Friday, 15 January 2016

#IIFYM - What is flexible dieting?

#IIFYM = If it fits your macros.

You've probably seen the hashtag being pushed around instagram (guilty!) and maybe wondered what it's all about? It's a term made popular by the "flexible dieting" trend. For most people, the word diet conjures up images of sad women pushing a lonely lettuce leaf around a plate. Flexible dieting is the exact opposite of this! It's a phrase used to describe the process of losing weight (fat) by tracking macros and eating well, with no restrictions. No food is off limits, as long as it fits your macros! You can still enjoy all your favourite foods and a treat or two. Despite what some believe, it's not all peanut butter and donuts every single day! You can only get away with the peanut butter and the odd donut if you fill the majority of your macros with healthy, nutritious foods!


What are macros?

Macros = macronutrients. So protein, carbs and fats. All three are essential nutrients for the human body.

Protein - helps to repair damaged cells. Everything from your hard worked muscles to your skin, hair and fingernails! Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans and pulses are all good sources.

Carbs - your body's main source of energy. Carbs have got a bad rep over the years but you really don't need to cut them out. Especially if you are active! Carbs are essential to fuel and refuel your body, just make sure you choose the right ones. Fruit and veg come under the carb bracket. Fill your plate with these first but some starchy carbs are good too - oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes are my favourite, and are obviously better options than white bread or pasta.

Fats - Also a source of energy, insulates our organs and helps keep everything ticking along nicely. Fat is also quite satiating, so including it in your diet should hopefully help reduce hunger pangs too! Nuts, cheese and avocado are just a few healthier choices.

Most foods are not 100% one macro. For example, one medium egg has 4.6g fat and 6.4g protein.


So, how do you work out your macros?

The amount of each nutrient you need will be different for each individual. It depends on your height, weight, activity levels and goals! There are varying opinions on how you should split your macros, but ultimately it's down to the individual, and a bit of trial and error. I'm not a fan of a low carb approach but some people swear by it. (Those people are wrong.)
You could do a load of sums to calculate your BMR and TDEE etc... Or save yourself the hassle and use Bodybuilding.com's Macro Calculator! Handy or what?

Every person is unique and the Bodybuilding calculator might not be absolutely perfect for everyone but it's a good starting point. For weight loss it tends to give a split of 40% carbs / 40% protein / 20% fat - try it out and readjust the numbers a bit if you hit a plateau, find what works best for you.

For my height, weight and activity level, the Bodybuilding.com calculator gives me 164g carbs, 164g protein and 36g fat per day to lose weight. To calculate how much calories that is, multiply the carb & protein amounts by 4 (there are 4 calories per 1g of these) and multiply the fat by 9 (9 calories per 1g fat).

For example, (164x4) + (164x4) + (36x9) = 1636 calories per day.


How do you track your macros?

The easiest and probably most popular way is to use My Fitness Pal. Go to Settings -> Goals -> Calorie & Macronutrient Goals. Update your calorie goal based on your results from the Bodybuilding Macro Calculator and the sum above! Then edit the percentages for each of the macronutrient goals. Your percentages obviously must add up to 100%. Logging into MFP on a computer actually gives you more options for editing your goals, so do this if it isn't working on the app!

Then just track everything you eat! And I mean everything. For best results, weigh everything and scan the barcodes to get the most accurate nutritional information for your food. You will soon find that choosing lots of healthier options will allow you to eat more, meet your macro targets and help you to reach your weight loss goals much faster! To check how well you're hitting those macros, scroll to the bottom of your diary and select the "Nutrition" button. It will show you your targets and actual amounts of each macro you've eaten and a handy pie chart version!


Personally I find it much easier to stay within my macros if I plan ahead. Every night I'll input any meals that I know for a fact I'll be eating, check what macros I have left and then pick my other meals and snacks based on that. Eg, tomorrow's lunch is turkey chilli with green beans and my tea will be salmon and sweet potato. That leaves me with 112g carbs, 97g protein and 16g fat. I'd fill that up with a breakfast of turkey bacon, tomatoes, spinach and baked beans, plus melon, grapes, a banana and a protein cookie for snacks! I adjust the amount of each food until I meet my macro goals as closely as I can. Then the next day all I have to do is weigh it out, cook it up and go!


Do you track your macros? Any tips you'd like to share? 

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