by Tony Gjokaj February 25, 2020 5 min read

With fitness, there’s plenty of non-absolutes. Simply put, there’s no direct or secret way of getting in the best shape of your life. It’s all consistent effort.

Since I started working out, I’ve seen a constant cycle of dieting styles: Keto, Intermittent Fasting, Low Fat diets, and more. Every couple of years, the trends repeat cyclicly.

We can choose any of these diets. A lot of them sound appealing, HOWEVER: What if you can’t stick with the newest diet in the long term? 

Truth is, there's no one way to diet. We all require different nutrient intakes based on our genetics, training style, personal preferences, culture, and more.

With that, I wanted to propose a systematic solution to your own dietary preferences: Flexible Dieting.

In this post, we are going to explore Flexible Dieting.

Let's dive in!

Flexible Dieting

Flexible Dieting is a system that revolves around a few of the following principles:

    1. Portion Control: We use a specific method of choice (listed in the meal track method section below) to develop proper eating habits.
    2. Method of Tracking: it can be a macro/calorie tracker app or a food journal. Be aware of what you eat.
    3. Eat 3-5 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables per day: this will ensure you cover some of your health and nutrition goals.
    4. Four to Six Meals a day: dependent on your personal preferences.
    5. Stay Hydrated: drink AT LEAST 8 cups of water. Hydration is important!
    6. Don't eliminate food groups: Allow for indulgence - we typically allow a "free meal" once a week. A free meal is a meal you enjoy as a reward (see a great video on free meals here!) While we do eliminate all junk food in our homes, one dinner date with dessert will not destroy your diet. Enjoy life.

With these six principles, you can develop simple dieting guidelines that you can follow to craft a powerful diet around your lifestyle.

Let's explore these six principles below.

Meal Track & Portion Control

While a calorie is a simple measurement of energy, there are many methods you can utilize to help you eat properly. You can track calories to help gain or lose weight, track using a food journal, or you can start by developing portion control through something like the "PFFT" Method.

We will discuss these methods in this section.

Use the one that seems easy to get into and build a habit around!

Meal Track Method One: Food Journal

If you’re just getting started with tracking, I would encourage you to start by JUST keeping a “Food Diary” or Journal. A simple 1% change per day is manageable. If you go all-in immediately, you most likely won’t be able to build a solid habit in nutrition.

Don’t disregard this one; this simple step will change your lifestyle drastically! This small sort of incremental change will keep you motivated to push drive you in the right direction.

Just like tracking your monthly expenses, I believe it’s important to track what you eat. This is because you build AWARENESS when it comes to what you eat. When it comes to meal tracking, you can write it down, or download a meal tracking app like MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal will help you track foods by searching in their database for the food you eat. I do this to track my food when I eat out at restaurants too: even if the calories aren’t exact, I have the food tracked and I’ll be more inclined to share my dessert.

Other great apps would include:

  • MyMacros+: if you prefer tracking macronutrients only.
  • RP Diet: this app sets up scheduling for your training and nutrition. It's your online training and nutrition coach. You pay monthly after a free trial, but it's a powerful accountability app.

There are plenty of apps you can use to track food. If this is not necessarily something you prefer, we can always use the portion control method in the next section.

Meal Track Method Two: “PFFT”

If you don’t want to track your foods, portion them. This is where the Palm-Fist-Fist-Thumb strategy comes in! From Precision Nutrition‘s method on portion control, you can use this to size our portions PER MEAL. Here’s how to do it:

  • Palm = Protein: The palm is used for portioning Protein sources like Chicken, Fish, etc. Two palm servings for men, One palm serving for women.
  • Fist = Carbohydrates: The fist is used for portioning Carb sources like Rice, Potatoes, and/or Oatmeal. Two fist servings for men, One fist serving for women.
  • Fist = Veggies: The fist is also used for portioning veggies like Broccoli, Asparagus, and Green Beans. Two fist servings for men, One fist serving for women.
  • Thumb = Fat: The thumb is used for portions of fat-dense foods like Peanuts or Almonds. Two thumb servings for men, One thumb serving for women.
  • Adding a Fruit for dessert and/or post-workout is the perfect way to feel satiated/fuller.

As you can see here, this is a less complicated method of “food tracking”. By default, this is should put you in a good spot for “maintenance calories” if you do some form of activity.

If you find that after a COUPLE OF WEEKS you are struggling to drop weight, take out 1/2 portion of carbohydrates out in one meal (or take a fruit out) and assess. I guarantee you will notice results over time.

Meal Track Method Three: Calorie Counting

Once you get used to food tracking AND you want to take your calorie tracking further, you can now get a MORE accurate calculation of your calories to “move the scale in the direction you want it”.

A Simple Calorie Calculation

The following steps are what I use in getting a more accurate estimation of maintenance calories before I dig into either a “gaining weight” phase or fat loss phase.

This method was created by Dr. Eric Helms (he knows his sh**), and it’s fairly solid:

First Step: Get your “Base Calories”. Take your body weight and multiply it by 10. This will give you a base calorie intake. The base calorie intake is what you technically burn through daily without activity.

Second Step: Find the “Activity Multiplier”. The activity multiplier is a generic estimation; you might need to adjust depending on how much energy you expend. This is determined by the following:

  • Very low activity (light cardio): 1.3-1.4
  • Active (weight training 3-5 days weekly): 1.5-1.8
  • Super Active (high intensity; genetic outlier): 1.8-2.2

Third Step: Take your base calories and multiply them by your multiplier to get your “Maintenance Calories”. This will determine the calories you can POSSIBLY eat to maintain your current physique.

  • Example: Me at 175. 175 x 10 = 1750 (base calories). I am active (1.5), so 1750 x 1.5 = 2625 (maintenance calories)

Fourth Step: Determine your phase (whether fat loss or gaining), then add/subtract from “maintenance calories”.

  • If Fat Loss is the goal:
    • Your goal is to lose 0.5-1% per week of bodyweight.
    • The sweet spot would be 300-500 calories subtracted from maintenance.
    • My example: My maintenance calories are 2625. For fat loss, I will subtract 400 calories. 2625-400 = 2225 calories for fat loss
  • If Weight Gain is the goal:
    • This is determined by training experience.
    • If a Beginner (first year of training): add 300-500 calories to maintenance.
    • If Intermediate (2-5 consistent years of training): add 150-300 calories to maintenance.
    • If Advanced (5+ consistent years): add 60-100 calories to maintenance.

And there you have it! 

To Conclude: Flexible Nutrition

So there it is, methods and a brief intro to flexible nutrition. There is so much to cover with nutrition that we cannot cover in just one blog post. This is why we encourage discussion!

Any questions, comments, or insights? Throw them below! Let's discuss!

Until next time, legion!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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