The Evolution Of IIFYM

Update: This is something I originally published on the formerly ‘official blog’ quite a while back, covering the Evolution Of IIFYM approaches, through Flexible Dieting and beyond. As to the “beyond” part… I’d like to think I’m one of, if not THE leading guy who has taken these approaches beyond the primitive “any amount that’s in deficit will result in fat loss, so just keep restricting further and further into deficit forever” applications.

I’ll include some graphics and links to my more recent articles expanding upon some of these points, and you’ll see just how far the concept has evolved since.

IIFYM.

If. It. Fits. Your. Macros.

You all know the back story already, I presume?

It all started on body building forums, where questions would be asked to the effect of for example “I’m bored of eating such n such, is it ok if I eat such n such instead while trying to lose fat and gain muscle?”. And the answer would be that it was fine, so long as total energy intake was still appropriate and macronutrient ratios were not negatively impacted. In other words, whatever you have a hankering for is fine, “if it fits your macros”.

They eventually changed it to “flexible dieting” because idiots would make strawman style “so you’re saying vitamins and minerals aren’t important? just macros?” arguments and so forth.

Obviously you do need to meet ALL of your requirements. However, it is neither necessary nor helpful to start obsessing over tracking and basing your food choices on micronutrient content. If you get a good mix of fruit, veg and other choices in accordance with the official Healthy Eating Guidelines you’re unlikely to be deficient in anything.

I would only very occasionally see anyone ridiculous enough to  suggest that we should be focused upon tracking micronutrients per se, but it was a common argument of a “false dichotomy” nature with the inference that if one pays attention to their energy and macronutrient intake, they must by definition also be going out of their way to neglect their micronutrient requirements. Clearly, a preposterous argument… although we’ll come back to this point briefly in the next installment.

So, certainly it is still important to ensure appropriate micronutrient provision in accordance with the Healthy Eating Guidelines, as discussed already. Strictly speaking though, for “results from training” including weight loss, total energy and macronutrient ratios are what makes the difference. Not “clean eating” or whatever arbitrary labels you want to slap on to individual food choices that mean they’re “bad” or “good” for weight loss, muscle gain or health in general.

For my own system I changed it one step further, from “flexible dieting” to “Flexible Fueling” because my people aren’t on a damn diet. We are fueling UP for best results and we know that means we have minimum requirements that we need to exceed… rather than trying to restrict to low levels of energy. I really wanted to emphasise the rejection of that “dieting” mentality, because what we do is the opposite.

Now you can do this macronutrient thing by percentage of total energy or by the gram. Most people seem to talk about percentages of total energy and that’s how I used to do it too, but as activity level and level of performance goes up, so too does total energy requirement. As this total energy requirement goes up, it becomes both unrealistic and unnecessary to expect a large percentage of this to come from protein.

As a side note at this point, to talk only about macronutrient percentages without also establishing an appropriate or optimal total energy intake is entirely pointless, as well.

For this reason… well, I decide on a case by case basis but increasingly I am basing my recommendations on a “by the gram” basis for what is an adequate protein provision, although my prediction of what might be optimal may be a higher target based on percentage of total energy. Again… experience and intuition starts to come into this and I wouldn’t say there is a hard rule on how best to interpret the numbers and work them into practical targets in every individual case.

Now here’s the trick though.

It does come down to calories, for the most part. But failing to see progress, fat loss or weight loss does not automatically translate to “not in calorific deficit” aka “still eating too much”.

People with a poor understanding still jump to the seemingly obvious “whatever you’re eating now, slash 500 calories as you’re not in deficit” line whenever someone reports a plateau or lack of progress. That isn’t “IIFYM” though, it is just “calorie counting” and energy restriction, and it is no better than any other form of crash dieting.

What IIFYM should mean and what Flexible Fueling certainly does mean is running the numbers to determine what this particular individual’s requirements are in total energy, protein, fats and carbs respectively to ensure results from training. What should be adequate, and what should be optimal. Cutting below what the maths and good sense tells us is “adequate” is quite literally “less than adequate” and therefore not conducive to ongoing results.

A little more on maintenance calories real quick.

cico maintenance
Is your lack of progress because your intake is too high to allow fat loss, or too low to facilitate improved performance and condition? Click the graphic for the full article that goes with it.

A lot of people are under the impression that if for example you are currently maintaining weight and not really seeing any changes in body composition on 2500 calories per day, increasing intake beyond 2500 would result in fat gain due to being “in excess of maintenance calories”.

However, this may not be correct.

If 2500 calories per day is a sub-optimal energy provision relative to your needs, increasing towards the optimal amount would mean more energy being made available and being utilised to perform, recover and adapt to training. This should not result in weight gain (unless that was your aim) and should in fact result in more energy being drawn from fat stores to fuel non exercise activity. It is for this reason that it is sometimes possible to actually lose weight after increasing energy intake.

Again, Calories In / Calories out is the rule… but it is about the most appropriate, most optimal energy intake relative to your needs, and not about just slashing calories ever lower to starve weight off.

Beyond Calories In / Calories Out.

Don’t get me wrong. CI/CO is a valid rule and no one with a shred of sense should really dispute this. However, the way this rule is often applied in real life leaves a lot to be desired. I would suggest more people move away from the “calorific deficit” model in favour of pushing upper, maximum usable calorie targets for optimal performance, recovery and results from training.

