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How intermittent fasting and flexible dieting changed my life

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My name is Youssef, and my journey started about a year ago after a very long period of physical inactivity.

I love life, and I want to remain energetic as long as possible.

I know the standard advice for staying healthy, and I had done some bodybuilding in the past, more than ten years ago, for about a year, and had managed to get stronger but I have always been carrying fat around my belly.

I wanted to get rid of that fat on my waist, and I was looking for an effective and sustainable way to achieve my goal.

Honestly, the more I read about nutrition, the more I felt lost:

  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t eat breakfast.
  • Have a glass of wine each day. Don’t have a glass of wine every day.
  • Eat 6 small meals a day to keep your metabolism burning fat all day.
  • Paleo is the answer.
  • Eat eggs. NO! Don’t eat eggs.
  • Eat low carb. Eat no carb. Eat carbs!

Hum?

I get it. Nutrition is 100% confusing because the industry has made it so.

All this confusion may make us turn to drastic options. While restrictive behaviors advertised in magazines, such as dieting and juice cleanses, may sound attractive in a desperate moment to correct our dietary excesses, they do way more harm than good to our bodies, and can destroy our metabolism.

Table of Contents

The power of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle

What I discovered was astonishing. It involved no pills, no injections, and no hidden costs. It’s not about what you eat, or what you don’t eat. It’s about fasting, but fasting made easier. You can enjoy the foods you love and still live longer thanks to a protocol called intermittent fasting. 

What’s so great about intermittent fasting is that it’s a tool. It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle. It doesn’t tell you what to eat; it’s a pattern of eating, and NOT eating. It’s not about cutting calories. It’s just changing when you eat, and when you don’t eat. You don’t change what you eat. You change how you eat.

And it’s extremely powerful, more than every diet you’ve ever followed.

Celebrities such as Miranda Kerr, Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Aniston are all big advocates.

Here’s a recent photo of Jennifer Lopez, soon approaching 50: 

Jennifer Lopez
Photo: instyle.com

Amazing, no? 

I used to hate cardio, and I think that I am not different from most people. Everyone hates cardio, especially low-intensity cardio, like jogging. It’s boring, very repetitive and I am a guy that tends to get bored quickly.

I have good news for you because with intermittent fasting; you don’t even have to do a minute of cardio to lose your belly fat.

I only did three sessions of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) in 20 weeks, which is a short and intense cardio where you don’t have the time to get bored.

After reading a lot of articles about the best way that I could achieve my goal, I decided to start a new routine.

What’s excellent about intermittent fasting is that you don’t have to eat specific categories of food. You can eat high-fat, high-carb, Paleo, keto, IIFYM, intuitive eating… You only need to remain in a moderate calorie deficit.

I followed a flexible diet with a moderate amount of protein (about 0.8g per pound of body mass). Most of the time, I’d have “healthy food” but I had no real restrictions. 

If it happens to be wing night, there’s a good chance I am going to have wings. If I have to choose between fries and salad, I try to make healthy choices, but I like fries.

Most of the time, I try to eat a well-balanced diet by picking the healthy option, but at the end of the day, it’s all about balance. It’s a lifestyle I started following all year long and never looked back since then. There was a before intermittent fasting and an after.   

I combined intermittent fasting and flexible dieting with weight training for lean gains 3 to 4 times a week, focusing on getting stronger every workout by increasing the weights or the number of repetitions to gain muscle, that way I could burn even more fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you naturally burn and the more fat you will lose.

And it also works for women. « Bodybuilding makes women manly and bulky » is just another myth. Building muscle makes you look more attractive, even if you are a woman, and you can’t become bulky unless you take steroids. So, ladies, the only risk doing weight training correctly is looking sexier.

Intermittent fasting weight loss before and after pictures 

In the photo collage below displaying my before and after photos, while the results may not be the most impressive/dramatic you’ve ever seen, it took me only 20 weeks to get rid naturally of that belly fat and to see my abs for the first time in my life.

Intermittent Fasting Photo Before After

I lost 16 lbs between the before and after pictures (about 7kg) and most importantly 3 inches (approximately 7cm) to my waist, which is the most important metric you should be tracking to assess your fat loss progress.

I was not only able to achieve my goal, but I also managed to maintain my results without any food restriction, and I eat only things I like.

I may gain 1 or 2kgs of fat here and there, but I have a method to adjust and lose it effortlessly in a short period.   

Abs is the most coveted muscle. I managed to get lean enough to make them visible, in a relatively short period with intermittent fasting and weight training. I am not a fitness coach or a nutritionist. I am just a normal guy like you so if I did it, why wouldn’t you?

But wait, what’s intermittent fasting exactly and why does it work so well?

What’s intermittent fasting meaning?

Image showing that you should wait for your feeding window during intermitent fasting

Simply put, intermittent fasting refers to short periods of an extended fast. You extend the overnight period during which you wouldn’t be consuming anything else than water or coffee (with no sugar added) and narrow your feeding window to four, eight or 12 hours. You divide your time into two windows: a fasting window, where you are not consuming any calories and a feeding window, where you can eat.

There are several popular ways to do intermittent fasting:

The 5:2: this is currently the most popular intermittent fasting diet. This intermittent fasting protocol is the 5:2 diet because five days of the week are regular eating days, while the other two restrict calories to 500–600 per day. This IF protocol was popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley.

The warrior diet: it’s a version of intermittent fasting where you fast for 20 hours and eat for 4.

Eat one day – Fast the second day: this is an intermittent fasting version where you eat one day and fast the following day.

Spontaneous Meal Skipping: It consists of skipping meals when convenient, anytime when you don’t feel hungry or are too busy to cook and eat. This is very a flexible version of intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting 16/8 protocol: 16 hours of fasting with a feeding window of 8 hours. It’s one of the most common methods of intermittent fasting. You start your fast at any time that best fits into your schedule. Then, you have eight hours to eat once those 16 hours are over. This is the type of intermittent fasting that I picked and that worked for me, just because it fitted my lifestyle. 

