The "flexible diet" is a popular program to lose weight that is based on a sensible theory.
Also called If it adapts to your macros (IIFYM), it promotes the notion that there are no "bad foods" and allows you to choose any food, as long as it fits your macronutrient needs.
Flexible diets have increased in popularity due to their adaptable nature, allowing followers to enjoy their favorite foods as part of their meal plan.
There are many ways to approach this diet, including subscribing to a flexible diets website to establish meal plans, or calculate your needs and plan meals on your own.
This article explains flexible diets and explores their benefits and possible falls.
How does the flexible diet work?
The flexible diet is not a diet. It is more a lifestyle.
It puts the control in the hands of the person who makes the diet, which means that there are no meal plans or food restrictions that must be followed.
You may be wondering how people lose weight if they can eat what they want.
When you are following a flexible diet, your calorie and macronutrient needs are calculated according to the amount of weight you want to lose.
Dieters must determine their total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and their macronutrient needs before starting the diet.
This is commonly done using one of the "macro" calculators available on the many websites that promote a flexible diet, but you can also do it by hand.
Calculation of your energy needs
The total daily energy expenditure consists of (1):
- Energy expenditure at rest (REE): The amount of calories you burn at rest.
- Unemployed energy expenditure (NREE): The calories expended during exercise, all daily activities and the energy needed to digest food.
The energy expenditure at rest represents more than 60-70% of the total calories burned of an individual (2).
The non-resting energy expenditure includes calories burned through exercise, restlessness, tremors or standing, as well as the energy your body uses to digest food.
The calculation of total daily energy expenditure gives the dieter an idea of how many calories they burn on a given day.
Most websites that promote a flexible diet recommend calculating your total daily energy expenditure with the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, as explained below.
Many studies have shown that this equation is more effective than others to accurately predict calorie needs (3, 4, 5).
Based on the equation, you can calculate the total daily energy expenditure in the following way (6):
- Mens: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) + 5
- Woman: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) – 161
This number is then multiplied by an activity factor to estimate your total calorie needs (7):
- Sedentary (little or no exercise): x 1.2
- Little active (1-3 days per week): x 1.375
- Moderately active (6-7 days a week): x 1.55
- Very active (every day): x 1,725
- Extra active (twice or more per day, elite athletes): x 1.9
To lose weight, the dieter then subtracts a percentage of calories from their total daily energy expenditure to create a calorie deficit.
Most websites that promote a flexible diet recommend subtracting 20% of the total daily energy expenditure.
For example, a dieter who calculates their need to have 2,000 calories would subtract 400 calories a day to lose weight.
However, dieters can decide their calorie deficit according to their individual weight loss goals and activity levels.
Calculation of your macronutrient needs
After determining a calorie goal, then calculate your macronutrient or "macro" needs.
Macronutrients are the nutrients your body needs in the greatest amounts: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
These nutrients provide calories and have numerous important functions in the body (8).
- Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram, typically 45-65% of total daily calories
- Proteins: 4 calories per gram, typically 10 to 35% of total daily calories
- Fat 9 calories per gram, typically 20-35% of total daily calories
Many websites that promote flexible diets or sell customized meal plans provide "macro calculators," where users can include their height, weight, age and activity level to obtain a customized macronutrient distribution.
However, dieters can also calculate the macros themselves by dividing their total calorie needs into percentages of carbohydrates, proteins and fats according to their specific objectives.
The best thing about a flexible diet is that dieters can modify their macronutrient ranges according to their lifestyle and their weight loss needs.
A person who is dieting to lose weight may want to go with a lower carbohydrate range, while an athlete may choose a higher carbohydrate range (9, 10).
Flexible diets also make users track their fiber intake, even if it is not a macronutrient. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can not digest.
It is recommended that men consume 38 grams of fiber per day, while women should aim for 25 grams (11).
How to track your macronutrient intake
After determining their calorie and macronutrient needs, followers of flexible diets simply track their intake of calories and macronutrients, making sure to stay within their established goals.
There are many ways to do it, although the most popular way is to use one of the many websites or mobile applications available in the market.
Most food tracking applications have endless databases that allow users to search for any food and serving size to determine calories in seconds.
Apps are useful because they allow you to track your meals and snacks while traveling without the hassle of writing anything.
Popular applications for tracking calories and macros include MyFitnessPal and My Macros.
Summary To follow the diet, start by developing a baseline for your calorie and macronutrient needs. Flexible diet websites will help you calculate how many calories and macronutrients you need, while websites and mobile apps can help you track them.
