Nutrition

Flexible Dieting: How I Stay Lean (plus 7 days of meals)

In my last post I explained why I love Flexible Dieting.

Today, I'm detailing the tools and strategies I use to maintain abs year round while still being able to eat at restaurants and occasionally enjoy foods that would be “off limits” on traditional diets.

I've even documented a week's worth of meals so you guys can see exactly the kind of foods I'm eating on a daily basis.

Now, while some use Flexible Dieting as an excuse to pack in fast food and desserts, I like to take a different approach.

Why I don't eat much junk food

I've never been big on taking my Tupperware chicken and rice out to restaurants so I choose to use Flexible Dieting because it allows me the freedom to change my diet from day to day.

But rather than using Flexible Dieting to sneak in constant burgers, pizza, and fries, I mainly use it as a way to allow for a social and constantly on-the-go lifestyle.

Even with this flexibility, there's still a really good case to be made for selecting healthy choices most of the time.

Because a calorie isn't a calorie

I know – it's been drilled into your head that: “a calorie is a calorie.”

But in reality, your body can only gain or lose weight in response to the calories it's able to use, not necessarily what the label says.

Just as you can only live off the money you take home, not your gross income.

Certain foods, namely protein and vegetables, are very “expensive” to digest.

And that's a good thing because it means that your body is expending calories to extract calories from these foods.

Fats and highly refined foods such as white bread and butter are essentially glucose IVs that cost almost nothing to break down and utilize.

Which means if the label says 300 calories, you're getting upwards of 90% of the total.

For protein and greens, you may only net about 70% or less of the calories consumed.

Loosely translated – that means you can eat more and stay lean!

Since I have the appetite of a fat kid, I've learned to rely on a protein and vegetable heavy diet to allow me to eat “more” for fewer net calories.

That's one of the reasons I can maintain my weight on over 3,200 calories and didn't have to drop much below 2,700 when cutting last summer.

But, I find that when I start to slip and consistently consume the same 3,200 calories from processed junk food, my body weight begins to slowly but consistently creep up.

So a calorie is definitely not a calorie.

Because I want to live!

I was mostly sedentary as a child and subsisted primarily on kids' cereal, frozen pizza, and popsicles.

I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, everyday, for over 10 years.

At the age of 30, I've consumed more alcohol in the course of my life than the combined membership of most smaller fraternities.

I don't live like this anymore, but needless to say, I have some making up to do!

While it's entirely possible to live off of junk food and protein shakes and still meet my macros, I want to be healthy for as long as possible.

I want to look and feel my best, day in and day out.

So that's why I choose to eat the vast majority of my calories from “healthy” whole food sources.

How I make Flexible Dieting work

flexible dieting daily totals

Every single diet is hinged upon some key element.

For some, it's complete avoidance of a certain nutrient.

For others, it's eating the exact same pre-planned meals each and every day.

Any deviation from these “essentials” and the diet is no longer as effective.

Even if it is healthy, you can't go around eating fruit all day if you're on a low-carb diet, for example.

And even though Flexible Dieting is very forgiving, there are still rules to this game.

But don't worry, they all hinge on a single concept: are you actually eating what you think you're eating?

Hitting my numbers

This sounds painfully obvious, but a lot of people adopt Flexible Dieting thinking that they can eat anything and everything they want.

They get way too lax with tracking their food and fail to make progress.

No, you aren't going to gain fat or lose muscle if you're a gram or two off with your protein intake for the day.

But get into the habit of just winging it and you won't be making progress as fast as you could, if at all.

I do my best to hit my numbers dead on every single day I can.

I do this to offset the occasion when I'm away from home for 12+ hours and have to sacrifice some carbs to balance the extra fat intake.

Being very diligent most of the time means I don't have to sweat the days when I can't hit my numbers with a reasonable effort.

Weighing food

flexible dieting scale

With Flexible Dieting, there's an inherent need to be accurate with as many of your portion sizes as you can.

If you do some calculating and conclude that you need 73 grams of fat per day and just eyeball a serving of peanut butter, you can be off by as much as 10 g of fat for that serving.

Multiply that by several meals per day and 7 days per week and you've completely negated the efforts of a custom diet plan.

The only way to be truly sure how much you're getting is to weigh your food.

If I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I put my plate with two slices of bread on the scale (I have this one) and zero it out.

Then I use a knife to scoop peanut butter onto one slice until it reads 32 g, zero it again, then smear 20 g of jam on the other slice.

