IIFYM, or If It Fits Your Macros, is perhaps one of the most buzzed-about abbreviations in the dieting world today. But rather than simply be a passing trend or a medically unsafe diet fad, IIFYM is one of the safest and medically sound dieting options today. Let’s take a look at what IIFYM really means, what you need to know about it, and different tips and tricks on how to be successful at it.

IIFYM: An Introduction

IIFYM doesn’t require the participant to sacrifice the foods they love, change anything about their exercise habits (unless your habits are no exercise at all… change that) or even overdose on one particular macro or another.

Rather, IIFYM operates behind one very simple principle: you can eat what you want, when you want, provided that it fits into your macronutrient allotment for the day.

There are three macros around which all diets revolve: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The diet focuses on macronutrients, rather than calories although total calories in vs calories out is important.

Traditionally, weight loss focused on a particular concept: if you burned more calories than you consumed, you would lose weight. If your caloric intake and your calorie burn were equal, you would maintain your weight. If you consumed more calories than you burned, you would gain weight. Simple right?

But under the IIFYM program, the weight loss concept is a bit different: calculate and meet your macros. How many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates a day do you need in order to meet and exceed your weight loss goals? Under the IIFYM program, food intake is tracked and adjusted accordingly. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories per gram. #MATH !

Unlike other diet programs, however, the IIFYM program places no restrictions on the foods you eat, provided that you eat enough of your macros as designated by the program. So if, for example, you meet your fat macros by eating a brownie, the IIFYM diet allows you to do just that. Just to be clear, getting your carbohydrates all from mountain dew or fat from butter probably isn’t the best idea. This isn’t an excuse to eat garbage 24/7 as long as it fits your macros. It is meant to allow you to enjoy those foods when you want them, not feel bad about it and have them fit into your health and fitness goals.

And because of this flexibility in food intake, the IIFYM program is preferred by people who don’t want constant restrictions placed on what food they eat and when. Again, not an excuse to eat crap! Ex. I know I am going to my favorite pizza place with my girlfriend tonight and I want to dominate an entire personal pizza because I deserve that shit! So, for a few meals earlier in the day I opt for veggies instead of rice or potatoes and choose very lean cuts of meat so that I can save my carb and fat count for that pizza I am going to put a hurting on later. If done correctly, your protein, carb and fat count will be no different that day than any other day and you’re still on track for your fitness goals but also can live your best life!

How Do You Calculate Your Macros?

Before you can begin the IIFYM program, it’s essential to calculate your macros. While many people choose to calculate their macros for free on the official website, it’s easy to “do it yourself” as well. A great app that has a free version, which is all you need, is the “my fitness pal” app. Literally every food you can imagine is in there. All you have to do is scan the bar code or search the food and input the amount that you are eating.

First, measure your BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR is calculated based on your sex, your age, and your height and weight. From there, it’s necessary to adjust your BMR based on your activity level — and this will calculate your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE. This will vary based on the individual but a basic starting point for anyone who is not familiar would be to determine your lean body mass, body weight X (1- bodyfat %), then simply add a zero to the end of that. Ex a 200lb person with 20% bodyfat

200 x (1-.2)= 160. Put a zero at the end and you get 1,600 calories your body uses everyday in order to function and go about basic daily activities. If you workout then you’ll need to add those calories in as well for your total. Eat less than 1,600, lose weight. Eat more, gain weight. (We always recommend that you consult with a physician or registered dietician before undergoing any sort of diet program.)

Finally, it’s time to determine your macros. A good rule of thumb for anyone looking to maintain or even gain a little muscle mass; 0.75 – 1 gram of protein for every lb. of LEAN body weight, 0.2 – 0.4 grams of fat for every lb. of LEAN weight. All the other calories are allotted for carbohydrates.

It’s imperative to note that carbohydrates aren’t just bread, grains, and sweets. Carbohydrates also include complex carbohydrates, such as those found in vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber foods.

When losing weight, too, it’s imperative to remember that losing muscle mass is never the goal. Rather, the goal is to maintain — and, in some cases, even gain — lean muscle mass while burning fat. To that end, it’s imperative to reduce the number of total calories while at least maintaining the total protein intake. In other words, you can sacrifice the number of calories you intake while also increasing the amount of protein you intake.

How Do You Meet Your Macros?

To participate in the IIFYM program, it’s important to actually calculate your macros. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps that will calculate macros for you, including — but not limited to — the following:

  • MyFitnessPal (our choice)
  • My Macros+
  • Lose It!
  • Cronometer

It’s also probably a good idea to invest in both a food scale (to accurately measure and weigh food) and a digital weight scale (to measure total BMI, or body mass index).

Finally, it’s important to remember that the IIFYM program tends to be lower in total carbohydrates and fats, and higher in protein, for optimal weight loss conditions. It’s therefore important to understand which foods have the highest quantities of each macro.

Which Foods are Highest in Protein?

If you’re following the IIFYM program, the foods highest in protein — and thus, the ones you’ll want to eat the most of — include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Animal products (beef, chicken, pork, fish, wild game)
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Beans (any and all kinds)
  • Whey Protein

Which Foods are Highest in Fat?

If you’re following the IIFYM program, it’s important to know which foods are highest in fat — and not just “any” fat, but rather, the so-called “good” fat. These foods include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Avocado
  • Seeds (any and all kinds, but more specifically, chia and flax seeds)
  • Oils (any and all kinds, but especially olive oil)
  • Olives
  • Nuts

Which Foods are Highest in Carbohydrates?

If you’re following the IIFYM program, it’s important to know which foods are highest in carbohydrates — both the “simple” carbohydrates (as in sugars that are easily broken down) and the “complex” carbohydrates (as in the fibers that are not as easily broken down). Obviously, too, the latter is better for you than the former. These high-carbohydrate foods include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Grains (like oat, barley, and rice)
  • Fruits (any and all kinds)

What are the Benefits of IIFYM?

People who participate in the IIFYM program find that they are able to lose weight easier, look better, and feel healthier.

But those are just two of the many benefits of this healthy diet lifestyle that many experiences. People who participate in the IIFYM program report a wide variety of benefits, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • No food is “off limits.” The philosophy behind IIFYM is simple: if your diet is too complicated, you’ll never start; but if your diet is too restrictive, you will never finish. On the IIFYM program, all foods are fair game — even bread, pasta, and cereals — so long as they fit into your prescribed macros. It’s important to note, AGAIN, that while IIFYM doesn’t restrict the type of food you’re allowed to eat, it is not an excuse to simply fill your body with junk food, and nor is it recommended if you’re suffering from an eating disorder (like anorexia or bulimia).
  • You learn “the truth” about food. Many people have different misconceptions about food — but by not demonizing food, and taking a realistic approach to weight loss, you’ll get much further and reach your goals that much quicker. On this plan, you’ll quickly learn that there’s no such thing as a “bad” food, so long as it’s eaten in moderation (one doughnut isn’t going to kill you — but one dozen doughnuts isn’t healthy on any diet plan).
  • There’s no need to “pack a meal” before you go somewhere. While many diet programs require that you do “meal preparation,” and insist that you take a pre-packaged meal wherever you go — even if it’s to your dear, sweet mother’s house — the IIFYM doesn’t have that level of restriction. In fact, it’s encouraged that you get out and try new foods in new environments, so long as, again, all of your macros are met.
  • There’s no social awkwardness in your eating. The running joke, as of late, is that there are people who are so deep into different “fad diets” (such as paleo) that they’ve become obsessive and borderline annoying with their habits. Perhaps few things will put a damper on a fun dinner event with friends quicker than being annoying about your eating habits — but there will be none of that with the IIFYM program.
  • No deprivation and no binging. Let’s face it — it can be very difficult to break old eating habits. If you deprive yourself of something you’ve been eating for the longest time, you’ll feel irritable — and, eventually, you will crave it so much that you will binge on it. While many diet programs suggest that this is necessary — that a “cheat day” is a way to stay on an otherwise overly restrictive diet — the IIFYM program suggests the exact opposite: you can eat what you want, when you want, so long as you fulfill your macro requirements in a day and don’t binge on calories. This will make the diet program much easier to follow, reducing the need for binging.
  • It actually works. Countless studies have shown that we, as humans, tend to stick with something if we see that it provides a benefit to us and enhances our happiness, duh!. In other words, if we see a diet program working for us while not feeling restricted, we are likely to continue to do it. Since we’ve more than proven to ourselves that fad diets and crash diets don’t work, we’re likely to try things that actually do work — and when the IIFYM program works for us we will continue to do it without hesitation.

