Fitness

If It Fits Your Macros: What You Need to Know

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Hello again! Do you like cookies? Cereal? Ice creeaaam? Peanut butter? Yes, yes, yes annnd most definitely! How about looking and feeling healthy, do you like that too? Uh DUH. “Why are you doing this to me, Erin? Now I want cookies…” Well, you, I have fantastic news for you! I’ve talked about it before but it’s come to my attention that some of you still have questions over the matter. I’m talking about “IIFYM” (If It Fits Your Macros), you know, the “diet” I’ve been referring too. Many of you have expressed interest in this topic. I’m going to start this post by telling you all of the PROS of IIFYM, I’ll then give you a basic overview of how it works and finish with my personal Macros and eating layout as an example.

It’s not really a diet, or at least it doesn’t feel like one. In my mind, a diet is a temporary fix. Diets often have an end date (sometimes set purposefully, sometimes not). “IIFYM” is more of an education. It’s about learning what’s in the foods that you’re using to fuel your body, learning what your unique body needs, and learning how to establish a meal plan that’s right for you and your goals. I know I know, it sounds scary. Trust me, it’s not. I’m going to do my best to break it down for you. If you know me at all you know that I don’t do complicated. It’s not my thing. This is not complicated. Ready?

Macronutrients (Macros for short) consist of Protein, Carbs and Fats (Fiber also counts, but we’ll discuss that later). Depending on your specific goals (muscle gain, fat loss, etc..), you will need different amounts of them. First off:

1 gram of Protein= 4 Calories

1 gram of Carbohydrates= 4 Calories

1 gram of Fat= 9 Calories

Each one of you is different and requires different amounts of each of these things. Typical diets tend to force out one or the other or make you drastically decrease carbs or fats. Protein, obviously is very important for building and repairing muscle. Carbs are required for energy, fat metabolism and preventing the use of protein as energy. Fat is the main source of energy in the body. It is also very important when it comes to absorption of necessary fat-soluble vitamins. As you can see, all of these things are vital for our bodies to function properly. IIFYM caters to your specific age, height, weight and body fat percentage and then formulates what your unique body needs to lose fat or gain muscle, depending on what you choose. Anthony Collova’s IIFYM website is an extremely helpful tool for you to figure out your own needs. Theres also an abundance of ALL the other information you could possibly need about the IIFYM lifestyle over there that I highly recommend checking out!

So what’s the deal with IIFYM? Does it work? How? I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been on a “diet” at some point in our lives. Usually, diets leave us with feelings of deprivation. This doesn’t need to happen! IIFYM was designed so you don’t NEED to live off of chicken and broccoli because… blech. It started when a couple of bodybuilders were fed up with eating the same boring meals. Calories in, calories out IS A REAL THING. A carb is always going to equal 4 calories whether its coming from rice or cereal. Your body will not know the difference between 100 calories of rice and 100 calories of frosted flakes. This is the reason that IIFYM is also referred to as flexible dieting. It ensures that our bodies get the appropriate amounts of protein, carbs and fat without tying us down to a boring meal plan. This is NOT to say that you can’t eat the typical diet foods (chicken, fish, veggies, etc…) I still do most of the time. It’s just saying that you can have the burger or ice cream if you choose, as long as it fits in. For example, you can eat high protein and some fat and carbs throughout the day and be left with enough carbs and fat at night to have a serving of ice cream. I was asked once, “But what about the calories?” “What ABOUT the calories?” I said. “Carbs and fats ARE calories. If I have left over carbs and fats, I have leftover calories…” There are also people, like my brother, that can put off eating anything all day in order to eat an entire 2000 calorie pizza at night. If you are craving pizza, you can eat it. You don’t necessarily have to eat the ENTIRE thing like he does, a slice or 2 should suffice, but you get what I’m saying. You don’t have to go without.  This is why flexible dieting is SO awesome. You don’t have to feel deprived which typically means you’ll stay on track. It comes down to the fact that if you are NOT eating more calories than you are burning, you are NOT going to gain weight. It’s not complicated. If your body burns 1800 calories just existing throughout the day, you could eat 1500 calories of cupcakes and be at a 300 calorie deficit (lose weight) that day. Would you feel fantastic? No, probably not. Would you gain weight? No. Would you lose weight? Yes. Did you get enough protein? Uhhh no, I doubt they were protein cupcakes. (Do those exist? Please say yes.) I don’t recommend eating only cupcakes all day, I’m just saying… you could if you wanted too. In my opinion, it’s important to get as close to your numbers as you can 95% of the time, but don’t turn down the Twistee Treat every time. Trust me, that’s painful.  

