3 Principles You Should Be Applying to Your Nutrition & the Big Flexible Diet Mistake

A lot of what we aim to do here at Athlete Daily is educate on all things fitness. And Team Bodybuilding.com dual-sport athlete Leanna Carr is a goldmine of information. Carr competes as both a 63 kg (138 lb.) raw powerlifter for Team Juggernaut, and as a figure competitor, with her WNBF Pro card.  

With a MS in Sports-Exercise Psychology under her belt, Carr has always been about learning, educating and using her platform to help people. Just check out a snippet of one of her latest Instagram captions

“I don’t care if you’re stronger than me. I don’t care if you’re more jacked, have a larger following, or have had more success,” she said. “If you’re a fellow lady in strength who shares similar values or the same mission statement as I do… then you better believe that I WANT to see you thrive.”

Here, Carr delves into the three principles that everyone should be applying to their nutrition, and the biggest mistake she sees people make with flexible dieting.

ATHLETE DAILY: How did you get into flexible dieting?

Leanna: “My coach, Brian Minor, taught me the basics of it, and then it was just learning through trial and error. I went through a phase where I was doing flexible dieting, but I think it was to an extreme that a lot of people who do flexible dieting have fallen into—it’s kind of like a cult in a sense.

You have these people on one side of the spectrum preaching clean eating and then you kind of have the side [that thinks] flexible dieting is supposed to be just that. Flexible. It’s a way to BE FLEXIBLE IN YOUR DIET. Mentally, it’s supposed to be a lot easier to manage, it’s supposed to allow you to enjoy the foods that you want over the long-term. I think that the idea and the approach that flexible dieting originally had is awesome. In order to be sustainable, you have to eat in a way/diet in a way that you are able to maintain for the long term.”

ATHLETE DAILY: And the benefits of flexible dieting…

Leanna: “You go from being food-focused because you have to eat tilapia and asparagus every day at every meal—to be so focused on the math equation of ‘OK, what can I fit into my macros tomorrow?’ I remember laying in bed at night planning out my meals for the next day for like two hours just thinking “oh my gosh, what can I eat tomorrow?” At first it was a lot better than the “clean eating or bust” type of mindset people have, but at the same time, if you’re training for a specific goal—whether it be a meet or a competition or a [figure] show—your first focus should not be food. Your first focus should be getting better.

And I became very food-focused in that regard. I see it ALL THE TIME. People are missing the big picture. It’s not about trying to figure out all the things you can fit into your macros, it’s about finding what’s flexible to you—flexible is whatever the individual makes it. Whether it’s going out to eat with your family and not worrying about if its going to deviate from your plans or its fitting a couple treats in, you know its very individual.

There are so many factors that go into [your macros]—age, how much fat you have, how active you are—but people put their macro numbers on this pedestal and then happen to go over their carbs by 10 grams and then freak out. It creates this sort of paranoia that if you don’t hit these numbers, you’re not going to reach your goals. The reality is there’s so many different variables that go into weight loss and gaining muscle, that you really have to step back and look at the bigger picture.

People forget that there is no magic number [for your macros]. It changes constantly and a big contributor of that is NEAT.”

3 Things You Should Focus On

Carr believes three things everyone should practice in their nutrition are: accuracy, flexibility and consistency.

Finding a balance between the three is essential to accomplishing any goal that you want.

“Obviously some of that is very goal dependent—for example, if someone is try to cut weight for a meet or prepare for a [figure] show, the more accurate you are with your nutrition, the better your results are going to be,” she said. “However, if you have that mindset all the time, if you are weighing every single grain of rice that you are eating, it takes away from the ‘flexibility’ aspect. If you’re just living everyday life, not preparing for a meet, I don’t think that’s going to be sustainable. Being too obsessed with accuracy is not going to lead to consistency in your actions. You’re going to more than likely cheat, and when you do it’s probably going to be a big one because of how deprived you are. And that’ll completely deviate you from the end result.

Definitely depending on who you are and what your goals are, find a good balance between the two [accuracy and flexibility] and always of course be consistent. The person that goes at 90% of the time—they’re eating good, they’re training hard, 90% of the time and they have a couple slip-ups now and then along the way, and then they get right back at it, at the end of the day or their journey, I think they’ll end up way ahead of Joe, who is 100% all the time—doesn’t miss a meal, doesn’t miss a training session. Because Joe either gets injured or burns out.

That’s one thing, you do too much of something and eventually it becomes a chore instead of something you enjoy. And most of the time when people burn out, they’ll take a month and just fall off the wagon and it’s very hard to get back on that. At the end of the day, if they’re not very consistent in their actions, you’re just spinning wheels back-and-forth.

Also, being able to look at training and nutrition and realize its not black-and- white. There’s not one way to eat, there’s not one way to train that is optimal; its all dependent on the individual and more importantly it’s dependent on what you are able to sustain. I’m sure there are things I could be doing right now that would have me a lot stronger. I’m sure there are ways I could be eating that I’d have a better body composition. But, at the same time, I wake up every morning, I have my end goal, I have my long term goal, and I work towards achieving that. I make sure that I do it in a way that I enjoy.



Top photo via Juggernaut Training Systems; other photos via Leanna Carr