Breaking Down Flexible Nutrition

Flexible nutrition

Nutrition is much like religion or politics: You are probably better off not talking about it with friends. Good thing I don’t know any of you, so I’m here to talk about nutrition, specifically flexible nutrition. In addition, we all know as Box owners the important role nutrition plays in helping our athletes reach their potential.

Flexible nutrition, also known as counting macros or IIFYM (if it fits your macros), has been around for years — decades really — but has just recently made it’s way to the mainstream.

Flexible nutrition is a program that requires weighing, measuring, and tracking all food you eat or drink. Still there? Without knowing exactly what we are fueling our body with every day, we can’t possibly know if we are eating in a way that will cause weight loss or weight gain.

Eating in this manner — a manner in which we know the exact quantities of what we are putting in our body — will allow us to support our current activity level but not cause us to gain excess weight.

Let me be very clear: this is by no means easy, but it is also by no means impossible. You should be able to teach your athletes how to make this a regular part of their busy day.

Let me break it down for you.

Every food is comprised of macronutrients. These are, in short, nutrients you need more of like protein, carbohydrates and fat. If we eat quality whole foods, we also will get our bodies their micronutrient needs. These are vitamins and minerals, and are far too many to list here.

Your food consumption is based around your protein intake. You can figure this out a few ways, but it is determined by your bodyweight, gender and activity level. Once you have your overall calorie needs, they are broken down into your protein, carbohydrates and fats. These numbers given to you in grams are the meat and potatoes (no pun intended) of flexible dieting.

Your goal is to hit those numbers on a daily basis. The reason flexible dieting is taking on so much steam is because you will learn you can hit those macros with any food you want. That’s right — any food of your choice. Pizza, pop tarts, licorice, whatever your little heart or stomach desires. That is, so long as you hit your number of protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Your body breaks down any carbohydrate the same way; it makes no distinction for cheerios or broccoli. Now of course, if you care about your health, you will make some better choices as far as food goes, and most experienced flexible dieters will encourage you to choose about 90 percent whole foods and save about 10 perecent for the foods we would typically classify as “cheat” foods.

While these are macronutrients, the micronutrient breakdown of whole foods is far superior to their less favorable counterparts.

This could be a slippery slope for some. While the ability to eat whatever you want may sound amazing, keep in mind a) you are limited to the quantity and b) you have to track everything you eat, and I mean everything! The risk here is counting out 12 gummy bears to account for some carbohydrates, but then not stopping at number 12 and finishing the entire bag.

This is where education is key. Teach your athletes and lead by example.

And as with any nutrition plan, your success will also be influenced by other life factors; for example, your water intake, quality of sleep, stress levels, activity level and more.

If you are looking to promote smart nutrition at your Box, flexible dieting may be a great option for you.

Jason Ackerman is a Level 4 CrossFit Coach, living in Naples, Florida. He is part of the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff and loves inspiring others to achieve their fitness goals. Jason is a nutrition coach, a podcaster and a firm believer in how you do one thing is how you do anything. He can be found on Instagram, via his personal website, Squat Therapy, or by emailing him at