This is how I got into shape for a bodybuilding show over the last 9 months using flexible dieting. It’s definitely possible but it’s not all pop tarts and eating whatever you want….read on to find out more.

Pre-Prep (16 weeks)

I started my diet in August last year and dropped roughly 10kg over 4 months. The goal was to get to within ‘striking distance’ of stage weight for when I started prep. There was plenty of time to achieve this so I didn’t need to be super strict with hitting daily or weekly goals.

I was maximally flexible and eating a HUGE variety of food, using principles of calorie cycling, guessing meals out/home cooking and not tracking veg and other low-calorie items such as diet drinks and milk in my coffee etc. As long as I was progressing each week nothing would change and I didn’t actually need to drop the calories or do any cardio during this period of my diet.

Hunger was minimal as the deficit was slight and if I went off track I didn’t try to compensate and just carried straight on. I tended to look at trends over multiple weeks to monitor progress but still weighed-in daily.

Early Prep (first 14 weeks)

Prep started at the end of December and the main difference was that I started to track everything and added 60minutes of LISS a week. I was still eating anything I wanted and because I had been dropping weight consistently prior to this there was no reason for calories to change.

At this point, I was still eating out every week and there were no real cravings as no food was banned. At least 70-80% of my diet was single ingredient, healthy foods and although I was tracking vegetables now I was still eating plenty of them with each meal. In effect, by now tracking everything and adding cardio I had ‘dropped’ increased my deficit by a small amount but it didn’t feel like it as my numbers in MyFitnessPal remained the same.

During this period of prep, I did an unplanned show and won my class despite the large levels of flexibility.

Late Prep (last 4-6 weeks)

As prep progressed and calories dropped and cardio increased, the percentage of food that was single ingredient went up to around 90%. This was a conscious decision but also happened automatically to a degree as I tried to pre-empt the hunger that would come.

I was still flexible. I ate multiple sources of meat, carbs and vegetables but for convenience, the meals were mostly chicken, sweet potato and green beans. One could even consider my diet ‘bro’. This is what people misunderstand when they talk about flexible dieting. The key difference was that if I didn’t have my pre-made Tupperware bro meal, I just ate a sandwich and didn’t lose my mind because I had gone ‘off plan’. I ate meringues every day before training and a few times a week I would eat sweets or flapjacks. This included occasional breakfasts at Frankie and Benny’s and meals at Nandos although I had cut right down on eating out if I couldn’t track.

I still calorie cycled like hell to fit my diet with my lack of routine which meant that some days I would intermittent fast because I was busy or not training and some days I would eat huge quantities of food. It was all based on an average over the week and I always aimed to eat protein every 3-5hours and I always aimed to optimise training with pre workout carbs but this didn’t always happen and I still wasn’t “off plan”.

Even up to peak week and show day, I wasn’t really craving anything specific because if I was, I ate it. I avoided food that I knew I would over eat on but I always found alternatives and had no issue doing that. I was hungry, don’t get me wrong, but that’s the nature of prep. I wanted MORE food but rarely any specific food. All of the other symptoms of a calorie deficit were also present – these won’t magically go away because you’re being more flexible… but you definitely don’t need to torture yourself more than you need to)

Post Show

This is where flexible dieting shines and this is where I am experimenting at the moment. When I finished my show I was pretty full (as I had eaten plenty in the form of a carb up) and I wasn’t craving anything really.

The first meal after I got off stage was my pre-prepped meal and a protein bar and then had an untracked meal and a load of brownies that evening (not a cheat meal or binge). The next day I was at Body Power and ate steak and eggs for breakfast and then pre-prepped meals throughout the day. I tracked my food for the most part and again had an untracked social meal in the evening. This was the same for Monday and now today I am entirely back to tracking.

The aim is now to track calories and weight daily and see what happens over the next fortnight. Then I can adjust calories up or down to maintain a lean and sustainable body composition while allowing me to have energy which I lacked in prep. The difference is that I will be at less of a deficit, less obsessive with tracking and doing significantly less cardio. The aim is to gain weight slowly but to remain lean. I have no need to bulk, I just want to get my body fat back up to a healthy level. I’m not saying I’m perfect or that this will go exactly to plan but flexible dieting really does give you the tools to implement this in a healthy sustainable way (as healthy and sustainable something like a competition prep can be…).

Follow my journey on Instagram @ProjectGoliath and to find out more about flexible dieting

Coach Emil