This is going to be a long post. So if you make it to the end you get a cookie, as long as it fits your macros. I have posted about macros and If It Fits Your Macros, or Flexible Dieting, before but not in much detail. I am by no means an expert on the subject but I have learned a few things since I started IIFYM and am willing to share what works for me. Keep in mind everyone’s numbers will be different because they are based on each person’s weight, height, and activity level. That being said here is how to get started with IIFYM.
How to calculate your numbers.
First thing you need to do to get started tracking your macros is figure out your numbers. There are plenty of people who offer custom macros plans for cheap. Typically they are around $20-30. But this is the price for just for the numbers that I am going to show you how to find yourself. And I have found that most of them just use the calculations I list below anyway. So how do you know what your macros should be? Here is a pretty easy way of finding them.
- Use the IIFYM calculator you can find at this link. http://iifym.com/iifym-calculator/
- Enter your gender, age, height, and weight.
- Then chose the Athletes Formula and enter you exercise level. I know it may seem like you should use the other formula but that formula requires knowing your body fat percentage. The only way to really accurately calculate your body fat is to find a Body Pod location or a DEXA Scan location. So its best to just use the Athletes Formula.
- Click Calculate TDEE . The TDEE different then your BMR(basal metabolic rate). Your BMR only gives you the number of calories that your body requires to perform basic bodily functions, like digesting food and breathing. Your TDEE is like the BMR but it adds on the number of calories your body needs to move and perform physical activity. This is the number of calories you would need to eat to maintain your current weight at your current activity level. If you want to lose weight you will take some calories away from this number. If you wanted to gain weight you would want to add calories to this number.
- In step 2 you will chose your goal. To lose weight you would pick one of the three options under the fat loss column. It is best to go with suggested to start. Suggested fat loss will reduce your daily TDEE calorie allowance by 15%. You can chose one of the other options and remove a higher percentage of calories from your TDEE if you want. Just keep in mind less is not always more. If you chose the suggested instead of the other options then you have some where to go if you plateau. You want to eat the most food you can while still loosing weight. If it starts to stall then you can make adjustments and take off more.
- For step 3 you want to make sure the Common Plans section is set to IIFYM. Then you will set the Protein to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. Then you will set the Fat to 0.35 grams per pound of body weight. Carbs will be automatically calculated on what calories you have left. Click calculate.
- Step 4 will give you your custom macros.
How to track your macros.
So now you have your numbers what do you do with them? You have to have a way to track them. There are quite a few food trackers out there. I use My Fitness Pal because they have a huge food database so you don’t have to enter food stats from labels for all your food. Plus they have a website to track your food and an app. Makes it easy when you’re out to track food on the go. So I won’t go into how to set up an account because thats pretty self explanatory but I will show you how to adjust the goals My Fitness Pal gives you to your custom macros. You will need to do this from a computer not your phone or iPad. Okay here it goes!
- Open up your My Fitness Pal account.
- Go to the Goals tab.
- Scroll down and click the button that says change goals.
- Select Custom and then click continue.
- This should bring you to a page that list your nutritional goals. You will notice at this point you can only adjust your macros by percentages. Not really helpful. So you will want to go to this link. MyFitnessPal Bookmarklet for Macro Adjustments
- Once you have installed the bookmarklet you should be able to go to your My Fitness custom goals page and adjust your macros by grams. You will just need to set your calories, fats, carbs, proteins, and if you would like fiber goals to the numbers you were given from the IIFYM calculator.
- Once that is saved you are all set to track your macros!
How to meet your macro goals.
If you are anything like me, and probably most women who have tried to loose weight before, you have probably tried things like counting calories or Weight Watchers. These things do work to help you loose weight but what I have found is I am always hungry when I try those methods. After following IIFYM now for a little while I think I know the reason why. If you noticed when you set up My Fitness Pal they probably gave you a calorie goal that is way lower than the one you got from the IIFYM calculator. And when you went to the custom goals area you probably noticed that they had your goals set so that most of your calories were coming from carbs. Carbs are great! I mean who doesn’t love carbs? And they are very necessary for your body. Glucose from the carbohydrates you eat are your brain’s source of fuel. But carbs are also broken down quicker than the fats and proteins you eat. That is why you are often so hungry when you follow diets like Weight Watchers or when you count calories. Getting a higher percentage of your calorie intake from fats and proteins will help you feel more full.
It can be hard to adjust to this way of eating at first. I found when I first started that it was most difficult to hit my protein goal. You want to be within +/- 5 grams of your protein, fat, and carb goals each day. When you look at your protein, which is probably now making up the biggest percentage of your daily calories, you may think there is no way I am hitting that. So here are some of the things I have done to help hit my protein goal.
- Add in a protein shake each day. These are great for numerous reasons. They are quick and easy to take on the go. When mixed with water most protein powders are very low on carbs and fat. This makes it easy not to use up your other macros on shakes. I like to mix my powder with skim milk. It adds about 12 more grams of carbs per cup but also adds 8 more grams of protein. Plus I think it taste better. Trick is finding a protein powder you like. I am picky so it took me a few brands but I finally settled on Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey. The best price is at www.vitacost.com. You can also use the protein powders to make protein pancakes or protein balls. There are ton of options out there on Pinterest or just google it. This is really the only way I have been able to consistently hit my goal. Plus whey protein is digested quickly so it is perfect for after a strength training workout where you want to give your muscles, that you just stressed, the protein they need to repair themselves.
- Prep other forms of lean protein for quick access. I like to cook up chicken breast or ground lean turkey in big batches. Then these can be refrigerated or frozen and pulled out for easy meal making. If you have cooked chicken you can easily use it to make sandwiches, add to personal pizzas made with flatout breads, put it in wheat tortillas with a little cheese and salsa for a quick quesadilla, add to salads. Really so many options that you can make with cooked chicken breast. Its also easy to use precooked meat to adjust the amount of meat you use in each meal in order to meet your goals. The same can be done with ground turkey.
