Are you sick of nutritional programs or diets that do not fit your lifestyle? The Flexible Dieting Lifestyle is about teaching you every single thing you need to know in order to create the diet of your dreams while living the life of your dreams!
Do I have your attention!?
If yes, then theres no need to go anywhere else! This is the “One Stop Shop” teaching you everything you need to know in order to become a Master Flexible Dieter!
IN THIS GUIDE, I AM GOING TO COVER:
- Our tool kit
- How to translate the nutritional label (bulletproof you from all the BS)
- Tracking our food intake
- How to weigh foods with or without food label
- How to calculate your caloric needs
- How to calculate your perfect macros
- Most important FAQs answered
BEFORE WE BEGIN
If you have yet to read the first post where I outline the basics of Flexible Dieting then go ahead and read it first because none of this will make sense if you skip right to here.
STEP 1: ASSEMBLING OUR FLEXIBLE DIETING TOOL KIT
- Digital Food Scale (this is the one I personally use and it works really well)
- Download The MyFitnessPal App
STEP 2: LEARN HOW TO USE BOTH OF THESE TOOLS
STEP 3: HOW TO WEIGH FOODS WITH FOOD LABEL
FOODS WITH FOOD LABEL
When flexible dieting, foods with food labels make life super duper easy. They will more than likely have a barcode you can scan with the MyFitnessPal app and it’ll pull up the nutritional info right up.
Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts (My Pop Tart of Choice Growing Up)
This is super important and something that most people do not look at!
Almost everything you consume has multiple servings in it and the food label is only per serving
- Ex. The Poptart
- We all know that pop tart packages come in packs of two and most would assume that a serving size would be 1 pack. Well at least I always thought that.
- A lot of my clients have not been accurate with their tracking in the beginning because of misreading of serving sizes.
- So if you eat a pack of pop tarts (2 pastries instead of 1) you are eating 380 calories, 10g fat, 68g carbs and 4g protein instead of 190 calories 5g fat, 34g carbs and 2g protein. Thats a BIG difference!
- So don’t get tricked by those serving sizes!
MEASURING DA MEATS
- Most meat products have nutritional labels on them when you buy them from the store.
If you buy from a butcher or farm, you can search the nutritional information of the cut just from a simple google search or on MyFitnessPal
- The food label on the meat package is the serving size weighed out raw
- Ex. Publix 97% lean chicken breast. Look at the food label and notice that it will say 4 oz “raw” for the nutritional info that comes out to be around 3g fat, 0g carb and 24g protein. That means that you have to weigh it out raw in order to use that info.
- If you want to weigh your chicken out cooked, you will multiply how ever ounces you have cooked by 1.4 to get the nutritional info because the cooking process dehydrates the chicken causing it to be lighter when cooked. (this is an estimation, not a perfect science)
- Ex. You have 5.25 oz of cooked chicken breast. You would multiply by 1.4 to get the actual nutritional info of the raw chicken breast.
- You would get 7.35 oz of chicken.
- So you would use that 7.35 and divide that by 4 to get the serving size of 4 oz raw chicken breast (stated above) which would come out to be 1.8125. Then you would put that into myfitnesspal and it’ll spit of 5.5g fat, 0g carbs and 43.5g protein.
- I will have a whole separate post in the future talking about how to do this with every kind of meat.
STEP 4: MEASURING FOODS WITHOUT FOOD LABEL
FRUITS AND VEGGIES
- A simply google search will yield you many different options
For example: If you wanted to find the nutritional information for a red delicious apple, you would simply search “USDA Red Delicious Apple.”
- You will get options like:
- Just pick one of those nutritional info websites and then add it into MyFitnessPal or search MyFitnessPal and find an entry that is in line with the nutritional info you found on one of those sites.
It is that easy!
STEP 5: EATING OUT AT RESTAURANTS
TRACK MACROS AND STILL HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE
Have you ever had that moment when you were either on a diet or on a meal plan and your friends were like, “hey you wanna go out and grab a bite to eat with me?”
You respond with, “Sorry, I am on a diet and I can’t have those type of foods.” Or even better with, “Sorry that does not go along with my meal plan.”
