How To Count Macros: A Beginner’s Guide To IIFYM
“Counting macros,” also known as IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is a dieting technique that tracks macronutrients rather than focusing on calories. This allows for more flexibility as there are no restrictions on what foods can be consumed–as long as they fit into your macros for the day.
Following the IIFYM diet is pretty simple, and only requires a few steps:
- Calculating your macros: Calculations based on your age, weight, etc., determine how much of protein, carbs and fat you need in your diet each day.
- Meeting your macros: Once you know your tailored macros, you just need to stay within them each day in order to meet your weight goals.
What Are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients, or macros, are types of food that provide energy to the body, and are required in relatively large amounts to maintain body functions and carry out the activities of daily life. While there are four types of macronutrients, only these three are tracked in IIFYM:
Proteins provide 4 calories per gram. Proteins are necessary for processes like cell signaling, immune functions, and the building of tissues, enzymes, and hormones.
At 4 calories per gram, carbs typically get broken down into glucose (or blood sugar). This is then either used by your body for immediate energy or stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles.
Fat provides 9 calories per gram. Your body needs fat for energy and other critical functions such as hormone production, nutrient absorption, and body temperature maintenance.
How To Calculate Your Macros
1. Figure out your calorie needs
The first step to tracking your macros is to determine what your macros are. The easiest way is to use the free macro calculator on the IIFYM website, but here is an overall breakdown of how your macros are calculated if you want to do it manually:
- Calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR): Determine how much energy your body uses while at rest, based on your gender, age, height, and weight.
Men: calories/day = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5
Women: calories/day = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161
- Multiply by your activity factor: Take your BMR and multiply it by a number to increase calories based on your activity level. This is your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE.
- Sedentary: x 1.2 (limited exercise)
- Lightly active: x 1.375 (light exercise less than three days per week)
- Moderately active: x 1.55 (moderate exercise most days of the week)
- Very active: x 1.725 (hard exercise every day)
- Extra active: x 1.9 (strenuous exercise two or more times per day)
- Adjust based on your weight goals: If you want to lose weight, reduce your calorie intake by 15–25%. If your goal is to gain weight or muscle, increase calories by 5–15%.
- Determine your macros: Protein intake should be between 0.7–1.0 grams per pound of body weight. Fat intake should be between 0.25–0.4 grams per pound of body weight. All remaining calories are allotted for carbs.
The final calculation should tell you how many calories and how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume each day.
2. Determine Your Ideal Macronutrient Ratio
Once you calculate how many calories you need per day, you then need to determine your macronutrient ratio.
The typical macronutrient recommendations are:
- Carbs: 45–65% of total calories
- Fats: 20–35% of total calories
- Proteins: 10–35% of total calories
Keep in mind that these recommendations are a general baseline and may not fit your specific needs. Your ratio should be tailored according to the objectives you wish to achieve. For example, someone who wants to improve their blood sugar levels and lose excess body fat could consume meals consisting of 35% carbs, 30% fat and 35% protein. A person trying to lose weight should reduce calories and increase protein to preserve lean muscle mass while losing body fat. Their ideal macros may look like 30% carbs, 50% protein, and 20% fat.
As you can see, an individual’s recommended macros may vary based on several factors. A professional can calculate your macro ratio tailored to you and your needs. Our certified personal trainers are also nutritional experts and can help you find a plan that supports your fitness journey toward your goals.
Track Your Macros
Tracking your macros simply means logging the foods and amount you eat. While you can write them down in a food journal, there are plenty of macro tracking apps and websites that are convenient and easy to use.
Here are some examples of healthy foods for each macronutrient:
- Grains, including oats, rice, barley, wheat
- Breads, cereals, pastas, baked goods
- Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash
- Fruits like berries, bananas, pineapple and apples
- Beans, lentils and peas
- Egg whites
- Legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas, soy)
- Dairy products: (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Protein powders
- Egg yolks
- Olive and avocado oils
- Nuts and nut butters
- Coconut oil and coconut flakes
- Full-fat milk and yogurt
- Full-fat cheese
- Flaxseeds and chia seeds
- Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies
Benefits of IIFYM
- May Improve Diet Quality: Since you are focusing on macronutrients rather than counting calories, it forces you to consider food quality.For example, a sugary chocolate bar and a small serving of salmon can have the same number of calories, but differ greatly in macronutrient content.
Counting macros helps you choose healthier, nutrient-rich foods to fulfill your macro servings.
- Can Promote Weight Loss: Some studies suggest that diets higher in protein and lower in calories can increase metabolism and help maintain weight loss longer.Research shows that tracking food intake makes you more mindful of what and how much you consume, which may help with long-term weight management.
- Helps You Achieve Specific Goals: IIFYM is increasingly popular with athletes those with goals other than weight loss. A macronutrient ratio higher in protein can help someone looking to build muscle mass. Counting macros is also helpful to athletes who need to consume specific amounts of macronutrients in order to gain lean body mass or boost performance.
- Flexible: No Forbidden FoodsSome diets are highly restrictive, but this method gives you the freedom to eat whatever you want, so long as it falls within your macro ratio and calorie limits. This flexibility makes IIFYM easier to stick to as it all about balance.