Subj. How to use If It Fits Your Macros a.k.a ‘Flexible Dieting’ to burn fat and build muscle while eating whatever you want.
If you’ve ever tried dieting, you know diets suck.
If your idea of dieting involves forcing salad down your throat, skipping dessert, or choking down dry chicken and plain rice 12 times a week, I have good news for you:
IIFYM makes dieting suck less. A lot less actually.
It helps you get in shape while eating anything you want.
When I say you can eat anything, I mean literally anything:
Ice cream, cake, chips, key lime pie, double stuft oreos, hot dogs, donuts, cheeseburgers, french fries, steak, cream brûlée, canolis, beer, deer, steer, ever clear…
Other diets outright condemn certain foods but flexible dieting allows you to eat what ever your heart desires.
People that fail miserably with their diets find salvation in flexible dieting. Flexible dieting gives you room to indulge. It also ensures you get the right amount of calories needed to gain or lose weight.
You can have the best of both worlds with flexible dieting. You can get in great shape and eat anything you want – but there’s a small caveat:
The truth is, you really can eat anything you want.
The whole truth is, you can’t eat as much as you want.
If all you ate was cake and pie and cheeseburgers in large portions, you would probably get fat. Even if you workout.
The secret to flexible dieting is finding the right amount of ‘macros’. Protein, fats and carbohydrates are macros, or macronutrients. Macro nutrients are what make up calories. Each macronutrient contains energy, measured in calories.
- 1 gram of Protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of Carbohydrates = 4 calories
- and 1 gram of Fat = 9 calories
Each macro also contains other important properties that impact how well flexible dieting will work for you.
Protein builds and repair body tissue and is the main component for building muscle. You need protein everyday to recover from workouts, build muscle, and get stronger. Protein literally means ‘most important’ because it’s critical for your body to maintain body tissue like muscle, tendons, and bone.
Protein sources: Beef, chicken, fish, eggs, duck, lamb, turkey and cottage cheese.
Carbohydrates (carbs) are what your body uses for energy first. Carbs break down fast and are more readily available for your body to use as fuel.
Without enough carbs you might feel tired or lethargic. Carbs literally hydrate your muscles by bringing in water and nutrients to make you feel ‘pumped’. Avoid refined carbohydrates and simple sugars. These are technically carbs but lower quality. I always advocate eating whole, natural foods.
Carbohydrate sources: Rice, beans, quinoa, bread, oatmeal, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.
Dietary fat is essential for good health. You shouldn’t avoid fat and don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors by using margarine instead of real butter.
Foods made with real animal fat are infinitely better than their engineered vegetable counterpart. Eating more calories than you burn makes you fat. You need fat to produce testosterone. High testosterone = high muscle building potential. Fat, including saturated animal fat, is essential for building muscle and staying healthy.
The amount and combination of macros you eat on a daily basis is determined by your goals, your starting weight and body fat percentage and your activity level.
How to Get Started with Flexible Dieting
For this article I will assume you workout.
With flexible dieting you pick your macro ‘numbers’ and you can eat any food that allow you to reach (but not exceed) those numbers.
You can eat whatever foods you want IF it fits within your macros . ‘Macros’ is short for the three macronutrients: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates.
Every calorie you eat or drink comes from one of these macronutrients (except alcohol, but that’s a different animal).
Calories are what your body used for energy. Calories are used to fuel your body or they are stored as fat depending on your activity level.
If you workout intensely several times a week calories will be used to power you through your workouts but if you sit on your ass all day then the calories will be stored as fat since your body isn’t using them. It just decides to save the calories for later. This is how people get a spare tire around the middle or a muffin top.
Why Flexible Dieting is Awesome
Flexible dieting is easy
You only track 3 numbers. After a while you get good at ‘ball parking” and have an idea of what macros you are taking in on a daily basis without having to track every single thing you eat.
You can eat whatever you want
Cake or steak, quinoa and donuts, chicken and ice cream. You can eat your favorite foods – It doesn’t matter what you eat a long as it fits your macros. The thing is, you can indulge as long as you hit your macros. If you eat a donut, you’ll have to eat super clean and lean the rest of the day.
Don’t have to starve yourself
Flexible dieting isn’t a crash diet. You just reduce your calorie intake just enough to lose weight gradually without feeling tired, run down or crabby.
Eat a variety of foods
There’s no set diet that you don’t have to eat the same thing every day. Flexible dieting is a great way to explore different foods and try new things.
Getting Started with Flexible Dieting
Flexible dieting is suitable to gaining weight and losing weight. It all depends on your goals. I used flexible dieting to get lean. I lost 10 pounds in about 6 weeks without starving myself.
10x your bodyweight is typically your ‘maintenance calorie requirement’ meaning if you want to stay the same weight and you don’t workout this is how many calories you should consume daily. So if you’re 200 pounds you should eat 2000 calories a day.