To facilitate improvements in performance at training requires MORE fuel, not less. To recover from more intense, more productive and more effective training sessions requires MORE fuel, not less. To build lean mass and change your body composition requires MORE fuel and in particular, adequate provision of protein. Not less. More.

Now, this is something to be built up to strategically as often referred to as “Reverse Dieting” elsewhere. What people fear when you start talking about increasing towards maximum usable intake is something to the tune of “but don’t I need to be in deficit to lose fat?”, and the answer is… technically yes, but let’s think about it a little differently.

Assuming you have any fat whatsover to lose. It becomes complicated to explain because every situation is different and there will be a time to dial in a more significant but still strategic deficit after having established and maintained maximum usable intake for a suitable duration of time. In this case we’d still be looking at a reasonably high energy intake, suitable for performance and recovery, but it will be somewhat less than we’ve gotten used to, encouraging the body to draw even more from fat stores to make up the difference. Certainly our targets at this stage would still be higher than many other people would be restricting to in similar circumstances with the other approach.

But that all comes later. Assuming we’re still in the “Reverse Dieting” stage though, we are building up towards the maximum, most optimal level of energy we can put to good use in fueling our lifestyle, performing at training, recovering, and adapting with creation and maintenance of lean mass at the expense of body fat. Clearly, however high this amount is, by definition it is still less than the amount it would take to fail to see improvement in condition and reduction in body fat at that level of activity.

Only in surplus, or excessive total energy intake would we fail to lose body fat. Maximum usable intake is by definition not “excessive”, as excessive would mean “more than we have a use for”. So while technically we are in deficit of what would be required to fail to see improvements in body composition, our focus is not on “being in deficit” which usually translates loosely to “under fueled and trying to force the body to burn fat to compensate”.

Interrupted Energy Restriction Strategies.

There are always various ways you could approach working towards and establishing the levels of fueling that best suit your needs and facilitate the best and most sustainable improvements in athletic performance and condition.

interrupted energy restriction strategy

This graphic represents the latest variation upon the Flexible Fueling approach, and you can read more about it on my blogspot, filed under Interrupted Energy Restriction Strategy.

Exceed your minimum requirements, do not restrict below them.

For benefit of the new people or any who might have missed it the 8mililon times I talked about this already.

My philosophy is that the best approach is to be working to a set of targets that represent your MINIMUM energy and macronutrient requirements, with the intention of EXCEEDING those minimum targets.

Now what most people do is an arbitrary low calorie target which is actually far short of their minimum requirement, but they treat it as a maximum limit. What these people are doing, unfortunately, is ensuring a LACK of results by depriving their bodies of the energy and other resources that they REQUIRE not merely to fuel exercise and daily activity, but chiefly to RECOVER and ADAPT to training.

The purpose of training should not be merely to “burn calories”. The purpose is to adapt favourably to training with the creation of a stronger, fitter, more durable version of “you”. Simply put: you can’t build something out of nothing. How can you expect to recover & adapt to training with improved performance and improved condition without providing enough of the necessary resources via delicious food?

You just can’t.

So we should work on the principle of determining and then exceeding our minimum requirements. For most people it is entirely sufficient to simply be “in the ballpark” somewhere between what is “adequate” (aka minimum requirement) and what is “optimal” (aka maximum usable energy intake), and it is not necessary to fine tune a plan down to the last gram, last calorie, or last percentage point.

Working to a plan to meet and exceed your minimum requirements ensures success. It is not about going hungry, having willpower and resisting the temptation of enjoyable and indulgent treats once in a while. It is simply about providing the fuel, the energy and nutritional resources that your body requires, and training it to put as much of those resources as possible into the muscles where you want them to go, while drawing a little more on any fat stores to fuel less intense, non-exercise activity.

SURELY this makes 1000% more sense than assuming that a strong, healthy and athletic body comes via the imagined moral virtue or strength of character it would take to only “eat clean” at all times? Surely it makes 10000% more sense than thinking you can starve your body into strong, healthy and athletic shape via low calorie dieting?

For the vast majority of us, we need to be in the right ball park between adequate and optimal intake as often as possible. A little under or a little over on the odd occasion will not make a lick of difference, but habitually, on average, by default, we should have eating habits that are conducive to a “not inappropriate” total daily intake.

But I need to lose weight, first.

If your goal involves losing a small or even a more significant amount of weight, the first thing you need is an approach that is sustainable. It needs to actually be suitable to supporting your goal condition, and it needs to be something you can do habitually without stress or difficulty. Attempting any restrictive form of diet, whether restriction to a low calorie target or restriction of food choices is unworkable as you simply can’t expect to stick to it for more than… who knows? A few days, or a few weeks at a time?

By the way, while we’re talking about it: Failing to adhere to a restrictive diet is not an indication of poor character, weak mindedness, lack of discipline and so on. It is a physiological impossibility. Your body will DEMAND the energy that it has been deprived of, before too long. When that happens, you end up over eating and / or quitting the diet. But that is an inevitable outcome due to an unworkable approach. It is not a personal failing that other people would have been able to tough out.

No one succeeds on those approaches, ever. No one ever has, and no one ever will.

Even if you could stick to it, it would not be conducive to your goal. Not a lot of people seem to understand this, but while “calories in / calories out” is still the basis of any good strategy for long term success, when your “calories in” are too low and especially when your “calories out” is also too high, your body has no choice but to prioritise the conservation of energy and the preservation of fat stores. Think about that for a minute and consider how horrendously misguided all of these “1200 calories and 3 hours of cardio” type weight loss plans really are.