All of these protocols have the same short and long-term benefits, so you want to pick one that fits your lifestyle.

What does intermittent fasting do?

intermittent fasting

So, how does intermittent fasting work?

I’ll answer very simply: intermittent fasting is one, if not the most important factor in weight loss. And when I am talking about weight loss, it’s actually fat loss. Because you want to lose fat, not lean mass, as losing muscle would just make you a smaller version of yourself, with the same ratio of fat/muscle, and intermittent fasting is precisely going to help you reduce your body fat percentage and look more attractive.

Whether you want to look better, or have more energy throughout the day, intermittent fasting is definitely the best way to achieve almost any fitness goal.

A 2014 review study found that this eating pattern can cause 3 to 8% weight loss over 3 to 24 weeks. This is a significant amount, compared to most weight loss studies.

According to the same study, people also lost 4–7% of their waist circumference, which indicates a significant loss of harmful belly fat that builds up around your organs and causes disease.

In the study, the subjects were fasting for 1 to 3 days a week and eating freely during the rest of the week.

In my case, I lost 9% of weight and 8.5% of waist circumference within 20 weeks. It shows that fasting the whole week and doing weight training can help you reach your goals even faster.

Another study showed that intermittent fasting causes less muscle loss than the standard method of continuous calorie restriction.

Why does intermittent fasting work so well for weight loss?

many health benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting does work because it triggers 2 very important hormones in your body:

  • The growth hormone: an anti-ageing hormone, and the most powerful fat burning one. It helps to protect your muscles, build body mass, and lose actual fat.
  • Insulin: it helps you store fat if you want to gain weight, which is not your goal. But what’s important is that in the presence of insulin, you can’t lose weight. It’s such a dominating hormone it would block growth hormone. It’s the hormone that makes you fat and gives you the gut. Anyone with a fat gut has too much insulin.

These are the 2 powerful hormones that you are going to influence.

Intermittent fasting can really heal the insulin resistance. The pancreas is pumping out way more insulin than needed, about 5 to 7 times. When you have too much insulin, the cell starts blocking it and your body doesn’t get the return communication. The pancreas doesn’t get the feedback that the insulin is connecting so it sends more insulin through the channel, so you have a situation where you have resistance of insulin, it’s not working, low insulin in the cell (low glucose), and high amounts of insulin in other places which is destructive and can cause diabetes.

It affects your cells and genes too:

  • Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.
  • Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease.

But is intermittent fasting healthy?

Here is a quick overview of 10 intermittent fasting’s health benefits pictured in this infographic: 

The Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

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  • Protects against neurodegenerative diseases: it increases the brain hormone BDNF and may initiate the growth of new nerve cells. Intermittent fasting could also protect against Alzheimer’s disease
  • Insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases: Intermittent fasting helps to protect your muscles, build body mass, and lose fat
  • Reduces insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels: fasting can contribute to reducing insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar up to 6% and fasting insulin levels up to 31%, making it a beneficial option against type 2 diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Reduces blood and cholesterol levels: fasting may lower high blood pressure blood sugar, insulin resistance, reduce LDL cholesterol (most commonly named « bad cholesterol), blood triglycerides and inflammatory markers which are risk factors for heart disease
  • Boosts metabolism for fat loss: it increases metabolism, making you eat fewer calories. Intermittent fasting is a very effective way to lose weight and belly fat
  • Extends lifespan, helping you live longer
  • Reduces oxidative damage and inflammation in the body
  • Removes waste material from cells
  • Reduces leptin levels, increasing testosterone

Intermittent fasting has many benefits for your body and brain. It can help for weight loss and may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer while increasing longevity.

Intermittent fasting is also very easy to maintain: one of the major benefits of intermittent fasting is that it makes healthy eating ridiculously simple. You don’t need to have six meals a day to reach your fitness goals. There are fewer meals that need to be prepared, cooked and cleaned up after.

How to do intermittent fasting gradually?

healthy food for intermittent fasting

There are different levels of intermittent fasting starting from no intermittent fasting at all to some serious fat burning eating habit.

As a beginner, let’s assume you are starting with 5 or 6 meals a day: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.

The principle of intermittent fasting, from a hormone perspective, is that every time you eat, you spike insulin. A myth is that only when you eat carbohydrates, you spike insulin. It’s completely false. Eating, in general, will increase insulin and prevent you from burning fat, regardless of what you eat, even a snack or the healthy popular organic detox recipe of the month. In this starting situation, we have a person that is spiking insulin all day long.

A first progress step in your intermittent fasting journey would be to switch to 3 meals a day with no snacks and 12 hours fast (first meal at 8 am and last at 8 pm for instance). The ability to go from a meal to another involves eating more fat in a given meal. So, you may want to eat more fat in your breakfast and eventually more protein as it would make you feel fuller.

Then, if you want to take intermittent fasting to the next level, and burn even more fat, you want to do a pattern of 16:8. It means 16 hours of fasting with an eating window of 8 hours. Let’s say you wake up in the morning, but you are not hungry, do not eat, wait until you are. Ideally, wait at least for 4 hours after you wake up.

Yes, you read it right. I am asking you to skip breakfast. You’ve always heard since you were a kid that breakfast if the most meal of the day. It’s completely false.

You can skip breakfast and do just fine.

The problem is that most breakfast skippers have unhealthy lifestyles. If you make sure to eat healthy food in the right quantities for the rest of the day, then the practice is perfectly healthy.

With intermittent fasting, you will have more energy throughout the day because your body won’t be digesting food all day long.