Well one of the best things about flexible dieting is the fact that you can eat out and still hit your macros = you getting lean while not being antisocial hermit
The whole point of flexible dieting is to provide you with freedom and being able to eat out is one of those freedoms unlike a following a meal plan that is boring and not flexible.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead Before You Go
The key to hitting your macros while eating out it to plan ahead what you are going to get from these restaurants and plug it into your macros
Most restaurants have nutritional information online (this information is usually within 90% accurate so that is close enough)
Tip #2: Overestimating or Underestimating
If you are cutting overestimate by at least 10% on the fat and carbs numbers they give you while underestimating on the protein by 10%
If you are not cutting, then don’t stress over it!
Tip #3: What if I go to a local Mexican restaurant that does not have the nutritional information online!? I’m screwed right?
You can always find a restaurant that is similar to the place you are going to.
- Chipotle’s nutritional calculator online for Mexican restaurants
- Sub place (look up Subway or Firehouse)
- Pizza place (Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Papa Johns)
- Italian restaurant (Olive Garden)
- Seafood restaurant (Red Lobster)
- Breakfast restaurant (Ihop, Denny’s)
- Southern food restaurant (Sonny’s, Cracker Barrel)
- Burger restaurant (The Counter Burger, Five Guys)
I think you get the idea. Don’t stress over the fact that it is not the actual restaurant. It is close enough!
STEP #6: LEARNING TO EYEBALL POTION SIZES
Not becoming a slave to your scale: The ultimate goal
When you are measuring out your foods, start to take notice of what a serving size looks like for each food choice. This important for a few reasons:
- Not to have to weigh every single little thing you eat
- Give you the freedom to still be able to go to family or friends parties, and still be able to hit your macros. You are able to eyeball portion sizes and guestimate.
- Go on vacation without your scale! Everyone dreads the weight they gain on vacation but with the ability to eyeball, you will probably come back lighter than when you left! (this happens to me almost every time!)
- Then no more scale at all because you can eat track intuitively!
HOW I GOT REALLY GOOD AT EYEBALLING:
When I knew I wasn’t good at eyeballing a certain type of food, I would make a game out of trying to guess serving sizes.
How to play:
- First, take your scale and what ever plate or bowl you are going to be using and zero it out on the scale.
- Then, take the bowl or plate off the scale and try to eyeball the serving size you want to have.
- For example, if you are weighing out oatmeal and you want 1 serving (40g), see if you can pour a 40g serving just by eyeballing it.
- To test, you simply put the bowl or plate onto the scale and then you get to see how close you were!
The goal is to be within 10% almost every time in order to classify yourself as a master eye baller!
I’ll be honest, this takes a lot of practice but in the long run, it is such a liberating feeling to be in control no matter the situation!
STEP #7: CALCULATING YOUR CALORIES
THE REAL WAY TO CALCULATE YOUR CALORIES
I am not a big fan of giving a special calculations right away to figure out your caloric intake because I have realized after coaching many clients that the number varies quite substantially.
I am going to take you through the same process that I take all my clients through.
- The very first thing you will do is track your macros for the next 3 days
- Remember, your macros are what make up your calories (read my first post where I went into more details about these)
- 1g protein = 4cals
- 1g carbs = 4cals
- 1g fat = 9cals
- Eat exactly how you normally would. We want a completely accurate picture of how much your normally eat and what ratios of macronutrients make up those calories.
- This will give us your budget of calories of calories that have gotten you to this point. And also will give us the macro nutrient ratios as well that will help us understand your body composition as well.
- You are probably thinking, “Zach, why can’t you just give me a complex equation in order to calculate my calories and start today with that number!?” Well we first have to see what has gotten you to this point and then we can use a super cool equation 🙂.
- Alan Aragon’s Total Energy Expenditure Equation
- Total Caloric Intake = Target Bodyweight in pounds x (8-10 or 9-11 + Average total weekly training hours).
- Woman or Less Active Person: (this number will be put in that first part of the equation where you multiply your target bodyweight with it.)
- 8 = Low Intensity Training
- 9 = Moderate Intensity Training
- 10 = High Intensity Training
- Man or More Active Person:
- 9 = Low Intensity Training
- 10 = Moderate Intensity Training
- 11 = High Intensity Training
- Lets use one of my clients as an example:
- She was 5’4″ and 160 lbs when she first started with me and she wanted to lose about 20 lbs in 3 months.
