Flexible Dieting: How to Calculate and Count Macros to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
Picking a diet plan can be hard. There are so many options out there
Think about what you’re trying to get out of a diet plan.
You probably want something that will:
- Get you results
- Won’t take forever to see those results
- Will keep the weight off long term
- Won’t make your life a miserable to follow.
At least that’s what I was looking for and exactly what I found in the “If It Fits Your Macros”, or IIFYM Diet, way of eating.
I know Keto is all the rage right now. I don’t about you, but any “diet” that says I doesn’t allow me to have carbs isn’t for me.
How is that sustainable? Are you going to go the rest of your life without carbs?
No? Didn’t think so.
Okay, so you lose the weight and then what? What happens when you stop Keto and go back to your old diet?
That’s why I am a huge proponent of a “diet” or way of eating that gets you results and fits into your life, so you can stick with it and maintain your results.
Macro counting and tracking is super simple.
- Figure out your macro numbers.
- Make sure what you eat stays within those numbers.
We’ll get more into how to get those numbers, but that’s really it!
I first found out about IIFYM, or macro tracking, from a fitness coach I had for a few months, Jessica Arevalo. Jessica is a crazy fit and beautiful bikini competition athlete with over 2 million followers on Instagram. When I seen she had open spots for personal training, I jumped on it. In one month of her coaching me, I became more lean and toned that I ever had in my life.
My nutrition plan during this time was based on macro tracking. Which is not surprising, given that a majority of bikini competitors follow use macro tracking in their competition prep – for good reason, it works. My eating habits ever since have remained based on macro tracking, and it is the only ‘diet’ I follow.
Why Choose Macro Tracking?
Joking. ..Not really though.
Seriously, If It Fits Your Macros is exactly what it sounds like – if it fits your macros, you can eat it.
If you are really craving a piece of pizza that, have it. This is what drew me, and so many others into it. In my opinion, it is the most sustainable ‘diet’ – although, as cliche as it sounds, it’s really more of a lifestyle than a diet.
What is Macro Tracking Exactly
If you’ve ever heard ‘flexible dieting’, same thing. It’s extremely popular in the body building/bikini competition world because it is so flexible. Macro tracking works whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or anything in between.
Did I mention you can eat whatever you want?
But (there’s always a but), in the right proportions. People over complicate how to calculate macros and track them, but I promise once you get it, it’s super easy, just keep hang with me for a sec and keep reading!
Why Tracking Macros WORKS.
If you want to lose weight you only need to do ONE thing. Burn more calories than you take in.
If you want to gain weight (i.e. muscle), you need to take in more calories than you burn.
If you’re rolling your eyes thinking, “easier said than done” – I hear you.
Calories come from macro-nutrients – macros for short. Macros are carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Side note, fiber is technically a micro-nutrient from carbs, but IIFYM does put emphasis on it especially for weight loss goals.
From the creators of IIFYM:
IIFYM teaches us that if you eat fewer calories than your body requires (while getting adequate protein, carbs, fat and fiber based on your goals and the energy needs of your body) you will lose weight at a steady and predictable rate.
How to Get Started With If It Fits Your Macros.
I’m going to go in slightly in depth, but macro tracking is really just 3 simple steps: learn how many calories you should eat, learn how many should be protein, fat, or carb calories, make sure you hit that goal.
1. Figure out how many calories you should be eating per day.
The first thing you need to do if you are going to follow IIFYM, is to know how many calories you burn in a day – and therefore you’ll know how many you can eat to reach your weight loss goals.
This post has both a calorie calculator and a calories burned calculator, which is great to get started today and will do a pretty good estimation based on your age, height, current weight, and activity level.
That’s great place to start so you can get going right away, but I highly recommend that you get a fitness tracker that will be able to use your actual activity and heart rate to tell you exactly how many calories you burn each day.
If you know exactly how many calories you burned, you’ll know exactly how many to eat instead of guesstimating.
The fitness tracker I use is the FitBit Charge HR. There are tons of fitness tracker options. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get yourself an Apple Watch, this is it because it also will track how many calories you burn!
Quick vocab lesson. These are important terms to know and understand for healthy, sustainable weight loss:
- Your BMR is your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is just fancy, fancy talk for how many calories your body burns just living.
- Your TDEE is Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This is how much you actually burn in a day taking into account your activities – aka the number your fitness tracker should show you.
If you’re trying to lose weight: the amount of calories you want to consume in a day should be somewhere between these 2 numbers. Ideally, about 15%-20% less than your TDEE. (For muscle gain, you need to be above your TDEE.)
2. Find out what your macros should be.
After you have a target amount of calories to consume, macro tracking works by “splitting those calories up between fat, protein, and carbohydrates(with adequate fiber intake) in a specific way that preserves muscle, encourages fat loss, and optimizes hormone production without a drop in daily energy or exercise performance.”
Right now you’re probably thinking, uh great, but how do I get those numbers?
The here is an online macro calculator where you will put in some information about yourself and it will then send you an exact break down in grams of how many carbs, proteins, and fats you should aim to eat in a day.
3. Follow Those Macros
Okay, you have your macro numbers, what do you do with them?
You have to track everything you eat. This sounds kind of suck-y, but I promise, once you get in a habit, it takes very little time!
I use MyFitnessPal.com because they have the largest food database, including many popular restaurants, which makes going out to eat a ton easier. Basically, you need to sign up for one of these sites, and enter everything you eat into it.
You need to be honest when you enter your food and portions in.
Trust me, I’m always tempted to estimate on the low end, but you’re only lying to yourself and hurting your own results. The more accurately and closely you track it, the better your results.
If you’re serious, and you want to be really accurate, I suggest getting a food scale. I got one on Amazon for $10.
When I first started, I weighed EVERY. THING. Once you get in a habit, you get better at eyeballing portion sizes, so sometimes I guesstimate if I’m in a hurry, but I still regularly use my scale.
I suggest using grams to be the most accurate.
An Example of My Macros
Anyway, at the bottom of MyFitnessPal (or if you’re on the app, scroll to the bottom of a day and click the nutrition button), it will calculate everything for you. Here’s an example of one of my days (not the best, not the worst):
You can also see my current macro goals from that, but every ones’ will be different.
For reference, I’m currently ~144lbs, 5’7″. I work at a desk all day, so most of my day is extremely sedentary. On gym days, I burn between 1900-2100 calories on average, depending on how much cardio I do. On days I don’t go, I only burn 1600-1700.
I pretty much always follow IIFYM, even if I’m not “dieting”.. But when I’m going hard – aka being super strict on what I eat & going to the gym 5/6 days a week in the pursuit of the elusive 6 pack – I try to eat as clean as possible – aka whole foods and not processed foods – and hitting a specific calorie goal. Emphasis on HITTING and not staying under ;).
I don’t always eat 100% clean, because, well, I’m human and eating clean gets really old, really fast. But I find eating clean and IIFYM together is pretty maintainable. I’ll eat clean for about 80% of my day and if I have something that isn’t 100% clean, as long as it fits my macros, I don’t have to feel bad about it. 🙂
I really hope that helped! If you feel like trying it and hit any snags, feel free to comment on here or my Instagram, I’m happy to help if I can!
As a disclaimer, I not a CPT, everything I share comes from my personal experience and my obsessive reading/YouTube video watching habits. 🙂