You may have heard about people “counting macros” or “IIFYM.” What does this all mean exactly? Let’s first start out by learning what macros or macronutrients are. Basically they are proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. One gram of protein equals 4 calories, one gram of carbohydrate equals 4 calories and one gram of fat equals 9 calories. We all eat macros, just not all us of track them. The reason people like to track macros and in turn count their calories, is because it makes eating in a calorie deficit or surplus, that much easier and more sustainable.
We all need protein to function, however, most people tend to not eat enough protein. Protein is the macronutrient that makes us feel the fullest. So, 30 grams of protein, think a small chicken breast, is going to hold us over much longer than 30 grams of carbs, think a light wheat English muffin. Each have the same amount of calories, however one is going to satisfy us more than the other. When you’re eating in a calorie deficit, eating enough protein is going to keep you from losing muscle weight as well. When you don’t eat enough protein and you cut your calories you could end up losing muscle and fat, not just fat. And we want to keep the muscle we have (and hopefully add some more). The more lean muscle you have the more calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your physic. I don’t know about you, but I am all for needing to eat more calories than less.
Ahh, the dreaded carb, probably has the worst reputation in the entire food kingdom. Carbs make you fat, gluten makes you fat, ugh……… no overeating makes you fat. Carbohydrates for the body is what gasoline is to cars, it’s our main source of energy, and our bodies love it. The reason why carbs get a bad rap is because whenever someone goes on a low/no carb diet, they instantly lose 5lbs. It’s like magic and thus they feel like carbs are the enemy.
When we eat a 1 gram of carbohydrate, our body holds on to 3-4 ounces of water and attaches to our muscle fibers. So when you go from eating 250 grams of carbs per day to eating almost none, you are going to lose water weight almost instantly. Most people can’t get beyond more than a couple of weeks without eating carbs, so the no carb diet is usually just setting yourself up for failure anyway, as soon you start eating carbs again, the scale goes right back up.
Fats are like Brittany Spears, first their great and everyone loves them. Eat high fat and no carbs and you are going to get skinny, bring on the steak and butter. But then after time, the hype starts to fizzle out, everyone gets fat again and now fat is crazy Britany Spears shaving her head, no one wants it. But wait, someone sensible stepped in and straightened Brittany out, she’s back and better than ever, and guess what so is fat. So now fat is good, just the right kind and in moderation, we actually need fat to burn fat, who would a thunk it.
So I may have gone a little off on the Brittany/fat stuff, but there is a morale to that story.
The only way to lose weight is to consume less calories then you expend. There are many strategies to do this, including a lot of fad diets that get some attention for a while but then fade out. Then there are the tried and true strategies that body builders have being using for years. High protein, moderate carbs, and low fat. It’s actually pretty simple, yet most people would rather spend time learning complicated systems like putting their food in different color coded containers (I’ve tried this BTW, so confusing), rather than just call it what it is, protein, carbs, and fat.
Now I have seen countless people write things like, counting macros and weighing food takes hours. That’s bullshit, unless 15 minutes actually feels like hours, but it doesn’t to me. People even say counting calories is obsessive and that you just have to eat clean. I’m sure this strategy works for some people, but when you’re trying to lose 15 pounds, you need to know and track what your consuming or you could very well be eating just as many calories as you expend or even more.
What should my macro allocation be?
Ahh, the good part. Here are some general guidelines, every person is different and I personally set my clients macros based on their eating habits and other factors, then make adjustments as needed. So if your under 30% body fat you should generally be eating .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Your fat should be around .2 per pound of body weight. And carbohydrates are the filler. If your goal is to eat 1,500 calories per day and you weigh 145 pounds then it would look like this.
Weight 145lbs Calories
Protein 116 grams x 4 464
Carbs 194 grams x 4 776
Fat 29 grams x 9 261
Now if you want to know how many calories you should be eating to lose weight, generally speaking you want to be 500 to 1,000 calories lower than your daily calorie expenditure. If you have 30 pounds or less to lose you’re likely going to be in the 500 range. Okay so now you’re probably asking what the heck your daily calorie expenditure is. The easiest way to calculate it is using this link, I could lay it all out for you on how I do it in excel, but this link does the exact same thing, less math for you!
If It Fits Your Marcos (IIFYM)
IIFYM is very popular among bodybuilders and they have been using this approach towards nutrition for years. It does get a bad rap sometimes because you might see someone eating a donut and bragging that its fits their macros and all of the clean eating people get upset because they think IIFYM supporters are perpetuating unhealthy eating habits.
The truth is most people who follow this philosophy are making healthy choices 90% of time. The other 10% is them choosing pizza or ice cream. The difference is they are not going over their daily targeted macros. They don’t have to “cheat” and go over their daily calories by eating the pizza. They just chose to eat super lean during the day and save their carbs and fat for the pizza or ice cream at night. And there is nothing wrong with that. Eating healthy 100% is not manageable or realistic for 99.9% of people.
This is me by the way wearing my favorite tank top, Wine fits my Macros, why, because I’ve eaten in calorie deficits for months at a time and never once did I have to give up my wine (or pizza). A lot of other diets are very restrictive when it comes to certain types of food and alcohol, making them somewhat tough and at times discouraging to follow. I also have an Ice Cream fits my Macros t–shirt as well :)
Is IIFYM right for you?
If your goal is fat loss and you don’t want to give up the foods you love, then yes it’s for you! There is no one telling you can’t have that Egg McMuffin from McDonalds because your super busy and don’t have time to make a clean breakfast at home every morning. IIFYM’s eat it! Obviously you should be eating lean protein, veggies, fruit, and whole grains, but you’re allowed to eat other things. And with my coaching programs you don’t have to count your veggies, non-starchy veggies, like lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, broccoli etc., all are free, you don’t have to track them and you can eat as much as want!