Recently there’s been an increase in awareness of flexible dieting and counting macronutrients. Social media has played a big role in promoting this lifestyle too, with the #iifym tag trending on Instagram and twitter as well as various other flexible dieting tags. There’s tons of information and articles on the Web, but sometimes too much information can be a bad thing and it can be difficult to work out what it means in simple terms.

  • If It Fits Your Macros

The first thing to note is this isn’t a crash diet. If you follow this plan for a week, or even a month, you’re not necessarily going to drop 10 kilos. But if you (try to) keep at it, and you train regularly, then you should start to see differences.

  • What are macros?

‘Macros’ is short for ‘macronutrients’ which are the three major nutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat. Rather than eating different variations of chicken and broccoli for weeks on end, by counting macros you focus on daily macronutrient intake rather than an overall calorific goal. This allows you to tailor your diet to your specific goals and lifestyle and it makes it easier to stick to over a longer period of time.

Imagine 1000 calories. This could be a large McDonalds’s meal – something high in fat and carbs but not so much the other nutrients and vitamins your body needs, and you’re likely to burn out quite soon afterwards. On the other hand, 1000 calories could also be 2 or 3 smaller meals high in protein and vegetables that sustain you for longer during the day.

Using this logic, by calculating your macronutrients you can ‘budget’ for certain things, for example if you know you’re going out for dinner that’s likely to be carb-heavy, the rest of the day you know you need to hit your protein and healthy fats to encompass this. Above anything else it’s all about balance.

How do I calculate them?

This is the step that is most important – whether you’re new to dieting, or training, or you’ve been doing it for years, a simple miscalculation can ruin everything.

  • The first step is to find your daily calorie goal. You can use online calculators such as on BodyBuilding.com, healthyeater.com or precisionnutrition.com. Find one that works for you – and remember to adjust your goal based on whether you’re trying to lose, maintain or gain weight. If the aim is to lose/gain, adjust your goal by 300-700 calories either way.
  • Once you have this goal you need to choose a macro split – in other words how do you want to calculate your macros? In a typical bodybuilding split you see 40% calories coming from carbohydrates, 40% from protein, and 20% from fat.
  • The next step is to multiply your calorie goal by the percentages from the split, making sure you end up with 100%. Using the bodybuilding split and a daily calorie goal of 2500, you end up with 1000 calories made up from carbohydrates and protein, and 500 calories from fat.
  • The final step is to work out how many grams of each macronutrient you need to take in. To do this you should divide the number of calories for each by the total calories per gram, rounding each number to the nearest gram. Using the original example, you end up with 250g carbohydrates, 250g protein, and 56g of fat. These are your daily macros.
  • These macro splits are only meant to be used as a guide – everyone works differently and their body needs different nutrients so remember to adjust these accordingly. If you’re constantly exhausted then up your protein intake to see if it makes a difference. As I mentioned earlier it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of diet, there are many factors you need to take into account. It is important to adjust these according to your individual goals as well. Calculate your macros according to a performance based split – 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat or a weight loss split – 30% carbs, 40% protein and 30% fat.

The more experienced dieter

Once you’re comfortable using the above method why not try matching them with your training and food preference?

The first step is to find your estimated daily calorie needs. (See step 1). Then you should aim to eat 1g of protein per pound of body weight (or you can adjust according to your goals). Then fill the rest of your daily calorie goal with carbohydrates and fat and you’re good to go!

Again, this is meant to be a process, so try one thing, see how it works for you and change it up if you need to.

Using a 2100 calorie example for someone weighing 140 pounds, a higher carbohydrate split would see 300g coming from carbohydrates, 145g from protein and 36g from fat. A moderate fat split would see 200g of carbohydrates, 145g of protein and 80g of fat.

FINAL TIP:  

  • It’s a good idea to document your progress. Write down your daily calorie goals, your split, whether you achieve it, what you manage to eat per day, any training you do on top of it. It’s a good idea to write down what food you eat AS WELL AS the macros – it will pay off in the long run and you won’t have to keep looking up and weighing the same foods day in and day out. This will make it easier to track your progress over a longer period of time, and also work out whether you need to adjust anything along the way.