I've done this so many times that it only takes about 30 seconds and I know EXACTLY how much I'm eating.

Consistency

flexible dieting consistency2

Our bodies change based on the average of what we do.

Flexible Dieting loses its effectiveness if you're diligent during the week but “forget” to track everything on the weekends.

If you eat at a strategic deficit during the week but go way overboard on the weekend, the average for the week may be maintenance calories or above.

That's how plateaus happen and why people end up discouraged.

Once you get used to it, tracking your macros is a really simple process.

I've been tracking my food nearly every day for over a year and it's become like brushing my teeth.

I would say that it's just something I do without thinking about it, but I've actually come to enjoy the “game.”

I used to hand draw tables, read and transfer nutrition label info, and then calculate my totals for the day, every day.

But that was in the stone age (5 years ago).

Modern man uses an app on his smartphone to keep track of all the details.

I use My Fitness Pal, which is a free app that allows you to document everything you eat and then shows you charts and graphs of the compiled information.

If you're the type of guy who likes building up character stats in video games, this kind of thing should appeal to you.

How I make Flexible Dieting easier

Flexible Dieting allows you total dietary freedom, provided you actually hit your macros.

But that doesn't mean that you have to abandon your traditional bodybuilder's eating style.

Meal prep and consistent eating still have their place.

For me, eating completely different foods on a daily basis is more trouble than it's worth.

It takes a little time to plan, search for, and confirm the macros in your smartphone app.

So I like to simplify things by rotating a few frequent foods to help meet my goals without too much additional effort.

Eat a consistent breakfast and lunch

flexible dieting recent foods

I can't believe I haven't grown tired of this yet, but I've had oats and whey nearly every morning for the past year and a half.

I vary the quantities and ingredients based on whether I'm bulking or cutting, but I keep it the same for months at a time.

And this means that I can enter my breakfast numbers in less than 30 seconds. I can even do it the night before.

Lunch is a similar story. I like to eat some kind of scramble with plenty of veggies.

At different times of the year I may have more or less carbs on the side and sometimes I include egg whites and reduce the number of yolks to control fat.

But since I eat consistently from one day to the next, the things I ate the day before pop up in my “recent foods” list and I can record my meal in seconds.

Let dinner be the wildcard

My wife doesn't follow any specific eating plan and likes to enjoy food, regardless of macros.

And since we live on a street lined with 10 to 20 restaurants per block, I like to go out with friends from time to time.

Combine these factors and dinner ends up being the big unknown for me on a typical day.

So to keep my options open, I generally “save” a good portion of my macros for later in the day.

Use my pre-bedtime meal as the equalizer

After dinner, I take a few minutes to see what I need to hit my macros on the nose.

Then I look through my cabinets and run the numbers.

Sometimes this can be a very balanced meal right before bed.

Other times it's a disjointed combination that would make most raise an eyebrow.

But I don't mind eating a can of tuna with a side of peanut butter and half a slice of bread if that's what I have to eat to make this wonderfully flexible dieting plan actually work.

I'll also use this time to sneak in a little junk food since I only have limited calories to work with and have already had my fill of healthy food during the day.

Use fewer ingredients and bigger portions

I don't like complicated meals.

Well, I do if someone else is preparing them, but at home I keep things as simple as possible.

That means cooking a protein, starch, and fat, and skipping all the unnecessary extras.

This is not only great for time management, but also makes tracking your macros so much easier.

It's a real pain in the ass to try to break down how much you're eating of each food when you make a stew with 13 ingredients.

I'd much rather cook ground beef, add it to pasta sauce, and then pour it over whole wheat noodles.

That's only three entries to make at portion sizes that are truly satisfying.

How I calculate my macros

flexible dieting macros

There're a million ways to deduce your caloric and macronutrient requirement.

But most of the formulas are way off base for me, so I don't bother with complicated calculations.

Here's the easiest way to run your numbers.

Step #1 – Establish maintenance calories

To get my maintenance calories, I just tracked my food intake for a week and then averaged it (actually, I let My Fitness Pal do this for me).

Since I was maintaining weight at that time, this average represented the most accurate maintenance calorie number possible.

Presently, I have my maintenance level at 3,200 calories.

Step #2 – Protein requirement

The next step is to calculate my protein requirements.

The highest recommended by most sports nutrition organizations is usually 1 g protein per pound of bodyweight.

Many coaches and bodybuilders go as high as 2 or 3 grams per pound, but I'm certain diminishing returns start to set in at that point.