During the eating window, if you eat a nutritionally well-balanced diet and you manage your macronutrients taking in a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, you’ll see the best results, and you’ll see results quicker.

So, let’s say you get up at 7 in the morning and eat at 12 o’clock. That means that your last meal will be at 8 pm. You started triggering at that time the real power of intermittent fasting. The magic does happen between the night and the morning during that extended fasting window and this is simply the key for serious fat burning.

It’s possible to take it even further with a window of 20 hours of fasting, leaving only a 4-hour window of eating in your day. This is called the Warrior Diet. 

You’d wake up and wait until 12 o’clock or 1 and have the first meal and the last one 4 hours later, at 5. You then have 20 hours of serious fat burning. If we add HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), then that would be a killer strategy to lose fat at a pace you haven’t ever expected.

Note that it may take time to transition over the different levels of intermittent fasting. It doesn’t happen in a minute and if you try to go from 6 meals a day to 2 meals with a 4-hour window, your efforts are prone to failure. If you destroy the metabolism through dieting and any of these extreme and unhealthy weight loss methods exposed in magazines, often very low in calories, then it can take more or less time to move on from a level to another.

You should remain comfortable when fasting, not being headachy and having a lot of side effects, even if this can happen a little at the beginning when switching to the next level. Going from a 12-hour fasting to a 16:8 could take three weeks but going from 16:8 to 20:4 could take a month or two, or even three months.

Some drinks can help you feel better when doing intermittent fasting and provide you with essential micronutrients.

Top 4 natural drinks that make intermittent fasting easier

you can drink tea during your fasting window intermittent fasting

It may take some time to get accustomed to intermittent fasting as it’s a whole new eating habit and having these four drinks can help you handle the day better while keeping a good level of energy:

  • Apple cider vinegar: it contains acetic acid. It increases mineral uptake within the body. It’s super important when it comes to fasting because a lot of times, you are mineral deprived. You are depleting a lot of your potassium, sodium, magnesium and these things are critical to your success. Acetic acid optimizes your body’s nutrients and minerals absorption. Moreover, it has polyphenols which act as a prebiotic-type substance, increasing the number of healthy bacteria in the gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.

Be careful not to brush your teeth right after drinking apple cider vinegar though. The reason behind this warning is that it weakens the tooth enamel and makes it softer and more susceptible to attack from bacteria that cause tooth decay.

The best way to ensure that it does not weaken enamel is to dilute apple cider vinegar: you should be fine adding one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 8 ounces of water.

  • Sea salt water: Add some sea salt to your water, about half a teaspoon of salt in a gallon. Same reason, it helps as you are in a state of mineral depletion.
  • Cream of tartar: Add a little bit of cream of tartar to your water. It has a lot of potassium in it. You can tell if you are potassium deficient if while you are working out, you are having cramps. And you can know that you are magnesium deficient if you are cramping up after the workout.
  • Green tea: tea will not break the fast. It has no metabolic response, no insulin response and it’s full of good stuff. Green tea actually helps to decrease hunger by increasing the level of dopamine in the brain, so it would help you handle the day much better. It also helps to release fat for energy. It’s a great recipe for getting ripped as quickly as you can while doing intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting meal plan guidelines

  1. Eat around 0.82g of protein for every pound of body weight (about 1.8 of protein per kg of body mass). Consuming enough amino acids is key to your success. Most unofficial sources recommend 1g/lb, but no, it’s a myth
  2. If you are following a 16:8 protocol, your first meal should be your biggest meal. You can then have a snack if you need to before closing your feeding window with a smaller meal.
  3. Make sure you are eating healthy fats as they help regulate hormone levels and energy.
  4. Keep track of how each meal affects your feelings, satiety, recovery and energy levels. It’s a proven way to structure your day in the most effective fashion.
  5. Consistency is critical, no matter what your schedule is. And the good news is that intermittent fasting gives you more flexibility than any type of diet.
  6. Cook and prepare your meals well ahead of time: it will help you stay on track and avoid junk food in excess.

5 tips to optimize intermittent fasting results

tips for intermittent fasting success

We all want results as quick as possible. Here are 5 tips that can help you reach your fat loss goals with intermittent fasting way faster:

  • Doing it gradually: if you have a blood sugar issue, it would be too difficult on your body. Start with three meals a day with no snack and do not switch to the next level before being comfortable with it. You must do it at your own pace and listen to your body.
  • Avoid overeating: a lot of people stuff themselves during intermittent fasting because they have the idea that they are not going to be able to eat before a long time while you have a window during which you can have an additional meal within the window.
  • HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training): it’s a type of workout where you work the whole body (or at least upper or lower body), a lot of stress, short duration. Try to do it ideally 3 to 5 times a week. Combined with intermittent fasting, it does give amazing results. 
  • Extra sleep: have you ever noticed that when you are stressed, you tend to be hungrier? It would raise insulin and prevent fat burning; this is why you should get extra sleep to reduce your levels of stress by taking a nap if required. You need at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Potassium: it’s the most important mineral to fix a problem with insulin which is behind weight, memory issues, cardiovascular issues, and many others. If you fix insulin, you are going to reach your goals faster. You can’t do it unless you have a sufficient amount of potassium. A normal amount we need per day is 4700mg, which is a lot. It means you must do large salads to hit your minimum requirements. It’s a nutrition secret to speed up things.

The Best Thing About Intermittent Fasting

We’ve covered all intermittent fasting’s health benefits that you can achieve by following this great protocol. However, there’s still something really great that makes it superior in my opinion to any style of eating.

Indeed, intermittent fasting provides you with exceptional dietary flexibility. 