IIFYM Misconceptions

Naturally, as with any other diet program, there are misconceptions about the IIFYM program. The misconceptions — and their clarifications — include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Eating Clean is the Only Way to Get Proper Nutrition: Many people who first start out on the IIFYM program believe that the only way to fulfill the macro requirements is to “eat clean,” or eat without any seasoning, salt, or fat. They believe — erroneously — that “cleaner” eating means they’re eating more nutrient-dense food. But the reality is, that simply isn’t so, and unless you like eating clean, you aren’t required to do so on the program.
  • It’s NOT Intended to Be A Diet: If you participate in the IIFYM program, you’re not engaging in a “diet” that can come and go with the latest fashions — you’re engaging in a total lifestyle change that will, ultimately, change the entire composition of your body.
  • You Can Binge on All The Junk Food You Want: This idea isn’t a good one, no matter what type of program you’re on. The IIFYM program presumes that about 85% of the food you eat is nutritious, and the remainder is “junk food.” It’s imperative to note that the IIFYM program is also suitable for all budgets, so you’re not bound to buying thousands of dollars worth of unpronounceable food products to remain on the program.
  • It’s Only for Weight Lifters: While a program similar to the IIFYM program is followed by professional bodybuilders so they can be in peak form on the day of their competition as well as other elite athletes, the IIFYM program is for anyone and everyone that wants to lose weight and change the composition of their body in the process.
  • It Takes a Lot of Time: In the days prior to computers and the Internet, the IIFYM program was nothing if not inconvenient. And, yes, it did indeed take some time to compute all the macros one would be getting from a meal. But the reality is, the IIFYM program was almost designed for the smart phone world. With a multitude of apps that calculate macros almost on the spot, the IIFYM program is one of the easiest to follow!

IIFYM: The Bottom Line

Above all else, the IIFYM program is designed to be a lifestyle shift and a mind recalibration. It’s a nutritional approach, not a diet. And if it does nothing else for you, the IIFYM program should make you more conscious about the food you put into your body, while also removing the “shame” and the guilt surrounding certain foods that, fairly or unfairly, got a “bad rap” over the years. Flexible dieting will disabuse you of the idea that you need to be “on” or “off” a diet, and will, instead, help you make a healthy adjustment in your lifestyle that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

Contents

If It Fits Your Macros: You Need to Know The Truth

You’ve probably heard of the increasingly-popular diet, “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM).

The crux of this ‘diet’ is that you can eat absolutely everything you want (yes, even pizza), as long as it keeps within your daily macronutrient goals.

Can IIFYM work? In some cases, yes.

Is it optimal? No. And anyone who works in the real world with real clients will know this.

The aim of this piece isn’t to rant about the evils of IIFYM, but to discuss our experiences of what we feel works and doesn’t work in the IIFYM model.

Having delivered exceptional transformation results with thousands of clients, we know what to do when it comes to body re-composition.

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What is IIFYM?

The original intention of IIFYM was to allow you a little bit more flexibility with your diet, rather than restricting yourself to a limited number of ‘clean’ foods, such as chicken and broccoli.

However, what started as an alternative name for ‘sensible eating’ has morphed into a pro-junk food diet where anything goes, as long as it ‘fits your macros’.

A Calorie is a Calorie…

To lose body fat you need to be in a calorie deficit.

‘Calories in vs calories out’ is, and always has been, the number one factor in improving body composition.

The first step for anyone looking to get into better shape should be to get your calorie intake in order.

But does this mean you can have your cake and eat it (quite literally)?

The calories in vs calories out model suggests that you could eat chocolate cake for breakfast every day and this would still help you keep the weight off in the long run.

The problem with this formula is it assumes all calories are equal, and that humans are robots disciplined enough to be able to consume a small piece of cake and then leave it at that.

If your goal was solely weight loss, looking only at calories may be a viable option.

However, our goal with clients is to transform their body by building muscle and losing body fat. To do this, we need to consider the composition and quality of calories consumed.

Here are our Top 5 Body Transformation Recipes. Sign up for the EatUP newsletter to get delicious and diet-friendly recipes straight to your inbox.

Protein

If we look at the first popular form of IIFYM, Weight Watchers, one of the issues was a low protein intake.

If you’re following a calorie restricted diet that is deficient in protein, you will be susceptible to muscle loss, and the ‘soft, saggy’ appearance you commonly see in chronic dieters.

The first step is to aim for a daily protein intake of 0.8 to 1.2g per pound of your bodyweight.

In an IIFYM-type diet, it wouldn’t matter what types of foods you ate to satisfy your protein target.

Foods such as tofu, bread, rice and beans all contain protein, but they are ‘incomplete’ protein sources, which means that they don’t provide all the amino acids (building blocks of muscle) needed by your body.

The majority of your protein intake should come from ‘complete’ protein sources, such as beef, chicken, salmon and eggs.

You also need to consider the distribution of your protein intake across the day. For best results, you can’t just eat a kilo of steak for dinner.

Eating protein stimulates the muscle building process (protein synthesis), but you only need so much to trigger this response. Consuming a large percentage of your protein intake in one sitting misses the opportunity to stimulate protein synthesis more often throughout the day.

Take your daily protein target and split it into three to four protein based meals spread evenly across the day.

Carbohydrates

The easiest way to explain the difference in carbohydrate quality is to pose this question:

Are 100g of carbohydrates from sugary sweets the same as the equivalent amount provided by sweet potatoes?

From an energy standpoint, it’s the same. But you also need to take into account the difference in the insulin spike that each will give, and the effect this will have on blood sugar control and satiety.

100g of carbohydrates from sugary foods, especially those high in salt, will only leave you craving more of the same after you’ve finished.

These types of food also contain far more calories per serving compared to alternative carbohydrate sources, such as fruit, vegetables, potatoes and rice. Emphasising the latter will allow you to eat a greater volume of food, which will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Fats

Having a wide range of fats in your diet is important.

Saturated (animal fat, eggs, coconut oil, butter), monounsaturated (olive oil, avocado, nuts) and polyunsaturated (fish oil, flax seed) fats all have a role to play in keeping your body functioning optimally.

A common mistake made by people following the IIFYM diet is to either eat a very low-fat diet to free up more calories for junk food, or for a large percentage of their fat intake to come from highly processed junk food.

The focus of any proper diet should be to include a moderate fat intake from a wide range of sources, with additional support from a high-quality fish oil supplement.

What are some of the lesser-known implications of IIFYM?

1. Digestion

Most of our clients are highly stressed and have years of bad eating and lifestyle habits behind them. As a result, their digestive systems are not functioning anywhere close to optimally.

Further overloading an already dysfunctional system with pop tarts and jelly babies to reach a certain quota will only backfire.

Between 70% and 80% of your immune system is found in the gut, which means that keeping it healthy is paramount for your overall health.

Within only a few days of starting a transformation with us, clients always rave about their new-found energy levels. When we clean up their diets by introducing high-quality foods, the gut starts to function more efficiently and begins to extract the energy it needs from food properly.

An important note to consider is that sometimes even the best single-ingredient foods don’t agree with everyone. For example, eggs are common allergens, and some people don’t feel great after eating them.

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2. Micronutrients

If you’re using your fat and carb quota to eat junk food, then chances are you’ve got some micronutrient deficiencies.

Micronutrients are not only important for your ability to recover from training, protect from injuries and lose body fat, but also for your overall health. If you’re not healthy or have a weak immune system, you’re going to find it hard to build muscle and lose body fat.

While you may be able to get away with eating like this in your 20s, it will most likely catch up with you in your 30s and beyond.

3. Bodybuilder’s edge

If you want to study how to get lean, look no further than those who do it best: bodybuilders.

If IIFYM is as great as it’s been made out to be, why is it that even the absolute genetic elite aren’t using it?

Bodybuilders have known for decades now that to get lean you need to do three things:

  1. Create a calorie deficit,
  2. Cut out junk food,
  3. Do this for an extended period of time.

At the most competitive level of bodybuilding, everything matters and they are all looking for the extra edge. The fact is no one at the top level is using IIFYM.