However, I do like to keep my protein intake higher than what the mainstream sources say, so I go with 1.25 grams per pound. Thus:

185 lbs x 1.25 g = 231 grams of protein per day

231 grams of protein x 4 calories per gram = 924 calories from protein

Step #3 – Fat requirement

I'm an ectomorph and tolerate carbs fairly well, so I keep fat to a minimum to allow as many of them as I can.

I get my fat total by using o.4 grams per pound of bodyweight.

This allows me to have plenty of fat in every meal to stay satiated, and is also high enough to include healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, and almonds.

185 lbs x 0.4 g = 74 grams of fat per day

74 grams of fat x 9 calories per gram = 666 calories from fat

Step #4 – Carb requirement

For carb intake, I don't use a multiple of my bodyweight.

I simply make up the rest of the calories I need to hit my maintenance level.

3,200 calories – (924 + 666) = 1,610 calories from carbs needed

1,610 calories from carbs /4 calories per gram = 402 grams of carbs per day

Now what?

Since I've run these numbers, I don't worry about calories or anything else because those numbers are inherently controlled by hitting my macros.

Everyday, my food intake will ideally look exactly like this:

  • Protein – 231 g
  • Fat – 74g
  • Carbs – 402 g

My macros aren't static

One of the major benefits of flexible dieting is that it's infinitely adjustable.

I'm a tinkerer by nature so I like to see how I respond to a little more protein, more fat, or less carbs, but it doesn't have to be complicated.

I could just as easily keep my fat and protein numbers constant, and just change my carb intake to reach weight gain or loss goals.

When losing weight, I drop some of my macros to make about a 200-calorie per day cut and ride that out as long as I'm losing weight.

Once the scale stops moving, I make another cut and continue the process.

I use much the same strategy for bulking.

Rather than adding 1,000 calories right away, I avoid fat gain by working up my macros over time.

 7 days of eating

For those of you curious about the kinds and quantities of food I eat in a given week, I catalogued all my meals and supplements for a seven day period.

Monday

flexible dieting monday

NOTE: Monday is a 6 am lifting day for me and I typically don't like to spend my food “budget” at 5 am, so I wait until after my workout to have breakfast.

But rather than hitting the weights in a completely fasted state and potentially sacrifice muscle mass, I take some amino acids along with my pre-workout.

I've been using the Champion Performance Amino Shooter and their pre-workout, Turbulence. Once I'm out of the gym, I've been using their post-workout recovery supplement, SYN-Matrix.

  • Supplements – Champion Performance stack
  • Breakfast – Oats and whey and a cucumber
  • Lunch – Chicken salad sandwich with arugula and cheese, a cup of cottage cheese, and a salad
  • Dinner – Baked chicken, steamed green beans, and four cups of wild rice blend
  • Bedtime snack – Vanilla greek yogurt with blueberries, a small orange, and almonds

Tuesday

flexible dieting tuesday

NOTE: I had my first ever coconut curry for lunch this day and immediately got the ingredients to try and make my own at home. Sadly, my first attempt looked like dog food, but it tasted pretty good.

  • Breakfast – Oats and whey
  • Lunch – Coconut curry chicken with soba noodles and seasonal vegetables
  • Dinner – Curried chicken (10 oz) and five cups of wild rice blend cooked with coconut oil (an 1,800-calorie meal!)
  • Bedtime snack – Mashed sweet potato with a scoop of vanilla Phase8

Wednesday

flexible dieting wednesday

  • Supplements – Champion Performance stack
  • Breakfast – Oats and whey with peanut butter and a cucumber
  • Lunch – Giant scramble (full pint of egg whites and two whole eggs) with onion, green pepper, and potatoes
  • Dinner – Curried chicken, steamed green beans, and five cups of brown rice
  • Bedtime snack – A cup of cottage cheese with strawberries

Thursday

flexible dieting thursday

  • Breakfast – Oats and whey with banana and a cucumber
  • Lunch – Foot-long Chicken Teriyaki sub with green pepper, cucumber, tomatoes and red onion
  • Dinner – Coconut curry shrimp (8 oz), steamed broccoli, and four cups of brown rice
  • Bedtime snack – Two cups of vanilla greek yogurt mixed with a scoop of vanilla Phase 8, blueberries, and a superfood seed blend

Friday

flexible dieting friday

  • Supplements – Champion Performance stack
  • Breakfast – Oats and whey and a cucumber
  • Lunch – Four whole grain waffles with berry reduction (blueberries and strawberries reduced in a sugar-free syrup) and a scramble with mushrooms and green onion
  • Dinner – Coconut curry shrimp and white rice, an orange bell pepper, and a glass of red wine
  • Bedtime snack – Massive bowl of oatmeal (4 cups cooked oats) with 3 scoops of Champion Performance Whey, 2 bananas, and 3 Tbsp. peanut butter – a 1,400-calorie snack!

