14. Mai


Pop tarts and Ben & Jerry’s

This started out as being a Facebook post, but became too long and ended up as a blog post instead. A lot of people mistake flexible dieting as a diet consisting of pop tarts and Ben & Jerry’s. That is definitely not the way I see it.

When I first started working out several years ago, I was obsessed with sticking to my strict diet which consisted of chicken breast, canned tuna, protein shakes, egg whites, salmon, broccoli, oatmeal, white rice and white potatoes. Adding ketchup or BBQ sauce to my meals used to feel like “cheating” and I followed this diet 6 days a week and had a cheat day every Sunday. It certainly got the job done, but when I look back, my relationship with food was not healthy.

1.It made me sick and tired of my diet and to this day, I rarely eat canned tuna due to the amounts I used to consume.

2.My cheat days was a complete binge from 6 AM in the morning until midnight and I used to eat everything you could imagine during those hours.

3.It limited my social life. Bringing my tupperware containers and my protein shakes to family dinners, birthdays and even on The Norwegian constitution day, I would bring my oatmeal, protein shakes and canned tuna. After all, It was not a Sunday (cheat day).

During my bachelors degree in nutrition and personal training certification, I read Lyle McDonalds book on flexible dieting which completely changed my outlook on nutrition. I started to realise that nutrition was not in black & white terms. I would not ruin my diet if I had a cup of ice cream on a thursday with friends. But believing this made me continue my binge untill monday, and then started my diet all over again.

These days, I have a much more relaxed approach to nutrition by following many of the guidelines that has been recommended by Alan Aragon and Eric Helms.

1. I have a target for my macronutrients for the day.

Currently I am on a cut, so I am doing:

Training days (4-6 days a week) 
200 g protein
250 g carbohydrates 
50 g fat

Non-training days (1-3 days a week)
200 g protein
150 g carbohydrates 
50 g fat

2. I mainly focus on getting the majority of my food from whole food sources.

3. A minimum intake of 5 servings of fruit/vegetables/berries every day.

4. An intake of 20-30 g of dietary fiber every day.

5. If I have cravings for something, I make some small adjustments to make them fit my macros.

Now for me, being flexible is not about fitting in junk food in my diet everyday. Its more about making adjustments when I have the cravings, eat it and move on with my day.

Sometimes this might be on a Monday, sometimes on a Sunday, sometimes it might be a family gathering where I know there is a bigger chance for me to have cravings.

If I do not have the craving, I will not eat it, but having the option to eat it if I want actually makes me have less cravings compared to when I was to strict with my diet.

Take this week for example. I have been on point with my macros Monday-Friday with absolutely no cravings. I focus a lot on actually making my food taste good with a lot of variety. That way, I do not get bored.

A typical day for me might look like this:

Meal 1: 2 whole eggs, 3 egg whites, 50 g of turkey, 2 slices of whole wheat bread and a banana

Meal 2: 150 g chicken breast, 200 g veggie mix and 100 g of beans

Meal 3: 40 g of whey protein, 300 ml of low fat milk and a banana

Meal 4: 200 g lean ground beef (5 %), 60 g of rice and 200 g veggie mix

Meal 5: 250 g low fat cottage cheese, 100 g of mixed berries and 80 g of oatmeal

Today (Saturday) I woke up, ate breakfast, went to the gym and spent the rest of the day outside with my wife and son playing. On the way home, we all wanted ice cream and I was craving a McFlurry. Now a McFlurry has approximately 300 kcal for the small size based on the flavour that you choose. So how did I adjust it with the meals above? I switched the ground beef on meal 4 with 150 g of chicken breast and skipped the 60 g of rice. Still had a lot of whole foods and still had a lot of vegetables.

When I finished the McFlurry, the cravings where gone and I moved on with my day. No shame, no guilt and damn did it taste good.

So for me, following a flexible diet is not about trying to fit pop tarts and Ben & Jerry’s into my diet. Its about having an flexible and relaxed approach to nutrition which I can adhere to in the long run and have a life outside the gym with my family and friends.

For more information on flexible dieting, I recommend you watch the podcast I did with Alan Aragon a few months ago.

About the author:

Juma Iraki

Juma Iraki is a certified Personal Trainer and holds a Bachelor degree in Nutrition Sciences. He has also completed the IOC Diploma in Sports Nutrition through the International Olympic Committee and is currently doing his Masters degree in Sports Nutrition at The University of Stirling.

He is the CEO of Iraki Nutrition AS and Head of Nutrition at AFPT where he lectures in Sports Nutrition. He also works as a business consultant for Proteinfabrikken in Norway and as a sports nutritionist for the National Judo Federation in Norway.