If it were a superior method of eating for optimal body composition, bodybuilders would be using it.

How would we integrate IIFYM?

There are some good principles in IIFYM that you can introduce to your dietary approach. What IIFYM has opened our eyes to is that there is more to life than simply chicken and broccoli.

It does provide some flexibility into your diet that can be beneficial from an adherence and mental standpoint; two overlooked factors in successful long-term dieting.

The key phrase here is ‘long term.’ Short, dramatic transformations in regular people very rarely come from adopting an IIFYM approach.

If long-term maintenance and slower results were the aims, then you could allow a more ‘flexible’ approach with the occasional ‘treat’ to help ensure adherence.

We like to call this ‘sensible eating.’

The second instance whereby including some elements of IIFYM works well is for our muscle-building clients who are pushing the ceiling when it comes to calorie intake.

In such cases, including 10-20% of your calories from less traditional ‘clean’ food choices can make life a lot easier. Of course, this is down to the individual client, and ultimately the decision should be based on what feels best for the client.

Conclusion

The message we wanted to put across in this piece is that there is more to macronutrients than meets the eye.

IIFYM will work if you want average results, but as industry leaders, we demand excellence through optimisation of all variables.

In the long run, a sensible eating approach is best. This means basing the majority of your diet on a wide variety of single-ingredient foods.

Any time someone tells you junk food on a daily basis is the ticket to get lean, your BS-meter should be going through the roof.

In an industry filled with gimmicks, fads and false promises, if it sounds too good to be true, it more than likely is!

A 2,000-Calorie Diet: Food Lists and Meal Plan

Here’s a healthy 5-day sample meal plan with approximately 2,000 calories per day.

Each meal contains approximately 500 calories and each snack about 250 calories (16).

Monday

Breakfast: vegetable omelet

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (20 grams) of spinach
  • 1/4 cup (24 grams) of mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup (23 grams) of broccoli
  • 1 cup (205 grams) of sautéed sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil

Snack: apple with peanut butter

  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of peanut butter

Lunch: Mediterranean tuna pita pockets

  • 1 whole-wheat pita
  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of canned tuna
  • chopped red onion and celery
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) of crumbled feta cheese

Snack: cheese and grapes

  • 2 ounces (56 grams) of cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (92 grams) of grapes

Dinner: salmon with veggies and wild rice

  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of baked salmon
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (82 grams) of cooked wild rice
  • 1 cup (180 grams) of roasted asparagus
  • 1 cup (100 grams) of roasted eggplant

Tuesday

Breakfast: nut butter and banana toast

  • 2 slices of whole-grain toast
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of almond butter
  • 1 sliced banana
  • cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Snack: power smoothie

  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) of unsweetened, non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup (20 grams) of spinach
  • 1 scoop (42 grams) of plant-based protein powder
  • 1 cup (123 grams) of frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of hemp seeds

Lunch: avocado-tuna salad

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of canned tuna
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups (100–140 grams) of mixed greens

Lunch: black bean and sweet potato burrito

  • 1 whole-wheat tortilla
  • 1/4 cup (41 grams) of cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup (102 grams) of cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) of black beans
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of salsa

Snack: vegetables and hummus

  • fresh carrot and celery sticks
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of hummus
  • 1/2 whole-wheat pita bread

Dinner: chicken and broccoli stir-fry

  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of chicken
  • 2 cups (176 grams) of broccoli
  • 1/2 cup (82 grams) of cooked brown rice
  • fresh garlic and ginger
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of soy sauce

Wednesday

Breakfast: berry yogurt parfait

  • 7 ounces (200 grams) of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (74 grams) of fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup (76 grams) of sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) of granola

Snack: banana and almond butter

  • 1 banana
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (24 grams) of almond butter

Lunch: peanut noodles with tofu and peas

  • 3/4 cup (132 grams) of cooked rice noodles
  • 5 ounces (141 grams) of tofu
  • 1/2 cup (125 grams) of peas
  • 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) of tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) of Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons (14 grams) of honey
  • juice of 1/2 lime

Snack: protein bar

  • Look for bars containing approximately 200–250 calories with less than 12 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber.

Dinner: fish tacos

  • 3 corn tortillas
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) of grilled cod
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 tablespoons (34 grams) of pico de gallo

Thursday

Breakfast: avocado toast with egg

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 slices of whole-wheat toast
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil
  • 1 egg

Snack: Greek yogurt with strawberries

  • 7 ounces (200 grams) of plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup (125 grams) of sliced strawberries

Lunch: quinoa with mixed vegetables and grilled chicken

  • 1/2 cup (93 grams) of cooked quinoa
  • 5 ounces (142 grams) of grilled chicken
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil
  • 1 cup (180 grams) of mixed, non-starchy vegetables

Snack: dark chocolate and almonds

  • 2 squares (21 grams) of dark chocolate
  • 15–20 almonds

Dinner: vegetarian chili

  • 1/2 cup (121 grams) of canned, crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup (130 grams) of kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup (103 grams) of butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) of cooked sweet corn
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) of diced white onions
  • 1/4 of a jalapeño pepper

Friday

Breakfast: oatmeal with seeds and dried fruit

  • 1/2 cups (80 grams) of steel-cut oats
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) of flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) of dried cherries

Snack: bell peppers and carrots with guacamole

  • 1/2 bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 cup of carrot sticks
  • 4 tablespoons (60 grams) of guacamole

Lunch: grilled vegetable and mozzarella wrap

  • 1 whole-wheat tortilla
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) of grilled red peppers
  • 5 slices (42 grams) of grilled zucchini
  • 3 ounces (84 grams) of fresh mozzarella

Snack: chia pudding with banana

  • 5 ounces (170 grams) of chia pudding
  • 1/2 of a sliced banana

Dinner: pasta with pesto, peas, and shrimp

  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of pesto
  • 1/2 cup (42 grams) of whole-wheat or brown-rice penne
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) of shrimp
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) of peas
  • 1 tablespoon (5 grams) of grated Parmesan cheese

A healthy and well-balanced diet can be both delicious and nourishing. This 2,000-calorie sample menu consists of meals with whole, unprocessed foods. Plus, it’s rich in fiber, protein, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats.

With a little planning and preparation, achieving a nutritious diet can be easy. Also, it’s possible to find similar meals similar when dining out.

Nevertheless, it’s often easier to make healthier choices and control portion sizes when you prepare your meals at home from fresh ingredients.

Summary A 2,000-calorie diet should consist of whole, unprocessed foods and be rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. Planning and preparing your meals makes it easier to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Macros Diet Meal Plan

A macros diet is a style of eating where people track their carbohydrates, fat and protein-and aim to eat within a certain range each day-as a guide for healthy eating or as a strategy for weight loss. In this meal plan, we put together 7 days of healthy 500-calorie dinners that are balanced for the three macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein) and are healthy, balanced meals to enjoy even if you’re not following a macros diet. Most people can lose weight eating 1,500 calories a day and when we break down the calorie totals by meal, 500 calories is a healthy amount to have at dinner to stay satisfied throughout the evening. When paired with a healthy breakfast, lunch and snacks, these delicious dinners will help you meet your daily nutrient needs and can help you lose weight.

Related: Read more about the Macro Diet

Day 1: Carne Asada Tacos

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Carne Asada Tacos: These flank-steak soft tacos are so tasty and easy, they should be in everyone’s repertoire. Plus they’re made with fresh corn tortillas (not fried) and topped with a quick homemade salsa made with avocado, tomato, onion and a bright squeeze of lime. Serve these tasty tacos with 1 serving of tortilla chips.

= 506 calories, 48 g carbs, 22 g fat, 32 g protein

Day 2: Pressure-Cooker Mac & Cheese

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Pressure-Cooker Mac & Cheese: Make a healthier version of classic macaroni and cheese with this recipe that adds broccoli for a nutritional boost-an easy, cheesy way to eat more vegetables. Using an electric pressure cooker, such as the InstantPot, gets dinner on the table in just 30 minutes. To balance out the meal, serve with 1 1/2 cup mixed greens topped with 1/4 cup grated carrot and dressed with 2 teaspoons each olive oil and red-wine vinegar.

