IIFYM, Macros, Flexible Dieting – What’s the low down on Macros?!
When I first started my fitness Instagram years ago I’ll never forget scrolling and seeing all these delicious pancakes, ice cream sandwiches, and all the sweet treats, but a girl with abs in the photo. I was so confused — how in the world is this girl eating all the things I want to yet have abs?!? It was a constant question I’d ask myself until I started researching. I legit googled “how to eat pancakes and lose weight.” What did I find? The infamous acronym IIFYM. Again, what did that even mean?!? I started researching and found IF IT FITS YOUR MACROS — duh!
Apparently I was late to the party but became fascinated by the thought of being able to live my life while still getting healthy and fit! I wanted to take a realistic approach to losing weight and although I don’t count my Macros religiously it’s the easiest way for me to understand how I am fueling my body.
Here’s the skinny on Macros:
Macros – Macronutrients are what make up the caloric content of a food – there are three macronutrients known as protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Each macronutrient has its own role it plays in the function of our bodies. Let’s see more below.
Protein – Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. It allows us to repair and build muscle tissues, so it’s a key part of my diet. Protein has 4 calories per gram, which we will talk more about later.
My main sources of protein are:
· Eggwhites/eggs – I’ll talk about eggwhites later
· 99% lean ground turkey
· Chicken sausage
· Protein bars – quest, Kirkland, thinkthin, ONE, are a few of my favs -- now that I’m dairy free its harder to find ones I like or have the protein I want so stay tuned on this!
· Protein powder/shakes – Vegasport, premier protein shakes, Apres
· Almond butter
Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy for working muscles. They are our main source of energy and prevent protein from being used as energy. Although carbs get a bad rap they have SO MANY BENEFITS you just have to be careful which ones you consume either simple or complex. Also don’t forget carbs are in about everything even BROCOLI and have 4 calories per gram.
I don’t like to label foods good or bad but each set of carbs have a different chemical makeup and process differently in the body.
Simple carbs – Simple carbs are sugars most commonly found in sodas, cakes, juices, cereals, etc. – enjoy these in moderation!
Complex carbs – known as “good carbs” such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. These are not only processed more slowly, but they also contain many other nutrients.
My main sources of carbohydrates are:
· Quinoa, cous cous, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and gluten free bread
· Rice cakes
· Granola – natures path is my fav low sugar granola – there’s tons of brands check the sugar on all of them!
Fat – The body uses fat as a fuel source, and fat is the major storage form of energy in the body. It has the highest calories/gram compared to carbs/protein because there are 9 calories per gram. Also, fats in food come in several forms, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Similar to carbs fat gets a bad rap, but if you fuel your body with the right kinds there are major benefits.
My main fat sources include:
· Almond butter – my favorite kind is RX nut butter, Trader Joe’s unsalted and unsweetened, or Justin’s
· Olive oil
· Cheese – but now that I’m experimenting with dairy free I don’t eat cheese
Alcohol – A lot of people ask me if I drink and I will definitely touch on this in another blog post, but the answer is yes, but not often. Just like anything else alcohol has calories specifically falling closely behind fat with 7 calories/gram.
If you didn’t read anything above and need to know anything it’s this right here!
Quick Check In:
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbs = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories
You got the skinny on Macros now let’s talk about why I track them!
Why do I track Macros?
o Flexibility – macros allow me to fit foods into my meal plan that usual “diets” if you will wouldn’t. For instance, if I want Halo Top I know I need to make room for 280 calories – XP, XC, XF in my day – nothing is off limits
o Muscle growth/retention – for years I was working out and just getting “skinny.” I didn’t understand how much protein I needed to actually build muscle and burn fat until I started tracking macros – I suggest 1g/1lb that you weigh!
o Balance – the moment I feel I’m restricted is when I want to binge. Since nothing is off limits I have less YOYO dieting!
o Awareness – I understand what’s in my food and what I’m consuming because of labels
How do I track macros and why I DON’T weigh my food!
So if you’re a macro extraordinaire you know the way I track macros isn’t the true true way or 100% accurate because I do not weigh my food – does this make me any less legit? No. It makes me realistic. Of course, I’ll never hate on people who weigh their food because there is a science behind macros and portion sizes will always be off unless you have a scale in hand, but for myself and my lifestyle it’s just not realistic. Unless you want to get bikini competition ready I don’t think you need to weigh for food!
