Flexible dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is a form of dieting where you track your intake of macronutrients in order to control weight loss or weight gain. The reason it is so popular is because of the flexibility it creates in your diet – it allows you to enjoy your favourite foods and treats and still lose weight.
The majority of people think of calories when it comes to weight loss/gain and that is perfectly understandable, however, more importantly we want to know where these calories come from with respect to the macronutrient content in the food we eat. The 3 macro-nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats and the quantity of each of these macros in your food will determine the calories. The following is the breakdown:
1g carbs = 4 calories
1g proteins = 4 calories
1g fats = 9 calories
Obviously not everyone is the same when it comes to the amount of calories they burn each day and that is why you have to calculate the number of calories you will burn based on your sex, age, weight, height and activity level. Don’t panic, there’s a calculator to do all this for you (shown later)! Now that you know your calories you need to select your goal; fat loss or weight gain. If your goal is fat loss you need to consume less calories than what you burn each day whereas if your goal is to gain muscle mass you will have to consume more calories than you burn each day.
Now to your macros! Your calories will now be divided out between the 3 macros and this is important for a number of reasons; you need to consume enough protein to ensure your muscles can rebuild and grow, you don’t want to have a diet unnecessarily high in fat an you also need to provide enough energy for your body to be able to function and train effectively by supplying it with enough carbohydrates.
When prompted to “Select Nutrition Plan” make sure to select IIFYM. The next thing to do is go to the section on “Protein” and select “1 gr. per lb of body weight”. This ensures you have a high protein diet.
Follow the link below and fill out the required sections. Once complete, take note of your calories and breakdown of macros – you’ll need these after!
Your results will be shown in a table similar to the one shown below.
After taking note of your results from the calculator the next thing you need to do is go to myfitnesspal.com and create an account. This software will allow you to track your macros each day and when you have your account setup you can download the app which makes the tracking process much easier.
Once your account is created go to “Goals” and click “Change Goals” button at the bottom, as shown in the figure.
When prompted to “Change your fitness goals” select “Custom” and hit “Continue”.
Now all you need to do is fill in numbers you calculated from before into the correct sections. All you need to worry about is the calories, carbs, protein, fat and fiber values that the IIFYM calculator returned. Note: these are example values shown in the figure, not your individual macros! Don’t worry about the sections “Fitness Goals” or “Your Diet Profile”, these are not important.
When you’re finished, hit the “Change Goals” button at the end. Now you’re all set to track your macros!
Now that you have calculated your macros and you have your MyFitnessPal goals changed specifically for your needs, all you need to do is start tracking the food you eat each day using the app on your phone or the website.
You will not be able to hit your calories and macros straight away because it will take a little time for you to learn about what mistakes you are making in your daily choices. For example, most people will consume a very small amount of protein so in order to increase this you may want to start adding more meat, eggs or whey protein to your diet. Another example that is quite common is that your fat intake will be too high and in order to reduce it you may want to reduce the amount of cheese you eat or reduce the amount of fatty meats you consume.
Here I will show a full example of what my day looks like in order to hit my calories and macros as close as possible. Given that I am a 24 year old male, 6 ft tall, train 5-6 times a week, weigh 80kg and my goal is fat loss, the following are my macros.
Now here is what MyFitnessPal looks like after a full day of trying to hit my macros and leaving some calories free for the all important treats.
The next image shows the nutrition section where you can check your macros. Here you’ll see how I have hit my protein goal for the day with the help of 2 protein shakes (one in the morning, one post-workout) and I’ve stayed under on carbs and fat.
Here is the best part – when you have some carbs and fats left over after your main meals you can treat yourself! This is provided you follow a simple rule for your day; the 80:20 rule.
The 80:20 rule is simple, try your best to get 80% of your food from nutrient-dense food and leave the final 20% for your treats.
By nutrient-dense I essentially mean healthier foods which contain much needed nutrients for your body. These foods usually have a greater level of satiety in comparison to foods lacking in nutrients. For example, foods high in fiber are generally a healthier choice and fiber will actually give you a greater level of satiety.
The 20% that you allow for treats is there to satisfy cravings and make dieting sustainable. This prevents binge eating and cheat days where you actually destroy the effort you’ve put in all week by having one or two bad days at the weekend.
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