THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF MACROS AND FLEXIBLE DIETING
All food can be broken down into Macros (macronutrients). The three main categories of macros are Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats. Alcohol is the 4th macronutrient but if you have serious fitness/health goals then alcohol should not be much of a focal point in your diet.
The Caloric Breakdown:
Protein - 1g = 4 Calories
Carbohydrates - 1g = 4 Calories
Fats - 1g = 9 Calories
Alcohol - 1g = 7 Calories
When you first enter the world of counting macros things may and probably will seem really confusing but don’t give up yet!
Flexible Dieting (also known by If It Fits Your Macros or IIFYM) simply put is counting your daily macro intake in order to help you reach your weight loss/gain goals. Most diets are fads or short term solutions but most diets provide very little sustainability and ultimately a sustainable lifestyle change is the only way to get you the results you want and to maintain them once you get there. After a diet or fad comes to conclusion most people go back to old ways and then wonder why they gained everything back or lost all of their progress.
Flexibility takes time to learn and get used to but like I said before, unlike other diets, flexible dieting is a sustainable lifestyle. For experts at this they don’t necessarily need to plan out meals in advance because they can eat and calculate on the go rather easily but for a beginning flexible dieter, planning your meals out ahead of time is vital to your success. The first step should be to get yourself a macro calculation app like “MyFitnessPal” or “My Macros Plus” and this is where you will log each and every meal that you eat throughout the day. The second step is to get yourself a daily meal plan with the macros of each food clearly outlined. Once you begin the diet plan then you will be able to start substituting foods in and out depending on what you have available or maybe just what sounds good to you.
Think of flexible dieting as this: you have an allotment of each macro for the day and you need to eat foods that get you as close to your macro goals as possible. Now as long as you hit your macros then you are on the right track regardless of the types of foods you are eating; with that said, the closer you can get to a whole food, unprocessed diet the better your overall health will be. Personally, I believe that the closer to a plant based diet we can get to the better off we will be as well as the world (but that’s a whole different topic).
A good rule of thumb is to eat 80/20. This means that 80% of your daily caloric intake comes from nutrient dense foods while the other 20% are fun foods that may not be considered to be "healthy"; it's all about balance and moderation. If you want to step up your nutrition game then 85/15 or 90/10 will keep you on point.
Many diets will insist that you eat small meals every 3 hours, eat immediately when you wake up, or to not eat carbs after the sun goes down…. These guidelines are outdated and are not necessities for your success. The best thing to do is trial and error; everybody is different in their metabolism, hunger, cravings, and routines so a one-size-fits-all plan won’t work for everybody. Some people are morning people and are up before the sun and if you are this type of person then breakfast may be your favorite meal of the day. For other people you have cravings when it’s almost bedtime and if you ate your last meal at 6pm then you will likely feel deprived and intensely hungry and irritable. What it all boils down to is consistency - if you are consistent everyday and you listen to your body and respond to what your body says then things won’t seem so hard and you can focus on the joy of smashing your goals and improving your body composition.