Flexible Dieting-You can have your cake and eat it

flexible dietingYou may have come across the term IIFYM or Flexible Dieting but yes, we agree, it sounds a bit cryptic to say the least. So what would you say if we told you that you can eat everything you like in moderation and still lose weight, build muscle and achieve all your fitness goals? Crazy, right? Yet, there is a whole community of fitness people who do just that to stay in shape or even compete in international bodybuilding competitions. Yes, you heard that right, they eat donuts too!

What is IIFYM?

IIFYM stands for If It Fits Your Macros. The term ‘macros’ refers to macronutrients you consume daily – protein, fats and carbohydrates. The diet approach is based on a calculation – the amount of calories you need daily to lose weight safely (small deficit compared to the maintenance number) made up of the right proportion of carbs, fats and protein. Usually you will consume 35-40% carbs 35-40% protein and the rest will be fats (20-30%). There are multiple calculators online that will help you estimate your numbers based on age, weight and activity rate. It will also vary depending on your target – weight loss, gain, muscle bulk or maintenance. Then, all you have to do is track all your meals so they add up to your daily macro and calorie targets. If you want to eat a donut and it fits into your daily plan – go for it! It is very important to stick to healthy, whole unprocessed foods 80-90% of the time, though to ensure you are healthy and losing weight consistently.

Why it Works

You may say – ‘so IIFYM is simply reasonable, healthy eating.’ Exactly – no rocket science here! You can eat lots of nutritious foods with occasional treats and get in the best shape of your life. Unnecessary restrictions or excluding food groups will only lead to emotional eating and binging in time. Foods should not be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘clean’ or dirty’. According to a nutrition expert Alan Aragon blaming or excluding single foods gives them power and can lead to further problem such as eating disorders. We should look at the issue of nutrition from a wider perspective – there are many elements that make up a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle. You shouldn’t shame yourself for eating anything. Just make it fit in with your goals and keep a balanced approach.

There is a bit of a debate recently on Flexible Dieters promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Some of them may share more junk food photos than seems reasonable but that’s ok. If they feel like it fits in with their goals and lifestyle, who are we to judge. However, we strongly recommend a 90% healthy foods approach which will ensure you stay not only slim but healthy and energized! Here is a tip as well to help you if you are finding it hard to get in all your protein.  Why not try a Protein shake.  Optimums Nutrition has a delicious whey protein gold standard that comes in a large variety of flavors so you don’t get bored!

The Cardio Truth

cardioThe belief that cardio is the most efficient way to lose weight and stay fit was and still is popular in the fitness world. People who don’t exercise also believe that only hours spend on the treadmill can make them look better and they never dare try. But is this true and where does this stereotype spur from?

Myth #1 – You need to do at least an hour of cardio to burn fat.

Of course, many bodybuilders do cardio daily, sometimes for extended periods but remember they usually eat a lot and they prepare for competitions where single digit body fat percentages are a must. Even then, many of them only do cardio a few times a week for half an hour at a time.

You have to remember that weight and fat loss are a process that comprises of exercise and nutrition. So how much cardio you need to do will depend on your nutrition and other physical activity you perform daily. For example, if you have a sedentary job, yes, more cardio will be both healthy and optimal for weight loss. But if you spend most of the day on your feet, you may want to reduce cardio and focus on weight lifting or interval training.

Myth #2 – Fasted cardio burns fat better and faster

This is a popular one. We assume that in a fasted state our body has no choice but to turn to fat stores for energy. It turns out the opposite may be true – we will waste out muscle tissue away and end up ‘skinny fat’. A 2011 study concluded that fat burning is consistent regardless of whether or not you’ve eaten before a workout. Other research shows an increase in muscle catabolism from fasted cardio. Stick to basics – calories in vs. calories out. Perform cardio and mix it up to keep your body guessing and you are set for success. No need to be doing your cardio passing out from hunger. Eat a nice nutritious breakfast and it will enhance your muscle growth and cardio performance.