Benefits of flexible diet
Flexible diets use a unique approach to losing weight that many people find attractive.
There are a number of potential benefits to this way of eating.
Easy to follow
The hardest part of a flexible diet is the process of calculating your calorie and macronutrient needs, which some people may find intimidating.
Luckily, the diet itself is easy to follow. There are no complicated recipes, meal plans or endless lists of items that are prohibited.
Dieters simply choose the foods they would like to eat, staying within their range of macronutrients and their caloric needs.
It can help to maintain long-term weight
Several studies have shown that people who follow programs that allow greater flexibility in the choice of food are more successful in maintaining weight lost over time, compared to those who follow more stringent diets (12).
In addition, the stricter diets tend to negatively affect the psychological well-being of those who follow them (13).
No food "out of bounds"
There is an endless stream of diets that restrict multiple foods.
This can make dieters feel resentful about not being able to enjoy once in a while, and feelings of deprivation can lead to frequent cravings or bingeing (1415).
Flexible diets eliminate the "good food versus bad food" mentality that many meal plans advocate and can help dieters develop a healthy relationship with all foods.
Gives freedom to dieters
Following a super-restrictive diet or cleansing can be difficult, especially when you go out with friends or when you're out.
Flexible diets allow users to have more freedom with the choice of food, which makes it easier for dieters to stay on track, even at parties, restaurants or when there are limited food options available.
Although many diets are difficult to maintain, the adaptive nature of a flexible diet can facilitate the tracking of people over a longer period of time.
Beneficial for those with specific nutrient needs
Flexible diets can be a convenient way for people on diets with specific macronutrient needs to meet their goals.
For example, those who follow diets that are high in carbohydrates or rich in fat can track their macronutrient needs using a flexible diet.
Athletes and those with specific fitness goals can also benefit from a flexible diet, calculating their macronutrient targets based on their training schedules.
Summary The flexible diet has many benefits, including its adaptability and ease of use. It can be particularly beneficial for people like athletes who have specific nutrient needs.
While the flexible diet has some benefits, it also has some potential disadvantages.
The structure may be too loose for some
Although the freedom of a flexible diet can work for those with strong self-control, some people may have difficulty taking responsibility for their own food choices.
As long as dieters stay within their range of macronutrients and calories, they could theoretically choose as many unhealthy foods as they want in the flexible diet plan.
While you can lose weight by choosing unhealthy, nutrient-poor foods, as long as a calorie deficit is achieved, your health and well-being will suffer.
To stay healthy, dieters must keep highly processed delicacies to a minimum, while focusing on nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.
Without emphasis on micronutrients
While the focus of this plan is on the macronutrients, the micronutrients are so important that the body functions optimally.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that your body needs in smaller amounts than macronutrients. They are critical for many processes in the body, including metabolism and disease prevention (16, 17).
Foods rich in micronutrients, as well as beneficial compounds such as antioxidants, should be incorporated into any healthy diet plan.
Dieters need an understanding of nutrition and weight loss
A flexible diet leaves the person in charge of the diet with the responsibility of calculating their needs for calories and macronutrient ranges, as well as the goals of weight loss and meals.
Although there are books and websites dedicated to educating people about safe weight loss with a flexible diet, the steps involved can be overwhelming for some people.
To choose optimal macronutrient ranges, realistic weight loss goals, and nutritious foods, dieters must conduct a thorough investigation.
You need to track every meal and snack
Although each diet requires effort, having to trace every bite of food that passes through your lips can be a detour.
In addition, while tracking foods creates awareness of exactly what they are eating, it can lead to unhealthy habits in some people.
The use of applications to track calories and macros can keep you on the road, but can easily lead to obsessive behaviors and create an unhealthy relationship with food in some people (18).
Summary Flexible diets have some disadvantages, including the need to control calories and macronutrients, as well as the fact that dieters can choose to eat a lot of unhealthy foods as long as they meet their calorie and macronutrient targets .
The bottom line
A flexible diet is a popular and simple weight loss plan that allows foods that fit your specific daily macronutrient goals.
This way of eating provides dieters with freedom in their food choices, which can help to keep the weight lost over time and create a positive and healthy relationship with food.
In addition, it is easy to follow, no matter if you are eating at home or while traveling.
However, to stay healthy while following the flexible diet plan, you must have the self-discipline to make healthy choices and keep junk food to a minimum.
If you have a good knowledge of your nutritional needs and a strong self-control, a flexible diet can be the perfect plan to help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/flexible-dieting