= 501 calories, 53 g carbs, 25 g fat, 20 g protein

Day 3: Lemon Sopressata Chicken

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Lemon Sopressata Chicken: You’ll only need 5 ingredients and 30 minutes for this healthy chicken recipe. Serve with 1 large red potato seasoned with salt and pepper and 1/2 cup steamed green beans.

= 516 calories, 67 g carbs, 13 g fat, 33 g protein

Day 4: Lentil & Roasted Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

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Lentil & Roasted Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing: Goddess dressing typically gets its umami-ness from anchovies, but we use miso in this super-green salad recipe to keep it vegetarian. To balance out the meal, serve with a 4-inch whole-wheat pita round and 1/4 cup hummus.

= 496 calories, 52 g carbs, 25 g fat, 20 g protein

Day 5: Smoky Shrimp, Corn & Pea One-Pot Pasta

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Smoky Shrimp, Corn & Pea One-Pot Pasta: Make your sauce and pasta all at once with this fast weeknight pasta dinner recipe. By using the exact amount of water you need to cook the pasta-no colanders here-the starch that cooks off into your pasta water, which you usually drain away, stays in the pot, giving you delectably creamy results. To balance out the meal, serve with 2 cups salad topped with 3/4 cup grated carrot and dressed with 1 tablespoon each olive oil and red-wine vinegar.

= 497 calories, 55 g carbs, 21 g fat, 28 g protein

Day 6: Roasted Chicken Thighs, Potatoes & Scallions with Herb Vinaigrette

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Roasted Chicken Thighs, Potatoes & Scallions with Herb Vinaigrette: Roasting chicken thighs directly on top of the vegetables bastes the scallions and potatoes with delicious drippings in this healthy dinner recipe. Serve with 1 cup cooked wild rice to balance out the meal.

= 518 calories, 53 g carbs, 22 g fat, 28 g protein

Day 7: Beef Kofta with Bulgur & Kale Salad

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Beef Kofta with Bulgur & Kale Salad: Whole grains take too long to cook, you say? Well, say hello to bulgur, which can be ready in less than 15 minutes. Try this Middle Eastern-inspired healthy dinner recipe topped with plain yogurt or store-bought tzatziki for an extra hit of creamy flavor. Serve with a 4-inch whole-wheat pita round.

= 525 calories, 49 g carbs, 23 g fat, 32 g protein

More About the Macros Diet

The macros diet trend has been climbing its way up in the ranks of trendy diets. And while it’s trendy, the idea of eating within a certain range of macronutrients is Nutrition 101. The Institute of Medicine has been using macro ranges as guidelines for healthy eating for years.

The new popular version of this style of diet is the “If It Fits Your Macros” plan, also known as IIFYM for short. The idea is to eat foods that fit within your unique macronutrient distribution range (that is, a particular balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein), while simultaneously cutting calories to burn fat and lose weight. Unlike diets that cut out certain foods, like the Whole30 and Paleo plans, the IIFYM diet has no restrictions on what you can eat. You’re allowed to enjoy french fries, burgers and pizza galore! As long as it all fits within your daily macro range.

A balanced and flexible approach to eating is how we do things at EatingWell, but where other macro diet plans can fall short is in acknowledging the importance of micronutrients-the vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A and iron, that our bodies need. These micronutrients come from healthy whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, calcium-rich dairy and healthy fats. If you’re filling up on pizza and french fries, you may hit your macro range but miss out on the valuable micronutrients whole foods provide. Plus, if you’re trying to lose weight, research has shown nutrients like vitamin D can help.

In this meal plan, we show you what a balanced, nutrient-packed macros plan looks like. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply want to get a healthy dinner on the table, this delicious plan will help.

Watch How To Make Italian Sausage & Kale One-Pot Pasta

Don’t Miss!

Has anybody else seen those Instagram accounts with fit people showing of their amazing desserts and delicious meals that actually look really unhealthy, yet their bodies are super ripped? Yeah, I never understood how somebody could be eating ice cream, sugary cereals, and pizza yet maintain such a low body fat percentage. So what did I do? I decided to try it out. I gave myself one month to do exactly what these fitness influencers were doing: set my macros using IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). It’s a completely free macro calculator that tailors a program unique to you.

Macronutrients, or macros for short, are basically the major nutrients our food is made up of. So that’s carbs, protein, and fats. Based on my height, current weight, and goals, IIFYM gave me a strict limit in grams of carbs, proteins, and fats that I was allowed every day. According to my activity level, my body burns around 2,400 calories a day, which I’m still finding very hard to believe. IIFYM calculated my macros to lose weight and the results were in. I could have 106 grams of protein, 55 grams of fat, and 276 grams of carbs for a total of around 2,000 calories. Essentially, I’d be losing a pound a week.

My first thought was wow, I can make anything fit into this. I could treat myself every night to something sweet as long as I left enough fats and carbs by the end of the day. I was so excited because I was thinking, for once, this is not like any other diet. It’s not telling me what to eat and what not to eat. But those positive thoughts changed really fast.

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IIFYM Explained

IIFYM creators believe it to be the easiest and most sustainable eating plan to follow. Many people choose to do IIFYM because it can restore healthy eating habits by allowing you to eat whatever your heart desires as long as you keep a close eye on how much you’re exactly eating.

IIFYM even allows you to calculate your total daily calorie expenditure and customize it depending on if you want to lose weight or gain muscle. It takes into account your height, weight, and weight goal and customizes a nutrition plan for you. IIFYM is not a diet; it’s considered freedom from a diet. All you have to do is set up a tracking app and log in everything you eat throughout the day to make sure you hit the macro numbers it calculated for you.

Here’s What I Liked

I loved the food freedom. I like how I wasn’t restricted to certain food groups. I didn’t have to cut out carbs and sugar if I didn’t want to. I could have cereal for breakfast instead of my usual eggs. Eating and cooking were no longer boring when it came to IIFYM. As long as I planned out my day accordingly, I could eat exactly what I was craving that day and I no longer felt deprived.

Another amazing part of IIFYM is you can even track when you’re out and about. Although it is a bit harder than eating at home, the MyFitnessPal app can find restaurants near your location with the nutrition of tons of dishes you can order. This made eating out less stressful, making this non-diet a lot more flexible.

Another huge advantage with IIFYM is that I began to understood more about the foods I was eating. I understood portion sizes a whole lot better and learned which foods were higher or lower in protein, fats, and carbs. For example, I never noticed just how much sugar one serving of cereal had. I also wasn’t aware of how much protein I was eating every day. I had just assumed that if I was eating protein with every meal, I’d hit my goal; but when I just started tracking, I found I was far below my daily goal. IIFYM allowed me to preplan my meals to make sure I hit those macros on the dot.

And Here’s What I Didn’t Like

I ate a lot more than I normally would eat. Maybe this is a good thing for some who are trying to gain weight or struggle with appetite. But I found myself eating when I wasn’t all that hungry because I still had macro counts to fill. If, after my last meal of the day, I found I hadn’t hit my protein requirement, I’d force myself to eat something else. While following IIFYM, I did not listen to my body. I no longer ate when I was hungry or stopped when I was full. My eating was completely controlled by whether I had hit my count or not.

Even though it’s called flexible dieting, it started to not feel all that flexible. If I had too many fats at breakfast and lunch, I was limited to carbs and protein for dinner. If I went over my count for any macros, I’d feel like my nutrition wasn’t on point for the day and I failed.

Because I could eat what I want, I found myself having more sweets than usual. It’s not because I was craving dessert, but just because I knew I could have it. And even though it fit my macros, I didn’t feel good eating all that sugar. The worst part of IIFYM was I stopped listening to my body. If I were to count macros again, I’d tailor a plan myself because 2,000 calories a day led to weight gain for me, not weight loss.

The Final Verdict

While I won’t continue IIFYM, I am not completely against it. It really taught me to eat enough protein to help build muscle. If you don’t know much about nutrition or portion size, tracking your food can really help so you understand exactly what you’re eating. Once you get the hang of it, you no longer need to track every single meal. You’ll be able to understand your body more, what it needs, and the foods that it thrives on. Some of us need more carbs than fat and some of us are the opposite. From now on, I’ll be intuitively eating because that allows you to listen to your body, which can never guide you in the wrong direction.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Maria del Rio

How much sugar can I eat a day with IIFYM?