Saturday

flexible dieting saturday

  • Breakfast – Oats and whey and a cucumber
  • Lunch – Salad with romaine, chicken, apple, and olive oil
  • Dinner – Three big ground beef tacos with brown rice, roasted corn, black beans, and avocado in spinach tortillas
  • Bedtime snack – PBJ (with strawberry preserves), a cup of cottage cheese, and a pint of skim milk

NOTE: I wish the portion sizes would translate better here. Each of the three burrito-sized tortillas felt like they weighed about a pound after they were stuffed.  It was a massive meal.

Sunday

flexible dieting sunday

  • Breakfast – Oats and whey and a cucumber
  • Second breakfast – Breakfast burritos (using eggs and leftover taco meat) with avocado and salsa
  • Lunch – Salad with chicken, romaine, roasted beets, strawberries, and apples in a raspberry vinaigrette
  • Dinner – Cajun chicken sandwich with a side of french fries
  • Bedtime snack – Jam sandwich and a bag of low-fat popcorn (do what you gotta do to hit those macros!)

NOTE: Since dinner was at a local restaurant that didn't offer nutrition info, I entered a serving of fries from TGI Fridays.

What's in it for you

During this experiment, I found myself with a case of the “observer effect.”

Even though I did my best to eat normally, the fact that I was going to post all of these images for you guys to judge was always in the back of my mind.

So I actually found myself wanting to make better food choice during this week.

You can recreate this effect for yourself by simply beginning to track what you eat!

Also, this is more of a reinforcement rather than something newly learned, but my weight steadily declined throughout this week.

Even though I ate the same number of calories as I always do, I started at 186 lbs and ended at 184 lbs as a result of making healthier choices.

If you're in the process of losing weight, you can eat more by making healthy choices and still burn the fat.

So that's what Flexible Dieting looks like for me.

How are you using Flexible Dieting?

All the best,

Nate

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67 Comments

  • Reply
    Brandon ramlal
    January 27, 2016 at 6:34 am

    You are obsessed with quality and I love it. Beautiful site + meticulous information.

  • Reply
    Daniel
    January 27, 2016 at 9:41 am

    +1 with Brandon’s comment. The clean and beautiful presentation is inspiring. Do you eat the raw cucumber like a carrot?

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 27, 2016 at 10:12 am

      Yeah. It’s a little weird, I know, but when I don’t see an easy way to work veggies into a meal or I’m too busy to chop an prepare them, I just eat them on the side.

  • Reply
    Mike
    January 27, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Hey Nate–

    Great, great post. One thing that I want to comment on that I think needs some clarity. The calorie determinant is already factored into the “burning” /effective/useful calorie breakdown of each macrobiotic macronutrient.

    The real reason that junk food frequenting a flexible diet doesn’t work is simply because the satiation effect from the calories in junk food don’t provide the feeling of being full, both from “taking up space” and a “ease of consumption” of the junk foods.

    Awesome, awesome write up man.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 28, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      I totally agree with you about the lack of satiety and “ease of consumption” of junk foods. It’s like a frenzy as soon as I open a bag of Doritos. On the note of the useful calories already being factored, check out this study. Basically, they gave one group a processed cheese and white bread sandwich and the other group got a multigrain bread and real cheddar cheese sandwich. Both were equal calories, but the “whole food” sandwich produced an energy expenditure of about 20% of the meal while the “refined food” sandwich was only at about 10%. Oddly, they noted no difference in satiety. Let me know what you think.

  • Reply
    Florian Ulrich
    January 27, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Hey Nate, thanks for the article!

    Those food pictures look a million times better than any “normal” diet could. Great guide, and I can easily adjust it to my own caloric goals.

    So may new ideas. Great.

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 27, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      It is a very enjoyable diet. I don’t eat a single food I don’t like and thoroughly enjoy nearly every meal. Can’t beat that!

