What Is Flexible Dieting? | Stephen Coleclough Personal Trainer
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What Is Flexible Dieting?

What Is Flexible Dieting?

Most diets have restrictions on the kinds of food that you are allowed to eat.

A low-fat diet will steer you away from delicious foods like cheese, ice cream and chocolate.

The Atkins diet, on the other hand, will demand that you severely limit carbohydrates and focus on eating protein and fat instead.

If you find these kinds of restrictive diets difficult to follow, you aren’t the only one!

Fortunately, there are other diets available which can give you a little more leeway about what you are allowed to eat, including the increasingly popular “Flexible Diet”.

There are no “bad” foods that must be avoided on a flexible diet.

You are completely free to eat any food that you like — as long as it meets your macronutrient requirements.

Sounds good?

Read on to learn more about this popular dieting technique.

How does Flexible Dieting work?

Flexible dieting is more of a lifestyle than a diet.

Instead of having a list of foods that you can and can’t eat, you will have complete freedom over which foods you choose to enjoy.

However, you will have to follow a set of rules that dictate the calorie limits and macronutrient content of the foods you eat each day.

Before you start a flexible diet, you will have to determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

This is the amount of energy that your body uses each day through exercise and normal biological processes.

You will also have to calculate your macronutrient requirements.

These calculations can be done by hand or by using an online macro calculator.

Calculating your TDEE involves adding together your:

Resting energy expenditure (REE)

This is the total number of calories that your body burns when you are resting.

This accounts for between 60 to 70% of your daily energy expenditure.

Non-resting energy expenditure (NREE)

The calories that you body uses when you are exercising during daily activities (walking, standing, moving about).

This also includes the energy it takes to digest the food you eat.

Once you know how many calories you are burning each day, you will know how many calories you can consume via the food you eat.

Fortunately, there is a simple equation that can use to approximate your TDEE:

For men, it is  (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) + 5

For women, it is (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) – 161

So, if you are a 30 year old female that weighs 80 kg and is 161cm tall, that would be:

(10 x 80) + (6.25 x 161) – (5 x 30) – 161 = 1495.25

This figure is then multiplied by a number that represents how active you are:

  • Sedentary (little or no exercise): x 1.2
  • Lightly active (1–3 days per week): x 1.375
  • Moderately active (6–7 days per week): x 1.55
  • Very active (every day): x 1.725
  • Extra active (twice or more per day, elite athletes): x 1.9

If you are moderately active, that would be 1495.25 x 1.55 = 2,318 calories

Now, that number is the amount of calories you should consume to stay at your current weight.

If you want to lose weight, you will need to subtract between 10 to 20% from that figure.

Subtracting 20% brings us to a total of 1,854.4 calories.

Next, you will need to calculate your macronutrient needs.

Macronutrients are the major nutrient groups that your body needs to survive.

They are:


Between 10 to 35% of your daily calories should be from protein.

There is about 4 calories per gram of protein.


Between 20 to 35% of your daily calories should be from fat.

There is about 9 calories per gram of fat.


Between 45 to 65% of your daily calories should be from carbohydrates.

There is about 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates.

Thankfully, most macro calculators will tell you how much of each macronutrient you can consume each day so you don’t need to do more calculations manually.

However, if you prefer a diet which has more of one of the macros, you can tweak what the calculator tells you to eat.

Because there are 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate, they can easily be swapped.

That allows you to have a diet with 50% carbs and 20% protein or whatever other ratio you enjoy eating.

Using the example above (the 30 year old woman) and using this macro calculator, we end up with:

Carbohydrate 67g 43.7%

Protein 48g 31.3%

Fat 17g 25%

Most calculators allow you to tweak protein levels, change how many meals you have a day and change your weight loss goal.

This makes it simple to calculate your flexible diet requirements.

To keep your diet healthy, you will also need to consume some fibre.

Women need about 25 grams and men need about 38 grams per day.

Tracking your calories

The next step towards starting your flexible diet is to plan the foods that intend to eat each day and check that the total caloric and macronutrient content of those foods meets your goals.

The easiest way to do this is by using an app on your smart phone.

There are plenty of great apps to choose from including My Fitness Pal, Lose It!, and Fat Secret.

These apps will let you plan out your entire diet or calculate how much you have eaten as you progress throughout the day.

So, there you have it — Flexible Dieting explained.

It is a very effective way to lose weight that gives dieters the freedom to choose what they eat.

Thanks for reading What Is Flexible Dieting?

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Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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