- Eggs! Eggs are awesome! I eat them pretty much daily. If you need some fats for the day eat whole eggs. If you just need protein, eat egg whites. You can scramble them for breakfast tacos, make egg sandwiches, hard boil them. Again a ton of options and they are so cheap.
- Flavored greek yogurt. I can’t stomach plain greek yogurt. I don’t mind using it to cook with but to eat, its not happening. So I use flavored greek yogurt as a snack. Sometimes I use it for before or after a workout to give me a little carbs and protein. Some people even add some protein powder to their greek yogurt in order to up the protein content. I don’t like the taste that way so I don’t but it is an option.
- Turkey Jerkey. Lean protein that is portable. It really doesn’t get any easier than grab a piece and go.
- Quest or other protein bars. Sometimes when I am in a hurry these are my breakfast or lunch, along with my skinny iced latte from Starbucks of course.
Now when I first started I would often plan the night before what my proteins would be for the next day. For example its easy for me to enter chicken for dinner if I know that is on the family meal list for the week. And I basically drink my protein shake daily so I can enter that as my post workout snack. The rest of the things might vary but I have some go to food ideas like the ones I mentioned above that are quick that I will often enter for lunch or breakfast. Then I will fill up my snacks and add to my meals based on what macros I have left. If I have protein I need to get in after entering my breakfast, lunch, post workout shake, and dinner. The trick is finding go to foods that you like that are easy to prepare and you know will help you meet specific macro goals. As you get use to tracking this gets easier. I might add a greek yogurt for after dinner or some turkey jerkey or Quest bar for another snack. If I need fats I may add some nut butter to a meal(usually on toast for breakfast or snack). Another way I get fats is to add avocado to my eggs, salads, or sandwiches. If I still need fat I might add some butter or oil to my steamed veggies for dinner. Carbs are typically the one macro I have no problem hitting but if I have hit my others and still need more carbs I typically add fruit because it is low in fats and protein.
Other helpful hints.
- One thing you must have for tracking macros is a food scale. You will need to weigh everything, at least to start, because measuring cups and food labels are inaccurate. Check out this video about measuring cups. Sure it is only a few grams but if it is a few grams for each of the foods you eat each day that adds up. So best to weigh everything.
- I have also found that when you are layering foods it is actually easier to weigh than use cups or spoons. For example, say I am making one of my favorite breakfast/snacks, peanut butter and banana on toast. I would put the toast on my plate and then put it on the scale. I would zero out, or tare, the scale and then add the peanut butter to the bread. This way it is only measuring the weight of the peanut butter. Then I would zero the scale again and add the banana. Every time you add another ingredient just zero it out and add the grams of that ingredient that you need. Same goes for if you are eating say a spoon of peanut butter out of the jar. You can set the jar on the scale and zero out the weight. Then when you scoop out your spoon you can see the number of grams you subtracted and match it to the number of grams per serving.
- All nutritional labels will have the grams per serving listed next to the serving size. That is the number you want to pay attention to. Just because the serving size says 12 pretzels doesn’t mean that those 12 pretzels will come out to the grams listed as the serving size. Sometimes you will even get an extra pretzel by using the weight.
- Also make sure you set your scale to grams and try to enter all your foods in grams when you are tracking in My Fitness Pal when you can. You can even add the word grams to your search when you’re looking for foods in the database to find entries that allow you to enter the food in grams.
- When making casseroles or dishes that you will share use the recipe calculator to enter your ingredients on My Fitness Pal. It is best to use grams when possible. It is also best to use the raw uncooked weights on meats if you are starting with raw meats in your recipe. Most meats will have cooked and raw options on My Fitness Pal. Then weight, in grams, the dish you are using to cook the food in on your scale. Remember that weight for later. After your food is cooked you can then weigh the entire dish on your scale and subtract the grams of your dish so you get just the weight of the food in grams. This is then used to set your serving size on the recipe calculator. So say your cooked food weighs 600 grams once you subtract the weight of the dish. You would then set the serving size to 600. This way when you weigh out your individual portion on your plate you can just enter the serving size you ate in grams.
- If you are going to drink while tracking macros you will have to do some additional calculations. You will notice if you put a glass of wine or beer in to My Fitness Pal that it is very low in carbs with no fat or protein. Carbs and proteins both have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. So how does 120 calories of wine add up in macros if the nutritional info says its only 4 carbs? Well that is because your body processes alcohol differently than your other macros. In order to track your drink as part of your daily macros you will need to divide the total number of calories listed for the beverage by 4. This will give you the number of carbs you need to subtract from your macros. Example: A glass of wine is 120 calories, divide that by 4 to get 30 carbs. You can subtract the calories from other macros but it is highly suggested you don’t subtract it from your protein. If you would like to subtract the macros for your drink from your daily fat allowance you would need to divide the number of calories by 9.
- Protein is your most important macro to hit each day. Sure you want to hit them all but if you can’t for some reason at least hit try to hit your protein. Why? Well if you are eating at a calorie deficit, lower than your TDEE, then your body will loose weight. This weight doesn’t just come from your fat, though wouldn’t that be nice. It also comes from your lean muscle mass. In order to keep as much muscle as you can you will want to eat enough protein. Also if you are lifting weights you are causing tiny tears in your muscle tissue, that is how they grow. In order to repair themselves they need protein. So always get your protein!
Well that is all I can think of for now. I know it was long so thanks for hanging in there. If you can think of anything else you would like to know leave a comment below and I will try to answer. Or you can email me. My email is listed under the About Me>Contact Me tab. Thanks for reading along. Hope it helps!