Macro dieting, or often times referred to as Flexible Dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), is simply the counting of macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats) in one’s daily meals. Individuals who employ a macro approach to dieting are often trying to accomplish some type of body composition goal. For fitness competitors, it’s the ability to hit their numbers which in turn help them lean out their bodies in a controlled manner within a certain timeframe prior to a competition or photo shoot. For others, it may be to help them lose weight with a more focused approach based on the breakdown of the foods they are consuming so that they are more aware of the composition of what they are eating. The nice thing about this type of eating is that you can eat what you want (for the most part) IF it fits within your macro count. So, if by the end of the day you are short 20 grams of carbs, you CAN eat that cookie. Needless to say, this type of dieting allows you to have your cake and eat it too.
The three main macros that make up the majority of our diets are fats, proteins, and carbs: 1 gram of protein equals 4 calories, 1 gram of carbs equals 4 calories and 1 gram of fat makes up 9 calories. Instead of calorie counting like typical diets (i.e. your diet allows for 2,000 calories), an individual following a macro diet is more concerned with the actual breakdown of grams consumed for the amount of fat, protein and carbs in their daily diet (i.e. 2,000 calories =’s 150g Protein, 80g Fat, 170g Carbs). So, instead of thinking this cheeseburger is 800 calories, the macro dieter is thinking this cheeseburger has 25 grams of protein, 50 grams of fat, and 10 grams of carbs. Make sense?
The benefits of this type of dieting tend to be threefold: it’s effective, it’s flexible, and it’s sustainable. In order to lose weight, one must be in a calorie deficit. What you put in must be less than what energy you exert. By tracking what you are eating and keeping tabs on your daily intake you are able to control what you put into your mouth (because no one ever wants to write down anything that doesn’t fit their macros!) as well as keep track of what you burn while let’s say at the gym, or at yoga, or walking a trail outside. Tracking your food may sound tedious at first, but it gets easier with time. And like everything in life, there are apps for logging your food intake. And these apps often take the guesswork out of figuring the amount of fat, carbs and protein in what you ate because the nutritional information for nearly everything has been logged into the app. An example of a popular app would be MyFitnessPal (in the app store so check it out). This type of dieting is also flexible because you are able to eat pretty much anything (just remember quality is still important for your overall health and wellbeing) if it fits within your daily allotment. No need to prepack your food if going to a restaurant with friends if you have an idea of what you need to eat to hit your numbers. This allows for more freedom and less anxiety about what you can or can’t eat. Lastly, it is a type of eating style that you CAN stick with because it isn’t super restrictive and you don’t really feel like you are on a diet. You are in control of what you put in your mouth and you are in control of hitting your numbers. IF you don’t feel like it’s a diet then you’re more likely to succeed at staying on track.
So, how then do you figure out what amount of each macro nutrient you need to consume in your daily diet? Let’s start out by reminding ourselves that we are all different and that each of us has a different metabolism, overall health situation, and lifestyle that will play a vital role in how much energy we actually burn and how much of each macronutrient we should be eating. This article is just a beginner’s guide in understanding how to count your macros. That being said, to keep things simple and not confuse anyone, there are two ways to accomplish this: consult a trainer/nutritionist who understands how to break down macros based on your Resting Energy Expenditure (i.e. there is a formula which breaks down your energy lifestyle into categories such as Sedentary, Light Activity, Moderate Activity, and Very Active), or use a Macro Calculator App from online, such as the IIFYM app located at https://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/ If you choose an app or a trainer/nutritionist, you will come to the same conclusion which is a breakdown of your necessary macros. From there, you will be able to use these numbers as a guide for what you should be eating. One final note, depending on what your goal is, your ratio of fats, proteins and carbs will change. For example, fitness competitors will lean towards high carb/high protein/moderate fat macro dieting when they are at the BEGINNING of their 12 week prep cycle. When they near the 3-4 week prep marker, they will tend to increase the protein and decrease the carb count of their daily macros. Those who are simply employing this type of dieting into their daily lifestyles are able to modify their needs based on their goals.
Hopefully this discussion hasn’t confused anyone anymore then they may have already been prior to reading it! To boil it all down, macro counting is just a simple way of saying, “Pay attention to the amounts of proteins, carbs and fats in your diet.” It may seem difficult and time consuming at first, but like everything, once you get used to it, it really isn’t that difficult. And the best part, if you have any questions there are tons of articles, apps, and blogs online that discuss this topic. Or, you’ve got me and hopefully I can help!