Over the past few weeks I have been asked a lot about how to calculate macros and what is the If It Fits Your Macros and Flexible Dieting. I started to track my macros about a year ago and yes, at first I was pulling my hair out trying to get my head around it. But fear not my friends, like anything in life, if you keep at it you will soon get used to it. I am self taught and I did my own research on the whole concept of flexible dieting and macro counting. I am in no way an expert but I will try my best to explain in simple terms the basics of calculating your macros!
What are Macronutrients (macros) ?
In order for your body to perform optimally it needs a certain amount of each of the macronutrients protein, carbohydrates (carbs) and fat.
Protein is the building block of the body. It makes up a part of nearly every cell in the body and is vital for muscle repair and growth and is also a source of energy. Sources include lean meat, poultry, eggs, lentils, beans. Ideally it is best to get your protein intake from natural sources but sometimes it is really difficult to hit your protein goals just on food alone. Like me, for example, my protein intake is high and needed for the training I am doing so that is why I use whey protein in order to hit those protein goals on a daily basis.
Carbohydrates or ‘carbs’ are the main fuel source for the body. When carbs are digested, they are converted to glycogen which is stored in the muscles and liver for energy. Unused glycogen is converted to body fat. For this reason, many people avoid carbs altogether and rely on protein and fat as fuel. It is a much better practice to eat carbs, which will increase energy and the ability to train, resulting in more muscle and in turn, a higher Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR is a measurement of the number of calories needed to perform your body’s most basic (basal) functions, like breathing, circulation and cell production.
Fat! Don’t be scared of it… You actually need it in your diet. Fat doesn’t directly make you “fat” – excess calories make you “fat”. It’s about getting the right balance.The fats that we eat in our foods are mostly triglycerides. These are made up of 3 (hence “tri”) fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule. Polyunsaturated, Monounsaturated, Saturated (which are all necessary in the diet in different proportions) but the one you want to avoid is Trans Fat. Trans Fat is created from an industrial process where hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it solid at room temperature. It prolongs the shelf life of the product containing it. It is usually not labelled as trans fat. Artificial trans fats are mostly found in fast foods, fried foods and commercial baked products such as cookies and are the most unhealthy fats (even worse than saturated fats!)
If It Fits Your Macros
Where to start with IIFYM is normally the hard part, eat right, but don’t get all caught up in the whole ‘clean vs dirty’ food debate. If you want to eat whole grain bread, oats, brown rice, etc. Then do it, don’t get into the whole “If I have ice cream I’m going to get fat” or, “I’ll never have pizza again” mentality. If you want it, you can have it, just make sure it fits in with your other macronutrients and your goals in terms of calorie intake then it isn’t going to make much of a difference in the long run. It all comes down to personal preference. If you want it, you can have it, just make sure it fits your macros. That’s the whole idea of flexible dieting and the reason why it actually works. You are not depriving yourself of any food group therefore it is easier to maintain as a lifestyle change and not just a fad diet.
- Eat 2500 Calories a day on training days , 2000 Calories on rest days
- I can have a treat as long as it fit’s my macros
- I don’t feel deprived at all
Yes there are a few ‘downsides’
- You have to be diligent on your tracking
- You have to weigh your food
- You have to be willing to eat random things to get your macros in
But hey that’s not too bad if it means reaching your goals whatever they may be!
Calcuating Your Personal Macronutrient Requirements
There are many different calculators online that you can use. The most popular one is the IIFYM Calculator , click here.
First of all you need to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) . This is the amount of calories your body burns in a 24 hour period, sleeping, working, exercising, playing and even digesting food! Be very honest when you are calculating your TDEE as there is no point saying that your ‘active’ each day or that you train intensely if you don’t, you will only be fooling yourself!
The best way is to show you an example!
First step is to choose your gender, then enter your age, followed by your height. So for this example I have chosen a 30 year old woman, lets call her Kate, 5 ft 5 inches tall.
The next step is to enter Kate’s weight in pounds. So Kate weighs 10 st 3 lb (65 kg) which is equal to 143 lbs.
Following that you click the formula you want to use. The best one to use is the first one for Total Body Weight Formula.
Kate works in an office so spends most of the day sitting, so her daily activities would be considered sedentary
Kate exercises 3 days a week, each session lasting 6o mins including cardio.