How Much Sugar Can I Have On The If It Fits Your Macros Diet

Out of the 150k+ clients, our macro coaches have worked with over the years, the question of “How Much Sugar Can I Eat” comes up the most.

I personally answer this question in our Legacy Group Coaching calls at more times than I can remember.

One of the big benefits of the If It Fits Your Macros diet, is sustainability. After all, what do you think is easier to adhere to for 5+ months, eating the same boring health food, day in and day out, or eating the foods you love while burning fat at a steady and predictable pace? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer that question!

Craving pizza?

No problem.

Want that ice cream cone on a hot summers day?

Worries about eating clean, losing weight and all the BS that goes in to getting your dream body?

We’ve got you and your macros covered!

All we have to do is work it into your macro plan. There is nothing really ‘off limits’ with IIFYM and flexible dieting. Which means no matter your food craving tendencies, you can give in and satisfy that urge as long as the macros fit into your daily allotment of fat loss macros.

Now, with this said, is there a limit? How much can you really eat before you see the scale go up?

Common sense will tell you that if you live on nothing but burgers, potato chips, and candy for the rest of the month you aren’t going to be looking or feeling that great.

Most people know that even if those foods are allowed with flexible dieting, they probably should be consumed in moderation. Especially if athletic performance is one of your considerations.

But what’s the deal with sugar, specifically? How much sugar can you eat while tracking macros or at least… counting calories (Yeah, I said it..)

See, most diets out there heavily restrict sugar – or tell you to avoid it as best as you can. Is that the same with the If It fits Your Macros approach?

Let’s take a closer look at sugar and macro dieting so that you can fully understand this issue.

Sugar And Blood Glucose Levels

First, the biggest issue that occurs when you consume sugar on any approach is the influence it has over your blood glucose levels. Sugar enters your system and immediately a cascade of events will take place, which includes your pancreas releasing a large dose of insulin, who’s job it is to go in and remove that extra glucose from the bloodstream.

Your body tightly regulates blood glucose levels so anytime it’s pushed higher than it should be, you can rest assured that mechanisms are in place to bring the blood sugar down to a normal range.

As insulin enters the system, it draws up that glucose and moves it to storage. The storage that takes it? You guessed it – your body fat cells.

Now do keep in mind this will only happen if:

A. Your body does not need the incoming sugar for use as immediate energy.
B. There is no room in your muscle tissues to store the sugar (as muscle glycogen).

So at times, eating sugar in your macro diet can actually be beneficial. For instance, adding sugar to your diet immediately post-workout when your muscles have been depleted of their muscle glycogen can actually help to speed up the recovery process, restoring this glycogen and getting you ready for your next workout session. Don’t expect a miracle from this, but over time, the smallest changes can add up, so if you need every advantage you can possibly find, meal timing might be a consideration!

But, eating sugar when all you’ve been doing is sitting around on the couch all day is not so good.

See, the horror stories we hear about sugar only happen when we are in a caloric surplus (when we are eating more calories than our bodies can use in a given day).

When we are in a caloric deficit, the level of sugar we ingest (provided our macros are set up properly) is irrelevant to fat loss and general health.

Simply put, if we burn all of the calories we consume in a day, we also burn all of the sugar we consume in a day so the net effect of the sugar is zero

Sugar And Satiety

The next big problem with too much sugar in dieting is that it does influence satiety as well. As the blood glucose level, increases and insulin come in to help bring blood glucose levels back down, this drop in blood sugar levels can often promote intense hunger pains.

This can then drive you to eat more food – typically more sugar as your body knows that’s a fast source of energy, which just keeps the cycle going.

If you are very determined while following your If It Fits Your Macros diet, you’ll ensure that you don’t consume more calories than you need during the day, even despite this hunger.

But, not everyone is that determined. If you are feeling ravenous and can’t focus without eating something, chances are, you’ll have a snack. If this isn’t subtracted from your daily total calorie intake, you now may face weight gain.

Sugar And Nutrition

The next big issue that has to do with sugar is sugar and the nutritional intake you are consuming over the course of the day. If you are filling up on foods that are rich in sugar content and you only get to eat so many calories a day, what does this mean?

It means you aren’t eating those foods that are lower in sugar but higher in nutrients.

Over time, this can mean you start to suffer from nutritional deficiencies, and this could actually put you at risk for ongoing health issues.

Especially if you are on a reduced calorie diet, you want to, as often as possible, be making the most of all the calories you consume.

High sugar foods simply aren’t doing that, so this is a big reason why you may want to rethink including them in your weight loss plan.

Sugar Limits Per Day

Okay, so now that you know the drawbacks of consuming so much sugar, what should you limit be? How much sugar is too much?

As a general rule, we have most of our clients fall in a range of sugar intake based on their carbs.
While it is true that you can eat 100% of your carbs from sugar, we never have our clients get anywhere close to that.

The goal of the IIFYM coaches is to have our clients make the fastest fat loss in the least amount of time. This is not going to happen if we have them eat tons of sugar which will increase cravings, which could lead them away from hitting their macros for the day.

For our clients that need a sugar goal to hit for the day, we usually set their sugar allotment around 15-30% of their total carbs.

Here is how this works out:

Our average female client is 5’4″ 170 lbs, and goes to the gym or does yoga 2-3 times per week.
Someone like this might be at 180 grams of carbs per day to burn fat (everyone is different and this is just an example).

Yet, out of 180 grams of carbs, we might create a goal for this client of around 25-55 grams per day, give or take.

If they go over? No big deal as long as they are able to hit their macros for the day (carbs, protein & fat).

Now, if you are very active and are adding foods that contain a bit of sugar immediately post-exercise, you may be able to go slightly higher, provided all your other macros are in check. As long as our example client hits her macros on a day to day basis, she is going to burn fat at a steady and predictable pace.

This is part of the reason why so many people come to us, asking for help with their macros. They know that we have the perfect formula for IIFYM fat loss. We have worked with thousands of clients and have amazing success getting them in shape.

Confusing?

If you find yourself confused with IIFYM macro dieting, or just want someone to lay it out for you and tell you what to do, you might want to check out our Custom Macro Blueprint!
It is guaranteed to work.

Click here to check out our IIFYM Macro Blueprint

In either case, whether you have us dial in your macros for you, or you use our advanced macro calculator , the important thing to remember is that the negative effects of sugar are only going to affect fat loss when you consume more calories than you need. If you don’t get cravings when you eat sugar and you can still hit your macros, you have nothing to worry about.

For athletic performance, we suggest that you consume 20-25% of your carbohydrates from sugar.
No more, no less.

TL;DR
Sugar is not the devil and never has been.
Is it yummy and part of any balanced nutrition program.
Any healthy, disease-free person should be able to eat as much sugar as they can fit into their macros (carbs specifically) and still lose weight as long as the sugar does not cause cravings and trigger them in beyond temptation in to going over on their macros.

Thanks for reading, and be well!

PS, eat the cookie.

Chances are, you have at least one friend who “counts macros.” IIFYM (“If it fits your macros”) is popping up in photo captions for everything from meal-prepped chicken-and-veggie lunches to dripping ice cream cones, and millions of people are using apps like MyFitnessPal to track calories and macros. But what exactly does it all mean?

Anyone following IIFYM aims to eat a certain set amount of fat, carbs, and protein every day. Beyond that, it’s basically a free-for-all.

First of all, “macros” is short for macronutrients—fat, carbs, and protein. Everything you eat and drink (with the exception of water and alcohol) is made up of some combination of the three. The idea behind counting macros is that you aim to get a set amount of each macronutrient each day. Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., cofounder of nutrition website Appetite for Health, explains that a standard IIFYM breakdown would have you consume 40 to 50 percent of your calories from healthy carbs, 25 to 30 percent of calories from protein, and the remainder from healthy fats. That said, your target macronutrient breakdown may vary depending on personal factors—weight, height, gender, and activity level, etc.—and your specific goal. Someone trying to gain muscle is going to eat differently than someone trying to lose weight, and athletic goals like training for a marathon or working to increase your powerlifting total will also change what your daily macronutrient breakdown might look like. There are no “good” or “bad” foods—everything is fair game, and it’s just a matter of hitting your daily fat, carb, and protein totals.

