Today, is the day you take your diet by the horns. YOU should be in control, not the other way around. Too often the word diet is negatively associated with a predetermined way of eating in order to lose weight. While losing weight is great if weight loss is necessary, too often predetermined diet plans restrict a person from eating things that they enjoy and therefore they develop an unhealthy relationship with food by believing that they cannot have something that they enjoy, causing stress. Controlling your diet, should be stress free. Enter Flexible Dieting, also known as If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM).
IIFYM consists of a person having macronutrient (Macros) goals set for them based on their goal and then eating in order to meet those goals. Macronutrients consist of three things: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate. By altering the diversity of these three macros, you can alter your body composition. Dieting should be easy, and I’m here to show you how.
To begin, to stave off any naysayers to IIFYM, I say this: All diets, no matter what predetermined way of eating they outline, consist of macros. If a person is losing, maintaining or gaining weight, that means the program they chose has a macro spread conducive to whatever is happening with their body composition. IIFYM is not a free pass to eat complete garbage. While it’s true, a person can consume things that wouldn’t be seen on a ‘clean’ diet and still achieve their body composition goals, eating a diet low in nutrient density can cause other issues altogether. I recommend eating foods that are typically seen as healthy as the majority of a diet, somewhere along the lines of 90 percent healthy food and 10 percent pleasure food split is best to maintain sanity. If you want to eat less healthy but still hit your macros, great. If you want to eat 100 percent clean, great. Both work, one is better for health than the other, but, they both work. End rant.
Alright, now, let’s truly begin.
So you’ve decided you want to take your diet by the horns and actually LIVE your life without constantly thinking about your diet in an unhealthy, stressful way. Awesome!
Step 1: Tracking Your Macros
First, download My Fitness Pal (MFP) on your phone or go to http://www.myfitnesspal.com and create a free account. Input all of your information and get started! It’s going to give you a calorie and macro goal based on the options you select, but we’re going to ignore that for now and set our own. This app/website will be used to track EVERYTHING you eat and drink, including alcohol. If you don’t put something in, or lie about the amount, you’re only hurting yourself, so, be honest! As a side note, make sure you don’t log your exercise into the app/website and don’t link it to any fitness instruments (Polar watches, fit bits, etc) that you might have. When you enter exercise manually or through a fitness tracker, it gives you extra calories/macronutrients, which most of the time we don’t want.
Step 2: Determining your Macros
Once you’ve created your MFP account, it’s time to figure out our macros. Go to http://iifym.com/iifym-calculator/ and go through the options. The site has a lot of ads and it’s really annoying, but it’s the best tool out there to accurately generate macros without having to do all the computation by hand.
Fill out the form according to gender, age, weight and the number of times a week that you exercise. It gives the option to choose between an athlete formula and an overweight formula; Always select athlete formula, even if you’re not an athlete. Over the years of training clients I have found that this formula always gives a better result. Once you’ve done that, click calculate your TDEE to generate your TDEE and BMR. BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate, or the amount of calories your body burns naturally without doing anything. TDEE stands for Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or the amount of calories you expend each day based on your BMR and activity level.
Once you’ve generated those numbers, step two asks you to select your goal. What do you want to do, Gain, Maintain or Lose weight? Select one and get started! The lose weight and gain weight options are more tricky as each of them has 3 options to choose from. Typically the top option works best for gaining in order to limit the amount of body fat gained during a bulk and the middle option works best for the losing weight option in order to maintain a healthy muscle mass during a cut.
After choosing the appropriate plan, you come to adjustable numbers for protein and fat. Here’s where most people wouldn’t know where to go because of conflicting information. To make this simple:
– If you’re LOSING weight, you need HIGHER protein than someone who is maintaining or gaining weight. So select a number between 1.0 and 1.4 instead of the default .8. The lower your body weight, the higher that number should be (so someone with low body fat who is trying to get to a lower body fat percentage would need to be closer to 1.4, and someone who is overweight can be closer to 1.0). I typically keep clients at a 1.2 until they reach their body composition goals.
– If you’re GAINING or MAINTAINING weight, your protein doesn’t need to be as high, especially for women. So select a number between .6 and 1.0. If you’re going to be doing heavy endurance workouts, keep the number closer to 1.0 so that you maintain muscle mass.
Now that you have your numbers set, click calculate and the calculator will spit out your macro goals. In this view it will tell you how many calories, grams of protein, grams of fat and grams of carbohydrate to consume in order to reach whatever goal you set. You can even break down these goals by the number of meals you want to eat!
– A side note: If you have ANY questions about how to go through this calculator and need help or someone to do it for you, feel free to e-mail me and I can calculate them for you!
Step 3: Editing your MFP
After getting these numbers, it’s time to put them into your MFP. On the app, go to ‘More’ at the bottom of the home page, ‘Goals’, ‘Calories & Macronutrient Goals’ and then edit the calories and percentages until the macronutrients resemble the numbers from the calculator (they will almost never be exact, but as long as they’re close, you’ll be OK). Every 5 lbs or so down or up, repeat steps 2 and 3 to make sure your Macros stay in tune with your body composition.
Step 4: Understanding MFP Macro Goals
Now that you have goals in your MFP, it’s time to actually hit them. Under the nutrition tab on MFP, you will see two views. One is a pie chart, we’re going to ignore this one, and a list view with progress bars (As of the most recent update this is true, it may change in the future). These progress bars will fill up as you reach your goals throughout the day by entering food. The main 3 bars to pay attention to are: Protein, Fat and Carbs. You’ll see at the top 3 columns: total, Goal and Left. At the end of the day, Your total and goal columns should be nearly identical and your left column should say 0 or slightly under 0 (if you’re losing) or slightly over (if you’re bulking). As you enter food throughout the day you will see the bars fill, and that will allow you to know how much of each nutrient you have left to eat for the day. Often times people struggle to initially meet protein goals and typically go far over carbohydrate goals. As you get better at controlling these two categories, you’ll begin to notice changes in the way that you eat and ultimately your body composition.
Step 5: Tips and Tricks
I was going to call this section rules, but hey, rules aren’t fun and there is really only one rule: stay close to your macro goals to ensure success. Protein and Carbs are less calorie dense, so +/- 10 is acceptable whereas fat is more calorie dense, so staying +/- 5 is usually better. Below are some tips and tricks to help you succeed!
– Every 5lbs up or down, recalculate your macros to keep them consistent with the changes in your body composition. Also recalculate if your goal changes (Going from losing to maintaining or maintaining to gaining, for instance).
– Eating healthier, over time, will serve you better than eating less healthy. Yes, you can have that piece of chocolate cake if it is within your macro goals to do so. Should you every so often? Yeah, that’s fine. Should you every day? No. That’s not good for your overall health. You need to eat things with vitamins and minerals to keep yourself healthy and strong!
– Tracking all of your food the night before or in the morning will always be less time consuming than tracking it each and every meal. If you want to do it every meal, that’s great. Tracking can be tedious, so find a pattern that works best for you and your schedule. A note here though, if you decide to track what you ate throughout the day, at the end of the day, you won’t necessarily know that you hit your goals. Doing it the night before or morning of, keeps you accountable for the rest of the day because you know what you’re able to eat.
– Getting a food scale and/or meal prepping will make this entire process easier.
At the end of the day, choose a plan that works best for you. The way that we eat impacts our health and fitness in a HUGE way; make sure you’re impacting both in a positive manner. As I said earlier, if you have any questions, comments, or requests for future articles, comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, get fit, get healthy, and get above the ultimate competition; Yourself.