The idea of the flexible diet has gained popularity for a few years because it proposes to lose weight based on the following theory: you do not need strict menus or banish any food, but you can adapt your diet to your tastes as long as it fits in the macronutrients (calories, proteins , hydrates, fats and fiber, mainly) that your body needs.
Its appeal is understandable: it promises flexibility, and with that it facilitates the follow-up. It can be done with the help of a nutritionist (or even a web) to design a meal plan for us, or on our own simply calculating our ‘macros’. But does it really work? Do you have any problem? We tell you in this article.
What is the flexible diet?
Actually, the flexible diet is not strictly speaking a diet because it does not tell you what you have to eat: each person has the control to decide what to eat and what not to eat. Weight loss is achieved by taking into account the caloric needs and nutrients of each person according to the weight you want to lose, and adjusting the food you eat to those calculations.
The calculation of calories
To start, you have to calculate the daily caloric intake your body needs. This is done by adding the calories that the body consumes while resting (normally between 60 and 70% of the total) to the calories that the body consumes with physical activity (the rest). In this article we explain how you can do that calculation, and in this other, how to make the necessary adjustments to reach a figure as accurate as possible.
Once we have that figure clear, we must calculate what will be the daily calorie intake according to what our goals are: weight loss (we will have to subtract calories, it is recommended that around 20%), keep us (caloric consumption and intake) will be equivalent) or gain muscle mass (we will have to consume slightly more calories than we burn).
Its operation when losing weight is based on the idea of caloric deficit, the only proven way to burn fat: consume fewer calories than the body burns, so that it is forced to resort to reserves of fat to cover the energy that is missing
The calculation of macronutrients
Once the calories are determined, the macronutrients, or macros, are calculated. These are the substances that your body needs in greater quantities to function properly: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
-Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram, usually represent between 45 and 65% of total caloric intake.
-Proteins: also about 4 calories per gram, they represent between 20 and 35% of total calories.
-Greases: about 9 calories per gram, are between 20 and 35% of the calories of the day.
Fiber intake is also commonly measured, although it is not considered a macronutrient, due to its beneficial effect on intestinal functions and to the fact that it provides a feeling of satiety that helps control appetite.
The ideal amounts for each one depend on our age, weight, sex, health, level of daily activity and weight goal: someone who wants to lose weight a lot may prefer to reduce carbohydrates, while an athlete may prefer more carbohydrates because this will have more energy. In this article we tell you how to calculate the macronutrients you need.
The tracking of macros
Once we have clear accounts, we must follow them. For this, normally the amounts of food that are ingested are carefully weighed to stay within the calculations of each macronutrients.
For this there are many web pages and mobile apps with databases of the nutritional contributions of each food. You just have to adjust the amounts of each other until you complete the daily figures.
The benefits of flexible diet…
As we said before, it is easy to understand why this diet is so attractive: it is not imposed on those who follow strict rules that radically change the way you eat, but can be adapted to each. Several studies have linked the flexibility of a diet with the success of those who follow it when it comes to keeping the new weight longer.
In the absence of prohibited foods, the anxiety that can lead to a rebound effect, of attraction for the forbidden, which can end in binge eating and loss of control, is largely avoided.
In fact, the concept of control is also another of its advantages: in this case it is always in the hands of the diner, who establishes his calculations and makes his meal plans.
All this makes it a diet with an ease of adherence that few other diets share: it is easy to follow and sustainable over time, since we only have to vary our calculations slightly as our goals change.
…and also its drawbacks
Of course, nothing is perfect and this type of food also has its disadvantages.
To begin with, such flexibility can be a trap: since there are no good or bad meals, theoretically it would be possible to follow this diet and lose weight eating unhealthy foods, which would end up having a negative effect on health. In addition, by not taking into account micronutrients, things like vitamins, which are also necessary to be healthy, can be left out of the diet.
On the other hand, putting all the control of food in the diner is an advantage, but it can also be a problem: to start, because it means that it needs a minimum knowledge of nutrition and metabolism without which you can not make the decisions that this diet requires, and second because it forces you to measure the macros and calories of each food you eat, and that can be uncomfortable and tedious for some (although with practice these calculations are becoming easier to do).