Lastly, I think weighing has its benefits but once you get in a groove using tracking tools like MYFITNESSPAL, Loseit, or any other calorie/macro counting app and reading labels you’ll have a good idea on what you’re really consuming.
So how do I track macros then? I use Myfitnesspal, which honestly will be a whole other blog post because I need to dive deep. My biggest tips for the Myfitnesspal App are:
1. Don’t pay for it – you don’t need premium just use the FREE version
2. Override the calories – they tend to be off – a baseline is 1g/lb in protein/carbs and .05g/lb in fat
3. Don’t track exercise – if you burned 650 calories at the gym that does not mean those calories are leftover for that cheeseburger you’ve been eying
4. Use the scanner – it’s a lifesaver. You can legit SCAN any food except fruits/veggies
5. Use measuring cups – although not the scale they will get you in a good area for proper intake
How do I calculate Macros?
The first step is understanding your goals! Are you trying to build muscle? Lose weight? Lose fat? Maintain? Bulk? That’s where you need to start!
Once you confirm that, I suggest using an online calculator to get an ideal range of what your caloric intake should be, using a formula to find your TDEE – Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or using a simple formula below to start.
I follow the basic formula below:
1. Protein 1g/lb that you weigh - 145 x 4 = 580 calories
2. Carbs 1-2g/lb that you weigh - 165 x 4 = 660 calories
3. Fat .3-.5/lb that you weigh - 46 x 9 = 414 calories
I set mine to 1650 calories for a cut, 2,000 calories for maintenance, and 2,400 calories for bulk. Mind you I’m 5’9.5 and these work for my goals .. I usually aim for around 145P, 165/250C, and 46F.
Another helpful way to do it is here:
Start by calculating my BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. This is how many calories you burn if you do nothing all day!
BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Then, I calculate my TDEE or how many calories I burn a typical day. I use the following formula:
TDEE = BMR x ACTIVITY LEVEL
Sedentary – little to no exercise TDEE = BMR x 1.2
Lightly Active - TDEE = BMR x 1.375
Moderately Active – exercise 3-5x/week - TDEE = BMR x 1.55
Very Active – exercise 6-7x/week - TDEE = BMR x 1.725 – 1.9
What if my numbers aren’t perfect? Aka calories are off or macros aren’t lining up?
Some days your numbers will be spot on, but that isn’t too common being that most food labels round their numbers. We are chasing progress NOT PERFECTION so I always say 5-10 grams within each category is healthy!
If I lose weight do I change my macros? Will they change overtime?
Yes, they can!
As you learn more and more about your body and habits you may change your macros. For instance, I find I do better on high carb PLUS I LOVE CARBS (I mean who doesn’t?), so I put my carbs higher and my fat lower now that I know how my body does on higher carb vs high fat. Also, as you lose weight you may adjust your macros to fit your new weight. For example, if I started at 165lbs 165P, 165C, 60F and now weigh 145lbs I may change my macros to 145P, 175-200C, 50F. The BEST thing about macros is NOTHING is set in stone – you can manipulate anything to fit your lifestyle and goals.
I always follow the basics with 1g/lb in protein and the rest I work in with my goals!
How do you dine out tracking macros?
One of the biggest changes I’ve made over the last 3 years is how I eat when I’m at a restaurant. When I used to go out my go to’s were grilled chicken sandwiches w/ sweet potato fries, salads loaded with cheese/dressings, buttery chicken dishes, you get the point.
I never once thought hmm “how can I modify this to make it healthy,” which honestly is always my first thought when I eat out now – not that I stress about it because come on life is too short for that, but it’s because YOU can! For so many years I had a “screw it” I’m getting cheese fries mentality when in all reality I COULD EAT OUT and enjoy myself. So here’s the skinny!
1. Most restaurants are on Myfitnesspal – look up the menu before you eat out and pre-track the meal OR if you’re really good think about what you consumed that day and make an adult decision to fill your plate with a protein, carb, and fat
2. Modify if needed – Dressing on the side? Yes, please. Grilled chicken no butter or oil? Yes, please. No diary in your meal or gluten? Yes, please. ALL these are NOT necessary but most times ARE POSSIBLE
3. Back to the basics – if you can’t track always get a protein, carb aka veggies, rice, and a fat, olive oil, avocado, etc!
As I mentioned before, I didn’t jump right into macros to lose weight — it took time to get here, so be patient with yourself. In the beginning of any journey I suggest shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, read your labels, and start with small steps then step into the more advanced tracking methods. At the end of the day you have one body - move it, nourish it, cherish it!