- She is moderately active (strength training 3-4 times/wk) with walking and light activity on off days from the gym
- So according to this info, her goal weight is 140lbs, her workout intensity is high and her training hours on average are about 3. So here equation would look like:
- 140 x (10 + 3) = 1,820 calories
- This would put her at 1,820 calories
- Adjust based on your rate of weight loss or weight gain
- After tracking your intake for 10-14 days, if you are loosing or gaining weight to fast or slow, then adjust your calories accordingly.
- It’s safe to say a 10% change up or down is best keep progress going
- Ex. If fat loss has come to a halt at 1,800 calories, then I would drop by 10% which would put me down 180 calories and my new calorie goal is 1,620 calories
The equation above is meant for those who exercise but what if you do not exercise?
- I advise taking your current bodyweight and multiplying by 10-11 in order to find your maintenance calories.
- So if you weigh 165lbs, it would be 165 x 10 and you would get 1650 calories.
STEP #8: CALCULATING YOUR MACROS
DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK!?
If you read the first post, I gave you homework to start tracking your intake for 3 days.
If you did this, I want you to look at your average macronutrient ratios (proteins, carbs and fats) for the days and compare them to the recommendations I give you below.
WHAT SOMATOTYPE ARE YOU? WHY I CHANGED MY MIND ON THIS.
I used to think that body types can determine what types of food you should be eating in order to fuel your activities. But the more and more I read the research and see it through application with my clients, it is really not that accurate for determining the macro ratios someone should be taking in.
Yes our physique characteristics have been linked to metabolic difference between individuals but the affect is so small.
So where do we begin?
1. DETERMINING YOUR PROTEIN:
We do this first because protein intake is our most important priority in regards to our macronutrients. This intake becomes more and more important when in a caloric deficit (dieting).
- When Dieting/Cutting: 1.0-1.3g per pound bodyweight
- When at Maintenance calories: 0.8-1.1g per pound bodyweight
- When in Surplus (gaining weight): 0.7g-1.1g per pound of bodyweight
Why the variance in recommendations? Well because protein plays many different roles and the demands on protein vary depending on whether you are cutting, maintaining or gaining.
So when dieting, your protein needs increase to help maintain your hard earned muscle. Not going to go into too much detail on that because I know you know by now that protein is pretty darn important!
Why decrease protein when at maintenance or gaining? Well because we have more energy (calories) coming in, we will be able to take in more carbohydrates and fats, which are muscle sparing. This simply means that they allow protein to be used to build and preserve muscle rather than have to be used for energy.
2. DETERMINING YOUR DIETARY FAT
Why calculate your fats next? While dietary carbs are very important for performance, they are not absolutely necessary for the optimal health of our bodies.
Dietary fat intake can really vary due to personal preference but here is what I like to recommend:
- When cutting: 15-25% of total calories
- When maintaining: 20-30% of total calories
- When gaining: 25-35% of total calories
As you can see this can vary. Yes 15% can seem really low but that is the absolutely bare minimum intake when someone is in the deep depths of a diet. A chronic intake of 15% would not be healthy but that’s why we don’t diet forever. Keeping fat that low will allow you to use some more carbohydrates to help fuel your training and your muscle mass.
And for when you are maintaining or gaining, those recommendations can really vary based on personal preference as long as you are not dipping below that 20% threshold. The 20% will at least ensure you are getting in enough dietary fat to maintain healthy hormone production/health.
3. DETERMINING YOUR CARBOHYDRATE INTAKE
Now this part is easy! Here’s all you gotta do:
- Take your remaining calories and throw them all towards your carbohydrate intake. So all you have to do is take the rest of the calories and divide by 4 and that will give you your carb intake.
These numbers are not set in stone and are just a starting point. Remember that each and every one of us are unique and have unique ratios that will work best for us.
This is a great learning experience to play around with these ratios and find out what works for you. Just know that those ratios are based in science to be great to stay within but going up and down those ranges are perfectly fine!
STEP #9: IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU PLAN TO FAIL
PLANNING YOUR MEALS FOR THE NEXT DAY THE NIGHT BEFORE
One thing that helped me so much when I first started counting my macros was to simply plan out most of the next days meals the night before.
This will ensure that you don’t end up at 8pm and you have 80g of protein left with no carbs or fats and you have to chalk down a massive protein shake…. (I wouldn’t wish that on anyone)
- I advise that you plan at least 2/3 of your meals for the next day and leave a balance between carbs, protein and fats to give you some flexibility with a spontaneous choice throughout the day.
- By planning the night before, you also save precious time during the day scrambling trying to figure out what you are going to eat.
