diet pancake

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If it fits your macros. Here is all you need to know about the non-diet, diet

Counting your macros is one of the latest trends to hit the fitness scene. The diet that doesn’t restrict you to boring foods, is soaring in popularity.

diet pancake

Photo: Pexels

Imagine a diet that isn’t a diet. You don’t need to cut out any food groups, no magic pills or supplements. You could eat a Snickers for lunch or a pizza for dinner.

There is a catch. Of course, there is – nothing that good comes easy when it comes to weight loss.

The catch is that you would have to calculate your calories and your set of “macros” based on your goalS. Then you would need to log and measure your food to make sure you stay within those numbers.

This way of eating is also known as “flexible dieting” and a quick search of the hashtag on Instagram will show you why. 

The Instagram feeds of the fitspo advocates of IIFYM are littered with plates of chocolate chip protein pancakes, caramel mug cakes, huge bowls of kids cereal and doughnuts. All meals that don’t quite fit the diet culture mould. 

But each meal does fit into their calorie budget and macro count.

What are macros?

Macro stands for macronutrients. There are three macronutrients: protein, fats and carbohydrates. 

The macronutrients make up your calorie count.

  • One gram of protein equals four calories.
  • One gram of carbohydrates equals four calories.
  • One gram of fat equals nine calories.

You will first need to establish your daily calorie intake. Once you have determined this number you can establish your macros. 

Your specific plan will have allocated a certain percentage of each macronutrient to your daily calorie intake.

The macronutrient breakdown below is based on a 1950 calorie diet. 

  • 130g of protein 
  • 200g of carbohydrates 
  • 70g of fat

Here is the math:

130g of protein equals 550 calories (one gram of protein equals four calories).

200g of carbohydrates equals 800 calories (one gram of carbohydrates equals four calories).

70g of fat equals 630 calories  (one gram of fat equals nine calories).

Therefore making the total calories 1950.

These numbers will be based on your current body weight, exercise routine and goals.

Are you still with me?

Tracking your macros

So whilst this method of “dieting” allows a lot of freedom in food choices, it is more strict than most diets because you will have to weigh your food. This will ensure that you are getting your daily intake of each macronutrient.

And initially, you will probably have to log and track your food with a food app such as MyfitnessPal.

Here is an example of how it works.

I need 130g of protein today.

100g of chicken breast has about 25g of protein so in order to hit my protein goal for the day, I would need to eat five chicken breasts.

An egg has seven grams of protein but also has five grams of fat. If you ate three eggs for breakfast you would have eaten 21 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat. 

You would then have 109 grams of protein left for the day and 55 grams of fat left.

An app like Myfitness Pal has most food loaded so all you would have to do is weigh your food, input the figure and the work is done for you.

Think of it as food Tetris. As you plan your day you can adjust as fill up the remaining macros as you wish.

Alternatively, you can preplan a whole day worth of meals and factor in that tub of popcorn or box of Smarties at the movies. 

Why it works

Weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out.

If you have determined the number of calories you need to consume to lose weight, you will lose weight.  

Provided you do not have any medical conditions.

Advocates of IIFYM believe that the flexibility of this dieting protocol allows them to feel unrestricted and removes the stress that accompanies dieting, which results in no forbidden foods which eliminate associated guilt with food. 

The flexibility also makes it easier to adhere to the diet. You cannot fall off a wagon that you did not get on.

Often when we have “cheated” we tend to throw caution to the wind and usually say “to hell with it” and continue to eat unhealthily. This method allows us to adjust the rest of our day to compensate. 

Why it doesn’t work

It is too restrictive. Weighing, measuring and counting every bit of food that goes into your mouth can be very time-consuming.

Essentially it can come down to your personality type and whether you want to have this freedom but without the freedom? 

IIFYM takes into account macronutrients and ignores micronutrients intake. Micronutrients help sleep, recovery and overall general health. These are your vitamins and minerals that are found in vegetables and fruit. 

If you follow IIFYM you will need to ensure that you are consuming enough vegetables and fruit to get essential micronutrients in your diet. You should always prioritise healthy food over the treats.

The general rule of thumb? Follow the 80/20 rule. 

Is it for you?

IIFYM, like every successful diet, creates and helps you maintain a calorie deficit which in turns help you lose weight.  

As with every diet – the most effective method is one that you can adhere to consistently. If weighing, measuring and tracking your food is too much work, then you may fall short and fail.

It does take a lot of concentrated effort initially but once you get the hang of it, portion sizing becomes easier and you can be more relaxed with your tracking.