Here’s how I would probably build your plan if you came to me for help.

This varies depending on the circumstances but generally speaking, something like this.

For a person who’s about your height, your age, your sex and is getting started with a little activity, about how much total energy would they require to maintain a relatively lean, normal weight range?
For overweight people, this might just be “closer to” a normal weight range.
Also note that for athletic people, what is “normal” goes out the window anyway as we’re packing on more muscle and building stronger bones, so we’re more concerned with “strong and healthy condition” than with “normal weight” per se. But still, we need to start somewhere, and closer to this “historically normal” weight range is where we base our initial calculations.

That’s probably our MINIMUM requirement, to get started with.
Based on your height, age, a suitable goal weight range and what’s required to fuel a little activity.

“A little activity” is not what we’re doing though, so as we progress with training, we’ll need to increase further from this initial minimum requirement to a new minimum that is more representative of what you require not just to fuel some activity, but to perform, recover and adapt optimally to training.

So we start out conservatively but still significantly higher than the sorts of numbers people usually associate with “weight loss”, “dieting” or “healthy eating”, and then we strategically increase further towards what should be optimal intake for total energy and macronutrients.

Take all of the emotion out of it and just consider on purely logical grounds. Isn’t this exactly how you’d expect to produce results from training? Rather than by going hungry and abstaining from all of your favourite foods?

Jump to the Online Coaching page for video testimonials about how well this approach works out for my people.

This holiday season, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

That’s the advice I have given my clients about the coming few weeks.

This is about balance. There are going to social engagements and strict adherence to our nutritional targets is probably not on the cards. So what though? We can loosen the reigns and enjoy ourselves like everyone else without everything falling apart.

Just be mindful about how often and how much of those indulgences you are … well… indulging in. There’s a difference between loosening the reigns, and throwing yourself out of the saddle and off the side of a cliff. But unless you really set out to sabotage yourself, you probably won’t.

If you only have one or two engagements, for example work Christmas party and family Christmas dinner… I would barely even give it a second thought. Perhaps leave a little extra room in the plan with a lighter lunch than usual. Easy.

If you have several engagements to attend, let’s say department Christmas party, social club Christmas party, company Christmas party, you’re invited to a client’s Christmas part as well… well, use your intuition. Remember that going without earlier in the day is likely to lead to over eating later on. Find the balance.

Really though, even if you do over indulge a little over the next few weeks, let’s put it into context of being people who train consistently and have appropriate eating habits about 50 weeks of the year… and what do we really have to be worried about? Besides which, in January we are going to dial it in and tighten it up. Not to “make up for” anything, not out of guilt or any of that nonsense. We do it because we CAN and because we are ENTHUSIASTIC.

Pick your moments. A crucial part of a strategy for long term success is knowing when is the appropriate time to step it up, and when is the appropriate time to cut yourself some slack. A healthy approach and a healthy attitude is crucial.

If you’re as enthusiastic as we all are about stepping it up in January and getting the new year off to the right start, pre-register via the Online Coaching page right here.

 

Skeptical? You should be.

Be skeptical of any product that claims to be good for solving all manner of problems, rather than a specific one. You know, like you keep seeing on facebook and so on… these miracle pills they’ve made out of some magical fruit only found in some remote and exotic location, with a list of literally every illness and ailment known to mankind which it supposedly cures? It’s a pretty safe bet that a product is an outrageous scam, if it claims to be some kind of “cure all”.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about my Flexible Dieting & Online Coaching Program and I’ll tell you what it has proved useful for, so far.

  • Weight Loss.
  • Body Sculpting.
  • Body Building (male).
  • Improved Performance In Sports.
  • Eating Disorder Prevention & Recovery.

It’s quite a list, so I wouldn’t blame you for being skeptical.

For those who don’t know about it already, the program is set up online and it consists of a number of different training routines, each of which are customisable to suit each client with a variety of options for each exercise. I happen to work out of perhaps the greatest gym in the world, with virtually unlimited options… but that’s a luxury, not a requirement. The program is set up so that we have options in the event that a certain piece of equipment is unavailable, as well as to suit each client’s level of confidence and ability.

So we have a great and effective training program, and when we match the training program with appropriate fueling we have a system that really can’t fail to produce results. Just like with the training program though, the nutrition side of things needs to be tailored to each client. People have different fueling requirements, different activity levels outside of training, certain foods might be unavailable or just unappealing to them. You can’t just deal out the same “eat it, it’s good for you” meal plan to everyone and expect it to be suitable. A lot of people DO do that, but they shouldn’t.

Let’s just talk about the first four points for now. How can one program deliver results for such a variety of goals?

Well the program is unique, and yet not so unique. The way I’ve grouped the different movements is somewhat unique, then you have the choices of rep ranges and rest durations between sets for the different movements and exercises. The fact that the program is so customisable is certainly quite unique. At the same time though, it is just one example of how a competent and knowledgeable trainer might design a program to produce results.

In designing an effective program, there are certain bases you’ve got to cover. Certain movements that you really do need to include, or you’re left with a much less effective, and unbalanced program. Once those bases are covered and all the most important elements of the program are in place, I can add a choice selection of secondary exercises that complement them. That wasn’t enough for me though. What if it is a more advanced client who has already been training for some time? What if it is a brand new client who’s not as confident or physically just not ready for some of the big moves? I wanted to be prepared for all possibilities as best I could.