Myth #3 – You can’t lose weight without cardio

The one and only way to lose weight (and fat) is by creating a calorie deficit by diet or exercise and preferably both. The healthiest way to lose is to combine a balanced diet, cardio and resistance training. Lifting weights is important since it helps build muscle mass which increases your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This means that the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn just ‘living’ and performing everyday tasks. You can create a calorie deficit by dieting and lifting but we certainly recommend adding cardio for improved effects and cardiovascular health!

 

To summarize, the best and healthiest approach to weight loss is balance. A healthy diet with a moderate amount of cardio, interval and resistance training will definitely show results and the variety will keep you on your toes, too!

How much protein Should I be taking?

how much protein Many people have doubts when it comes to establishing their macros (amount of carbs, protein and fat they should eat everyday). Between the vast amount of advice on the internet and official government health organization recommendations this can be a truly confusing task. Basically the general recommendation is to eat 0.8g/kg of bodyweight. This means that an average sedentary man, weighing 80kg should consume 64 grams of protein a day. But of course, that all depends not only on your size and lifestyle but also your goals.

Function of Protein

Protein is the building block of every cell of your body. It is the most abundant substance in your system, after water.  Repair and growth are one of the vital functions of protein which is one of the reasons children and physically active people require more than sedentary adults. It can also be used for energy, but in case of sufficient carbohydrate intake spare protein will be turned into fat. Protein is involved in the regulation and metabolism of some hormones and enzymes. These are responsible for regulating vital bodily function.  For example insulin is a small protein – a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Protein also forms precious antibodies that help fight illness and disease.

So How Much Do I Need?

If you train regularly for fat loss and muscle gain you will need around 2g/kg of bodyweight. Intense training breaks down your muscles and in order for them to regenerate and grow you will need to provide it with lots of quality protein. If you find it hard to eat protein rich foods, you can help yourself with protein shakes and bars. According to Dr Karen Reid, a sports science nutritionist, after a while you can reduce this intake down to 1.2-1.6g/kg of bodyweight or if your training is not as intense as the bodybuilding regime you can also take in less than 2g/kg. For those dieting for fat loss this is also beneficial as protein provides satiety and helps you stick to a clean diet and lose weight. Apart from your usual food protein try a shake before and after workout.

How Much is Too Much?

Stuffing your face with 10 steaks at a time is neither reasonable nor beneficial. There are a few main reasons for that.

Firstly, your muscles will not grow automatically from consuming protein. In fact, without the energetic expenditure protein will simply be transformed into fat cells. However, remember that swapping carbs for protein will enable weight loss.  Your body burns fat before it does protein.

Secondly, you can only absorb around 30g of protein at a time. Now you know why bodybuilders eat little and often. Thirdly, timing matters so try to focus your intake around workouts. The 30-minute post-workout window is when you need this rapidly absorbed protein to optimize muscle repair and growth. This is when you will need a simple quick snack such as a whey shake like Rule 1 Protein or Whey Protein Gold Standard some milk.

Lastly, too much unneeded protein and nitrogen from the amino acids puts extra strain on your liver and kidneys, which have to filter it out.

What exactly is Carb Cycling?

