the contest a whole lot more enjoyable with food that actually had some flavor.
On a side note, when on a calorie deficit and especially a low fat one, testosterone levels drop to levels of maybe an 85 year old man. Not sure if I can attribute it to a potential spike in testosterone from the additional fats and the stress reduction that happens from enjoying eating again, but during this time of ultra low calories we actually managed to conceive our first son. So anytime I have any thoughts about this contest prep my the first thing that pops into my head is my wild almost four year old
Train hard, diet hard, and well.. be flexible! You only live once and a life without pizza, chipotle, and buffalo wings sounds like no life to me. Remember, moderation and sensibility is key! Catch you next time and thanks for the read.
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Check with a physician or qualified healthcare provider before embarking on any changes made to lifestyle, training, supplementation, or eating.