Have you heard about the macro diet, otherwise known as IIFYM? Tried to research it on Google and come across a bunch of mumbo jumbo hearsay? Watched a 10 minute YouTube video on “Macros for Beginners” and still confused? Don’t worry, let us break it down for you.
What Are Macros?
Macros, or macronutrients, are essential nutrients required by the human body in large amounts in order to survive. There are three of them:
Macro #1: Carbohydrate
This macronutrient is often excluded in fad diets but it’s actually used by our bodies as a readily-accessible form of energy. Carbohydrates are digested by the body to produce glucose, which is absorbed into the bloodstream and, with the help of insulin, enters the body’s cells. If glucose goes unused, the body can then store it as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Once the body has maxed out its glycogen levels, it converts into fat for long-term storage.
Carbohydrates are an important macro and should be included in our diets because they are our bodies’ main source of energy. What’s more, they are an important source of fiber, which is important for our long-term health.
Macro #2: Fat
Sure, fat gets a bad rap! But it’s an essential part of our diets in small amounts. Dietary fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body can’t make itself. In fact, we need fat to absorb vitamins A, D, and E. Adequate fat consumption has even been linked to better cognitive function, a healthier heart, and important cell growth.
Out of all three macros, fat has the most energy (calories), which is why we should only consume it in moderation.
Macro #3: Protein
Last, but not least, protein. It may be obvious as to why this macronutrient is important, seeming as it is an essential building block in every cell within our bodies. Amongst other things, protein builds and repairs muscle, strengthens our immune systems, promotes a healthy nervous system, and benefits our joints.
Our bodies can’t store protein, so we require a regular supply of this macro in our diets. Otherwise, we start to break down existing tissue to get the amino acids we need (bad news, especially if we’re trying to gain muscle).
IIFYM = If It Fits Your Macros
The idea behind IIFYM is that we can still enjoy our lives and achieve our goals. It’s a flexible diet where, instead of only counting calories, we count our overall macros.
“What is a flexible diet?” I hear you ask. Well, it means that we can eat whatever we want, as long as it fits in our macros. In other words, we don’t have to miss out on our favorite snacks, as long as we are sticking to our macronutrient ratios.
What About the Glycaemic Index or Saturated Vs. Unsaturated Fats?
It doesn’t matter! IIFYM goes on the basis that, once digested, a macro is a macro. For example, let’s take a look at carbohydrates: whether they’re simple carbs from a donut or starchy and fibrous carbs from rice and whole grains, they are all broken down into the same end product - glucose.
Furthermore, whilst saturated fats have received a lot of bad press over the years, many recent studies suggest that they are not as bad as previously thought. Nevertheless, the overall consensus is that fat, in general, should be consumed in small amounts.
Of course, we’re not saying you should always swap your avocado for coconut, or your fruit and veg for a candy bar. The good thing about eating food with unsaturated fats and fibrous carbs, as opposed to snacks with saturated fats and simple carbs, is that they are often found alongside healthy micronutrients, such as vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, etc.
Nevertheless, if we choose to indulge occasionally, the beauty of the flexible macro diet is that it’s just that - flexible!
IIFYM: A Lifestyle or a Diet?
I’m sure the majority of us have tried other diets before (low-carb, sugar-free, paleo, keto, etc.), and how many of us have stuck with them? The problem is, fad diets are unsustainable! Indulging on snacks and unhealthy foods occasionally keep us sane and we’re more likely to stick with a diet if we’re allowed to eat foods we enjoy. That’s why IIFYM is often considered a lifestyle, rather than a diet.
Fear not! You don’t have to be an expert in sport science to follow IIFYM, it’s a lot more simple than people think. Even beginners can easily benefit from this macro-counting lifestyle!
Macros Vs. Calories
“So what about calories?” Yes, they’re still important. If we want to lose weight, we must create a calorie deficit. If we want to gain muscle, we must create a calorie surplus. But not all calories are made equal and if we don’t track anything else, we could be missing out on important macronutrients. As we have discussed, all three macros are essential for good health.
What’s more, by following IIFYM, it makes it easier to track the consumption of micronutrients and the variety of foods we can eat increases the likelihood we will be including these in our diets. It’s designed to provide the body with consistent calorie intake without the need to stick to a strict diet and it’s not required to cut out enjoyable foods in order to lose weight!
However, we do need to be aware that there are differing amounts of calories in each macro.
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
How to Get Started on the Macro Diet
First things first, you need to find out your recommended intake and you can do that using our macro calculator. This will calculate the daily calories needed to maintain your weight and then, based on this, your recommended intake of protein, carbs, and fats per day in grams. Over time, you can gradually adjust your calorie intake depending on whether or not you want to lose or gain weight.
We would also recommend the use of smartphone applications, such as MyFitnessPal to track the foods and snacks that you eat. This will make it a lot easier to hit your macro targets!
We wish you luck on your IIFYM journey :) and please feel free to comment if you have any further questions!