How does a juicy burger sound right about now?
IIFYM or "If It Fits Your Macros" is not necessarily a new idea, but has gained increased popularity lately. You may have been drooling over those Instagram posts of poptarts and pizza, but does it work? We asked bodybuilder and IIFYM’er Lance Hare to help us understand this "Modern Diet". Here’s the ultimate quick guide to flexible dieting.
1. Know The Macros
In order to fully yield the benefits of flexible dieting (or IIFYM for short), one must know what they actually are, of course:
- 1g carbohydrate equals 4 calories
- 1g protein equals 4 calories
- 1g fat equals 9 calories
Fiber and alcohol yield calories as well, don't forget. Fiberous carbs typically contain around 2-3 cals/gram and 1 gram of alcohol equals ~7 calories. Fiberous carbs should be counted with overall carb intake. Sorry, but counting net carbs isn't optimal if you want full control of body composition and performance
2. Find Your Personal Intake For Your Goals
With different genetics, goals, age, and gender in mind, there is no cookie cutter ratio or intake for everyone. Websites offer decent BMR (basal metabolic rate) calculators but nothing trumps personal experience here. You can use this to get a grasp for your overall caloric intake. Next, as a general guideline, I recommend:
- Protein - 0.8-1.2g per lb of bodyweight
- Fats - 0.3-0.5g per bodyweight pound
- Carbs - fill in the rest of your caloric allotment with these.
For example: 180 lb male with a BMR of 2,100 calories.
Protein: 180g daily
Fats: 70g daily (rounded from 72 for simplicity)
Carbs: 190g daily (rounded from 187.5 for simplicity)
Starting is the hardest but if you can hit a set intake for 2 weeks with consistency and measure the difference in bodyweight, then you know what you have to do. If you are dropping or gaining more than a lb per week, you will need to make proper adjustments. Protein intake should stay static the majority of the time but carbs and fats can be manipulated. Make slow, linear adjustments to your daily intake based on your goals. I recommend 100-200 calories a week, up or down, every 1-3 weeks. Remember, these are general guidelines. Look into MyFitnessPal for an easy way to track. They offer a smart phone app as well as a website. It also offers a BMR calculator.
3. Use a Food Scale Properly
In the land of food measuring objects, the food scale is King Leonidas. Nothing else will get you more accurate readings. It's good to know a few things when measuring though. Make sure you look closely at labels for cooked or uncooked weight. Most meats will lose 1-2 oz after cooking and unless stated otherwise on the label, their macro nutrient information is listed for uncooked weight. I always weigh my chicken to an ounce under the weight I desire. This is just my specificity. Whatever it is you do, just make sure you are consistent with that strategy. Another good thing to know is mL and grams are super close. Most scales don't offer mL readings, so set your worries aside and use the grams function.
4. Balancing micro-nutrient dense foods and not-so-micronutrient foods
Since IIFYM has gained popularity, there have been some misconceptions. This is NOT a game where you try to score the highest amount of fast food and funnel cakes you can fit into your day. Sure one can attain progress this way, but I digress. This is not the most optimal. Consume 70-80% of you caloric intake from micro-nutrient dense foods and have complete protein sources (ie- chicken breasts, eggs, whey protein, fish, dairy). This I why I have stuck with the term “Flexible Dieting” instead. This is all about having a healthy relationship with food while also doing what is most optimal for performance and body composition. Don't forget your fiber.
- Aim for 12-16g per 1,000 calories in your daily intake.
Fiber is important for many reasons that we know, but it also has been found to have thermogenic properties in research.
5. YOLOing for the Macro Jedi
I understand. We all like to eat out and get away from our own kitchen. Not to mention, family and holiday celebrations. Use MyFitnessPal (or other tracking application) to make a custom food labeled as protein, carb, and fat. Once you make them, all you have to do is give them the proper calories per 1 gram, make 1 serving equal 1 gram, and leave everything else blank. Save them so you can use them at any time.
- For Example: Food 1: Protein (4 calories per 1g serving, 0 fat, 0 carb, 1 protein). Food 2: Carb (4 calories per 1g serving, 0 Fat, 0 protein). Food 3: Fat (9 calories per 1g serving, 0 carb, 0 protein).
Don't be that person that brings your pre-weighed food to the family gathering. If you are prepping for a show or a meet, then by all means, be precise. Once you have a few months to a year of tracking under your belt, you just get a feel for macro content. Knowing how to YOLO (or eyeball) foods at a buffet can pay dividends to your physique AND your general well-being. A few things to remember are most restaurants and non-fitness enthusiasts will always cook in butter or some sort of oil. Track conservatively high for fat grams in any food you don't prepare yourself. If you think a normal item has 5g of fat, track 8-10g. If you enjoy yourself at a restaurant, you will more than likely burn up ¾ or even 100% of you daily fat allowance. It's the nature of the beast. Just make adjustments in your other meals throughout the day to be successful.
There you have it. These are my top 5 macro hacks that have given me full control over my physique. It's a confusing road to begin, but I promise if you stick with it, you will see the light in weeks' time. Now go eat a pop-tart.
Prepared by Lance Hare
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