Ultimate Guide to Nutrition Basics: Fitting in Fun Foods
The best thing about flexible dieting is that you can eat whatever you want.
You’re not tied to strict rules and regulations as you would be with a typical bodybuilding style diet, and there’s no need to exclude things like dairy, grains, fruit and beans.
You don’t even need to completely stop eating junk foods.
Unfortunately though, this has given flexible dieting (also known as IIFYM or If It Fits Your Macros) a bit of a bad rap, as people tend to hear.
“This is the diet where you can eat absolutely whatever the heck you like and get shredded.”
That is definitely not the case.
While there’s certainly room for all your favourite foods – whether that’s cakes and pastries, sweets and candy bars, burgers, hot dogs or chips – you can’t eat them in unlimited quantities.
They need to fit your macros.
Not just that, but the majority of your diet still needs to be “healthy.”
The 80:20 Rule
I love the 80:20 rule.
What it means is that 80% of your nutrition should come from whole-some, healthy foods, while 20% can come from junk foods, or those that some might deem “questionable” even if they’re not all-out nutrient-deficient, sugar-laden, trans fat-filled goodies.
Here’s how I’ll set this up…
Method #1 – The Daily “Treats”
If I have a client who’s pretty good with managing moderation, and is on a higher number of calories, I’ll get them to eat a little bit of fun food every day, while adhering to the 80:20 rule.
If, for instance their calorie intake was set at 2,500, that would mean that 500 of these could come from foods you’d usually consider unhealthy.
They don’t HAVE to eat all those 500 calories from Pop Tarts, Twixes and bagels though – they could, if they wished, get all their calories (or 90% plus) from more whole-foods, fruits and veggies, lean meats and so on.
Method #2 – The Weekly 20%
Plenty of bodybuilders are used to incorporating cheat meals or cheat days into their plan.
While this idea is all well and good in practice, it falls down in the real world, and can seriously derail your progress in shedding fat.
One day (and sometimes even one meal) can blunt or even reverse fat loss and weight loss for a whole week if you eat enough calories. And trust me, in my time in the trenches, I’ve seen plenty of athletes and competitors put down 5,000 calories or more in one meal, which completely cancels out their weekly deficit.
Then they wonder why they’re not making progress!
These guys and girls are so used to “eating clean” with one big blowout day that I approach things slightly differently.
What we’ll do is hit their macros with almost solely “healthy” or “clean” foods for 6 days of the week, then on the seventh day, I’ll still have them get their targeted amount of protein, but the rest of their calories can come from whatever they like.
That could mean they get 1,200 calories from Reese’s cups and Frosties, or Coke and cheesecake.
I’m not as much a fan of this option as I am of the first method, but if it means you’re still hitting your protein and calories and avoiding that all-out binge, it’s not a bad way to go about things.
Defining Your Budget
I look at junk food intake like I do a budget.
If you earned $25,000 per year, you wouldn’t go out and buy a $20,000 car.
Even though you could just about afford it, the sacrifices you’d have to make in the rest of your life would be so severe, the car wouldn’t be worth it.
What about if you earned $200,000 per year though?
Suddenly that $20,000 car isn’t so much of a struggle to afford.
The same goes for junk food calories.
When you’re bulking, your calorie intake may be up as high as 4,000-5,000, so getting 1,000 calories in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s still leaves you loads of calories to get your lean meats, fruits and vegetables and fibre in.
If you’re only on 1,500 calories though, it’s going to be pretty much impossible to still hit your protein and get adequate fibre from the 500 calories you have left once that B&J has been demolished.
Not only that, but you’ll be pretty damn hungry!
That’s why many dieters actually scrap the 80:20 rule, and go with 90%+ “clean foods” instead, as this is much more satiating and filling.
Striking the Balance
Calories and macros are always going to be the most important factor in any diet, no matter what your goals are.
But that doesn’t mean that’s all you need to worry about.
When starting flexible dieting it can be very tempting to try and fill your calories with as much junk food as you can, but this won’t provide the best results.
A lack of nutrient-dense foods will leave you feeling run down and lethargic.
Not getting enough fibre means you’ll be much hungrier, and will probably slow down fat loss too, as fibre is highly thermogenic, meaning it burns more calories through digesting than sugary and refined carbs.
Could you hit your macros getting your protein from Quest bars and protein shakes, your fat from pork scratchings and sunflower oil, and your carbs from Haribo and white bread?
But why would you want to.
If in doubt, think “JERF.”
Just Eat Real Food.
Make that your mantra for hitting 80-90% of your macros, and have some fun with the other 10-20%.