  • Reply
    ERic
    January 27, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I applaud your ability to not eat in between meals, or at least you didn’t mention any snacks in this article. The harder I train, the hungrier I find myself getting between meals. I always try to make good choices with fruit/veggies but it just doesn’t always work out for whatever reason.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 27, 2016 at 8:17 pm

      I know what you mean about being hungrier the heavier you train. I always used to be starving when I ate small, frequent meals like 6 oz of chicken, 1 cup of rice, and veggies. That little 400 calories every 3 hours didn’t cut it. These meals, although the scale is hard to see in the photos, are all between 750 and 1,800 calories each. So just the bigger, less frequent meals has helped big time.

      • Reply
        anthony
        January 28, 2016 at 3:20 pm

        I had the same question as Eric – and you’re answer makes so much sense. I had a 367cal breakfast (was hungry by 10am) and then a 593 lunch (was hungry by 2pm). I may try for bigger meals and see if i can make it longer in between. Thanks for an awesome article and responding to comments.

  • Reply
    Axel Page
    January 27, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Hey Nate, awesome article man. I had a quick question though. Do you take into consideration the calories burned during your workout? I see that your maintenance calories are 3200, but I’m not sure if that number increases on the days you strength train and/or do any cardio workouts to account for those additional burned calories.

    Thanks,
    Axel

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 27, 2016 at 8:24 pm

      I don’t consider calories burned in the gym because I keep my routine fairly constant and that energy expenditure was present when I took my initial average. Basically, I know I’m hitting my average over the week based on my scale weight. If it stays the same, I’m at maintenance overall. Even if I happen to burn more calories on one day versus another, it all evens out.

  • Reply
    Jordan
    January 27, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    I didn’t see much listed for beverages. I get a lot of satisfaction during the day with coffee, or a glass of milk with dinner. Obviously a couple of beers could change everything. What are your tips for integrating beverages into the flexible diet, assuming one wants to drink more than just water….

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 27, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Great question, Jordan. I drink water, black coffee, and tea all throughout the day but didn’t take photos because they don’t contain calories and that would’ve been too much to show. I normally drink more alcohol than this but that “observer effect” kept me reaching for water instead. When I do drink, I take the calories away from my carb intake. A light beer, for example, has about 100 calories. So I’ll make myself “sacrifice” 25g of carbs for every beer I drink. Anything non-alcoholic just gets entered at whatever the label says.

  • Reply
    Andrian
    January 28, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Nate you should open a restaurant. Awesome meal plan. Thanks a lot!

  • Reply
    Shobhit Choudhary
    January 28, 2016 at 3:36 am

    After seeing all the pictures..I am already hungry Nate. Time to gulp down egg whites.
    Anyway for the supplements I hope you find this useful.
    https://labdoor.com

  • Reply
    Kris
    January 28, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for the info, Nate! Welp, I’m cutting very aggressively to get it done, then I’ll get more into a flexible dieting plan after I reverse diet out of this cut. I’m actually on TestE and equipoise (500mg/400mg week) right now, so I just started my cut on Monday of this week, all the way down to 2200 calories a day. I’m 37 and weigh 205. Well, I did a electrical impedance on Sunday then really quickly on Wed just because, and I went from 202-197, while my bf dropped from 17.1 to 15.6! Wow drugs! I think the EQ is helping.

    I only sacrificed .6lbs a muscle in this short period according to the scan. I just got so disgusted when that 17% reading showed that I was ready to be shredded once and for all, been permabulking! Right now I”m thinking 12% as my goal, but now I have my eyes on 10% after such a quick movement.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 28, 2016 at 8:38 pm

      That’s awesome, Kris! The main reason I advise guys to take a conservative approach to fat loss is to preserve muscle mass but it sounds like you’ve got that taken care of, haha. How long is your cycle? Keep me posted on your results.

  • Reply
    Craig
    January 28, 2016 at 11:32 am

    I am 51 years old and I use the KISS method, “Keep It Simple Stupid” I eat very similarly to you, I just don’t weigh and track it like you. I eat clean all week and I give myself six free meals a week, not crazy eat everything in the book meals just a little less clean. Eating like this keeps me balanced and I can add or subtract a small amount and move 5lbs up in weigh or 5 pounds down in a months time. So Basically I follow your plan I just am a little lazier as I age and I try use the KISS method with my diet. I Love Iron Tweed and both of my sons love your articles as well! I also use KISS with my workouts , I plan what I am doing for the week and I ensure I get it done, it’s flexible as well and if for some reason I need to miss a day I switch the schedule to ensure I get it all in week after week.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 28, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      You’re spot on, Craig! Simple is usually best. Am I correct in guessing you’re pretty experienced in dieting and lifting since you can control your weight without tracking?