So, the program works the way a program should, and it delivers the results that it should. When we talk about weight loss, we want to develop and maintain more lean mass (muscle and bone density) at the expense of body fat stores. When we talk about body sculpting with a female client, we want to develop and maintain lean mass at the expense of body fat stores. When we talk about body building with a male client, we want to develop and maintain lean mass at the expense of body fat stores. That’s what any effective program should be designed with a focus on.

Having developed more muscle mass and strong bones while shedding excess adipose (fat) tissue, doesn’t it also stand to reason that performance in other sports would improve? Especially if this is the first time you’ve also been properly fueled for performance and results, as I find is often the case. Note that this is the distinct opposite to being “on a diet”.

Now, we’ve talked about what makes a program effective in terms of covering the bases with the most important stuff that actually promotes the physiological changes that we’re looking for. As I said earlier, my program is just one of virtually unlimited ways that you might choose to put such a program together. However, you’d be surprised by how rare this actually is amongst exercise programs that you’ll see advertised or freely available online. The vast majority seem only to be concerned with “burning calories”, as if simply expending energy in whatever form of otherwise pointless activity was enough to change your body condition. Others consist only of more elegant or dignified seeming exercises, which will prove entirely inconsequential due to the omission of the important stuff as discussed above.

The other thing.

I have had a few clients come to me already in recovery from a diagnosed eating disorder, so obviously it is critical importance that they do not get involved with a trainer or coach who is just going to send them back where they came from. Others have come to me perhaps realising that the restrictive approaches they’ve had recommended to them are leading them down a bad path to a place they do not want to end up, and they need a change in direction.

When people have an ineffectual training program, matched with restrictive and inappropriate dieting instructions, you can easily imagine what a dangerous combination this is. People are serious about results and are prepared to do what it takes to achieve them, even if they have to suffer to do so. Unfortunately, if you look at a lot of fitness related marketing and “motivational” type stuff on the internet, there’s a clear message that if you are not seeing results it is because you don’t want it bad enough and you’re not prepared to suffer enough.

That is a terrible message.

99 times out of 100, the real problem is with the lack of a structured and effective training problem, and even more to do with not having appropriate nutrition advice. Results from training do not come from restriction of food choices or from restriction of intake in general. It is preposterous to believe that if you “just eat healthy foods” you’ll automatically arrive at suitable total intake for great (or any) results from training, and that if you ever eat “unhealthy” foods you’ll automatically arrive at an excessive intake resulting in fat gain.

Results come from appropriate total intake, and this is best made possible by allowing people to include any foods that they enjoy in amounts conducive to meeting their requirements. By setting appropriate targets and removing any restrictions on food choices, we can ensure great results from an effective training system, while un-learning any disordered ideas about food that we’ve picked up in the past.

Why diet and exercise doesn’t work.

If you want results from training, you need to be working to a system that is designed with results in mind.

“Results” can mean a variety of things, but let’s clarify and say “the results that you actually signed up for”. I know there’s a lot of people out there in the business of selling gadgets or systems of producing data that shows some change in numbers representing “results from training”… but I always wonder “who joins a gym or hires a trainer with that result in mind, though?”

I think people are either looking for a specific result in terms of improving sporting performance, or more commonly they’re looking to change their body condition. Maybe a weight loss (or gain) goal, or a body condition goal in terms of building a more lean and athletic (I refuse to say “toned”) figure or physique. I think it is fair to say that’s what most people are looking for, and a lot of this other stuff with technology and gadgetry and so on is a bit of a distraction employed by people who lack the understanding required to deliver the result that clients and gym members are actually looking for. I’ve noticed a few people in the business buying into this idea that a relatively lean, athletic body condition at “historically normal” weight is an unlikely and unreasonable goal… and so it’s handy for them to be able to show or encourage the pursuit of some other goal instead.

I don’t know man. The way I look at things is a little bit different. You can’t really argue that a “historically normal” weight is anything unusual or unlikely. And if you’re participating in physical exercise, it’s not unreasonable to expect to develop an athletic physique in due course. Assuming of course that you’re following a strategy that is suitable to producing that outcome, either by fluke or preferably by design.

So, I’m going to go ahead and assume we’re talking about a goal of going from over weight and out of shape, to a more normal weight and in quite reasonable shape. From there, we’re likely to get ambitious and set a new goal of going from quite reasonable shape to quite tremendous shape.

Let’s start at the beginning though. Why do we get fat?

Well! That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? If we really get down to it, there’s socio-economic reasons, education is a factor, certainly the influence of the media, prevalence of urban myths, disinformation spread by marketers of weight loss products, and psychological reasons behind over eating are a big part of the equation as well. But for the sake of this article let’s just focus on the physiological, for now.

Actually scratch all of that. Let’s start with someone who’s NOT going to get fat, shall we?

Let’s imagine a “normal” adult, currently at about normal weight relevant to their height, about a normal sort of lifestyle and normal level of activity, and eating about a normal amount. It seems like that’s not so normal any more, doesn’t it? But can we agree that there’s no reason to expect this person to gain weight? They’re eating amount that is appropriate for their lifestyle and body type.