There’s nothing magical about IIFYM. It follows the same calories in, calories out principle as all successful weight-maintenance and weight-loss diets.

IIFYM fans often post pictures of themselves eating things like chocolate, french fries, and waffles (in addition to healthier foods, of course), making this lifestyle look pretty fantastic. But, is the Insta-worthy, highly hashtag-able If It Fits Your Macros diet worth all the hype it gets? Upton notes that “there is nothing magical” about IIFYM. Yes, it can help you stay fit or lose weight if you follow it correctly based on your goals. But that’s more because it follows a common weight-loss rule than because of something special inherent to the diet: If you stay within your daily caloric budget, you likely won’t gain weight, and if you eat fewer calories than your body needs, you’ll probably lose weight, Sonya Angelone, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF.

It’s important to note here that food isn’t the only factor when it comes to weight loss. Things like exercise, sleep, stress, and health conditions all play a part, and the weight-loss process can vary greatly from person to person. Also understand that everyone’s daily caloric expenditure (the number of calories you burn every day) varies, so the number of calories and macronutrient that helps one person reach their goals may not work for someone else.

(Another important note: Weight loss isn’t for everybody, and neither is following a specific, numbers-based eating plan. If your goal is to lose weight, more power to you, but your health matters more than a number on a scale or a tag in your jeans, so it’s crucial to maintain a holistic approach to weight loss, which also includes physical activity, good, quality sleep, stress management, and paying attention to other factors, such as medical issues and hormones. If you have a history of disordered eating, you should discuss any plans to change your diet with a doctor before diving in. The focus on numbers and tracking can absolutely be triggering for some people, and if that’s the case, you should avoid it completely.)

If you’re following a personalized diet template, it’s best to get that template from a registered dietitian or a doctor.

Proponents of If It Fits Your Macros will often buy macronutrient distribution diet templates that divide their total daily calories into daily grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The problem? Many of these templates are coming from Instagram “experts” and “diet coaches” with no real nutrition or health qualifications. This should go without saying, but having a large social following doesn’t make someone an expert. Likewise, an influencer might themselves have great health and nutrition habits, but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified to give others advice on those matters.

Flexible Dieting Macro Calculator

This macro calculator shows your optimal macronutrients and calories based on your age, height, weight, gender, and activity level. Use your results with macro counting or flexible dieting/IIFYM to lose fat or gain muscle.

Why Macros are Important

The foods we eat are made up of three “macros” (macronutrients). These macros are carbohydrates (carbs), protein, and fat. Chicken is high in the protein macro but has no carbs. Rice is high in carbs, but very little fat or protein.

These 3 macronutrients (macros) are from which the human body obtains energy and raw materials for growth and repair.

What Are the Right Macros for You?

The right macros for you are based on your personal Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and goals.

Our macro calculator defaults at the best macro ratio that’s proven to work for the most number of people. You should achieve your goals using the default setting.

However, there is nothing wrong with adjusting this ratio if needed. Perhaps you’re an extreme endomorph and do better with fewer carbs. Or, perhaps you only have one kidney and need to eat less protein. You can adjust the macros to levels that are right for you personally with a little math, which is explained in detail here.

How to Calculate the Right Daily Protein Amount

Setting protein to Moderate adjusts the ratio to .65 grams per pound of body weight. This is appropriate for sedentary individuals or for people with higher body fat percentages.

High is appropriate for people who are active, do moderate strength training, and have an average body fat percentage.

Maximum will set to 1 gram / lb. This is appropriate for those who are wanting to gain weight/muscle mass and do intense training.

We go into greater detail about how to choose an appropriate protein level when counting macros so give that article a read if you’re still unsure.

Using the Macro Calculator to Calculate Daily Fat Amount

Fats are set at 30% of daily energy expenditure. This is a healthy moderate amount that most people do well with and is based on recommendations by nutritional guidelines.

When choosing foods that contain fat, focus on getting predominately healthy fats as part of that 30%.

Using the Calculator to Calculate the Right Carb Amount

After protein and fat are calculated, the calculator assigns the remainder of your calories as carbohydrates. This usually results in a moderate amount of carbs that are in the healthy range recommended for most people. Carbs fuel your body and workouts and are the body’s prefered energy source.

Many people coming from a “low carb” type of dieting may feel like this calculator calculates carbs on the high side. However, this is a moderate amount of carbs according to respected nutritional guidelines and the notion that carbs cause weight gain or prevent fat loss when eaten in relation to your TDEE has been debunked.

How the Calculator Adjusts Your TDEE Based on Your Goals

Daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is calculated from your age, gender, height, weight, and exercise output.

You can easily use the macro calculator to adjust your energy levels to lose fat, maintain your current weight, or gain muscle.

By default, the results are for losing weight. Select either lose or gain if you are trying to lose fat or gain muscle. These are good starting points, but you may have to play around with your macros until you find your personal goal-reaching sweet spot. You can then count macros until you reach your desired goal.

See the full guide to macro ratios here.

Setting the Calculator for Weight Loss (Fat Loss)

  • The Lose button puts you in a 20% calorie deficit which promotes safe, steady weight loss.
  • The Lose 10% button puts you in a 10% calorie deficit and is intended for those with less than 10 pounds to lose and who also wish to build muscle at the same time.

For Maintaining Your Current Weight

The Maintain button shows you the macro levels that will keep you at your current weight. This is good for people who have lost weight and who don’t want to gain the weight back.

Settings for Gaining Weight or Building Muscle

The Gain button puts you in a 20% calorie surplus and is designed for people who are wanting to build muscle fast in conjunction with a comprehensive weight training program. It can also be used by people who are underweight.

Some people may want to use the maintenance button and then gradually increase calories from there if they want their muscle gains to be lean.

Which Formula – Normal or Lean Mass?

The default (normal) formula is fine for most people. However, there are some exceptions.

1. If you are very lean (low body fat percentage) the default formula may not be accurate. Use the “Lean Body Mass” setting. This uses a formula that factors specific body fat percentage into the equation and since muscle tissue burns many more calories than fat tissue while even at rest, it will give you a higher TDEE. This is perfect for “athletic body types” that want to use macro counting to gain more muscle mass.

2. If you are classified as obese and have a lot of weight to lose, the standard formula will not be accurate because the equation used, factors for an average body fat percentage. If you happen to be above average it will skew the results. Please see this article for more clarification on how to do macro counting if you are obese.

You can calculate your ideal body weight here.

How Do I Calculate My Daily Macros

By default, the results show the number of grams of each macronutrient you should eat each day. Simply make sure you have eaten those macro amounts by the end of the day.

How Do I Calculate My Macros for a Meal

Click on meal numbers to split this into a “per meal” basis for counting macros. For some people, this is easier, while for others it becomes too much to keep track of. Do what works for you. Either method is fine.

See our Healthy 5 Day Flexible Meal Plan. It includes 3 meals and 2 snacks per day.

Setting Activity Level Accurately

A higher activity level means a higher daily calorie goal (TDEE). For example; if you can maintain your weight at 2,000 calories per day, then adding vigorous daily exercise to this means you need more calories to maintain your weight.

Figure out your activity level using the Calories Burned Calculator.

The same rule applies even if your goal is to lose weight.

If you are sedentary and your goal is to lose weight, your calorie goal might be (for example) 1,600 calories per day. If you decide to start exercising, the calculator will increase your daily calorie goal (say, to 1,800 calories/day). Although it may seem counter-intuitive, more energy is required to fuel your workouts, and your metabolism is increased – therefore calories should be higher.

Many people struggle with which exercise level to choose. Basically each level breaks down as follows:

  • Sedentary: Just normal everyday activity like a little walking, a couple flights of stairs, eating etc.
  • Light: Any activity that burns an additional 200-400 calories for females or 250-500 calories for a males more than your sedentary amount.
  • Moderate: Any activity that burns an additional 400-650 calories for females or 500-800 calories for males more than your sedentary amount.
  • Extreme: Any activity that burns more than about 650 calories for females or more than 800 calories for males in addition to your sedentary amount.

This varies based on your individual stats, but you can get a more specific amount of calorie burn by simply subtracting your sedentary calorie amount from the chosen exercise level amount.

