Ok ok.. Now that it seems I might have gotten a few people’s attention with this whole Flexible Dieting thing, its probably time to give some insight on how the whole thing works. So, let’s jump into it and get you peeps on your way to bigger muscles and washboard abs.
First things first, though. It’s next to impossible for the human body to put on muscle and lose fat at the same time, unless you’re an alien with inhuman genetics (if so I’m extremely envious and want to know your secrets). So you have to make a choice, build muscle and put on some size? Or lose fat and make the scale drop to a number you would more like to see. I’m guessing most of you women out there will want to lose some weight, (but not all) and most of you guys will vary between the two depending on your body type.
If this starts to feel like science class to anyone, I apologize in advance, and I’ll try keeping it as simple as possible.
The number one determining factor in body composition is the amount of calories that you put into your body on a daily basis. Everyone has a certain amount of calories that can be eaten each day that will keep your body at its exact same weight, also known as a maintenance level. It varies between each and everyone of us depending on our metabolism and how active/inactive we are.
Some people are very active throughout the day with hard laboring jobs, and others don’t do as much labor such as sitting in front of a computer for the majority of their day. Those of you who are more active and moving around a lot more burn more calories in a day than the people who are sedentary, (obviously) so therefore, their maintenance level will be much higher and their bodies can take in a lot more food without affecting their weight.
Still with me? Great. Let’s move on.
So have you caught on to the number one rule of Flexible Dieting? That’s right, you MUST track your calories! I know I know, no one wants to “count their calories,” but a lot of people make this seem so much harder than it actually is. When I first started out tracking, I walked around with a notebook in my back pocket with notes I had taken on how many calories were in EACH food I ate everyday. THAT’s the hard way. I was an idiot. DON’T DO THAT!
Luckily for us in the “technology age” there’s an app called My Fitness Pal. It has EVERYTHING you need to track how many calories you eat. Whether it be fresh food from the grocery store, a snack from the gas station, or a meal from one of your favorite restaurants, more than likely you’ll be able to find it in the app. It even has a place where you can just scan the barcode of whatever you’re eating and it will put the info in for you! Easy!
If you’re still on board.. We’re to the point for you to take some action. It’s time to find your maintenance levels. For most fairly active people here is a general guideline:
Each lb of bodyweight x 15 = maintenance level
170 lbs x 15 = 2550 calories or 120 lbs x 15 = 1800 calories
If you feel as if you are not very active multiply by 12-14 or if you feel as if your extremely active multiply by 16-18.
After you have figured these numbers and have in mind a bit of a guideline, its time to start tracking.
Now, let’s back track for just a second, remember that question I asked you earlier? The gaining muscle or losing fat one? It’s time to answer it. I suggest, whichever way you decide, that you take around a week or so and try to hit your maintenance calories EVERYDAY to ensure that you have actually found it. Track your weight from the first day you start until about 7-10 days later. If you have lost more than one pound within that 7-10 days, chances are you are eating less than what your maintenance level is (also known as a deficit). If you gain more than one pound during this time, it’s more than likely you are eating more calories than what your maintenance level actually is (also known as a surplus).
Anyone confused yet??
Well, here’s the secret to success. Ok it’s not much of a secret. If your goal is to put on muscle, you are going to need to be eating MORE calories than what your maintenance is. If you’re trying to lose weight you need to be eating LESS than your maintenance. Sounds pretty easy right? Well, this is actually where a lot of people end up going wrong and losing progress. We’ll use Claira Belle as an example (sorry sweets).
About a year ago, Claira Belle was getting ready for the biggest beauty pageant in the country. She was competing at Miss USA representing our beloved state of Idaho (I know, lucky me right). Anyway, she, and I’m sure all of the other girls too, were advised to go on a strict, very low caloric diet. I’m talking like, 1000-1100 calories a day. No carbs. No sugar. (Sounds like hell to me.) Her maintenance level was never taken into consideration. Instead of finding her maintenance level and dropping slightly below that to start her diet, she ended up starting much lower than necessary to lose weight.
Little did she know at the time, at some point during a diet almost everyone will experience a plateau, where the body will become accustom to the amount of food it is getting, and consequently will stop shedding fat. Once this happens, there is only one thing to do, you must drop calories lower once again (around 50-100 calories) in order to keep progressing. So she would have had to drop even lower in order to keep her diet going, which would have been 900 calories and that is completely unsustainable. In my opinion, no one should ever have to drop their calories below 1200 a day. It is very unhealthy and can seriously damage your body in the long run.
Just to make this all a little clearer, here’s an example.
CUTTING: If you’re maintenance level is 2000 calories. To start your cut, I suggest you DROP your calories by 200-300. NO LESS. Stay at that number of cals for about a week to ten days. If you’re consistently LOSING one to two lbs a week, GREAT! Stay there! Enjoy eating those calories! Once your weight loss goes stagnant, DROP another 100 calories and repeat.
BULKING: If you’re maintenance level is 2000 calories. To start you bulk, I suggest you ADD in no more than 100-150 calories for a week to ten days. If you’re consistently GAINING .5-1 lb a week, GREAT! Stay there! If you are gaining any more than this, chances are the majority of it is fat gain, not muscle gain. Once your weight goes stagnant, ADD in another 50-100 cals and repeat.
At the end of the day, the best way to make a diet sustainable and last is to be able to be eating as much as possible to keep your stomach and mind satisfied. Don’t go into your diet thinking you can slash out a ton of calories and think it will get you to your goals faster. Slow and steady wins the race, trust me. Take it slow. In the end it makes the whole experience much easier.
I know this was a TON of information and we’ve only touched the surface. So if any of you have any questions please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Coming this weekend will be a blog touching on macros and how to incorporate them.
Happy tracking! 🙂