      • Reply
        Craig
        January 28, 2016 at 9:27 pm

        I have been dieting and lifting for about 30 years now, I have tracked in the past and I know that it is the best way to get results! The same with workouts , I use to journal each workout and exact weight and make changes as needed, In my older age I don’t journal anymore but I still follow the same concepts.

        • Reply
          Nate
          January 29, 2016 at 7:20 am

          Wow, 30 years! I was just curious because that’s a message I try to instill in guys who are just starting out. You have to put in the time with tracking and calculating your food and following established lifting routines before you can come up with effective plans on your own.

  • Reply
    Lyle
    January 28, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Awesome write up. I really enjoy flexible dieting and find it works quite well. After a while weighing your food just becomes something you do, like cooking it, not a big deal at all. I find I enjoy eating clean while cutting because I don’t have a huge appetite and if I eat clean I actually have a hard time getting all the macros in haha. Also, the cleaner I eat the less I crave bad foods for some reason.

    One question: why do you subtract from carbs when consuming alcohol and not fat? I’ve read that alcohol basically inhibits the body from burning fat and so on days it is consumed you should lower fat intake. What is your take on that? Does it really matter if you hit the macros? Or does that only pertain to large quantities of alcohol? Obviously it works for you I’m just curious as to your reasoning. Great article as usual!

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 28, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      I’m totally with you on the cravings. Now that I’ve been eating cleaner, I can go into the donut shop with my wife and not order anything except a black coffee, haha. I subtract the calories from carb just because I have more of them to give. If I decreased my fat substantially, I wouldn’t have enough in the budget to eat the health nuts and oils I need to get in. Both methods would work pretty much the same, as long as you balance calories.

  • Reply
    Adam
    January 28, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Hey Nate, do you work from home to be able to eat these type meals for lunch or do you take them plated up into your workplace and heat them up there? I have to take a packed lunch to work usually consisting of cold chicken, rice and veg which gets pretty boring. Thats interesting about the protein and veg being harder to digest, i can eat a big meal of chicken, rice and veg and my stomach is rumbling 30 minutes later, but when i eat a large pizza i feel very full. Great site anyway, made me think alot more about getting versitile clothing items.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 29, 2016 at 7:23 am

      I work from home now but used to pack stuff just like this to take to work with me. The difference between your chicken and rice and a large pizza is the fat content and also simply more calories. Try adding some olive oil over the top to make it stick with you a little longer.

  • Reply
    Brendan
    January 28, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    This is why I love this site. As many people have already said, beautiful, high definition, and quality content.

    I love your approach to flexible dieting. That’s how it’s meant to be done. I see a big variety of healthy foods, really colourful, and with supplements thrown in for the purpose of supplementation. The food looks really damn tasty too, the high def makes it especially appetizing, how much better does it get than that?

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 29, 2016 at 7:09 am

      Thanks, Brendan! It’s definitely tempting to eat a bunch of junk and I sometimes do, but I really try to focus on getting that momentum going by meaning healthy choices.

  • Reply
    efe
    January 28, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Excellent article Nate. I will try these. Thanks a lot!

  • Reply
    Luke
    January 30, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Awesome looking week of food Nate!
    Thanks for the fantastic article so much great information in this post.
    I’ve started using My Fitness Pal too and I think where I’ve been struggling is eating too few calories a day.
    I’m 5’10” and about 180lbs so a solid guy but I haven’t been getting the results in the gym because I’ve been on about 2000 calories for far too long.
    Despite working out for most of my life I’m only just starting to “get” proper nutrition.
    Going to make some big changes, based on advice like yours.
    Keep up the great work,
    – Luke

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 31, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      It’s amazing what tracking your food, even if for a short period, can teach you about your own eating habits. It’s far to easy to under or overestimate how much you eat. If you have trouble getting in more that 2,000 calories, check out this article to help stimulate your appetite.

  • Reply
    Lloyd
    January 31, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    fantastic article!

    any chance you can link/post the recipes for some of these meals? they look delicious

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 31, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks, Lloyd! You can find a few recipes under the nutrition tab above (the mango cajun fish tacos are excellent!). I’m working on perfecting an easy coconut curry from my food diary.