Pretty simple, and I know there are some people out there making lots of money from books talking about how certain food choices get stored as fat and others don’t… but forget all of that. You don’t get fat unless you regularly consume an amount that is in excess of what is suitable for your lifestyle at a normal weight range.

Now, imagine the same adult, consuming the same “normal” amount, but with a very inactive lifestyle. That is, a normal amount of intake, with a less than normal amount of activity. Or for that matter, still with a normal level of activity but eating more than a normal, appropriate amount? They’d be likely to get a little fat, wouldn’t you say? Now then… how about both issues combined? A very inactive lifestyle combined with excessive intake?

People are always looking for a more complicated explanation, but this is what it boils down to. Lack of activity, and excessive intake. What to do about it though? The answer isn’t quite as clear cut as you might think.

Diet

A diet is a poor choice of solution. Really, a diet is something you go on to make up for a lack of activity. Being inactive, you don’t require a lot of fuel… therefore, you have to eat less in order not to exceed those requirements.

There are a couple of problems with this, not the least of which is your psychological need to enjoy delicious foods of your choice. As an inactive person, your requirements are so low that there’s just not a lot of room in the plan for any indulgent choices without having to go hungry later in the day. You just can’t stick to it! Physiologically too, your body will adapt to this level of fueling and your progress will stall, requiring an even greater restriction of intake and food choices in order to see further weight loss.

Also, any progress through dieting alone is strictly “weight loss”, and not “getting into shape”. That is to say, you’ll simply be in the same sort of shape at a lower weight. Further more, there’s really no reason to assume that the majority of any weight lost will be from body fat stores. Without strategic training, it is more likely that weight loss will come through reduced bone density and lean muscle mass, which isn’t what we want, at all.

Exercise

Above I used the term “strategic training”. This is different to simply “exercising” the way most people do it.

Just as a diet is something to make up for being under active, “exercise” is something to make up for over eating. Turn on the TV and every third commercial is for some device that “burns more calories” than the previous one! Exercise programs are marketed on how many calories they burn, too. Even most personal trainers are just putting workouts together designed to entertain and exhaust people, rather than strategic training programs to produce that result of being in lean, athletic shape.

At best, it is simply “expending energy, to make up for having consumed too much”… and really if your only purpose in exercising is to expend energy, you might as well have just stayed inactive and eaten less. So here we’re talking about putting a lot of effort into replicating the effect of doing something else that doesn’t work, either.

Diet And Exercise

Unfortunately, this is what most people do. A diet as if to make up for a lack of activity, while exercising as if to make up for over eating… or in many cases as if to make up for having eaten anything at all. This is a destructive approach that at best leads nowhere, and at worst leads to disaster.

Strategic Training With A System Designed To Produce Results

Tomorrow I’ll write a new entry about how my system works, how it has evolved and how I can custom tailor it to suit each individual client. You’ll see that this is quite distinctly different to simple “diet and exercise”.

 

Vegetarian Health And Fitness

I’m long over due for an entry just for the vegetarians. For those who might have missed it, I’m vegetarian myself and I have had a host of vegetarian and vegan clients locally and around the world. For myself, I started out as just a “fussy eater who wouldn’t eat meat” but eventually got my act together and added and incorporated enough new food choices to be able to put a reasonably balanced diet together suitable to maintain good health and pursue my training related goals with a reasonable amount of success.

Being vegetarian or vegan is no disadvantage in the pursuit of weight loss or fitness goals.

What I talk about more often on my blog and facebook is “Flexible Dieting”, which covers what I said above. Rather than having a rigid “eat it and learn to like it, it’s good for you” type of diet that’s been put together by someone else, Flexible Dieting is all about the understanding that you can determine your nutritional requirements and then plan to meet them with your own choice of foods.

Now… this idea is a source of consternation amoungst some people in the health and fitness world. The argument often comes up along the lines of “so what if you’ve met your targets and seen tremendous results from training? You should be eating better and healthier choices of foods!” as if by definition this means we would belligerently abuse the concept by choosing the most dubious options of processed or fast foods. Well, whether or not people should be doing it that way is perhaps another conversation for another day… but the fact remains that people out there have indeed found a way to meet their requirements and produce truly amazing results while regularly consuming what you or I might consider unwise or unhealthy food choices.

If it can be done like that, it can certainly be done on a vegetarian or even a vegan diet.

Flexible dieting recognises that the nutritional content of foods are more important than the source of the food or some arbitrary classification that we ascribe to it. For example, if your total calorific intake is not in excess of an amount that your body can utilise for energy and to grow stronger in response to training, it will indeed all be put to good use regardless of it is broccoli or ice cream. If you are consuming an adequate amount of protein, it will all be put to use to maintain your lean body mass regardless of it being plant, dairy, soy, egg or animal protein. If you are getting sufficient vitamin and mineral intake it will all be put to good use regardless of coming from fresh fruits and vegetables, or processed cereals.

Make no mistake though, this isn’t a license to just eat as much as we want of whatever unhealthy crap we want, and still expect results. We need to meet our requirements and some choices of foods will prove much wiser than others in the pursuit of this goal. Keep in mind too that just because someone does eat a “normal” diet including meat and other animal products is no guarantee that they would be meeting (and not exceeding) their requirements either. If we are wise and if we are serious about results, we’ll have used a scientific method to determine those requirements, and then created a plan to meet them with choices of foods that we’ll enjoy eating. Until you’re at really elite, competition preparation level, your plan doesn’t even need to be all that tight or strict. You can get…. well, you can get at least as far as I’ve gone with a very flexible approach, so long as you get it about right most of the time.

