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The Problem with Dieting by Percentages

Commonly, when you see diet plans laid out, the intake of the various macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat) is presented in terms of percentages of total caloric intake. So you might see a diet which was 60% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 10% fat or some other set of percentages. Or you’ll see recommendations that ‘…athletes only need 15% of their calories from protein.’ or ‘don’t eat more than 30% of your total calories from fat’, that sort of thing.

In this article, I want to teach readers what these percentages mean and how to use them (if you so desire) either analyze a given diet, set up a diet, or figure out what a food label means.

A Quick Recap on Calories

In a previous chapter I gave you the caloric content of the various macronutrients. To save you needless paging, I’ll review them here.

  • Protein: 4 calories/gram
  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories/gram
  • Fat: 9 calories/gram
  • Alcohol: 7 calories per gram

Calculating Diet Percentages

With the above values in hand, and using some basic math, we can do several different operations in terms of diet and food analysis.… Keep Reading

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A Look at Common Contest Dieting Practices Part 1

Of all athletes in the world, bodybuilders (and other physique oriented folks such as fitness and figure girls) tend to be the most anal compulsive and neurotic about their food intake. Nowhere is this seen more than during contest dieting where folks that are already on the far edge of what most would consider sane turn batshit crazy about their food intake.

The normal approach to clean eating (which I’m not going to get into here) becomes even more extreme and it’s not uncommon to see these folks diet on the same 5 or 6 foods eaten day in day out for 12-16 weeks. This list might include skinless chicken breast, tuna, broccoli, oat, rice, sweet potatoes and nothing else. Fat intake can be highly variable, many try to remove dietary fat completely (a huge mistake for any number of reasons) while bodybuilders who live on the edge will allow natural peanut butter.… Keep Reading

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How Do Dieters Fail on Their Diets?

Note: The following is the entirety of Chapter 5 from A Guide to Flexible Dieting.  Specifically it looks at some of the common ways that dieters fail on their diets.


In this chapter, I want to discuss some two of the primary ways that dieters tend to sabotage their own efforts on a diet, that is the way that dieters fail diets. These two ways are being too absolute and expecting perfection and by thinking only in the short-term.

And before you complain about how bad it is form wise to write a short introductory paragraph instead of just going straight into the text, I’ll defend my style choice by explaining that I don’t like starting a chapter with a bold-faced sub-category. So there.

Being Too Absolute/Expecting Perfection

Perhaps the single biggest reason I have found for dieters failing in their diet effects is that many dieters try to be far too absolute in their approach to the diet something I alluded to in the foreword.… Keep Reading

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Comparing the Diets: Part 2

Having examined the traditional high-carbohydrate/low-fat in Comparing the Diets: Part 2, I now want to look at the second major diet ‘type’; moderate-carb/moderate-fat.

A quick note on the percentage nutrient notation: as much as possible I tried to adhere to a format where the percentages represent percentages from protein/carbohydrates/fat in that order. So a notation of 30/60/10 means a diet where 30% of the calories are protein, 60% are carbs and 10% are fat.

The Moderate Carbohydrate/Moderate Fat diet

The next major dietary camp refers to any diet consisting of relatively moderate carbohydrate and dietary fat intakes. This includes diets such as Barry Sear’s “The Zone”, Dan Duchaine’s “Isocaloric diet”, 30/40/30 nutrition and others. Such diets generally recommend a macronutrient split based on fairly equal amounts of protein, carbs and fat. Various scientific rationales, usually involving hormonal control are typically given.

The Zone, for example, recommends a 30/40/30 split while Dan’s Isocaloric diet is 33/33/33.… Keep Reading

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Comparing the Diets

As happens with most things, the diet world has divided itself up into distinct “camps”, each of which is convinced that their singular approach to eating or fat loss is optimal.  This is nonsense, of course, as best can only be defined relative to the context.  Realizing that, it’s valuable to compare the diets in terms of their pros and cons for different contexts.  And that is what I intend to do.

Introduction to Diets

If you read a lot of diet literature, it seems that there are an endless number of dietary approaches in existence.   However, once you start looking at them in more general, terms you find that this really isn’t the case.    There are only three primary macronutrients that can be adjusted in a diet: protein, carbohydrates and fat.   Within any fixed calorie intake, any time you adjust one, you must adjust another.

And regardless of any other aspect of the diet, how it advocates spacing or timing those meals, what foods are or aren’t allowed, etc.… Keep Reading