You also need to determine how many calories you are burning: For this use our exercise calorie burn MET database or a good app like MapMyFitness or a wearable device like FitBit or Apple Watch. (Note that activity trackers tend to overestimate calorie burn.)

Too much physical activity combined with low calories could lead to muscle catabolism (the breakdown of muscle fiber). This is not a good thing, and can actually stall your weight loss, so if you love to exercise, eat up!

Which App is Best for Tracking Macros?

After you have your personal macro calculations, you need to determine the macros in all the foods you eat. By tracking and counting them each day, you can reach your recommended macro targets that encourage fat loss, muscle gain, or whatever your goal may be.

While this may seem like a lot of work, there are some really good smartphone macro apps that do most of the work for you. We rank the best macro tracking apps here so you can get started tracking quickly.

Macro counting is extremely successful, and can free you from the “good food, bad food” mindset.

You don’t need to make radical shifts in your diet, nor deprive yourself of your favorite foods. Just make sure you are within your macro counts for each day, and you’re good to go!

You’ll Love My Macro Solution Program

Step-by-step ebooks, or fully customized personal macros coaching. Now with complete vegan edition.

Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, a Certified Fitness Trainer, and is Healthy Eater’s author and nutitional coach. If you need help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see his personal macros coaching options. Last Updated: November 6, 2019

Macro Calculator

Welcome to the Macro Calculator!

You can utilize this tool as a first step in figuring out your daily macronutrient targets. Keep in mind that this is a guesstimation based on the factors you entered. Using a calculator to get you started is a good first step; however, there are drawbacks to a calculator, since they are not as extensive as a coach.

If you need help hashing out your goals, we highly suggest a personalized macro consult to ensure a plan that is suitable, sustainable, and realistic.

Our experienced coaches take into account subjective information (such as breastfeeding, personal preference(high carb), dietary restrictions(allergies/Celiac), performance/endurance goals(triathletes, powerlifters), and medical conditions(hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism) that a calculator CANNOT.

Our coaches have personally helped over 10,000 women achieve results with the IIFYM lifestyle. Get started with an IIFYM coach by clicking here.

Guidelines for using the Calculator:

For most women, choose these options when using the Macro Calculator.

Under Step 2: Choose Your Goals

Choose the “Suggested 15%” option to start. Later you can always go more aggressive, but results will be accomplished by starting with this option. It also allows for future adjustments if your progress stalls.

Under Step 3: Select Your Nutrition Plan

Under Protein: Choose “Custom __ grams per lb. of body weight” and enter “0.8”

Under Fat: Choose “0.35 grams per lb. of body weight”

How to Count Macros: A Step-By-Step Guide

Learning how to count macronutrients does take some effort, but it’s a method that anyone can use.

The following steps will get you started.

1. Figure out Your Calorie Needs

In order to calculate your overall calorie needs, you need to determine resting energy expenditure (REE) and non-resting energy expenditure (NREE).

REE refers to the number of calories a person burns at rest, while NREE indicates calories burned during activity and digestion (5).

Adding REE and NREE gives you the total number of calories burned in a day, also known as total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) (6).

In order to determine your overall calorie needs, you can either use a simple online calculator or the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation:

  • 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

Then, multiply your result by an activity factor — a number that represents different levels of activity (7):

  • 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)

The end result gives you your TDEE.

Calories can either be added or subtracted from your total expenditure in order to reach different goals.

In other words, those trying to lose weight should consume fewer calories than they expend, while those looking to gain muscle mass should increase calories.

2. Decide Your Ideal Macronutrient Breakdown

After determining how many calories to consume each day, the next step is to decide what macronutrient ratio works best for you.

Typical macronutrient recommendations are as follows (8):

  • Carbs: 45–65% of total calories
  • Fats: 20–35% of total calories
  • Proteins: 10–35% of total calories

Keep in mind that these recommendations may not fit your specific needs.

Your ratio can be fine-tuned in order to achieve specific objectives.

For example, a person who wants to obtain better blood sugar control and lose excess body fat may excel on a meal plan consisting of 35% carbs, 30% fat and 35% protein.

Someone pursuing a ketogenic diet would need much more fat and fewer carbs, while an endurance athlete may need higher carb intake.

As you can see, macronutrient ratios can vary depending on dietary preferences, weight loss goals and other factors.

3. Track Your Macros and Calorie Intake

Next, it’s time to start tracking your macros.

The term “tracking macros” simply means logging the foods you eat on a website, app or food journal.

The most convenient way to track macros may be through an app like MyFitnessPal, Lose It! or My Macros +.

These apps are user-friendly and specifically designed to simplify tracking macros.

In addition, a digital food scale may help you track your macros — though it isn’t necessary. If you invest in one, weigh each food item you eat before logging it into your app of choice.

Several apps feature a barcode scanner that automatically inputs a serving of a scanned food into your macro log.

You can also hand-write macros into a physical journal. The method depends on your individual preference.

Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to hit your macro targets exactly. You can still meet your goals even if you go a few grams over or under each day.

4. Counting Example

Here’s an example of how to calculate macronutrients for a 2,000-calorie diet consisting of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat.

Carbs:

  • 4 calories per gram
  • 40% of 2,000 calories = 800 calories of carbs per day
  • Total grams of carbs allowed per day = 800/4 = 200 grams

Proteins:

  • 4 calories per gram
  • 30% of 2,000 calories = 600 calories of protein per day
  • Total grams of protein allowed per day = 600/4 = 150 grams

Fats:

  • 9 calories per gram
  • 30% of 2,000 calories = 600 calories of protein per day
  • Total grams of fat allowed per day = 600/9 = 67 grams

In this scenario, your ideal daily intake would be 200 grams of carbs, 150 grams of protein and 67 grams of fat.

Summary To count macros, determine your calorie and macronutrient needs, then log macros into an app or food journal.

Essential Guide to Macros

Macronutrient is a bucket term for the three types of nutrients that make up the bulk of what we eat: carbohydrates, fat and protein. Our bodies require ample amounts of each to function properly. On the other hand, alcohol also provides calories (7 calories per gram), but it’s not considered a macronutrient because we don’t need alcohol to survive, unlike fat, carbs and protein. Macronutrients are augmented by micronutrients, aka vitamins and minerals, to meet all of our nutrition needs.

Learn more about each type of macro and its role in a healthy diet:

  • Carbohydrate
  • Fat
  • Protein

WHERE TO FIND MACROS

Whether you’re using macros to drive your food choices or just trying to eat a balanced diet, it’s good to know which foods contain more of which macros.

DEFINING THE IIFYM DIET

One way to eat better and/or lose weight is to focus on macros instead of calories. Often called IIFYM — “If It Fits Your Macros” — this way of eating is increasingly popular among MyFitnessPal users who like the combination of accountability and flexibility. The guiding principle of IIFYM dieting is that you can eat whatever you want and still attain your goal of losing or gaining weight as long as you stay inside your macronutrient “allowance.”

You get an allowance in grams for fat, protein and carbohydrates, but how you spend that allowance is up to you. If you spend your carb allowance on jelly beans instead of oatmeal, that’s up to you (but you’ll miss out on fiber). If you want to eat pepperoni pizza instead of salmon and brown rice, that’s allowed, too. Anything goes, as long as it fits your macros.

NOT ALL MACROS ARE REALLY EQUAL

Yet, while 100 grams of salmon and 100 grams of hot wings may have the same macronutrient profile (both are about 60% protein and 40% fat), they are hardly nutritional equivalents. Jelly beans and sweet potatoes are both about 100% carbohydrates, but, again, there’s no comparison when it comes to nutritional value. Could you lose weight eating nothing but hot wings and jelly beans — as long as they fit your macros? Probably. But most people doing IIFYM quickly discover they feel much better when they spend most of their macros on fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, legumes, whole grains, lean protein and other wholesome foods, which tend to be more filling as well as more nutritious.

While we know a calorie isn’t just a calorie and your food quality matters, IIFYM may help those who feel jaded by choosing “healthy” food all the time. After all, nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. If you’re a healthy individual, it’s helpful to explore different options and find one that works for you — bonus points for making it a sustainable habit.

