Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Hottest New Diet Isn't Even a Diet

By: Andrew Jagim Phd, CISSN, CSCS

It seems as though any time you scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed you become bombarded with some new diet fad or a hot new weight loss secret guaranteeing instant success. Unfortunately most of them are either filled with empty promises or short-term fixes. However lately a new "diet" has gained a lot of popularity within the fitness community and when you look at it more closely it really isn’t a diet at all and it may the answer you've been searching for. This new diet trend I'm referring to commonly goes by the name of “flexible dieting." As people learn more about flexible dieting and it's simplicity it usually becomes a favorite amongst weight conscious individuals.  The idea of flexible dieting gained a lot of popularity when Dr. Layne Norton became and advocate of the dietary strategy after finding success using it with his own bodybuilding pursuits and nutrition coaching career.

Why is it becoming so popular? 
Answer: It is becoming popular mostly in part because it works so well (if done properly). 

Why does it work? 

Answer: It works because people can actually stick with it and not lose their minds trying to eliminate carbs or have an emotional meltdown because everything on the menu has gluten in it and their new diet says they can't have it.  

What is flexible dieting?

Flexible dieting is an eating strategy that focuses on eating the right AMOUNT of calories and nutrients, specifically macronutrients, throughout the day versus restricting certain food groups, ingredients or carb-centric snacks. Now, some people have taken this concept and completely gone to the opposite end of the spectrum with it and believe that it's okay to eat Pop tarts and gummy bears as long as you chase it with a steak and protein shake all while using the mantra "if it fits your macros."  Now, the occasional “junk food” is fine and is sometimes even encouraged in order to help with adherence to the eating style as one of the most important components to a diet's success is whether or not you can even stick with it in the first place. Sure, there are all kinds of really good diets and biohacks out there that may help you drop pounds fast but more often than not those pounds will come rushing back and they're going to bring their fat friends.  With flexible dieting it's more about developing a nutrition lifestyle and finding foods that you like, aren't terrible for you and at the end of the day provide you with a caloric total that is appropriate based on your metabolism, goals and daily activities. 

In addition, not only is the daily calorie total of importance but probably even more important is the makeup of those calories, specifically the macronutrient content.  In other words at the end of the day if your macronutrient totals are appropriate then you should be in “energy balance” or at a relatively stable weight, if that is your goal. If you want to lose weight, then theoretically you should decrease your total calorie intake and readjust your macronutrient totals.  Again, some people have gone to the extreme with this eating strategy and proclaim that as long as the content of the foods you eat match your recommended macronutrient totals for the day that is all that matters. Based on this rationale hitting your macronutrient totals with candy, pizza, protein shakes and bagels would be perfectly acceptable….In terms of "energy balance, sure it may work however in addition to energy balance and macronutrient content it’s almost important to take into consideration the micronutrient content of one’s diet. Although micronutrients do not have a “caloric value”, they are still incredibly important as they provide essential vitamins and minerals. This is why nutrient rich foods should be the focus of an “if it fits your macros” type of mentality as you will then be fulfilling your macro and micronutrient requirements for the day.  But this way, you are still eating more or less what you want, you aren't limiting or restricting a certain food group and there is still room for the occasional indulgence or sweet-tooth craving as long as you account for it in your daily macronutrient intake and plan accordingly.  And there you have it, a sustainable dietary lifestyle that won’t drive you crazy, is very reasonable and should provide a long future of success.

Stay tuned for future tips on how to determine your calorie and macronutrient needs based on your training goal. In the meantime, BE FLEXIBLE! Eat the foods you want as long as you account for them in your daily macronutrient intakes and consume enough vitamins & minerals to go along with them.

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