  • Reply
    Timothy
    January 31, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Hey Nate, awesome article! I just wanted to ask, do you eat raw oats? Are there any differences between raw oats and oatmeal? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 31, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      I’m not sure if you mean cooked vs uncooked or processed vs unprocessed. I eat the plain old fashioned rolled oats which are just the little oats (they look like rice) that have been smashed with no further processing. Oats and Oatmeal are usually used interchangeably but the later can also refer to the pre packaged stuff that’s loaded with added sugar. I almost always eat them cooked now but have used them as part of a meal replacement shake in the past and drank/chewed them raw in that case. Does that answer your question?

      • Reply
        Timothy
        January 31, 2016 at 11:16 pm

        Hey, thanks for answering. Yes, I meant uncooked non-processed oats. I just started eating them with milk and maybe a banana and whatever else I can throw inside. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Chris
    February 2, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    When people talk about 1g/pound of body weight, is that per lb of lean mass? I’m 6’3″ / 325, and estimate being around 35-40 body fat. So yeah, I’m a big dude. I wouldn’t think it’s necessary to cram 325g of protein into my body every day, but think 225g might be a good target. Thoughts?

    I’m active 4-6 days a week, sometimes everyday. Just depends on what my weekends are like. Typically, I get in 4 lifts and a “mini-triathlon” day each week. I lost 110 lbs in about 11 months in 2014, but have been stalled out since, actually putting back on about 30 of that over the last 15 months. I’m not discouraged by the weight gain so much because I know I can lose it again, but feel that my nutrition is what’s holding me back. My fear is that I’ve jacked up my metabolism by trying to eat less to accelerate my weight loss, which seems to have backfired, as you’ve mentioned.

    Anyway, a lot of your exercise and nutrition posts have been super helpful for me recently. I’ve adopted progressive overload as my lifting routine, and I’m in the beginning of my 3rd cycle. It’s been awesome, and I feel stronger than ever. If I could just nail down my diet – and perhaps temper expectations – I know I can get where I want to be.

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 2, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Congrats on the major weight loss, Chris! And you’re exactly right, 1 gram per pound of lean body mass is spot on (I should be more specific in my posts). Your lifting and cardio routine sounds solid, what’s your diet like? Do you know how many calories you eat of have you been tracking macros?

      • Reply
        Chris
        February 2, 2016 at 5:16 pm

        I’ve been tracking my nutrition using MFP for a while now, but it’s lacked focus since I hit the weight loss plateau. I’ve tried eating 3k calories a day, and I’ve tried eating 1800 calories a day. I’ve tried high protein and I’ve tried low carb. After reading this article last night, I decided to go back up to about 2500-ish (MFP recommendation) calories with a 35/30/35 carb/fat/protein composition, which works out to 214/84/214 per day. Seems reasonable enough. I rarely try to hit my macros on the nose like you do though. It’s never occurred to me to have a spoonful of peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg, and a half a piece of toast before bed to close out my macros. My mentality has always been that if I come in under my fat and carb totals, that’s a win as long as I’m right at or just above my protein goal. Now that I have a bit more direction, I’ll have something to stick to for an entire month. As long as I’m honest with myself, I should be able to make some progress over the next 30 days. Thanks for the reply, and keep up the awesome work!

        • Reply
          Nate
          February 3, 2016 at 5:29 am

          The main reason that I hit my numbers dead on is because I do frequent adjustments to my diet so I want to know that if my weight stayed the same for a week, it was because I was eating exactly 3,200 calories and I can safely make a jump. Those numbers you’re using are very reasonable. Stick with them for as long as they’re working and make a cut once you’ve stalled. How did you like low carb dieting?

  • Reply
    Chris
    February 3, 2016 at 7:46 am

    I hated low-carb dieting. Can’t stress that enough. I’m not huge on deprivation, which is sort of counterintuitive to weight loss, but my journey hasn’t really been about that. I’ve made wholesale lifestyle changes, which is probably the only way you can do what I’ve done without surgery or other medical assistance. To me, there are too many healthy carbs found in nutritious foods to ignore them. Oatmeal and fruit have been a big part of my diet, and I don’t want to give those things up. The benefits they provide with energy and digestion far outweigh the negatives for me. But it’s also important to know and understand the difference between simple and complex carbs, and what each will do to your body.

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 4, 2016 at 5:59 am

      I was just checking because low-carb diets are often used for substantial weight loss. I’m glad you found a way of eating that works for you and as long as you control quantity you should be all set.