Kate doesn’t really push herself when she is exercising so she chooses a light intensity.
You use energy no matter what you’re doing, even when sleeping. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, basically the number of calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day. So Kate’s BMR is 1371 calories.
Her TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is an estimation of how many calories she burns per day, so Kate’s is equal to 1705 calories.
Next step is to calculate Kate’s macros. Kate wants to loose some weight before her summer holidays. In order to lose weight (burn fat), you need to consume less calories than your body needs. A deficit of 15-20% off of your personal TDEE is a safe caloric deficit to aim for to insure fast fat loss without burning up your hard earned muscle.
- Kate’s maintenance calories ( TDEE ) is 1705 calories.
- 15% of 1705 is equal to 255 calories.
- In order to find the amount of calories Kate now needs to consume, subtract 255 from 1705. Kate’s new daily calorie intake is now 1450.
- Kate will maintain this for 2 weeks and then review. If Kate is loosing a 1lb a week she will continue with the daily 1450 calorie intake. If she is loosing less than a 1lb a week , she will need to subtract another 100 calories.
- PLEASE NOTE THAT IF KATE BEGINS TO TRAIN HARDER AND AT A HIGHER INTENSITY SHE WILL NEED TO RECALCULATE HER TDEE.
How to calculate (estimate) your macro-nutrient intake:
Starting with Protein.
- Protein is recommended at 1g – 2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight. So we know that Kate weighs 65kg (143 lbs). Diets with a higher Protein content satisfy the appetite so Kate will increase her protein intake and will start at 1.5g of protein per kilo. So Kate’s daily protein intake is 65kg multiplied by 1.5g which equals 98g.
- Protein has 4 calories per 1g so Kate needs to multiply 98g by 4 which equals to 392 calories. So we now know that 392 calories of Kate’s daily intake need to come from a lean protein source.
Next up Fat
- Fat is recommended at 0.35g – 0.45g of fat per kilo of bodyweight. Kate sets her fat at 0.4g per kilo of bodyweight. So we multiply 65kg by 0.4g which equals 26g. This will be Kate’s daily fat intake.
- Fat has 9 calories per 1g so we multiply 26g by 9 which equals 234 calories. So this means 234 of Kate’s daily calorie intake needs to be from a healthy fat source.
Finally onto Carbs
- To work out Kate’s Carbs, she first needs to add the calories from Proteins and Fats and subtract from her daily calories. Kate’s calories from protein is equal to 392 and her calories from fat is equal to 234. So 392 calories plus 234 calories is equal to 626 calories.
- We now subtract 626 calories from 1450 calories which is equal to 824 calories. To get Kate’s daily Carb intake she needs to divide 824 calories by 4. Kate’s daily Carb intake is equal to 206g.
- To calculate Kate’s protein intake 1.5g protein per kilo of bodyweight ⇒ 1.5 x 65kg = 98g
- To calculate Kate’s fat intake 0.4g fat per kilo of bodyweight ⇒ 0.4 x 65kg = 26g
- Calories from protein & fat ⇒ 98g x 4 (392 calories) + 26g x 9 (234 calories) = 626 calories.
- Carb intake ⇒ Daily Calories 1450 minus total calories from Protein & Fat 626 calories divided by 4 ⇒1450 calories- 626 calories = 824 calories. Divided by 4 = 206g
KATES MACROS EQUAL TO 1450 CALORIES …PROTEIN 98g, FAT 26g, CARBS 206g.
- Try to get most of your macros from whole foods. They are high in micronutrients needed to maintain overall health.
- Tailor your meals to suit your individual preference. Personally I eat 5- 6 meals a day but whats most important is to hit your daily calorie intake and your macro goals.
- Timing your nutrients is not necessary. There is no universal macro or calorie breakdown you should be eating pre and/or post-workout. Overall micronutrient, macronutrient and calorie intake relevant to your goal(s) is far more important.
I really hope this makes sense and helps you all with calculating your macros! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. I will try my best to answer them. You can contact me through any of my social media platforms, Facebook here, Twitter here, Instagram here and Snapchat- jenser01 ! This is only part one of the IIFYM . In my next blog post I will explain how to actually track your macros. I felt it would be too much information to put into just one blog post and probably confuse you even further!
That’s all for now and thank you all so much for your continued support on my journey to the stage.
Love you all,