Frequently Asked Questions
Flexible dieting is a scientific approach to dieting where you track your intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fat (macronutrients). Based on your goal and metabolism, your coach will assign you a target amount of macronutrients to eat each day.
With flexible dieting, there are no “good” or “bad” foods, and no one-size fits all meal plan. Instead, you can eat whatever you want as long as you can fit it into your protein, carb, and fat targets.
Macronutrients are nutrients in food that supply the body with energy, and these include protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Proteins are a combination of amino acids that aid in the structure, function, and regulation of tissues, cells, and organs. They play a lot of different roles in the body, mainly supporting muscle growth and recovery, working to repair damaged tissue, forming antibodies for your immune system, and making enzymes to help drive reactions in your body.
Higher protein intake is critical for exercisers and dieters to help build, repair, and preserve muscle, especially when trying to lose weight. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate, and the more calories you can burn while resting!
For someone trying to lean down, protein can be very beneficial for a few reasons. First, as mentioned, protein helps spare muscle mass. It’s also very thermogenic, meaning your body burns extra calories to process and digest it. In addition, protein may help keep you full, inhibiting hunger better than the other macros.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel. All tissues and cells are capable of using glucose (the end product of carb breakdown) as their energy source.
While it has been popular to demonize carbs for our obesity epidemic, the evils attributed to carbs are often the result of eating too many calories. In a standard non-ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are necessary for proper muscular, cardiac, kidney, and brain function, and for keeping you satisfied while powering intense workouts. To build muscle and burn as many calories as possible, you’ll need to train with plenty of fuel in the tank.
Fats are important for overall health and serve many essential functions. Fat is used in the production of new cells and hormones and is critical for brain development and nerve function. Fat is also necessary for absorbing vitamins A, D, E, and K and for carrying them throughout the body. Because it’s a structural component of hormones that impact metabolism (among other functions), failing to eat enough fat could wreak havoc on your body.
Go ahead and drop the old myth that “eating fat makes you fat” right now—getting enough dietary fat is crucial to your health and neglecting to eat the right amount could sabotage your goals.
Compliancy & Tracking Macros
Compliance is self-reported, meaning that you are responsible for determining your compliance and telling your coach during check-ins.
90% is generally the lowest acceptable rate of dietary adherence that does not lead to too much in the way of compromised results. The more you fall below 90% compliance, the greater the likelihood that your progress will stall or simply be non-existent.
To be compliant on a daily basis, aim to be within approximately 10 grams of your carbohydrate and protein targets, and within 5 grams of your fat target.
You don’t need to hit each of your macros to the exact gram every day, but you do need to be in the right ballpark! Also, remember that compliance means that you were on average plus or minus 10 grams of carbohydrate and protein and 5 grams of fat throughout the course of the entire week.
So, if you were 30 over your carbs on one day, and 30 under the next, you would average out to perfect compliance! Don't beat yourself up if you're outside of range one day, odds are the average for the week has you right where you need to be.
Although protein, carbs, and fat all contribute calories, each plays a distinct and important role in helping you shape your ideal physique. That’s why it’s not enough to just count calories.
Calories are the most important factor when it comes to losing and gaining weight, but if you want to make sure the weight you are losing is fat and optimally fuel, build, and nourish your body, it’s better to focus on macronutrients.
You can drink alcohol in moderation and still make progress toward your goal as long as you account for the macros in your drink!
Alcoholic beverages contain calories and should be tracked and portioned just like food. Any alcohol calories consumed should be subtracted from carbs, fats, or a combination of both.
Simply divide the total calories of your drink by either 4 to determine the grams of carbs in replaces or by 9 to determine the grams of fat it replaces for the day. Cheers!
The best way to ensure that you hit your macros is to plan ahead. You can do this by preparing your meals in advance for the upcoming day or just knowing what you’re going to eat and adding up the macros beforehand.
You might also consider planning out some meals for an entire week and cooking in bulk on a single designated day. This can save time and will help you to stay organized. For simplicity and convenience, most people choose to cook versatile foods that can be used in multiple dishes. Having protein (such as lunch meat, turkey, chicken, and egg whites), fruits, vegetables, starches (such as potatoes, rice, oats, pasta, tortillas, and bread), and fats (such as nuts, seeds, and oils) on hand makes meals easy to put together. Once all of your food is cooked, you can put it together for the week ready to be measured or divide it into several single servings that can be made into meals.