carb cycling
A recently discovered phobia of carbohydrates and the belief that they make us fat in ill has boosted the popularity of low carbohydrate diets. According to the principles of low carb diets (such as ketogenic or paleo) carbohydrates are not needed at all and the less glucose we have in our bodies, the better. Even though low carb diets have been proven effective for some diseases such as epilepsy, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers, a carb free diet is not optimal for muscle building and athletic performance. Even though carb cycling may not be for everyone any healthy individual or athlete shouldn’t avoid carbs.
In sports, carbohydrates provide instant energy as well as help building muscle. In a low carb diet cortisol and glucagon are produced when we put stress on our bodies (exercise) and cause a catabolic effect on the muscles. But does that mean that athletes stuff themselves with carb rich foods and sugar daily? This is where we should introduce the concept of carb cycling.
Carb cycling is a method for achieving certain fitness goals such as lowering body fat or improving performance which includes alternating carbohydrate intake daily, throughout the week depending on training routines. For example on the first, heavy training day we ingest a high amount of carbs, on the second moderate and on the third (rest day) we will eat a low amount of carbs. Some athletes on the other hand, will consistently ‘load’ carbs for a longer period of time (bulking) and then reduce their intake the closer they get to the competition (cutting). Some even use ketogenic diets for a few weeks before competing
What this is supposed to achieve is to always surprise our bodies and trick them into an extreme reaction. Dropping carbs rapidly will put our body into a fat burning mode. This method is popular amongst bodybuilders and people with lower amount of fat to lose as it helps tackle the stubborn remains of fat. Of course, portion control should be key, we want the carbohydrates to be used in a timely manner, rather than being stored as fat. Consuming most of them around workout times will maximize energy and muscle growth and minimize the catabolic effect on the muscle tissue. For people who have quite a lot of fat to lose it’s best to stick to caloric restriction and exercise however if you have reached a plateau or are trying to get shredded for a contest carb cycling will give your metabolism a nice kick with enough energy to work but no fat storing.
But does all this imply a big ‘thumbs up’ to living off chocolate and junk foods, or worse binging and starving on alternate days? First and foremost – eat and live ‘clean’! Above all it’s important to remember that carbs or no carbs our diet should contain of whole, organic and healthy foods such as omega rich fats, lean organic meat, fish and poultry and wholegrain, and most importantly low GI, unprocessed carbohydrates.

The 3 M’s that may be messing up your exercise program

exercise programHave exercise misconception, myths and mistakes prevented you from starting an exercise program? Lets Clear up any confusion and let these exercise tips improve your workout routine. Hopefully none of these common exercise myths, mistakes and misconceptions have prevented you from working out. If they have no worries we are here to clear them up and get you on the right track starting today!

1. Common Mistake: Failure to set goals.
Do you exercise without a clear goal in mind? Having a clear goal set is a critical step in exercise and weight loss success. Tracking your progress in a journal will help ensure you see your improvements, will help motivate you and help you meet your ultimate goal.

2. Common Misconception: No Pain, No Gain.
Pain is your body’s way of letting you know something is wrong. Do not ignore this. When you go beyond exercise and testing yourself, you will encounter physical discomfort and need to overcome it. An example of this would be training for a marathon. It is important that you have the “base training” before getting into the advance training. The base training develops the body and gets it ready for extensive training. You need to learn to “read” your body. Is the heavy breathing because you are pushing your body or could it be the beginning of a heart attack. Exercise is important. Do it correctly and you can do it for the rest of your life.
It is normal for you to hurt after you exercise, but it must be done gradually with a good amount of rest periods to allow proper healing. There are two common problems here with beginning exercisers. You can cause long lasting damage to muscles, tendons and ligaments if you work out while you are in pain, without allowing enough rest time to heal. You might find yourself in constant and long lasting pain if you do this which means that you will no longer be able to exercise.
If you wake up the next morning after you exercised and can barely drag your aching body out of bed because everything hurts, you are going to be less motivated to exercise at all. Constant pain is a sure way to kill your exercise program.

3. Common Mistake: Sacrificing Quality for Quantity.
When you are ready to increase the number of reps of a particular exercise, and strengthen the corresponding muscles, instead of forcing yourself to do a little more each time try decreasing the number of reps in a set but increase the number of sets. Also, back off to half your usual number of reps but add a couple of more sets. You will feel less tired and will be able to gain strength in your fast-twitch muscles.

4. Common Myth: Weight Training Makes Women Bulky.
Weight training for a woman will strengthen and tone muscle, burn fat and increase metabolism, not build mass. Women do not produce enough of testosterone to build muscle mass the way that men do.

5. Common Mistake: Over-Emphasizing Strengths.
You should start focusing on your points rather then what you are good at. This will help you balance things. For example, if your lower body is stronger than you upper body, then try to work only on this area one day a week.

Being smart about how you exercise will take you a long way. It is important to have a healthy body so get out there and start exercising today.