  • Reply
    Riccardo
    February 4, 2016 at 5:32 am

    You say that you choose “healty foods ” beacuse they allow you for a greater calorie intake due to the higher metabolic expedure to absorb them. So you imply that aside from that, a calorie IS a calorie, and body composition is not affected by quality of food, but just by macros proportions. Am I right?
    So can I keep lean or even lean down by choosing whichever foods, given that I prefer comfort and vastity of choice to eating extra quantities?

    Thanks

    Riccardo

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 4, 2016 at 5:53 am

      It’s really difficult to make absolute rules because the human body is a complicated thing. We all have a friend who eats nothing but potato chips and candy and stays at 6% body fat. But essentially, as long as you eat at or below maintenance you can stay lean regardless of food choices. Eat what you like and if it works for you, stick with it. Hope that answers your question.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Ryan
    February 13, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    If you dont mind me asking how tall are you and how much do you weigh? Also do you have an extreme daily job like construction or just lots of cardio?

    Asking since I am 5’10, 191lbs. I been eating around an average of 1900 calories for 3 weeks, including the 4000 and 3200 calorie break, but these are included in the avg. I also lift every single day for an hour-an hour and a half. 15-20 minutes of cardio every day also.

    I am pretty big muscle wise. I am also on TRT, but I cant seem to cut. These 3 weeks I have seen 0 difference in my physique eating healthy foods and tracking everything.

    Do you also track the oil you pour into the pan when cooking chicken, fish or something like that?(no spray where I live in Europe)

    Thanks and just trying to get some ideas

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 13, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      I’m right around 185 lbs at 6’2”. I lift on average 4 days per week and do a couple 20 minute medium intensity cardio sessions per week (more curing the summer) along with walking to run errands. Other than that, I don’t do anything too physical. I’ve worked my calories up very slowly since the end of summer. I was maintaining about 180 lbs on roughly 2,700 calories but I’ve worked that number up to almost 3,600 now with only about a 5 lb gain. I don’t count oil for cooking if it something like quickly swiping a stick of butter on a pan to cook eggs but if I actually pour oil into the pan then I do count it. How many calories were you eating prior to 3 weeks ago?

  • Reply
    Matt
    February 15, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Nate have you thought about putting up some more recipes on the site? Preferably following the KISS method

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 15, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      Yes I have, Matt. I’m actually planning on releasing some Youtube videos related to cooking/meal prep. Right now I’m trying to nail down a super easy version of the coconut curry sauce and I’m really close.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    sarah
    May 26, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Hi! quick question- when I’m adding up/ tracking my macros on my fitness pal , am i supposed to be looking at the targeted grams, or the the macronutrient percentages? Also, if I’ve met all my targeted grams per macronutrient category and have remaining calories, it it okay to consume them from least another 12 grams of proteins and fats even though it would go way over the protein and fat percentages?

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 27, 2016 at 6:19 pm

      I do set calories and percentages but those aren’t really necessary. I only pay attention to my desired macros. For example, I could set my calorie goal to something absurd like 8,500 and set the percentages to 90/5/5 and it wouldn’t change how I use the app. Also, sone of the foods don’t have the calorie and macro info listed correctly so make sure you’re checking them.

  • Reply
    Dan H
    June 30, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Any reason why you wouldn’t just deduct the breakfast calories from your target? That way you don’t even have to bother logging it.

    • Reply
      Nate
      July 1, 2016 at 5:26 am

      Depending on what I have planned for the rest of the day I sometimes vary the quantity of the ingredients to save macros for later so it isn’t always exactly the same. Also, I don’t have to search for the foods because they’re already at the top of my recent foods list. I can enter the numbers while I’m eating. But you’re right, if my breakfast was exactly the same every day, deducting it from the total would be a time saver. In fact, you could do this with any meals that are kept constant.

  • Reply
    Aneudi
    January 5, 2017 at 1:34 am

    Awesome article Nate! Just wanted to know what do you add to your cottage cheese because on the picture it looks like you sprinkle something extra on them? Thanks!

  • Reply
    Aneudi
    January 11, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Nate, I was just wondering what you put in your cottage cheese and Greek yogurt as shown in your pictures? Looks like some sort of strawberry reduction????

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 14, 2017 at 7:18 am

      That’s just frozen berries thawed on the counter of in the microwave for 10 seconds or so. The freezing process breaks the cell walls so they’re super juicy when they thaw which is perfect for mixing with cottage cheese and yogurt.

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