If you need help planning individual meals, follow these steps:
1. Determine How Many Meals You’re Going to Eat
Most clients prefer eating 3-5 meals per day, including full-sized meals and snacks.
2. Determine How Much Protein You Need Per Meal
Take your protein target and divide it by the number of meals you plan on eating.
3. Choose A Source of Protein
The best sources of protein include meat, poultry, protein powder, egg whites, and low-fat dairy.
4. Choose A Source of Carbohydrates
The best sources include grains, starches, fruits, and vegetables.
5. Choose a Source of Fat
Get your fats from fatty meats, full-fat dairy, oils, nuts, butter, avocado, and eggs.
As you plug each meal into your tracking app of choice, keep an eye on the macros you have left. If you notice that you’re approaching your carb target dangerously fast, go back and reduce the serving size on some of your carb choices from previous meals. If you see that you are falling behind and have a ton of carbs left, go ahead and either add another source of carbs, or increase your serving sizes at some meals. Treat fat the same way!
Accounting for the macros in restaurant food can be quite a challenge, especially if you can’t find the meal posted online or in your tracking app. But that doesn’t mean you can never eat out.
Here are 9 tactics you can use to better hit your macros when eating out:
1. Decide how lenient you can afford to be
If your goal is to get super lean for a fast approaching event (think physique competition or wedding), you’ll need to be as accurate as possible. This may mean seldom eating out and choosing your dishes wisely. But for most dieters, the occasional meal out is no problem.
2. Fast to create room for more food
Restaurant meals are notoriously high in carbs and fat, so you’d do well to make room for this by skimping on carbs and fat early in the day. You’ll also want to make sure to eat enough protein leading up to your meal so you won’t find yourself short at the end of the day.
3. Know exactly how many macros you have left when choosing your meal
The number of macros you have to work with will dictate what type of dish you can order. More macros may leave room for a burger and fries, while less macros might mean ordering a salad with dressing on the side. Eat for your goals!
4. Look up the macros of the meal before you order
Don’t live dangerously. Try to look up the macros of a dish before you order. Five minutes of research online or looking through your app can prevent blowing through your macros early.
5. Simplify or customize to create your own meal
The simpler the dish, the easier it is to track. A 6-oz. chicken breast, baked potato, and portion of steamed veggies will be much easier to account for than a casserole. You can also customize your meal so you’ll have a better idea of what’s in it. For example, you can always request no butter or added oil with sauce and dressing on the side, or substitute one item for another.
6. Guestimate and overestimate
When guesstimating, you’ll never be dead on, but that’s okay! A portion guesstimated is a portion never tracked at all! Eyeball your food and take a stab at identifying the items in it and their corresponding serving sizes. If your goal is fat loss, you may want to give yourself a cushion and overestimate by 10%. Chefs often add extra fat to food, so if you can see visible oil, you’ll want to log your meal with an extra tablespoon of oil.
7. Use the macros listed for a similar meal
If your restaurant doesn’t list the macros for your meal and you can’t find it in your app, use the macros from a similar dish already in the database or online! If several macros are listed for the same dish, take the average, or just use the higher number if you’re worried about fat gain.
8. Choose beverages sensibly
Be mindful when ordering drinks because the carbs in these bad boys can add up quickly! Speaking of drinks...alcohol is certainly not off limits, but you must account for the macros.
Take a look at out "How To Track Alcohol" FAQ
9. Eat mindfully
Not all occasions warrant strict tracking! For example, if it’s your birthday or an anniversary, you may want to simply eat mindfully and enjoy your special event. But this isn’t an excuse to eat everything in sight. Instead, practice moderation and listen to your body for when it is time to stop eating!
Accurately estimating portion sizes is critical when dining out and eating meals where you can’t measure or weigh your food.
Luckily, your hand is a pretty good measurement tool that you have with you at all times.
Use your fist to measure carbohydrates
Most people's’ fists will be about the size of one cup, which is helpful for measuring portion sizes of carbohydrates like rice, oatmeal, fruits, and all types of veggies.
