If It Fits Your Macros!
If you stay up to date with the fitness community, you’ve most likely heard of ‘Flexible Dieting’ or ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ before.
The chances are,if you’ve come across it, you have read something along the lines of ‘eating junk food while losing weight’ or something similar to that.
But is that the right outlook on flexible dieting? A justification to eat junk food, like ice cream every single day?
Let’s dive deeper into it and find out!
How Does ‘Flexible Dieting’ Work?
Flexible Dieting is relatively new to the ‘fitness industry’, and is now probably the most popular way of dieting in the fitness world.
Flexible dieting is a way of dieting that focusses on meeting your daily macronutrient intake targets, and not what you eat to get there.
So What Is A ‘Macronutrient’?
Nutrients are substances needed for growth, energy and other body functions. Macronutrients are the nutrients required in large amounts (macro meaning large), that provide the energy needed to carry out the activities in the normal day-to-day life and maintain body functions .
There are three macronutrients required: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each of these macronutrients provides energy in the form of calories:
- Carbohydrates- 4 calories per gram
- Protein- 4 calories per gram
- Fat- 9 calories per gram
This means that if you look at a food label and it lists 20 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 0 grams of carbohydrates, that food would contain 80 calories.
You plan your daily meals to provide you with a certain amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat, based on your goal, whether that be, losing fat or building muscle. It’s actually a form of calorie counting, since your macro’s will fill out a certain amount of calories you want to take in per day.
For example, personally if I want to gain weight I have to consume around 4000 calories per day. These calories consist of 200 protein, 115 fats and 550 carbs.
As long as I hit those ‘macro’ targets every day, the foods I eat to reach those targets will not negatively affect my body composition, people don’t normally believe this at first.
My carbs could either come from whole grain rice or they could come from Doritos, my protein from lean chicken breast or cheese, and my fats from peanut butter or chocolate. As long as I hit the macro’s for the day, I will lose fat or build muscle depending on my goal.
1000 calories, 80g protein, 80g carbohydrates and 40g fats delivered from chicken, brown rice and almonds.
Is equal to:
1000 calories, 80g carbohydrates, 80g protein and 40g fats delivered from a pizza.
This might sound a bit over the top and ridiculous at first, but carry on reading and I’ll explain…
Is Flexible Dieting Effective?
The answer is yes, it is absolutely effective, I wouldn’t have written this article if it wasnt. If you apply the correct principles.
Let me justify how it works.
Your body burns a certain amount of energy (calories) every single day.
If you want to read more on just calories click on the link, I have a separate article dedicated to it! Calories in V. Calories out
Now, to be able to lose fat, you need to fuel your body with less energy than it burns ( a caloric deficit). When you do this, your body has to get the energy it needs from somewhere else, so it will get it from its fat stores.
Remember a calorie is a calorie no matter where it comes from!
This is why you could eat nothing but fast food every day and lose weight as long as you fuel your body with less energy than it burns. (Not that I recommend this, just trying to get my point across).
Why ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ and not ‘If It Fits Your Calories’?
When we’re talking just about weight loss, a calorie is a calorie. But if we are talking about body composition, there is more to it.
If you want to cut (lose weight) while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible, you have to do more than just being in a caloric deficit:
- You need to get a certain amount of healthy fats per day, which play an important role in hormone synthesis.
- You need to ensure you eat enough carbs to provide your muscles with glycogen stores to maintain workout intensity.
- You need to get enough protein per day to preserve muscle mass
That’s why counting macros is far better, then just counting calories. It allows you to focus on improving your body composition, not just dropping or gaining pounds, that include a percentage of muscle.
What you eat in order to hit those macronutrient targets is of secondary importance when we’re talking about body composition.
The truth is that, the protein in a McDonald’s Big Mac is made up of same amino acids as a plain chicken breast, and the carbs from potato chips will be turned into glucose and glycogen just like the carbs in rice.
But like I said, I don’t think its a smart idea to get all your carbs and protein processed fatty foods. Which leads me on to the next point..
Eating Junk Food And Becoming Shredded?
Its silly don’t do it!
If you really wanted to you could actually eat McDonald’s or ice cream every day and lose weight, but this doesn’t mean its health or that you should.
You have to recognise that we get more from our food, than just protein, carbs and fat. It is also our source of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
The drawback with processed foods is that they are lacking in micronutrients.
If you eat too much processed foods and too little nutritious foods, you can actually develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can cause different type of health problems.
Health should always be your priority. That’s why you want to eat those foods in moderation, and not include them for the majority of your diet.
You could eat processed food and still get shredded. But is it really worth it if you are ill every other week because your immune system is messed up, because your body is lacking micronutrients? Health is always more important.
How I Recommend You Should Use Flexible Dieting?
To make sure my diet is balanced and healthy I apply the following principles:
- At least 80% of my daily calories should be from healthy, ‘non artificial’ foods.
- I aim to consume 10g of fiber per 1000 calories.
- Meal timing doesn’t really matter. You can eat either 2 times a day or 6 times a day. As long as you hit your set macro and caloric targets, you’ll be alright.
When someone decides to go on a super strict diet and only eat steamed veg and plain chicken, they are setting themself up for failure. The biggest problem people face when they choose to go such a strict diet, is that they get to a point where they just can’t eat chicken and steamed veg no longer, and end up going on a full binge which can last weeks.
In my eyes the best way to avoid this is to simply eat healthy foods that you enjoy on a daily basis and include some treats when you feel like it. For example, if it comes to the end of the day and you have some fat and carbs left, you could have some ice cream, as long as it works it into your macros.If you are going out for a meal, save your calories for that so you don’t go over your daily intake and arent restricted as much to choosing something off the menu.
As long as the majority of your daily calories come from healthy, micronutrient dense foods, feel free to include some treats now and again.
Because who wants to go through their life only eating broccoli anyway?
This is the best way to get results, as you won’t fall off your diet, because you are allowing some treats, which will prevent you wanting to binge.
The Conclusion Of Flexible Dieting
Your diet should always be based around healthy nutritious foods. But if your craving a donut and it fits your daily macros, then go ahead and enjoy. It won’t affect your body composition, food choices are irrelevant. Meeting daily macros and caloric requirements will give you results.
Personally I refer to flexible dieting, as a lifestyle instead of a diet, because it’s not something your going to fall off of, its sustainable. It’s simply just a method of counting calories without looking at food sources but strictly at macros and calories instead.
Use common sense and base your diet mostly around healthy foods to ensure you have a micronutrients intake such as fiber, minerals vitamins and omega’s.
Remember health is most important!
Just enjoy life and your food, in moderation, while still hitting your goals.
Life is all about balance. Enjoy!