- Trust me, when I first started tracking my macros, I would spend hours throughout the day trying to figure out what I was going to eat in order to hit my macros. Waste of time…
STEP #10: FIBER INTAKE
WHY IT IS SUPER IMPORTANT AND HOW MUCH YOU SHOULD BE TAKING IN
- Americans consumes about 15g of fiber per day on average….. I eat that much before 8:00am
- Fiber is a thermogenic which simply means that is takes a lot of energy (calories) to digest them. So thus someone eating 250g carbs per day with 15g fiber is much different metabolically than someone who is eating 250g carbs per day with 40g fiber due to the difference in thermogenesis.
- Important for gut health and motility.
- Blunts insulin response from higher glycemic carbs
- Thus low fiber diets are associated with many health problems such as
- Cardiovascular disease and high blood fats
- GI Disorders, cancers and poor bowel function
- Excess Body Fat
- High Blood Pressure
So how much is enough!?
- Women should aim for 20-30g of fiber a day
- Men should aim for around 30g-45g per day
And I know people who can go all the way up to the 60g-70g per day and feel great so listen to your body with fiber intake. These are just suggestions. If you feel bloated and are above the normal suggestions I’ve made, then cut it back a bit and see how you feel.
Pro tip: Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans are all high in fiber so add those into your diet to easily hit your fiber.
FAT LOSS HAS STOPPED AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO. HOW DO I MODIFY MY MACROS IN ORDER TO GET THE FAT LOSS STARTED AGAIN!?
First, we want make as small of a change to our calories as possible in order to create fat loss
Ex. Fat loss has stalled at 1500 calories so all you do is take away 100 calories and see if fat loss starts again for at least 1 week.
But which macronutrient do you take the calories from?
- From either your carbs or fats. Protein always stays at least at 1g/lb of bodyweight and should be higher during fat loss phases. Preferably 1.25 during fat loss phase to ensure you don’t lose any of your hard earned gainzzzz
How do you determine if you take from your carbs or fats?
- Most times you will take from your carb intake but if your fat % is higher than your carb % then you take from your fats first.
- Dietary fat is digested much slower because it is a much denser source of energy compared to carbs or protein. Remember dietary fat has 9 calories per gram compared to protein and carbs 4 calories per gram.
- 1g alcohol = 7 cals
- Track alcohol by taking the calories of your drink of choice and then divide it by 9. You will subtract this number from your daily allotment of fats.
- The main site of alcohol metabolism is in liver and also in the brain which is why you get intoxicated when consuming too much.
- Alcohol is digested in the liver as a poison, as in, your body has no capacity to store it like the other macronutrients. Thus it is given top priority by our metabolism to get rid of it.
- This increased urgency to metabolize the alcohol substantially slow dietary fat metabolism thus causing a big increase in the chances that dietary fat intake while consuming alcohol will be stored as fat.
- Beer example: 1 12oz Bud Light = 110 calories
- 4 cals/g carbs so you divide 110 by 9 and you get 12.2g
- Then you subtract 12g from your fats for the day
- So if you were eating 60g of fats for the day, you would have 48g of fat left.
- Liquor example: Whiskey and Diet Coke
- 0 cals for the diet coke. 1 shot of whiskey = 72 calories.
- Divide 72 by 9 and you get 8.
- Then you subtract 8g from your fats for the day.
- Wine Example:
- 5oz glass of red wine = 125 cals
- Divide 125 by 9 and you get 13.888
- Subtract 14g from your fats for the day
- 5oz glass of White Wine = 120 cals
- Divide 120 by 9 and you get 13.3333
- Subtract 13g from your carbs for the day
I HEARD FAT MAKES YOU FAT! IS THIS TRUE!?
(I STILL GET THIS QUESTION ON A DAILY BASIS WHEN I FIRST GIVE MY CLIENT THEIR MACROS)
In short, dietary fat does not make you fat.
I LOVE ALCOHOL AND WANT TO STILL GO OUT AND DRINK WITH MY FRIEND. DO I HAVE TO GIVE UP ALCOHOL OR MY TREASURED WINE IN ORDER TO GET IN GREAT SHAPE?
Why fats and not carbs?
OK I AM SUPER EXCITED TO START COUNTING MY MACROS BUT SHOULD I STILL COUNT MY CALORIES!?
Nope! you only have to worry about the macros because remember that our macros are what make up our calories!