  • Invited to a friend’s birthday dinner in the evening? Great! Skip breakfast and have a protein filled lunch. It will help you feel fuller during the day without having to consume too many calories that you’ll be able to use for your dinner.
  • Going on holiday or travelling? Nice! No breakfast, eat one big meal at lunch and a smaller one in the evening and you’ll do just fine.
  • Losing fat on a calorie deficit? No problem! Start eating at midday and use up the calories you haven’t consumed during the morning to eat more satisfying meals later in the day. You don’t have to feel hungry all day long anymore to lose fat!
  • Any kind of social occasion? Enjoy life! You are always able to save calories for any type of occasion with intermittent fasting by anticipating that you’ll eat more than usual.

Top 8 most common mistakes you should avoid when doing intermittent fasting

Tired woman as she made intermittent fasting mistakesNot doing it because it would make you lose muscle

This is a myth as numerous studies showed that you do not need to eat 6 times a day and you don’t need to have a pre-workout to keep your lean body mass.

Timing doesn’t matter at all and you don’t start losing any muscle unless you remain on a fasted state for more than 24 hours.

It’s just another myth as supplement companies want you to think that because it helps them sell their protein shakes as it’s particularly inconvenient (and expensive) to have high protein sources throughout the day, so the only option is to alternate between food and shakes.

Eating rubbish

While intermittent fasting is an incredibly effective tool to take control of your health, it won’t cancel out eating a diet full of processed foods and sugar. A balanced diet is critical and will always be.

Attempting to do too many things at the same time by overtraining, undereating and do fasting

Don’t start training six times a week, fasting every day for 20 hours and restricting calories when you do eat from day one after years of inactivity and miracle diets is not a good idea. The combination can lead to adrenal fatigue.

Not eating enough during the eating window

It may sound crazy, but this can make you gain weight. Why? Not eating enough makes you lose muscle, causing your metabolism to slow.

Because you’re losing that metabolic muscle mass, you may be sabotaging your ability to lose fat in the future.

Eating super clean and only whole foods do harm to you the same way as it’s not very calorically high and you end up eating a very little amount of food leading to a dramatic decrease of energy.

The result is that you would be feeling worse as you’re deprived of energy. Your goal is to be on a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day to lose fat, no more. The magic of intermittent fasting is that it allows to eat more calorically dense food so take advantage of it!

Not tracking your macros

Eating whatever without tracking your macros can make you mess up.

For fat loss, all you have to worry about is the calorie intake. For physiques/aesthetics, macronutrient ratios do matter. You have to eat a certain amount of protein (around 1.8-2g per kg of body mass) and not more calories than you need.

I did gain some body fat when I started having too much ice cream, so you have to keep track a little bit, especially at the beginning, so you get used to eating certain amounts of foods and staying consistent with it on a daily basis.

Not drinking enough water

A lot of people do not drink enough water and crash with their electrolytes.

When it comes to fasting, as a result of not eating, a lot of people fail to drink water as well. A lot of times when you think you are hungry, in fact, you are thirsty, and by drinking water, you satisfy a lot of that perceived hunger. It is recommended that you drink at least 2L of water a day (half a gallon).

When your body is in the fasted state it starts to break down damaged components and cleanses the body. Hydration is extremely important because it helps you flush out the toxins.

A common mistake is that a lot of people have black coffee in the morning and they only drink that before their first meal. It would raise your blood pressure and cause a lot of issues. 

Too much caffeine (about 2000mg) may also raise your insulin levels, which is exactly what you don’t want, and you might end up having carbohydrates. Kevin Kreider Taejin advises not to have more than 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily.

Not giving your body time to readjust

You’ve been eating for years in a certain way so it’s going to take a little bit of time for you to get to the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Give it at least 30 days trial.

Obsessing over timings and eating windows

You should not focus on the time period if you choose to skip breakfast you can break your fast whenever you feel hungry.

It’s better to follow a general pattern rather than feeling guilty because you had your first meal an hour after the usual time. Even if you miss a day, it’s OK.

Many people question themselves whether they should completely stop because of that. If you are obsessed over it and too much worried about these tiny details, you will fail.

What you need to keep in mind is that intermittent fasting is a lifestyle and if you can’t sustainably use it by not being able to not able to adapt to days where you can fast as long and days where you have to skip a fast, you will inevitably crash.

At the end of the day, it’s about making it sustainable and none of these very small truly matter: the whole goal of regulating your « diet » is to find what works internally for YOU and makes you FEEL good – fueled, full and happy.

In my opinion, the most sustainable way to achieve this is flexible dieting. 

How To Transform Your Body With Flexible Dieting And Still Enjoy Life

Dieting is not easy. Nowadays diet plans look more like a punishment than self-improvement strategies. Saying goodbye to grains, carbs, red meat and almost anything containing sugar, gluten (which you otherwise love to eat) and naturally calories is too tricky….right?

We hear you.

The problem is that most of the diets are quite impractical. The whole idea of dieting is dreadful, don’t you think so?

However, flexible dieting is different.

It lets you lose fat and build muscle without following any strict diet plan. It is hard to believe, but that’s what you’ll also say after reading through this article till the end.

We all are in search of a workable diet program for maintaining ideal weight. Such programs aren’t hard to find, all you need is a little bit of awareness and proper guidance.

So, if you are tired of reading about how metabolism works and managed to lose weight, you’ve come to the right place. In this article right you’ll learn how to transform your body through flexible dieting.

What is Flexible Dieting?

They say that no pain no gain, but I tend to disagree. How about gaining everything without any pain? Y

Yeah, that’s the way it should be, and this is what flexible dieting is all about.

You don’t need to spend the rest of your life sighing over pictures of your favorite food because you aren’t allowed to eat it.
There is no need to feel demotivated if you can’t follow a diet plan strictly.

We all are humans, and it’s only natural that you don’t find enough willpower and dedication to follow a plan.

Besides, why can’t you have chicken and eggs, and all those yummy sweet treats?