Download the My Fitness Pal app. It will walk you through everything. You basically start with your calorie requirements based on your fitness goals and activity level. Then you pick your macro proportions starting with your protein requirements.
If you want to build muscle get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Then pick your carbs. if you workout hard every day I would aim for 1.5-2x your bodyweight in carbohydrates. Start on the low end and add more if necessary. Fill out the rest of your calories with fat.
Make sure you track everything you eat. That’s the only way it works. It’s almost like a game. You’re also likely to adhere to eat healthy because you’re investing time into tracking your progress.
Why Flexible Dieting Works
Most diets don’t work. That’s because most diets are easy to forget about. Flexible dieting works because you track everything. You know what you’re eating. It forces you to think about everything you eat.
At times I didn’t eat something just because I would have to track it in my calorie counting app. So this helped me cut down on mindless snacking. Flexible dieting makes you think twice about everything you eat and that’s what makes it effective.
It’s hard to over eat or eat poorly with flexible dieting. You set your macros and in order to hit them you have to eat 90% healthy! At the same time it allows you to enjoy a snack or two a day.
Flexible dieting is a good way to build awareness about the food you eat. It makes you educate yourself on what’s healthy and what’s not.
How to Train with Flexible Dieting
In order to make muscle gains without getting fat you need to eat clean. This mean get just enough food to recover fully from your workouts. That way you have all the nutrients you need to gain maximum muscle and nothing extra that gets stored as fat.
Decide if you want to gain or lose weight
If you want to gain weight allow yourself more calories per day. If you want to lose weight reduce the number of calories per day. You can tweak your calories up or down depends on what happens.
Determine your activity level
If you’re very active add more calories per day. Add in an extra 200 calories if you jog a mile. If you train hard with weights add in 500 calories. Make sure the majority of those calories come from protein sources.
Try this out for a few days and adjust your calorie intake accordingly.
Pick your macros
After you determine you calorie needs, make sure you get enough protein. Start with a gram of protein per bodyweight. So if you’re 200 pounds get 200 grams of protein per day. That’s 800 calories.
Protein makes up 35% of the calories in my diet, carbohydrates make up 45% and fat makes up 20%.
Do the math and you get 1,084 calories from carbohydrates (271 grams x 4 calories) and 468 calories from fat (52 grams x 9 calories).
Add it all up and you get 2,352 calories a day. If you work out moderately 3-4 times a week this should be enough for you to make some nice lean gains.
Track your calorie intake
Make sure you track everything you eat each day. Tracking your intake is important because it’s easy to stray from your diet. Tracking your macros is necessary to stay, well, on track.
I use the My Fitness Pal app because it’s free and easy to use. It even has name brand food items and fast food items so you don’t have to look everything up, you just search for it.
Sample Flexible Dieting IIFYM Meal Plan
This is the meal plan I used for several weeks to lose fat and maintain muscle mass. This is one day of eating where I was very close to my macros.
Total Calorie Goal: 2,618 calories
- Protein = 215 grams
- Carbs = 300 grams
- Fat = 62 grams
- 2 Large Eggs (hardboiled)
- Greek Nonfat yogurt (Black Cherry)
- Greek Yogurt (Key Lime)
- Cottage Cheese – 2 1/3 cups (2% milk fat)
- Pineapple – 2 cups
- 2 Large Eggs (Hardboiled)
- Chunk Light Tuna – 8oz with 1 tbsp of Olive oil mayonnaise
- White Rice -1 cup
- Garbanzo Beans – 1 1/4 cups (all topped with Saracha sauce)
- Protein Shake
- 1 scoop Syntha-6 Vanilla Whey Protein
- 3 cups of spinach
- 1 Banana
- 3/4 cup non-fat greek yogurt
- Nature Valley Crunchy Oats & Honey bars (2 pack)
- Peanut Butter Toast cracker sandwiches
Grand Total: 2,698 Calories
- Protein = 222 grams
- Carbs = 299 grams
- Fat = 64 grams
Pretty close to my goal (I consider it even better than hitting my target because I got a little extra protein in the mix. As you can see I was able to snack and eat real food without having to starve myself.
Flexible dieting works for a lot of people and it allows you to live a little. You can eat things you really enjoy and don’t have to stress about your meals as much.
Personally I think it’s an effective diet if you do it right. The best thing to do is try it for a month and see what you think.
Need some help getting started with for ideas? check out my grocery list for some inspiration. if you’re having trouble meeting your macros try meal prep for high protein low fat meals that will held you build muscle and stay lean.
After you count calories for a while you will get good at ‘eye-balling’ portions. You’ll know how many ounces of meat of bread is in a meal.
It’s fun to try to find new combinations of food that work within your macros. It’s like a real life puzzle game. It causes you to make conscious eating decisions.