For the past couple of years, I have seen the “IIFYM” diet and “Flexible Dieting” pop up here and there and now it is more popular than ever. In the fitness world, IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and marcos are thrown around very commonly but for us normal people these terms can be a little confusing. So let’s break it down and get into the nitty gritty of macros.
Macros or macronutrients and micronutrients are substances in food that our bodies can use for energy and for necessary functions (like growth and development, maintaining cells and fuel for physical and metabolic expenditures). Every food is made up of nutrients: carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. You will likely hear more about macros nowadays (carbs, proteins and fats) and they are called macronutrients because your body needs a lot of them every single day in order to stay alive (obviously- I mean we all know what would happen if we didn’t eat anything 🙂 ).
Carbohydrates are the sugars and the starches (how they are most commonly known) in grains, legumes (beans, corn and peas), fruit and vegetables. When you consume these things, your body automatically converts them into glucose. Glucose is your body’s main and preferred source of energy for the brain, cells and the nervous system. The requirements for carbohydrates in our diet are based on the minimum amount of glucose that our brain needs to function. The minimum recommendation is at least 130 grams of carbohydrates daily (175 grams when pregnant, 210 grams during lactation and each gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories). Generally speaking, most Americans eat plenty of carbohydrates- when you eat too many carbs (or any other macro for that matter) it puts you at a much higher risk of obesity and heart disease. The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for carbs is 45-65% of your daily diet. When you choose your carbohydrates try to stick to complex carbs (such as vegetables, fruits and legumes) which also contain high amounts of water and fiber.
We know lipids/triglycerides as fats and oils (as well as cholesterol) and they are another fuel source for our bodies. In addition to being an energy source they also provide structure for our cells and carry fat soluble vitamins so that we can utilize them properly. Under normal day to day activities dietary AND stored fats provide roughly 50-60% of our resting energy needs, that is a huge percentage! The best part about fat is that it is the preferred fuel for muscle tissue in our body (the more muscle tissue you have, the more fat is being used to fuel it #winning). During exercise and physical activity, glucose, glycogen and fat supply the energy required. When a food is high in fat it is more calorie dense (higher in calories) per gram compared to carbs or protein as there is 9 calories per gram of fat, so keep that in mind if you’re also watching your calorie intake. If you consume too many calories/too much fat then your body will store the dietary fat (fats you eat) as body fat.
Meats and dairy are the most highly concentrated sources of protein in our diet but we can also find protein in grains, legumes and vegetables. There are two different types of proteins: complete (animal foods that have all the required amino acids) and incomplete/complementary proteins (plant food proteins that are missing an amino acid). You do NOT have to eat complete proteins or animal foods to get enough protein in your diet, it is possible to get everything you need strictly from plant based proteins but you will need to combine them in your diet in order to get all the necessary amino acids. The body will use protein as a last resort for energy use because protein is required for many other roles in the body including: muscle tissue growth and repair, enzyme creation and utilization, antibody creation and lots of other functions. The acceptable range for protein in adults is 10-35% of energy intake and the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, each gram of protein is 4 calories. Your body only utilizes a certain amount of protein and the rest is excreted through your urine (yep, I just went there). So you really don’t NEED a ton of protein but this varies from person to person.
Okay, so now that you know what macros stand for and some quick and dirty tips about each of them we can talk a little bit about IIFYM or Flexible Dieting. Basically each day you can eat what you want as long as you are hitting a preset macronutrient target each day. So if you don’t plan out your meals you might end up eating a bunch of chicken at the end of the night because you didn’t eat enough protein earlier and too many carbs. From what I can see, this diet does require (at least) daily planning and meal prep if you want to be successful long term. I personally have not tried this diet but there’s another blogger who has a lot of success with it (find her HERE), a website/blogger with a lot of resources (find her HERE) and if you searched the #flexibledieting on instagram you would find a ton of examples of what people eat on this type of diet.
This diet can also potentially end up as a ‘junk food’ kind of diet as long as it “fits your macros” but honestly, you feel BETTER and perform BETTER if you eat more on the cleaner side (shouldn’t we all?) because crap food will make you feel like crap. I definitely have personal experience with this haha. Here are some ideas of good food and which categories that they fall into:
Two tools that I think are absolutely essential for this diet: a food scale and the MyFitnessPal app. MUST HAVES. If you really want to take this diet seriously, that means weighing your food out and recording all of your data- you’ll always know exactly where you stand in the day if you do this. I think there are a lot of pros to this diet (as long as you don’t use it as an excuse to eat straight junk food) but it also seems like it takes quite a bit of work and tweeking in order to get your macros correct. There are people out there that will help you figure out your macros and ratios or you can just try some different ratios to see what works for you. Either way, its going to take money or effort (you choose 😉 ) I would love to hear about your experiences on this diet if you eat this way! Comment or send me a message and let’s chat. This is definitely something I would consider in the future instead of counting straight calories but I don’t think it is in the cards for me at the moment.