While people are starving in Africa, developed countries citizens are depriving themselves of food knowingly to lose weight. There is a far better plan that allows you to eat everything and transforms your body dramatically.

Sounds too good to be true? That’s just how flexible dieting works.

Flexible dieting lets you eat all that you want seven days a week and only make a few dietary changes so that you don’t have to deprive yourself of food.

Once your body starts responding positively to those changes, you can go on to follow the same routine. This is the ultimate plan to break free from the anxieties and limitations associated with diet plans.
I guarantee that once you adopt flexible dieting, you’ll never look back.

Just Like Intermittent Fasting, Flexible Dieting Isn’t a Diet

flexible dieting is not a diet

Yes, it isn’t your regular diet plan. Just think about it for a second.

  • Which diet plan lets you eat everything without any restrictions?
  • How can you expect to transform your body by eating tons of carbs every day?
  • Would any diet plan allow you to eat sugary treats without feeling guilty?

So technically speaking, flexible dieting isn’t a diet plan. This is one of the most common points of criticisms that flexible dieting has received so far. It is believed to be an anti-diet plan that cannot lead to dramatic body transformation.

That’s totally wrong!

Most of the criticism emerges from the fact that everyone thinks differently about flexible dieting and so, its impact can be good or bad.

To make the plan easier to understand, here’s an outline of what flexible dieting is about.

  • The quantity of food is more important than what you eat.
  • You must adapt your food choices according to your goals, priorities, and lifestyle
  • Forgive dietary breaks. “Keep calm and carry on.”
  • Long-term following is the key to lasting improvements

What we can learn from this outline is that with flexible dieting, it is your personal preferences that rule the plan not the other way around as it happens in different diets. Flexible dieting lets you take your body’s primary energy and nutrition demand and convert it into an exciting eating routine.

The 5 Commandments of Flexible Dieting

flexible dieting commandments

Here are the fundamental principles of flexible dieting:

  • Never deprive yourself of your favorite foods
  • Always make an eating schedule that you like
  • Consider dieting as a lifestyle instead of a quick fix
  • Expect to make dietary blunders and have cheat days more occasionally
  • Resume your routine without feeling guilty

These rules are easy to follow, and that’s why the plan is becoming so popular every passing day.

How Does Flexible Dieting Work?

flexible dieting how does it work?

All these rules and principles may appear amazing on paper and theory. However, what about their practical implications and do these work. Let’s find out.

The quantity of food is more important than what you eat

Flexible dieting is all about balancing the energy instead of clean eating. The amount of food is more important than the food you eat. Believe it or not, clean eating is quite a tricky road and missing the track is always on the cards.

Usually, clean eaters go off-track because they aren’t aware of the fact that nutritional value hasn’t got much to do with its impact on your body.

Eating nutritious foods in high quantity is the right thing to do to maintain good health. However, foods cannot promote weight loss or weight gain.

Ultimately, sugar alone is not your enemy as it won’t make you fat unless you have too much sugar and “healthy fats” are not going to make you lose belly fat.

The concept of “energy balance” is new to many but for your information, it is the right thing to do when trying to lose weight.

Energy balance is the relationship between the amount of energy your body receives through eating and the amount it burns.

It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?

Not really.

Physiological reality is that sustainable weight loss occurs when your body receives less energy. On the other hand, weight gain occurs when the opposite happens.

When you’re eating less energy than you burn, this promotes negative energy balance or a calorie deficit, and this leads to weight loss.

Eating more calories than your body burns leads to a positive energy balance or calorie surplus. So, you experience weight gain. Hence, it’s all about calories at the end of the day.

The point to be noted is that no matter how clean or nutritional the food is, you will gain weight if you don’t maintain a calorie deficit. If you follow a gas station diet and eat the fattiest foods, even then you’ll lose weight.

Professor Mark Haub lost 27 pounds following an extraordinary diet of protein shakes, Doritos, Little Debbie snacks, Twinkies, and Oreos.

The only difference was that he at fewer calories than what his body burned. As per the first thermodynamics law, this resulted in a decrease in total fat mass.

However, a calorie isn’t a calorie when we think about optimizing body composition.

To build muscle and reduce fat gain, whatever you eat matters. The way foods break down concerning macronutrients is essential to consider.

You must tailor your food choices according to your goals, priorities, and lifestyle

Turn up the beet cartoon funny

Flexible dieting allows you to eat all those foods that you like, seven days a week.

That’s right.. it is so!

There isn’t any limitation that you should choose from options that are categorized as “healthy” foods such as nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies.

It’s true that to ensure optimal health and wellbeing; you need to receive most of the calories with these “safe” food choices. However, while doing so, you have the right to eat those devilish “unhealthy” foods now and then.

Yes, we are talking about those foods that dieticians categorize as forbidden foods like pasta, pizzas, French fries, bagels, and ice cream.

A general rule of thumb is that if your body is receiving 80% of its daily calories from unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods, then the remaining 20% can be gained from these forbidden delights.

So, flexible dieting allows you to indulge in a range of unhealthy foods from chocolates to muffins, pancakes to cookies, and so on. All depends upon the number of calories you can “afford” regardless of your body goals.

It means that you can choose to be as lean, muscular or healthy as you’d like to be.

Take my example. I eat servings of fruits, veggies, quality proteins and also fatty and unhealthy foods like sugar, grains, and dairy on a daily basis. The balancing of calories is the key here. You have to find the right balance between nutritious and non-nutritious foods.

  • Forgive dietary breaks… “Keep calm and carry on.”

Following a highly restrictive and low-calorie diet is a bad idea because then you get food cravings and end up cheating. Cheating leads to mistakes, and ultimately you quit because you fail to achieve the results you want.

It’s a very commonly observed scenario. Millions of people stop dieting simply because the plan is so unreal that they cannot follow it on a long-term basis.