Right now, I’m focusing on fat loss. I want to give you an example of how this works. My body burns 1400 calories, just existing. At my activity level, I maintain (TDEE) weight around 2000 calories a day. When going for fat loss, I decrease my (TDEE) by 15-20% or 1554 calories. At the moment, I’m 5’7, 24 years old and 142 pounds. I eat .9 grams of Protein per pound of body weight (.9 X 142= 127.8 grams). I eat .35 grams of Fat per pound of body weight (.35 X 142= 49.7 grams). Carbs are figured after Protein and Fat. The amount of Calories I get from protein= 511.2 (127.8 X 4 calories) The amount of calories from Fat= 447.3 (49.7 X 9 calories) When I add 511.2 and 447.3 I get 958.5 Calories. I then subtract 958.5 from my day’s calorie total (1554) and get 595.5 Calories. So, thats the amount of calories I can eat from carbohydrates. 595.5 calories divided by 4 calories is 148.9 Carbs. I round up/ down and find that my fat loss Macros are: 128 Protein/ 149 Carbs/ 50 Fat. Not too shabby, right? DON’T PANIC: THERE’S A CALCULATOR THAT WILL DO THIS FOR YOU. I mentioned fiber earlier. Fiber is a carb, but it is recommended that 20% of my carbohydrates are fiber. In other words, roughly 30g of my 149 carbs should be fiber. If I’m being honest, I don’t really pay so much attention to that since I know I’m getting enough in the foods that I eat. I’m aware that by now you’re probably saying something like, “I thought this wasn’t supposed to be complicated?!” It doesn’t have to be. Luckily for you, Thanks to Anthony Collova and other wonderful people over at IIFYM.com, there’s a TDEE calculator and Macros Calculator for your convenience 🙂

So, I just showed you my current macros. Now you’re probably wondering what I actually eat. This would be more fun if I was trying to gain muscle because there would be different types of food. However, this is what my fat loss meal plan consists of. KEEP IN MIND: You don’t have to eat the same thing every day, this is just a basic layout:

macros

As you can see, I’m not spot on. However, it’s okay to eat more protein, and less carbs. I went over by 11 grams of protein but I’m still under 20 grams in carbs. Since they both equal 4 calories a gram, I’m still under 9 carbs. I’m still under by 5 grams of fat, that’s really no big deal. I could eat those calories in protein and carbs but I don’t need too. You can see here that I’m 75 calories under my FAT LOSS Macros. This doesn’t mean I’m only under 75 calories for the day. At my activity level, my body burns roughly 2000 calories a day. This means that if I’m only consuming 1475 calories a day, I’m really at a 525 calorie deficit just by diet alone. I’ve been integrating more cardio into my workout program so 5 to 6 times a week I burn an extra 400 calories a day, as well as lifting sessions 5 times a week. On the days I do this, I’m at a  900 to 1000 calorie deficit. At this activity level I could technically be eating more food, but I don’t feel that hungry. When I do, I eat more. This leads me to an important point.

TRY NOT TO COUNT IN THE CALORIES BURNED DURING EXERCISE IF YOU’RE GOING FOR FAT LOSS. Your macro numbers are your macro numbers, you don’t want to eat all of your calories burned because you won’t make any progress. It’s best to pretend that you didn’t burn any calories during exercise, you can keep track of them, JUST DON’T EAT THEM. I’ve been guilty of this too often. “Oh, well, I burned 500 calories on the treadmill this morning, I can eat the cake and it’s basically like it never happened.” I HATE this way of thinking. It halts progress and can become a very bad habit. The goal after all is to lose fat. In order to do that we MUST be at a deficit. SO STOP EATING YOUR BURNED CALORIES! You’ll notice a difference in your weight loss when you do.

I want to clarify a few other questions that I’ve gotten…

If you are in the overweight category while figuring out your macros, you’ll be asked for body fat percentage. If you aren’t sure, you’ll need a tape measure. Click HERE for a step by step to figuring out your body fat.