Use your palm to measure protein
The same size and thickness of your palm is usually equivalent to around 3 ounces of protein from chicken, steak, or fish. If you have large hands, your palm might be equivalent to 4 ounces of protein.
Use your fingers to measure fats
The size of your thumbnail is about the equivalent of a teaspoon, while your entire thumb is about the size of a tablespoon of fat sources like peanut butter, cheese, and oils.
If you are dieting, it is best to overestimate by about 10% to make sure you stay at or below your targets!
Always count and track your total carbohydrates rather than subtracting fiber from your carbs.
Contrary to popular belief, most fiber can be broken down by gut bacteria and will contribute some calories. The types which can be broken down and how many calories they contribute is based on many factors, including the amount and species of bacteria you have in your gut and the way your food was prepared.
So, while there may potentially be slightly fewer calories and carbs in certain fiber and sugar-free products, this isn’t always the case, and attempting to factor in fiber, sugar alcohols, and other components that companies use to push “net carbs” can become one big math equation that is susceptible to a lot of errors.
Stick to tracking total carbohydrates and let those figures dictate your progress. This is the most consistent and convenient way to make improvements!
Choose high-volume foods
High volume foods take up more room in your stomach and may digest more slowly, which can help increase feelings of fullness. If you need some high-volume food ideas, check out the following list:
Hot cereals (oatmeal, buckwheat, cream of rice, cream of wheat)
Fat-free Greek yogurt
Veggies (celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, leafy greens, zucchini)
Squash (spaghetti, butternut squash)
Scrambled eggs/egg whites
- Fruit (apples, pears, oranges)
Choose high-fiber foods
If you find yourself still very hungry after eating your daily allowance of protein, carbs, and fat, you may want to mix up your food choices to include more high-fiber foods. Carb options that are higher in fiber will absorb more slowly, helping you feel fuller, longer. Fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), seeds, and whole grains are all high in fiber and will do much more to satisfy your hunger than sugary cereals, desserts, and other low-fiber carb-based foods. If you need some specific high-fiber food ideas, check out the following list.
Beans (lentils, black beans, pinto beans, red beans, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, etc)
Berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
Quinoa and oats
Some studies have shown that drinking water before or with a meal may help increase satiety, which could help you better stick to your macro targets.
Eat slowly and mindfully
There may be a lapse in the time between when you’re actually full and when signals of satiety reach your brain. By eating slowly and deliberately, you’ll give your brain more time to catch up. Also, this can allow you to be more mindful when you eat, and you’ll have a better ability to appreciate the amount of food you’re eating and its taste. Mindlessly shoveling down food rarely results in satisfaction.
Be strategic with meal timing and incorporate intermittent fasting
If you’re not hungry in the morning, try waiting to eat until lunch (intermittent fasting). This will allow you to eat more of your calories when you are hungry, and also over a shorter window to give you the illusion of having more food. On the other hand, if you tend to be less hungry at night and hungrier in the morning, eat the bulk of your calories early.
You may have heard that eating more meals will “stoke the metabolic furnace” and lead to greater fat loss—but this simply isn’t true! Eating more meals will not increase your metabolic rate.
It is up to you when and how many meals you would like to eat a day. For optimal muscle repair and recovery having 3-4 portions of protein a day is what is recommended, and it is recommended to have your pre- and post workout meals be lower in fat for digestive reasons.
Remember, whether someone loses or gains weight is dictated by total calorie intake, not the timing of food intake. The most important factor determining your success will be just to hit your calorie and macros for the day.
In an ideal world, you’d hit your macros spot on. However, life happens and occasionally you’ll find yourself way over on one category and way short on another.
In the rare case that this happens, it’s okay to substitute some of your carbs for fats or vice-versa.
It is also okay to substitute some of your carbs for protein. However, protein may NOT be swapped for carbs or fats. Protein plays a very important role in building and preserving muscle and metabolic rate, so it’s important to hit your protein target every day.
If you’re attempting to swap your carbs and fat, understand that one gram cannot be substituted directly for another. Carbs and fat have different calorie values (4 calories vs. 9 calories), so they must be exchanged as follows:
1 gram of fat = 2.25 grams of carbs
We do not encourage swapping carbs and fats every day. To get the best results, consistency is important. If you are having trouble consistently hitting your macro targets, please let your coach know so they can work towards a solution with you.