Flexible dieting breaks this cycle of cravings>cheating>mistake>quitting quite effectively.

It happens so because when you are allowed to eat foods that you like, don’t restrict calories too much, keep a balance in your micronutrient intake, then you can expect magical or dramatic transformation.

It all depends upon your psyche. That is when you force yourself towards not eating certain foods, which you otherwise like, you are adding a psychological burden on yourself. When this burden becomes too much, you lose the power to resist food cravings.

Thankfully, flexible dieting doesn’t let this psychological burden to pile up. You aren’t required to force yourself to avoid foods, so try to maintain a balance.

Losing weight becomes an enjoyable and exciting journey.

However, let’s face the fact; it’s unnatural not to expect cheat days. At times, you may feel hungrier than other days. Such as, you may overeat at a wedding or a party. Moreover, it’s just OKAY.

There is no need to fear to overeat, be ready for it.

So what if you had a few more scoops of ice cream, it’s so delicious you cannot stop yourself from overeating. It’s no big deal.

Even if you follow this pattern of overeating for a few more days, what is so bad about it? Okay, you have gained a little fat or increased the calorie surplus.

However, you haven’t gotten yourself back to the time you started weight loss journey. It’s all good. Just keep calm and carry on. Moderate binges won’t cause as much fat gain as it is commonly believed. The damage can be undone within only a week or two.

  • Long-term following is the key to sustainable improvements

There is an old saying- “The best diet is the one you can stick to” and surprisingly it still makes sense.
Basically, in just one line the whole essence of successful dieting is presented to you. You’ve got to stick to the plan to achieve sustainable results. As you can see, the emphasis here is on “sustainable results,” which means results that you can easily maintain, and this should be the actual goal.

You don’t want to follow a crash diet to lose weight rapidly only to end up regaining the lost weight after some time. We can’t call this a sustainable result. Flexible dieting makes it easier for you to obtain your body composition goals painlessly and straightforwardly. It’s flexible enough to be adjusted with any lifestyle. It isn’t a quick fix but a long-term habit.

Why Should Flexible Dieting Fit Your Macros?

calorie fit macros flexible

Hitting the macros basically, refer to flexible dieting. You didn’t know that did you?

It’s ironic that flexible dieting has already been there for decades, but it’s only now that we are learning about it.
Anyways, let’s focus on macros.

Macro is the short term for macronutrient. It is defined in the dictionary as any nutritional components found in the diet that are required in large amounts.

Proteins, minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium, carbohydrates, and fat all are macronutrients. It is a misconception that macros don’t include macrominerals, but it does.

Do remember that proteins, carbohydrates, and fat are the macros that you pay most attention to with flexible dieting.

Don’t feel that tracking these three instead of tracking the overall calorie count would be irritating because, to be honest; it isn’t. All that’s required is a bit of “practice.”

Then it will become a habit.

If you keep track of macros, you may not even need to track calories as these would fall into place naturally.

Getting Started With Flexible Dieting

flexible dieting is not a diet

I know that you’re hooked now. So, it is time to check out how to follow flexible dieting.

Here are the ground rules of flexible dieting:

Make sure that you get almost 80% of your daily calories from nutritious, unprocessed foods. Don’t think that since you are allowed to eat junk food to fit your macros, you need to do that all the time.

Remember that our body needs sufficient amount of fiber, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals to function correctly and Oreos, Pop Tarts, and Fruity Pebbles can’t get you there.

Here’s a handy list of nutritious and tasty foods that you can eat almost daily.

  • Avocados
  • Greens (chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach)
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mushrooms
  • Baked potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Whole grains like wheat, barley, oats, brown rice
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, quinoa, and sunflower)
  • Beans (garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto)
  • Lentils, peas
  • Almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Salmon, halibut, cod, scallops, shrimp, tuna
  • Lean beef, lamb, venison
  • Chicken, turkey

The list is just endless. You can keep on adding more to this list and benefit from the goodness of naturally nutritious foods.

Make an eating schedule that fits your lifestyle and preferences

eating schedule with flexible dieting

Generally, it doesn’t matter when you eat as long as you are maintaining your energy and macronutrients balance. So, meal timing and frequency directly can’t affect your weight loss goals. You may choose to eat one meal or expand your meals to seven per day; it’s all up to you. You can prefer to have a substantial breakfast or skip it altogether and have lunch. You can have carbs whenever you want to.

On the other hand, if you want to lift weights, here are some points to remember:

Studies suggest that eating protein both pre and post weightlifting workouts can help in muscle growth and strengthens them for a more extended period

Researchers claim that eating carbohydrates (high-carbohydrates) after the exercise can help in muscle growth as well due to insulin’s anti-catabolic impact

If you lift weights regularly, it is suggested to have at least 30 to 40 grams of protein after a workout to repair muscles efficiently.

Creating a Flexible Dieting Plan

Hopefully, you are now seeing the real beauty of this fantastic diet routine.

Now it’s time to finalize a flexible dieting plan, and this is going to be the easiest of all programs you’ve ever tried.

Let’s distribute the plan according to the two goals that you want to achieve: Fat Loss and Muscle Gain.

Flexible Dieting For Fat Loss

fat loss flexible dieting

Remember that the key to fat loss is maintaining a calorie deficit.

Therefore, the first step would be to know the number of calories you need. A calorie calculator will help you learn the number of calories your body should burn every day.

Whatever number you get, it will be an accurate measurement of the total amount of energy you want your body to burn every day. This number is called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure- TDEE.

If you eat the same amount daily, your weight will remain the same. So, to reduce it you need to eat lesser calories than what is identified to be your TDEE.

Wondering how it all works?

Flexible dieting works on the Katch McArdle formula to assess your basal metabolic rate and multiplies it according to your activity level.