I’ve been asked how you’re supposed to keep track of your macros when eating out. The easiest way is to just NOT eat out. However, sometimes you don’t really have a choice. If you do have to eat out, it’s best to go to a chain restaurant that offers nutritional information on their website. Mom and Pop places can’t typically tell you what the macros are. You’d be safe with Chili’s, Longhorn, Outback, etc…

angry/ confuseedThis is very important. DON’T weigh yourself after eating out. Don’t weigh yourself after a cheat meal and FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE people STOP weighing yourselves at night! It wont be accurate due to water retention, food in your stomach, etc… ONLY WEIGH YOURSELVES IN THE MORNING after you’ve used the rest room and try to limit it to once a week. Don’t be obsessive about the scale. Measure most of your progress by how your clothes fit.

Another thing I want to make sure you’re aware of is that you MUST count everything that you put in your mouth. From the cream in your coffee to the marinade in your chicken.  EVERYTHING.

I’ve heard things like, “I’m just too lazy to count all the time,” or “it’s too much work.” Really? I’ve been there. I get lazy sometimes and just guesstimate what I just ate. The truth is, if you want progress you have to count. The great thing is, once you’ve counted a meal once, you never have to do it again. Write it down. Next time you eat that meal you can just reference it. Easy Peasy.

Let’s see, what else? Ah yes. IIFYM pays no mind to “clean” or “dirty” eating. You can be a clean eater and do IIFYM, or you can live off junk food and be successful at the IIFYM lifestyle. It’s ALLLLL about the numbers people! BUT LISTEN! Many people think IIFYM is an excuse to eat junk all the time. IT’S NOT. It’s important to eat food with nutrients (chicken, fish, veggies, eggs, ANY SINGLE INGREDIENT foods…) the majority of the time. IIFYM has the flexibility to allow a cheat meal EVERY NOW AND THEN. If you eat junk all the time, even if it’s within your macros, you’ll feel like crap. You’ll lose weight, but you’ll be seriously lacking some important micronutrients (vitamins and minerals.)

Personally, I find it easier to space my meals out throughout the day. You don’t have to eat several meals. You can fast all day and have one big meal at night. You’re body doesn’t care what time it gets fed, as long as it gets it’s appropriate amount of protein, carbs and fats! I don’t recommend eating a lot of your macros early in the day, once they’re used, they’re gone.

I think I’ve about covered everything. I just want to remind you that it’s crucial you meet your protein intake. In the fat loss stage, we don’t want to lose any extra muscle! If you end up exceeding protein, just take from carbs. If both protein and carbs are up, cut the fat. If protein and fat are up, cut the carbs. Fudge it however you need to (Mmmm FUDGE), just pay attention to the calories. (Remember: 1 gram of protein = 4 calories; 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories; 1 gram of fat = 9 calories)

thumbs upI hope I’ve managed to clear things up for those of you that had questions. I hope you realize that this is NOT complicated. It takes some work in the beginning but once you have a routine, it’s no big deal. It can actually be fun when you get to the end of the day and notice that you can have cookies! If this is the first time you’ve read about IIFYM, please feel free to ask any questions at all. Don’t forget to reference the IIFYM website either, there’s an abundance of information right HERE. I love questions guys, so don’t be afraid to ask. If you need help figuring out a meal plan, I’d be happy to help. Also, I’m planning on working on my fitness nutrition certification after I finish my CPT certification so meal plans will become part of my job! I’ll take all the practice I can get 😉 Thanks for reading guys. Sorry this post was a bit delayed!

Until next time…

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I'm a 26 year old NASM certified personal trainer with a corrective exercise specialization! My love for fitness and nutrition blossomed several years ago. It has changed my life. Now it's my mission to help and encourage all of you through my blog as well! Feel free to contact me!

4 Comments

  1. Josh

    April 10, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    I don’t understand. Explain it to me like I’m 5.

    • Chinups_and_Cupcakes

      April 10, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      OK. If you don’t eat your meat, YOU CAN’T HAVE ANY PUDDING!!!

  2. Mike

    April 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I think I’ve read this post 3-4 times now. Been doing IIFYM for about 30 days now. I don’t feel like I’m dieting, I have plenty of energy and I’m losing weight each week. Great post and thanks for the help getting started with my macros.

    • Chinups_and_Cupcakes

      April 20, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      You’re welcome. You’re doing a fantastic job! Keep it up!

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