Everyone wants the magic pill that transforms their body into their dream body overnight. News flash: THAT DOES NOT EXIST. But what's the best way to lose the unwanted weight, change our body composition, gain muscle, etc.? I have spent a good chunk of time experimenting and searching for that answer myself.
I used to be heavier growing up and even had some extra weight to lose when starting CrossFit and the first couple months of that part of my fitness journey. Flash back to 2011 and I was a solid 50+ pounds heavier than I am now. I lost the majority of that weight by simply adding exercise into my routine and making better food choices. It wasn't until I became competitive in CrossFit that I wanted to gear my nutrition towards my performance. Before CrossFit, I wanted to be skinny and that was my main goal with weight loss. Now, I know that a certain level of body fat is needed for me to perform my best in my sport and I don't stress over the aesthetics as much. However, I felt that my body didn't match my fitness so I started experimenting with different nutrition plans or approaches.
I have tried all different things from strict paleo, low carb diets, following a specific meal plan, juicing, RP strength diet templates, and IIFYM to flexible dieting and counting macros. All of these things work differently for different people. What I didn't realize with some of these approaches was the following: carbohydrates aren't the bad guy BUT eating too many carbohydrates is. Carbs are needed to fuel your body through exercise and all that life throws at you. Eating little to no carbs leaves you with barely any energy during the day. If you are someone that has a busy or inconsistent schedule, following a scheduled/timed out plan may not be the best thing. Also, meal prepping my food into individual containers isn't my thing. I don't like having to eat the same exact meal for every lunch or dinner. That's why I prep a few different options and then portion them out as I want to eat them during the week.
I was the leanest I've ever been when following the RP cutting templates which are a great starting point for people who already know about macros, can easily follow a timed out meal template, and don't need guidance from a coach. I loved RP and I still use a lot of the principles I learned from them to this day. However, I felt I needed a little bit more flexibility because I am a very dedicated person so when I follow something, I follow it to the extreme. Flexible dieting allows me to pick and choose when and how I want to eat my macros.
WAIT… what is a macro some might be asking? What is flexible dieting? Okay, really briefly I am going to break it down for you.
Macronutrients are the three main food groups: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Your body needs all three to survive and function properly. Each macronutrient has a different purpose and we all need different amounts of them depending on various factors like our weight, gender, activity level, and other things. A few examples of good sources of protein would be fish, chicken, lean beef, bison, whey powder, yogurt, milk, and eggs or egg whites. A few examples of carbohydrates are brown rice, potatoes, oatmeal, fruit, vegetables, and ezekial bread. A few examples of fats are nut butters, olive oil, avocado, butter, nuts, coconut, seeds, egg yolks, and cheese. Now, most foods are comprised of a combination of the macronutrients. For example, a tablespoon of Earth Balance Peanut Butter has 3.5 grams of carbs, 8.5 grams of fat, and 3.5 grams of protein. One egg has 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein. This is why tracking macros can feel difficult for people at first but you ABSOLUTELY NEED to use My Fitness Pal. If you are going to track your macros, download the app right now. It's simple to use and when you buy the upgraded option, you can specifically enter in your own macros and create different macro goals for different days depending on your activity level.
Back to flexible dieting… to sum it up, flexible dieting is tracking the amount of protein, carbs, and fat you eat to change your body composition. It's more flexible than most diet plans and allows you to still eat some of the foods you love while still achieving your goals. Each day you have an "allotted amount" of macros that your body needs and your goal is to hit those numbers within a few grams. Going extremely over or extremely under won't help you reach your goals any quicker. All foods are composed of macronutrients and flexible dieting allows you to pick and choose what foods you eat to reach your macro numbers. BUT… this does not mean you can eat all the junk you want for every meal. That is the biggest misconception with flexible dieting.
This way of eating allows you to be flexible but still make good choices. If you decide to use all your macros on pizza and cookies (which are delicious and should be eaten in moderation because BALANCE), you'll be left with no food for the rest of the day and your body probably won't be feeling too good. That's why making healthy choices and eating nutrient dense foods such as lean meats, oats, sweet potatoes, nut butters, avocado, vegetables, and fruit should be the makeup of your meals. The one thing I do love about flexible dieting is that I have learned to embrace the idea that there is no "wrong" or "bad" foods necessarily. If I want to eat a Thomas' banana bread bagel as my carb after my workout one day, I can. If I want to eat oatmeal with a banana as my carb another day, I can. I have learned to feel less guilty about allowing myself to eat something I am craving as long as it fits in my macros for the most part. However, the majority of my meals consist of the foods I listed above. But I like to preach BALANCE in all things. Balance. Balance. Balance. And moderation.
If you are interested in figuring out your macros and wanting to track them, first download My Fitness Pal (and add me, my username is Halieannxo). Then, there are tons of websites with macro calculators which I don't believe to be the most accurate. I would HIGHLY suggest consulting with a dietician or finding a nutrition coach. I previously worked with Nicole Capurso who was great. You can read her article on how flexible dieting helped her here: https://nicolecapurso.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/how-donuts-gave-me-abs-an-80kg-snatch/ I work with Krissy and Kelsey from Black Iron Nutrition and they have been absolutely AMAZING to work with. I am the type of person who needs a coach to figure out my macros for me, alter them if need be, provide me with advice, and monitor my progress. You can check her out on instagram at @krissymaecagney or head over to her website krissymaecagney.com if you're interested. OR shoot me an email and we can work something out.
Measuring and portioning and tracking my food is a lot of work and I mean a LOT of work. But switching to flexible dieting has allowed me to remove some of the added stress of exact meal timing and enjoy a meal out with family without freaking out. I still can eat the foods I love (which for the most part are healthy/real/organic foods because that's what I think tastes good and my body craves them) and reach my goals. No matter what, it's hard work but if you give it your best effort and take it one step at a time, you will crush your goals!
I am passionate about creating a healthy lifestyle for myself & helping those around me.