After part I of this article, we already know that the amount of food we eat determines whether our weight goes up or down, while the nutrients we eat within that total influences how does our body composition changes with our weight.
Today, we are going to talk about those nutrients and calories, and how to implement flexible dieting in your life, from day 1.
Now, nutrients can be classified in two wide categories, macronutrients and micronutrients.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients, (which we’ll refer to as macros, for now on) are the nutrients that our body uses as metabolic energy sources. There are four:
- Carbohydrates, the main energy source of our body
- Proteins, that are broken down as aminoacids and used in a wide variety of processes, from tissue building to inmune system functions
- Fats, concentrated sources of energy
- Alcohol, not nutritive, but does fit the definition
Besides, there is Dietary Fiber, which is a part of some carbohydrates, essential when you do flexible dieting. Fiber is responsible for regulating blood sugar, among other functions.
Depending on your goals (fat burning, muscle mass building, etc), your macros distribution will vary to optimize the process.
And now, the central idea of flexible dieting: it doesn’t matter the source of your macros, as long as you 1) meet your daily goals and 2) consume enough micronutrients dense foods.
These are the nutrients that our body needs in smaller amounts, the body uses them to orchestrate a huge amount of metabolic processes.
Micronutrients includes vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
As said above, within our diet we must give our body the amounts of micronutrients needed to function properly. The way to do this is consuming a lot of nutient-dense foods, whole and rather un-processed: fruits, veggies, legumes, etc.
A calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a kilogram of water in 1° Celsius. Is a unit of measure for energy.
In our case, this is the measure of the amount of energy that a given food provides to our body. Each gram of a macro provides a certain amount of calories (Pro=4 Cals/gr; Fats = 9 Cals/gr; Carbs = 4 Cals/gr)
Now, we spend an specific amount of calories every day (called Total Daily Energy Expenditure, TDEE), determined by the energy our bodies uses on its metabolic processes (eat, sleep, regenerate tissue, etc) and the energy expended on daily activity.
Thus, when we eat more calories than we spend, that energy excess gets stored in our bodies (either on the form of fat or muscle tissue) and the weight goes up, conversely, when we spend more calories than we eat, the body pulls from that stored energy (fat or muscle tissue) to cover such deficit and the weight goes down.
We have already covered the basics, where do we start?
Here is what you will need:
- A food scale, a cheap one. Small and handy that you can have in your kitchen with a sensibility of 1gr.
- An account on an online service of food tracking. CalorieKing, FatSecret, MyNetDiary and MyFitnessPal are all great options, that, as a plus, provide an smartphone/tablet app so you can keep on track on the go.
Then, you’ll need to determine your TDEE and your macronutrient targets. If you are doing it for the first time, we recommend using an online calculator, as the one from iifym.com. We have our own methods to determine this and, if you want we can do it for you.
Now you have your macros, what’s next?
Well, a few simple steps:
Use the 80/20 rule
At least 80% of your daily macros should come from nutrient dense foods. Whole, filling and as un-processed as possible (doesn’t have to be organic, but you know, jelly doesn’t count as a fruit). The other 20% can come from whatever you like.
Yes, your read that right, whatever you like. If you like donuts and it fits, go ahead. If you like pizza and it fits too, serve yourself. Want ice cream in that 20%? Get in that bad boy.
As long as you have moderation, and don’t go over your nutritional targets, you wont get fat, nor sick.
Track everything you eat
Precision is important here. Whether you use the nutritional info label or look for it in the app, you need to control what you eat. At least 80% of the time.
Nutrient dense foods first
While you get used to eating like this, you should try to eat most of those nutritious foods first: fiber rich, low in carbs/fats, high in protein) on your first meals.
Once you hit your micros & fiber goals, you can begin to devour those goodies from your 20% of flexibility. Enjoying your diet is the most important part of the story.
Avoid food avoidance
I read this on evidencemag.com once, and changed my mindset. It means that you should never stop eating certain foods or food groups, by doing so you might be missing out on important nutrients for your body.
Adjust based on outcome
Your initial macros are just an estimate. Further down the road, you may need to adjust your calories up or down (by 5 to 10% at a time) to find what works best for you. This adjustments are typically made on the form of carbs and/or fats.
Please, don’t overkill
The whole idea of flexible dieting is that you can live a healthy and balanced life. Other concepts as eating 8 meals per day, avoiding a huge list of foods, eating distasteful things because they are «healthier», are just wrong. Useless and unnecessary. We’ll cover them on our next posts.
Eat according to your possibilities, enjoy what you eat and do it with moderation.
If you do it right, and have enough patience, you’ll reap the best results.
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