Now you’d want to know why the activity multipliers are somewhat lower than standard ones.

It’s because standard multipliers are way too high and unless your metabolism is abnormally fast, your TDEE will be higher with the standard multipliers. So, you’ll end up worrying about why you aren’t losing weight.

How to calculate the calorie deficit

Keep the calorie deficit in moderate ranges, such as about 20 to 25 % because anything higher would lead to unwanted side effects that are caused by “starvation dieting.”

This means, your daily calorie count should be 75 to 80% of your TDEE.

Let’s suppose your average daily TDEE turns out to be 3,000 calories. So, to lose weight, you need to eat 2,300 calories.

To keep things simple, you can just multiply your body weight in pounds by 11 to 13 to find out the calories you need to consume daily, depending on how aggressively you want to lose fat (x11 being the most aggressive). 

Determining macronutrient targets

After figuring out your calorie targets, let’s now switch focus to protein, fat, and carbohydrates or in simple words macronutrient targets.

What do you need to do?

Take 0.8grams of protein for every pound of your body weight. In case you are overweight (for a man over 25% of body fat, and for a woman, over 30%), change it to 1gram per pound of lean body mass.

The remaining calories come from carbohydrates and fat.

Simple… isn’t it?

I don’t suggest a low-carb diet for flexible dieting, and there are many reasons for this.

The bottom line is that as long as protein intake is high, low-carb diet cannot help in fat loss.

However, if you aren’t too active, then a low-carb diet would make sense because carbs are mainly energy boosters and since you aren’t burning too much of energy, so you don’t need more carbs.

If you are active, then your body can have plenty of carbohydrates as it will need energy reserves on a regular basis. That’s why physically active people shouldn’t have a low-carb diet.

Don’t forget to make a list of foods that you’d want to eat daily and then identify their macro profile. You can check it on MyFitnessPal. It’s a good option for checking out food listings and their calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrate range.

Now, according to the number of calories you’ve determined earlier that you can eat per day, start piecing it all together. Make a menu that entirely pleases you and helps you achieve your desired calories target.

You need to stick to the plan and if you feel tired of a particular meal or food then replace it with something that fits your number.

Flexible Dieting Routine to Build Muscle

you can gain muscle with flexible dieting

To lose fat, you need to eat less than the TDEE number. However, to build muscle or bulking, you need to eat a little bit more.

Here’s why:

To improve and maximize muscle growth, you must eat 10% more than your average TDEE because this calorie surplus lets your body to grow efficiently.

So, for bulking, the macronutrient break down is entirely different from fat loss.

Eat 0.8gm protein for every pound of body weight and the rest of the calories come from carbohydrates and fat. 

Let’s understand it with an example.

Let’s say we want to find the number of calories needed by an individual weighing 200lbs in a bulking phase: 

200×0.8 = 160 grams of protein = 640 calories

TDEE = 200×14 = 2800 calories 

Bulking calories = 2800×1.1 = 3080 calories

Calories from fat and carbs = 3080 – 640 = 2440 calories 

(Keep in mind that 1g of carbs is equal to 4 calories, just like 1g of protein, and 1g of fat contains 9 calories) 

Bottom Line

If you are confused about the effectiveness of flexible dieting, you aren’t alone. Many would feel so. Even I was one at some point and thought that it was a waste of time. However, today, I am promoting it proudly.

Flexible dieting is a fantastic way to lose fat and build muscle without compromising upon your eating habits and food choices.

It helped me lose fat and build muscle at the same time and many other people, including Chace. 

Meet Chace, the fasting real-life Pokemon Bug-Catcher

A few days ago, I interviewed fellow fitness enthusiast Chace who’s got great results doing intermittent fasting with a flexible diet after trying a bunch of different methods in the past.

ntermittent Fasting Before After Weight Loss Muscle Gains

He shared with thoughts about his fitness journey : 

Me: Hello Chace, can you introduce yourself?

Chace: I am Chace, from Singapore.

I am a guy who enjoys exploring the wild and going on adventures, but I enjoy my quiet times too. I am a real-life Pokemon Bug-Catcher as some of my friends called me, and an entomologist working in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Me: What are your previous experiences with fat loss programs?

Chace: When I started my fitness journey, I didn’t want to go only for aesthetics; I aimed to be functional, healthy and strong. Due to the challenges of a working life, getting to be disciplined and fit at the same time is difficult, but I don’t think it’s impossible.

I tried various diets, with the aim to lose weight as I was fat. I tried diets such as low-carb/high-protein and eating many small meals a day but none lead to the result I wanted to achieve – losing weight.

I even tried to increase my cardiovascular workouts, as I thought more cardio, especially high-intensity interval training such as indoor cycling (or RPM), will help burn off the fat. Still, I couldn’t lose any weight.

Frankly, I spent about three years trying different diets and exercise regimes to achieve weight loss but to no avail. Though I felt disappointed with no self-achievement, I knew I shouldn’t give up.

Me: How has intermittent fasting impacted your lifestyle?

Chace: 1 year ago, I enrolled in Kevin’s programme after doing intermittent fasting for a few months.

When I first started out on intermittent fasting, I realized that not only I feel more active in the morning; I felt more energetic than before. Once the body has adjusted, the energetic feeling you get throughout the day is excellent. I love it!

It helps me stay on track of intermittent fasting, and some days I even increased my fasting window to 19 hours.

I did 6 months of Body Shred & Tone Transform II, including Sculpted Abs (19 Sep 2017 to 19 Mar 2018), I dropped my weight from 71 to 68.5kg, my body fat decreased from 14% to 12.1% and my waistline decreased from 31 to 29. I was surprised that I got to my goal despite going through a few festive/holiday periods with lots of eating and buffets, like Christmas and Chinese New Year. Plus, I went on a 2-week vacation, so I put training on hold.

