Today I had pancakes for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and pizza for dinner and I have not only met my macro needs for the day, but I still have about one hundred calories to spare for either a couple dark chocolates or a glass of red.
How can this be?! No, I’m not just eating a crap ton of calories. I’m actually eating for a deficit because I’m in a fat loss sprint. It is actually FLEXIBLE NUTRITION.
The main reason that people quit a program is because they don’t know what to do when their actual and real life doesn’t fit within the perfect world rules of their plan. I often get questions or requests for an ‘eat as much as you want, but only of these foods’ approach. That can work for a time, but keeping on that wagon is much harder than it may seem. It most often leads to ‘on the wagon’ or ‘off the wagon’ patterns that quite closely resemble a yo-yo diet that most are trying to avoid. It seems, from my outside perspective, to be a lot of frustration and setbacks. Whereas if you make a habit of measuring and tracking, you can decide what foods are worth the investment of your daily allowance or not. If you want to have snacks at a movie, plan ahead to set yourself up to have them. If you’re at a party that you normally would have avoided the cake or bread because it’s not on your list, you can decide whether you WANT it or not. Knowing where your calories are coming from and what the macronutrient breakdown is of those calories can allow you the freedom to plan your days, your weeks, and still make the progress you’re aiming for.
Here are a few ways you can flex your nutrition:
- Adjust the number of meals
Some days I feel like eating smaller calorie meals, more frequently. Some days I want PB&J’s and pizza. Four meals, five meals, three meals; it really doesn’t matter if we are talking about general fat loss. When it comes to making a plan easy to stick to, there is no reason to get caught up in the weeds and add in extra rules that won’t make a difference proportionate to the amount of irritation or restriction it will cause you. Keep it simple, stupid. Track your foods and keep with in your goals. Divide it as many or as few as you want.
- Make your GOALS flexible.
If you only choose two things to focus on to start, set a minimum protein goal and a maximum calories goal. Everything else comes out in the wash. See? Flexible. Protein is an important tool for maintaining lean mass while you diet down as well as keeping you full. You really don’t want to let that fall short and it can be a struggle to get the numbers up, so you want to challenge yourself to get in as much as you can. Outside of that, let the carbs and fats fall in accordance to what you feel like having that day. They are only restricted as needed to fill in the remaining calories that the protein leaves behind.
BONUS: What should your calories and macros be set to? Well, I wish it were that easy to set a global prescription. It will have to suffice to say, pick a starting place and adjust. A good place to start the protein for women is at 120 grams dietary protein and 160 grams dietary protein for men. This is assuming that you are healthy and without restrictions. As for your daily total, I recommend that you begin tracking what you eat normally now without changing your habits. Then begin to walk back your calories from there. Keep in mind that if you have been eating without thought and need to lose fat, you are more than likely eating in a calorie surplus. Make your first cuts to the calories more aggressive and then subsequent cuts to the calorie totals can be more minor to move the needle. Protein should remain constant or increase with calorie decreases.
- Adjust my ‘eating window’.
If you are a breakfast forgetter or just don’t like the hassle, fine. Don’t worry about it. Start eating later in the day and then you can enjoy eating your meals closer together to stay satisfied. Some folks call this ‘intermittent fasting’, but it’s not really fasting. In order to be a proper fast, you are removing calories from a typical daily intake. In a reduced eating window situation, you still take in your normal daily macros and calories. There’s no woo-woo metabolic ju-ju that happens. It just works for some folks’ schedules. It allows flexibility!!
- Use a weekly vs a daily calorie goal.
Did you have a day when you really just lost the reins and couldn’t seem to avoid a major calorie hit? This is often the case in situations like around the holidays or vacations where you are not only at the mercy of what others will be serving you, but there are so many amazing things you just HAVE to try. There is no way some stupid ‘diet’ is going to keep you from enjoying this day. I think this is SO IMPORTANT. You absolutely HAVE to be able to enjoy life and family and friends. These are the instances that would have a rigid meal plan left in the dust and trigger a period of ‘off the wagon’ behavior. Instead, with a flexible approach, you have the option of mitigating the damage by carving out some calories from the other days in the week. If you know you’re going to have some major eating free-for-all event, you can either cut out one or two hundred calories from the days leading up to it, or the days following. No big deal and NO GUILT.
You don’t even have to do the same thing every day or week. As long as you’re hitting your goals consistently, you’re going to win! Make your approach flexible so you can increase the likelihood that you do by making the goals way more reachable!
Rigid is quit-able. Flexible is sustainable!
Owner, Well Hello Fitness
Master Personal Trainer/ Sports Nutritionist/ Coach
Kristin Kuykendall is a Master Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist. Her credentials are backed by a BFA from Kendall College of Art and Design and further studies in Human Health Sciences from Oakland University.
With a passion for helping people acquire skills to promote the longest possible health span, Kristin has coached numerous clients to feel their best. She has brought this passion to her work as a private nutrition and exercise programming coach, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and nutritionist. Kristin has been responsible for helping a wide range of clients achieve their individual goals, from competitive athletes to individualized healthy fat loss.
She has personally achieved professional and world standing both as a Physique and Figure bodybuilding competitor. All this while raising kids with her loving husband/partner in this crazy life. When she’s not playing in the kitchen or spending time with her family, you may find her working as a judge and promoter for natural bodybuilding competitions.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.