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Evidence-based articles & blogs to help with making training more effective, nutrition more flexible & life more enjoyable.
Ever wanted to take down that towering triple-patty, ultra-cheesy, four extra pieces of bacon burger? Put in your order son - this is how you do just that, without blowing your macros & your fat loss progress.
You can't eat ALL the foods ALL the time. Not if you have any interest in losing, or maintaining your weight.
As much as flexible dieting is about eating what you 'want', and not having to avoid any foods specifically, no one (no matter what your macros are) will be able to eat an unlimited amount of their favourite foods all in one day while sticking to their macros – it just won't happen.
It's important to be mindful, make smart choices, and factor in what you really want in appropriate quantities, even if that means having a slice of pie one day, a few bowls of cereal the next, and a burger and fries the day after that. Depending on your calorie & macro allowance, you might even have to settle for the burger on one day & the fries on another.
Thing is though, when big events come up, around certain times of the year, and if you're away on holiday or vacation, doing this can be seriously tough. There are a lot of events throughout the year that tend to be centered entirely around food. Take Christmas for instance – there's the opportunity to eat so much tasty food at every single meal (and often in between too) and it can be incredibly difficult to resist, or to only pick a few bits here and there.
If your whole family are tucking into a huge dinner, complete with a calorie-dense starter and a sugar and fat-filled desert, there's no way you can fit all that into a normal day's macros, so you've got a choice –
Either stick exactly to your macros, and sit there, only eating meagre servings of all the great food, or have a day off and throw caution to the wind. If you're a master of willpower, perhaps you can figure out how much cake you can eat, and then avoid everything else. Either way though, not much chop.
Fortunately there is another option. You can find ways to have bigger, more calorie dense meals, or even a whole day of 'big eating' and still stick to your diet and lose fat.
In the lead up to a big day, you can 'pull' macros in the form of carbs and fats from other days to give you a bit more room for 'fun calories' at your meal.
You don't want to get too extreme with this, and how much you pull should be dependant on what your macros are, but generally, reducing carbs and fats by 10-30% for three to five days beforehand can work well.
For example, a female who'd normally eat 200 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fat per day could reduce by 30 grams of carbs and 10 grams of fat for five days, giving her an extra 150 grams of carbs and 50 grams of fat for the big meal.
Anything more dramatic than this would likely affect shorter term training performance, and may play havoc with hunger, hence the caution surrounding not reducing your calories by carbs or fats by more than 30% on any given day.
Monitoring each individual macronutrient definitely offers the opportunity for more consistent results than just calorie counting, but in the hierarchy of importance, calories beat macros, as calorie balance is ultimately what determines whether you'll lose weigh or gain it.
That means if, for one day, you just want to monitor your calories, you can probably get away with it.
If you're a guy on 200 grams of carbs, 65 grams of fat and 225 grams of protein, that comes in at 2265 calories. For that one day, you could just aim to hit that but have more carbs and fat with less protein. A day or two here and there with a little less protein that what is optimal probably won't throw your progress off a great deal, if at all.
Hit Weekly Macros
This kind of ties in with point one, but is a little looser in its approach.
Track your weekly macro intake, with your high-calorie day coming somewhere in the middle of this week. To do this, all you need to do is multiply your normal daily protein, carb and fat intake by 7, and make sure that come the end of the week, you're at your usual total. Just keep in mind if you do this, chances are you'll see some shorter term fluctuations on the scale as a consequence of eating a larger chunk of calories, as naturally, it takes a little longer to simply digest more food.
I wouldn't recommend using cardio as a form of punishment for over-eating, or even looking at indulgence as a reward for exercising, but at certain times, added cardio can be useful for offsetting a larger calorie consumption.
Again, don't go too crazy and jump on the treadmill for 3 hours, but there's no harm in adding an extra interval session on the day of (or even the days before and after) your big meal just so that you burn off a few extra calories.
Even a brisk walk for an hour or so can burn off 300 calories, so might be worth doing to work up an appetite. Simply increasing the amount of steps you take on a day to day basis in the lead up to a bigger food fest could also help off-set whatever you're about to eat.
Have a New Goal
While this isn't exactly a way to eat more calories and continue losing fat, you could consider a diet break, or actively spending time away from eating at a calorie deficit. By simply aiming to maintain your weight, naturally you'll be able to eat more calories than what you need to eat in order to lose weight.
Maintaining your weight can actually be quite difficult to do, and something which many people struggle with, as they feel they should be constantly losing or gaining weight, but in reality, if you can maintain your weight and body composition through a food-filled week or month, you've done well.
While the main aim of lifting weights should never be to simply burn calories, naturally you're going to burn them by doing so. Instead of focusing on the calorie burn however, you could ultimately put yourself into a better position to maintain the muscle mass you have by accumulating some more trainin volume during this time. Additional food might contribute to lifting heavier weights, or getting through more sets. You'll burn some more calories and increase your chances of retaining muscle - it's a win-win.
Add in an extra arm workout, or even get to the gym to squeeze in a few more squats and deadlifts before the big event. This could also help shuttle the calories to muscle stores to be used for recovery, rather than laying down as body fat.
Eat OR Drink
Over-eating often isn't a problem for people – it's the mix of calorie-filled drinks AND foods that causes weight and fat gain. So make a choice – if you want a drink, then be much more moderate with your food, or if you're happy to stick to water or diet soda, then allow yourself more calories from food.
As food is far more satiating and provides more nutrients, I'd say the second option is the wiser one. It won't take many nights out on the sauce and having to track it inside your calorie counting app to realise just how destructive alcohol and the calories that come with it can be.
Holidays and events should be about having fun, so don't stress too much.
Just remember that enjoying your food and sticking to your plan are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to align your expectations - if you're ok with the idea that you might gain a little weight as a consequence of enjoying yourself over a holiday period, then really, this article is a farce & you needn't listen to any of it.
However, if staying on track is of high priority to you, then it's likely that some or all of what is in this article might just make those situations a little more bearable.