I hardly did any cardio during the program.

I am delighted that I started intermittent fasting and took the Body Shred course. It has helped me achieve my goals, not only in losing weight but also getting stronger. I first tried to become as consistent as possible to make things become habits and part of a lifestyle.

After the Body Shred course, I moved on to Power Body Muscle Maker and Bulk Course as I wanted to get stronger and fitter. With this course, I have put on mass and went back to the initial weight when I first enrolled in Body Shred. Hopefully, it’s not all fat?.

Overall, I have to say intermittent fasting is great for me. I am doing it 95% of the time. I do not eat breakfasts most of the time but once in a while; I have breakfasts with my family. One of the best things with intermittent fasting is that I need not worry about missing out my favorite food at all (some are junk food). I can say I do not want to go back to the 3-meals-a-day routine as it makes me less active and I can feel my body spending energy to digest food the whole day.

Gym motivation quote shared by Chace pre-workout
On days you feel unmotivated to exercise, just head to the gym, even if you end up doing nothing. When it becomes a routine, you find it easier to exercise when you are constantly surrounded by the like-minded.

Me: Isn’t it too hard not to eat for 16 hours?

Chace: The first few weeks were tough because I changed a deeply rooted habit I got used to since childhood. As children, we are all taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Thus, having to skip breakfast, and changing from 3 to 2 meals a day was a challenge. I went from no fasting at all to the 16:8 protocol by progressively increasing my fasting window until I reached that 16-hour period.

I have friends/colleagues who tried intermittent fasting, after learning about it from me, but they find it tough to adhere to. This is because some of my friends are foodies, it is a challenge for them to resist good food. Thus, if you can stick to it or keep trying intermittent fasting, you show that you are better disciplined than most people.

Me: What are your future fitness goals?

Chace: Now that I have achieved my primary goal of losing weight, my future goals are to become stronger and fitter, and more flexible.

The most critical part and the challenge of this fitness journey is staying consistent.

Frequently Asked Questions

frequent questions about intermittent fasting

Here is a Q&A with the most common questions about intermittent fasting.

1. Can I Drink Liquids During the Fast?

Yes. As stated in the article, you can drink water, coffee, tea, apple cider vinegar, and any other non-caloric beverages. You may add small amounts of milk or cream, but it’s better if you don’t.

Coffee, in reasonable amounts, can be particularly beneficial during a fast, as it kills cravings.

2. Isn’t It Unhealthy to Skip Breakfast?

No, several studies showed that it’s just a myth.

You don’t need to have breakfast to be in good health. You should notice that your energy levels are higher and never feel drained anymore in the morning before lunch.

3. Can I Take Supplements While Fasting?

Some people say yes, but it should be avoided. It’s OK to have calorie-free supplements during your fast window but not having a pre-workout/post-workout won’t make you lose muscle.

4. Can I Work out While Fasted?

Yes, and you should have even more energy!

5. Will Fasting Cause Muscle Loss?

All fat loss methods can cause muscle loss. However, studies showed that intermittent fasting causes less muscle loss than regular calorie restriction.

You can maintain your muscle mass by lifting weights and keeping your protein intake high.

6. Will Fasting Slow Down My Metabolism?

No, as long as you are not fasting for more than 24 hours, you should be fine, and your metabolism should be boosted.

7. Should Children Fast?

Absolutely, in fact, they should, especially if they are overweight, according to Dr Eric Berg. If you want to make a child lose weight, intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful things.

As all the kids love to snack, start with three nutrient-dense meals a day and you can gradually go to the next level.

However, the warrior diet is not recommended unless the child is obese.

8. Can I Drink Coconut Water During The Fasting Hours?

Short answer: no.

Even if coconut water is a low-calorie drink, it contains nutrients. For instance, one 11-ounce container has 60 calories. Drinking coconut water will break your fast.

Conclusion

As with any diet change, I recommend to first consult your doctor before implementing intermittent fasting into your life and to always listen to your body. Experience and science showed that it’s the best way to lose fat while enjoying the food you love. But If something doesn’t feel right, just DON’T DO IT, because health comes first.

This is particularly important if you:

  • Have diabetes.
  • Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
  • Have low blood pressure.
  • Take medications.
  • Are underweight.
  • Have a history of eating disorders.
  • Are a woman who is trying to conceive.
  • Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea?
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Intermittent fasting is great for some people, much less for others. The sole way to find out which group you belong to is to try it out.

What do you think of intermittent fasting? Is there anything else you’d like to share? Feel free to comment in the section below!

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Youssef is the founder of DoctorFitHealth.com. He's passionate about fitness and nutrition and loves sharing his thoughts with others about the subject.

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4 Comments

  1. Jasmine Hewitt Reply

    THANK YOU for pointing out women can build muscle, and not look too bulky. When I danced professionally and worked out daily, I had abs and biceps, which is amazing for my small frame. But I never got bulky or manly looking, and that was a legit fear because I did want to keep a “girlish” figure. Even after reading the truth on women and steroid use, it was hard to get the idea that if I wasn’t careful, I’d get huge overpowering muscles just from lifting weights

    • Youssef Reply

      Thanks, Jasmine, for sharing your experience! Women tend to avoid the weights zone in the gym like the plague because of that persisting myth. It’s actually hard, even for men, to build muscle so it’s just impossible to get bulky overnight even with steroids!

      We have all have a natural limit that we can’t cross without chemical assistance. That natural limit is generally a nice-looking physique, toned, muscular, but not bulky.

      So you just can’t get bulky unless you use steroids!

  2. Practicing intermittent fasting is something I’ve been doing for a long time and it really works for me. I lost almost all my belly fat and can’t wait for the day it all disapears.

  3. This is a new concept for me. I love my food but know I must do something about my weight. After reading your article I feel inspired to give this a try.

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