- If we hit 150g protein, 200g carbs and 50g fat then we will hit our calorie goal of the day of 1850 calories
- 150g protein x 4 = 600 cals, 200g carbs x 4 = 800 cals, 50g fat x 9 = 450cals
- 600 + 800 + 450 = 1850 calories! It’s magic!
So just hit your macros and you are good to go!
IS THE WORLD GOING TO END IF I DON’T HIT MY MACROS EXACTLY!!??
Absolutely not! Unless you are 3-4 weeks out from a physique competition, don’t freak out!
You want to at least be within 10% of your macros
I HIT MY MACROS BUT I DIDN’T HIT MY CALORIES! WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON!?
This is not your fault! It’s the FDA’s fault! The FDA allows food companies to round their calorie totals down in order to get pretty even numbers. Complete crap if you ask me….
So for example, this label to our right says this food has 190 cals per serving. But when you do the math:
- 17g fat x 9 cals per g = 153 calories
- 6g carbs x 4 cals per g = 24 cals
- 7g protein x 4 cals per g = 28 cals
- 153 + 24 + 28 = 205 calories!
Says 190 Calories when its really 205! FRAUDS!
WHAT DO I DO IF I WENT OVER ON MY CARBS FOR THE DAY BUT STILL HAVE A GOOD AMOUNT OF CALORIES LEFT TO HIT!?
Not a big deal! All you will do is figure out how many grams of carbs you went over by and then subtract that from either your fats or protein intake for the day.
- Example: You went over your carbs by 30g which equates to about 120 cals
- You could take the calories from your fat intake for the day which you could do by dividing 120 by 9. This will give us about 13g of fat to take away in order for us to hit our calorie goal
In the short run, this is not a big problem at all! Just make sure you hit your calorie goal by subtracting your fats for the day in order to make up for our increased intake of carbs!
And yes you can do the opposite if you go way over on your fat intake. Simply multiple how many grams your went over and multiply it by 9 to get the calories. Then divide that by 4 and that is how many grams of carbs you need to subtract.
WHAT IF I GO CRAZY AND EAT LIKE JOEY CHESTNUT AT THE HOTDOG EATING CONTEST AND GO WAY OVER MY MACROS!?
Not a big deal at all! Use that extra fuel the next day to kill your workout!
But if it is something that you are worried about, Just make sure the next day you try and go under your normal intake to balance it out. And no I do not mean starve yourself! Just a little bit less than normal
- Hit your normal protein intake or even slightly above but go under on your carbs and fat intake.
I’M NOT HUNGRY IN THE MORNING AND LIKE TO JUST DRINK MY COFFEE AND GET MY DAY STARTED. DO I HAVE TO EAT BREAKFAST SINCE IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY?
(I GET THIS ONE ALLLLLLL THE TIME!)
Nope! You are than welcome to skip breakfast and just have your coffee!
As long as you hit your macros by the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you eat it all for dinner, breakfast or spread it out across the day.
I DON’T HAVE A DIGITAL FOOD SCALE BUT I HAVE MEASURING CUPS. CAN I JUST USE THEM?
A digital food scale is super accurate. Measuring cups are not.
Some days you are going to be more hungry than others and you will be tempted to do a heaping cup full instead of just a cup. This leads to you consuming an extra 200-300 calories in a day. Over the course of the week that can lead to upwards of 1000-2000 calories!
DO I HAVE TO COUNT MACROS FOREVER!?
After a while, you’ll see that you have a good idea of what and how much you need to eat to maintain your weight and/or leanness.
This takes time but once you learn how to eyeball portion sizes and listen to your bodies hunger cues, flexible dieting will allow you to have the most sustainable diet you will ever have!
WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET?
In the comments below, tell me how many calories you thought you were eating before tracking and how much you really were eating. I’ll be honest, almost 95% of the time you will be way off! Be honest because I’d love to see what you’re working with!
Up next on our Flexible Dieting Mastery agenda is “when is the best times to eat your meals?” Answering questions like, “do I have to eat breakfast?” or “won’t carbs after dark make me fat!?” and along with any other question you could ever think of. Here it is, so keep the momentum going!
And if you did not read the first post of the Flexible Dieting 101 series, be sure to check it out because it goes over why Flexible Dieting works and why most diets do not. Here it is. 🙂
Oh and if you enjoyed this post please share with anyone you think would benefit from this! 🙂
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Thanks and God Bless,