What are the advantages of a vegetarian diet?

I believe in learning your requirements, planning to meet them with your choice of foods, and training strategically to put all of those resources to good use in building your dream body. I don’t believe in lecturing other people on what those choices should be, and in fact I spend a lot of time helping people realise they’ll be a lot happier and see better results when they eat according to their own ideals rather than trying to force themselves to meet someone else’s. If you want to avoid preservatives and additives, be vegetarian, vegan, or whatever else… it’s your choice. My job is to help you achieve your training goals regardless of that choice, not to judge your choices or to try convince you to just copy my diet.

So, advantages of a vegetarian diet? Appropriate fiber intake is crucial for good health and results from training, and you’ll get plenty of this from vegetables and legumes in particular. Micronutrients are also very important, and you’re almost certain to meet your vitamin and mineral requirements effortlessly if you consume a variety of vegetables, as well as fruits. I would suggest avocado and coconut as excellent choices to boost your total calorific intake and to meet your requirements of healthy dietary fats.

What about protein, though?

Latest research suggests that even in athletes, human protein requirements are significantly lower than previously thought. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can easily meet these requirements, and there are numerous other plant based protein sources available. Tofu, tempeh, seitan, quorn… the list goes on.

Ensure success with the right plan to meet your goals with your choice of foods.

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Flexible Dieting For Weight Loss and Recovery

Simply put, Flexible Dieting means meeting your nutritional requirements with a plan based around all of your favourite foods.

The only reason to “go on a diet” should be to ensure and develop a habit of consuming an appropriate intake to suit your lifestyle, and to train your appetite to match those requirements.

Once your requirements, your appetite and your intuition (re: choices of foods) are in tune, you’ll feel like you are just eating whatever you fancy whenever you’re hungry, and you’ll be seeing better results from training than ever before. Sadly as we all know, this is precisely the opposite strategy that most people have in mind when they think “diet” and adopt restrictive, starvation plans requiring the elimination of any foods that they enjoy eating. The results of these conventional diets are the opposite as well.

For Weight Loss:

Contrary to popular belief, you do not lose more weight by eating as little as possible, and you don’t “earn” weight loss by forcing yourself to eat things you don’t like and depriving yourself of any indulgence. Quite often, my weight loss clients actually eat MORE following my guidelines than they have done previously, and there is no guilt involved when they include some indulgent foods within their plan.

Here’s what we need to consider when building your Flexible Dieting plan for weight loss:

  • Expected maximum calorie target to fuel your lifestyle and maintain your goal body type, long term.
  • An interim maximum calorie target, at a suitable deficit to promote weight (fat) loss, shorter – medium term.
  • Minimum calorie target required to fuel your lifestyle and see results from training. Regularly falling below this target would be detrimental.
  • Suitable fibre intake, and a suitable balance of macronutrients. That’s protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables for an adequate supply of micronutrients. That’s your vitamins and minerals.

Within that target calorie range, we know that absolutely everything we put into the body WILL be utilised as fuel, for recovery and to adapt to training. Obviously some choices of foods will be easier to fit into a plan to meet these targets than others, but there is no need to avoid anything entirely or to start feeling bad whenever you eat something that’s “bad”. If you enjoy it and can fit it into your plan and still hit your targets, it’s all good and will all be put to use. Even ice cream.

For the fussy eaters:

If you’re good at eating your vegetables, get a good variety and this should go a long way towards meeting your fibre and micronutrient requirements. If your choices are more limited; include the ones that you do like regularly, and if there a few that you “aren’t crazy about, but can stand now and then” you should try to include a little of those as often as you can, too.

This is all about making the best choices for the most suitable plan that you can stick to. It is NOT about trying to force feed yourself things that you can’t stand. If your success with this plan inspires you to experiment with and include some new choices of vegetables all the better, but if not, hey it is still an improvement. You don’t have to be perfect.

Fruits are another excellent source of micronutrients (fibre too), as well as being absolutely delicious and enjoyable. I encourage you to indulge on a variety of fruits every day, within the context of a plan that meets but does not exceed your targets. Don’t listen to any idiot who tells you fruit is not a great choice. Tell them to shut their damned dirty lying mouth.

For Recovery:

If you’ve been a victim of crash or yo-yo dieting with conventional, restrictive approaches you already know how damaging they can be to both your body and your mind. The first thing, and perhaps the hardest thing that people need to understand about recovery is that it does not mean “accepting defeat” and giving up on the idea of your goal body type. It means the opposite.

Here’s my best advice on how to use Flexible Dieting to create the mindset for recovery:

  • Focus on exceeding your minimum requirements to ensure you are fuelled up for great results, rather than on restricting intake.
  • Train productively to build your goal body, rather than just exercising “to burn calories”.
  • Understand that so long as you are within your target range for total intake, every calorie you take in will be put to good use in making you stronger, healthier and happier – regardless of the source.
  • Stop thinking that results from training (and for that matter, your worth as a human being) is dependant on having the willpower to abstain from anything enjoyable at meal time. You’re here to enjoy life and indulge your passions. You have to do the work too, but that is something to take pride and satisfaction from.
  • Believe in your own potential for greatness, and be motivated by that belief.

Isn’t this exactly what you need? If so, jump to my new Flexible Dieting sign up page for a whole lot of important free information.

