Flexible dieters, Macros, macronutrients, IIFYM…what does it all mean?
You may have heard of the term “If It fits your macros” (IIFYM) commonly used by fitness enthusiasts to hit their fitness goals, all while still being able to treat yourself every now and again with that slice of pizza on a Friday night.
It is a phrase used to describe the method of counting macronutrients to achieve desired fitness goals, whether that be to gain muscle or lose fat, without the restrictions that often come alongside dieting fads. Sound appealing?
What are macronutrients or ‘macros’?
The term ‘macro’ means in large quantities, and ‘nutrients’ are essential to providing the body with energy to survive. Alternatively, ‘micronutrients’ are the nutrients your body needs less of to carry out its daily functions. Every meal you eat is comprised of macronutrients that the body breaks down for fuel. Macronutrients are broken down into three main components, carbohydrates, protein and fats and each hold a different calorific value and function in the body.
But why count these macros?
There’s plenty of diet fads out there that tell you carbs are bad, or fat is a no-go. These diets all focus on restricting one particular food group to “achieve your goals”.
The reality is, that while these diets may get you the results you’re after, they are not sustainable long term. Depriving your body of essential food groups will leave you with food cravings, fatigue, irritability and quickly send you back to the starting line.
These fads are the epitome of 1 step forward, 2 steps back.
Counting your macros is a way of dieting in a flexible manner, being able to eat your favourite foods in moderation, all the while achieving your goals.
How do I know what macros my body needs?
While a generic online calculator is an easily accessible tool to calculate your daily energy needs, it should only be used as a general guide. A lot of these calculators base your recommended macros on the bare minimum, age, height, weight & goal.
There are so many other factors that need to be considered, for example, your current diet, the time frame in which you wish to achieve your goal, the type of training you do, your job, supplements you may use etc.
I recommend consulting a professional if you are wanting an accurate measure of your daily energy and macronutrient requirements.
Step 2: Work out your goal
Are you wanting to lose weight, maintain your current physique or build muscle?
Maintain: Your TDEE is how many calories your body needs to maintain your current physique taking into consideration your current activity levels.
Lose Weight: If you wish to lose weight, I recommend lowering this number slightly to create a calorie deficit. It is normal to plateau after some time. If you find this happening, you can increase the deficit by either lowering caloric intake or increasing activity levels.
Gain: If you wish to build muscle, I recommend eating roughly 2 meals more than your TDEE & ensuring you’re weight training 3-6 times per week. You can plateau gaining weight too, if you find this happening, you can increase your food slightly each week. Avoid increasing in large amounts frequently as this is likely to cause fat gain instead of building muscle.
Step 3: Calculate your macros to suit
The most important macro for each of these goals is protein. Having a consistent protein intake is important for recovery and building muscle. Protein also has the greatest thermogenic effect, meaning your body uses more energy to digest it.
If you’re quite active, I’d recommend having 2g of protein per kg of body weight.
Eg; 70 kg female; 140g protein. 140g x 4calories = 560 Calories.
Reference:1. Calculate TDEE –Daily Calorie Requirements [Internet]. Super Skinny Me. 2018. Available from: http://www.superskinnyme.com/calculate-tdee.html