DaveHPT Custom Flexible Dieting Guidelines: Testimonial

Here’s a nice video testimonial from a great supporter and customer of mine, who was smart enough to follow the Custom Flexible Dieting Guidelines I produced for her a while back.

As you can hear for yourself, the benefits of Flexible Dieting, and in particular MY approach to Flexible Dieting are many and varied. The benefits of being aware of and focussed upon exceeding your minimum requirements, rather than on restricting to some arbitrary “very low calorie” target should almost go without saying. Let’s run through some of them in random order all the same:

  • You’re actually fuelling your body properly, enabling good health and great results from training.
  • You quickly learn to build your own plan, consisting of more of the foods you like to eat, including some purely for enjoyment.
  • As you learn the macronutrional value of different foods and train your appetite to be more in tune with your requirements, you will be far less likely to over or under fuel when eating intuitively.
  • Understanding just how much fuel their bodies will utilise to fuel, recover from and adapt to training, and with no restrictions on what food choices are included in meeting those requirements, my clients soon feel like they are just “eating whatever they want”, and still seeing better results than ever before.

The Actual Truth About How Carbs Make You Fat

This isn’t what you’re probably expecting.

I’ve noticed over the last six months or so that there is a real swing happening towards more flexible and moderate approaches to nutrition, which I would describe as “common sense” approaches which also happen to have scientific backing if you’re following the right people. I’m optimistic that it is a swing away from restrictive diets and the scientific half truths and revisionist history that has been popular the past few years… but it could just be that I’ve insulated myself from being exposed to nonsense by only networking with a better class of more intelligent, eloquent and ethical industry people. We shall see.

Regardless of this, I guess there are always going to be people who stick to their guns even though those ideas are going out of vogue and despite (much more importantly) the overwhelming real world evidence to the contrary. As such I’ve been shown a couple of articles this week still pushing the “carbs are bad” rhetoric which has inspired me to put this entry together. I’m not going to link to the articles because frankly those sites are stupid and full of nonsense and they don’t deserve to get any extra traffic especially from my blog which is awesome and full of brilliance, but there was one about “carb overload” and another one explaining how “over eating processed carbs is worse than over eating healthier foods”; both basically trying to tell you “carbs are bad and you should buy this here low carb diet book from our sponsor”.

“Calories are not equal” is the other thing that you’ll hear a lot from these people, and in some regards this is actually correct. Hear me out, flexible dieters! Obviously our bodies utilise carbohydrates, fats and proteins for different purposes… I don’t think anyone disputes this. However depending on who the source is, the argument made is either that ALL carbohydrates are doing you harm, or the slightly more moderate position that there are “good carbs” and “bad carbs” and our body has a use for one type but not the other and therefore deals with them differently.

That’s not correct but where there is some truth in the idea that “calories are not equal” is the difference not between supposed “good” and “bad” calories but between regular calories and EXCESS calories. This should be obvious to anyone with reasonable level of intelligence and willingness to apply that intelligence towards reaching a logical conclusion. In particular reference to the article I mentioned about about deliberately overeating, of course your body is going to deal with those calories differently. You’re deliberately consuming more than double your required daily intake, and mostly from low nutrient, low fibre, quickly digested foods. You are training your body to become very, very efficient at storing fat… and you’re doing it deliberately.

Now if you’re to believe the take home message of these articles… the lessons we learn from deliberately following the best possible course of action to achieve maximum fat gain are applicable to people trying to lose weight as well. And since EXCESS carbs are very efficiently turned into fat, carbs need to be avoided under every circumstance.

Ab. Solute. Bollocks.

Have you ever known someone who lost weight simply by cutting out soft drinks / sodas and drinking water instead? Maybe you’ve done so yourself. Since the calories in soft drinks are mostly derived from simple sugars, wouldn’t this imply that one (if not all) of the “carbs are the culprit” theories are correct?

The answer is yes. But not in the way that you’re lead to believe.

Let’s assume a hypothetical male client of about my height and weight, working in an office job and we’ll say downing a 600ml bottle of a certain cola beverage at lunch time most days. Now in case you didn’t know, in real life I am actually overweight because I’m a muscular beast and phenomenally strong. But in this example let’s assume the extra weight is mostly body fat, and I’m getting a little exercise a couple of times per week rather than every day at a reasonably advanced level as per real life. This is quite a believable, realistic set of circumstances wouldn’t you agree?

Now as I crunch the numbers on this hypothetical client I see that with only a lightly active lifestyle, there is only a relatively small difference between “calories expected to maintain current weight” and “calories expected to maintain healthy goal weight”. In other words; if you are not terribly active those excess calories will add up very quickly and result in significant weight gain from increased body fat. Now by simply cutting out that daily 600ml bottle, we reduce total intake by 258 calories per day, 1806 per week. You can see that this is a sufficient deficit to produce at least a few kilograms of weight loss, especially if we make the (rather bold, I admit) assumption that the client’s eating habits are otherwise not too far removed from what we would expect to maintain a healthy weight.

Let’s say though that instead of cutting out the bottle of soft drink, you decide to drop two baked potatoes out of your lunch or dinner. Roughly the same amount of calories, although there’s some protein and fibre in there this time. All things considered, we’d still expect about the same amount of weight loss as we’re ending up at about the same amount of calories. The big difference though is that you’d be bloody hungry missing out on those potatoes, and more likely to end up giving in and eating something else instead – ending up back in excess calories again. Can the same be said when cutting out the same amount of calories from that bottle of drink?

The problem then is not that carbs (or sugars) are bad and need to be avoided. The problem is with food and beverage products that deliver a large amount of carbohydrates in a serving size that is disproportionate to the amount of energy and the amount of satiety they provide. In other words, products that are more likely to put you into excess calories, while still leaving you hungry and therefore likely to go even further into excess.

With all of that being said though, the important thing to remember is that even if you do indulge, you will not gain fat or ruin your progress if you are not going into excess calories regularly. When you train strategically, your calorie requirements go up, and if you have a good plan you can find a little space for some indulgence when you really feel like it.

Meat Eating Hippies, And The Paleo Diet

A guest post from Cat Smiley.

Q: How do you know when someone is on the Paleo Diet?

A: They’ll tell you!

I’ve kind of seen enough Paleo status updates to last me a while. And yes, sure – it’s got the benefits – why else would it have become one of the most buzzed about celebrity diets right now?

Beauties such as Megan Fox and Jessica Biel crediting this way of life for their red carpet bods can’t be wrong. I mean, even Miley Cyrus (who isn’t exactly known for taking advice or being logical) is raving about her experience “Everyone should try no gluten for a week! The change in your skin, physical and mental health is amazing. You won’t go back!” Cyrus said. “It’s not about weight — it’s about health. Gluten is crap anyway!” LOL Awesome review, coming from an actress who clearly doesn’t value health all that much as told in a Rolling Stones Interview: “I think weed is the best drug on earth,” Cyrus said. “Hollywood is a coke town, but weed is so much better. And Molly too. Those are happy drugs — social drugs.” Now because this blog post is for my buddy Dave, I can’t resist mentioning that this young lady is Justin Beiber’s mentor; perhaps the Paleo Diet makes him feel the need for multiple shirtless selfies? Oh jeez.

So what is it?

You eat anything that can be fished, hunted or gathered. The principal is that you eat high protein and low carbohydrates in whatever quantity you want, and do whatever exercise you want to do…. and if you want to do no exercise, that’s okay too, apparently. Anything that evolved through the development of agriculture is off limits, which includes dairy, salt, processed sugar and oils, legumes. Hippy….much? Maybe a little.

What do you eat?

The main types of foods included in Paleo diet are fruit, vegetables, roots, nuts, fish and meat. Processed foods like salts, sugars, dairy products and grains are prohibited. Adapting to the Paleo diet can help promote weight loss as refined sugar and junk foods are avoided, with instead body fat used as a source of energy.

Weight Loss Benefits

Most people going Paleo eat much more fruit and veges than they’d normally eat. This means that they’re taking in more fibre, a definite benefit in improving gastrointestinal motility – key players in optimal functioning of the digestive system. Improved digestive system means improved metabolism. If you are using Paleo diet for weight loss then meat and fish should also be taken in minimal quantities and focus should be more on fruits, vegetables, root vegetables and nuts.

The good stuff

The Paleo Diet is scientifically proven to help stave off degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility. “The Paleo diet is a very healthy diet”, says Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD, Colorado State University professor and the author of “The Paleo Diet”. Benefits of eating this way include improved blood pressure and glucose tolerance, increased insulin sensitivity, decreased insulin secretion and improved lipid profile in healthy non-obese sedentary people.

I did a shout out on my facebook page and one poster, Michael Kovacs said: “I’ve been Paleo for several years now, lost 110lbs. Reversed all my ailments including asthma, sleep apnea, High Blood Pressure, Improved my cholesterol score, Reversed T2 diabetes. Best of all I don’t get sick anymore. I attribute my successes to living a HFLC, Paleo lifestyle which includes a diet with lots of healthy fats, low carb vegetables, and pasture raised/grass fed meats and fish.” Nice work Michael!

The not-so-good stuff

Well for one, I promote a vegetarian lifestyle and the Paleo is all about meat, meat and more meat. And then when you’re done? Have some more meat. The crazed out protein intake can NOT be good for the kidneys. So if you do this diet, stay smart about your portion sizes. Keep your total protein intake the same as you normally would, and don’t go Atkins in your approach.

Secondly. The ‘carbophobic’ mentality. My personal training clients who have sworn by the Paleo cult – because it really is – has led many great people to have really terrible sleeping patterns and even personality disorders. It starts with bad breath and leads to carbohydrate deficit of serotonin being able to be produced naturally in your body, which in turn converts to melatonin in your sleep. Lack of sleep opens a whole other can of worms.

With all its benefits there are also some of its harmful effects on health as some diets such as whole grains, legumes and dairy products also prohibited which are essential for our health. Absence of calcium increases the risk of osteoporosis and also decreases body calcium level, which can put women over 55 years old especially at increased risk of fractures and bone density issues.

Final Word

If going Paleo, do it for a short period of time. Once you hit goal weight, go back to your regular healthy diet. Oh, and while you’re on it, kick ass workouts should happen on a daily basis. Track your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake in an app on your smart phone so that you are on track with the recommended macronutrient ratio in line with your goals.

Cat Smiley is a leading body transformation expert and has been named Canada’s top trainer three times by the International Sports Science Association. She is the author of The Planet Friendly Diet, and owner of Canada’s première weight loss retreat for women, located in Whistler, Canada.