HOW TO TRACK MACROS IN MYFITNESSPAL

If you’re new to tracking macros, MFP makes it easy — breaking it down into four easy steps:

1. SET YOUR CALORIES

The first step is to establish your target calorie intake, based on your current weight, age, height, sex, activity level and goals. You probably already did this when you set up your MyFitnessPal app. To view or update your diet profile, click on “Settings” and choose “Update Diet/Fitness Profile.”

2. SET YOUR MACROS

Next, you’ll want to determine how you’re going to divide those calories among the three macronutrients. You can view or edit your macro distribution in your MyFitnessPal app by clicking on “Goals,” where you’ll see your “Daily Nutrition Goals.”

MyFitnessPal automatically sets your macros at 50% carbs, 20% protein and 30% fat. You can tweak this distribution as you like; the app translates the percentages into grams for each macronutrient. (Note: Premium app users have the option of setting goals in grams or percentages.)

Need some guidance? See this article on adjusting your macros.

3. PLAN AND TRACK YOUR DIET

As you enter meals and snacks into your food diary, MyFitnessPal will total how many grams of carbohydrates, fat and protein you’ve eaten. It’s key to plan your meals for the day, or you may find yourself at dinnertime with 5 grams of carbohydrates,15 grams of fat and 60 grams of protein left, a combination that can lead to some strange meals!

4. REPEAT AND REFINE

With time, both the planning and the execution of eating by macros tends to get easier. You can refine the exact percentages based on your results, as well as find meals that work for you.

Many diets are all about what you can’t eat in the name of weight loss (I’m looking at you, keto diet). But while they may work in the short term, deprivation doesn’t necessarily lead to sustainable weight-loss results.

The macro diet is different. Instead of telling you what you can’t eat, it encourages you to count nutrients in order to help you make smart food choices for a more flexible approach to dieting. Nothing is considered off-limits, per se—you’re just looking to stock up on good foods so you get the nutrients you need.

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that (it always is, isn’t it?). Here’s what you need to know about the macro diet.

What exactly is the macro diet?

Macros, a.k.a. macronutrients, are the nutrients your body can’t live without: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each macro plays its own role—and each has its own weight-loss superpowers.

What the macro diet does is look at the individual number of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins you’re taking in and modifies that based off your goals for weight loss or performance, according to Jessica Crandall Snyder, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. “Instead of tracking calories, you’re tracking the components of calories that fuel your body,” Snyder explains.

But Snyder doesn’t recommend this diet as something you should do on your own, with zero guidance. “I strongly recommend working with a registered dietitian because you’ll get great nutrition information, plus you’ll be able to fill in nutrient gaps and find food that you can enjoy that fit the goal for fueling your body appropriately,” she says.

What are the benefits of the macro diet?

Following a macro diet can have several health benefits. Here’s what you can expect if you try counting macros.

  • You may lose weight. By tracking your macros and sticking to a certain amount, you may eliminate excess calories from your diet and experience weight loss.
  • You’ll be able to gain muscle more easily. Many people struggle to eat the amount of protein they need to build and repair muscle mass after workouts. Following a macro-counting diet can help ensure you’re getting enough protein to see results from your strength training.
  • You’ll have a clear roadmap to solid nutrition. “Most people need structure to guide their eating habits,” says Sonya Angelone, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Otherwise people tend to eat what they want, when they want it.” If you have trouble with listening to internal cues, like when you feel full, this can be helpful, she says.
  • You’ll pay more attention to what you’re eating. “Just paying more attention to what you eat will have an impact on food intake and will usually result in better choices and fewer calories,” Angelone says.
  • By getting the ideal combination of carbs, protein, and fats, your body will function optimally. Carbs fuel your energy production, proteins build up your immune system, muscle mass, and metabolism, and fats help absorb essential nutrients, according to Snyder.

How does the macro diet differ from other diets?

Unlike other diets, macro dieting does not restrict any particular foods. “It’s more flexible,” Snyder says.

When it comes to popular diets like keto and intermittent fasting, Snyder categorizes them as restrictive diets. “They’re not sustainable long term, they don’t teach good eating patterns and they could set you up for long term risk for deficiencies,” Snyder says, and this is something she tells her clients, too.

The macro diet, on the other hand, focuses on the makeup of the food you’re eating, rather than the complete elimination of a category of foods.

Now, let’s break down the important macronutrients.

Macro #1: Carbs

Repeat after me: Carbs are not the enemy—even if you’re trying to lose weight. “Carbohydrates are the most important energy source for almost all human cells,” explains registered dietitian Mascha Davis, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Your body digests them quickly and turns them into sugar, or blood glucose, which you then store in your liver and muscles as glycogen. Together, blood glucose and glycogen fuel high-intensity exercise—the kind you need to burn fat and build metabolism-boosting muscle.

Carbs are also tied to your levels of the happy-maker neurotransmitter called serotonin (so carbs may impact your mood).

Macro #2: Protein

You know that protein intake is used to build and maintain your body’s lean muscle, but it does a whole lot more than that. “Protein makes up the enzymes that power chemical reactions in the body,” Davis says. “It also makes the hemoglobin that transports oxygen through the body.” And if oxygen doesn’t get where it needs to go, you can forget about having the energy to take the stairs, let alone power through an hour-long run.

Plus, when it comes to boosting your satiety levels so that you can feel full on fewer calories, protein kills. (When you eat protein, your gut makes hormones that slow down the movement of food through your GI tract, meaning that you stay fuller for longer.)

By slowing digestion, protein also slows the release of glucose into your blood stream to prevent the blood sugar and insulin spikes that can create health issues, explains Alexandra Sowa, MD, a New York City-based internal medicine physician and diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

Macro #3: Fat

If the keto diet has taught us anything, it’s that consuming fat does not automatically lead to weight gain—even if fat does contain more calories, ounce per ounce, than the other macros.

Here’s the thing: Fat makes up cell membranes, promotes nerve and brain health, and increases the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which are crucial to healthy weight-loss efforts. And while fat doesn’t trigger the exact same satiety-boosting hormones that protein does, it is relatively slow to digest, further stabilizing blood sugar levels and keeping cravings away.

Here’s exactly how to count your macros.

First, this is how many calories are in each gram of the three primary macronutrients (you’ll need this information later on):

  • Carbs have four calories per gram
  • Fat has nine calories per gram
  • Protein has four calories per gram

Everyone’s macro goals can vary slightly, but the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says adults should try to get 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbs, 10 to 35 percent from protein, and 20 to 35 percent from fat. While Snyder recommends chatting with an RD for a specific plan, here’s a pretty good idea of how your macros are being calculated.

Because percentages are complicated, there’s a specific formula you can follow to determine how many grams of carbs, fat, and protein you should get on a diet, according to how many calories you’re taking in. (FYI: A 1,600-calorie diet is a reasonable ballpark for active women trying to lose weight, says Angelone, though those calorie goals may not be accurate for everyone.)

Are there any downsides to counting macros to lose weight?

As you’ve probably already guessed, this diet involves a good amount of planning and math. “It’s a bit cumbersome to count macros unless you eat the same thing every day,” Angelone says. “But, then your diet becomes monotonous and probably not nutritionally adequate.” Still, she says, it gets easier to follow the diet once you get the hang of it.

But there are a few side effects Snyder says people should be aware of, especially those considering counting macros without the help of an RD. Setting macro goals too low, for example, might cause energy fatigue, brain fog, and nutrient deficiency. While setting them too high might not promote the health goals you’re looking for (weight loss, performance, etc.).

And when it comes to these numbers, some people may find themselves getting a little too focused on their daily macro counts—which could possibly lead to a form of disordered eating. Your macro goals should act as guidelines, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to hit them every single day.

For people who feel overwhelmed by counting macros, Snyder recommends incorporating counting in spurts. “Try and track for a week and then you have a really good idea of the kid of foods you’re typically eating and where you need to adjust and that may give you some really good insights,” Snyder says. “I don’t encourage tracking forever, but I do think checking in with yourself every once in a while and seeing if you’re on track can be helpful for some clients.”

Interested? It’s super easy to get started on a macro diet.

The macro diet can seem a little overwhelming, but you can start pretty simply. If you want to test it out first before upending your current diet, Angelone recommends kicking things off by keeping a food diary to get an idea of what you eat on a regular basis. Track and calculate your macros (per the instructions above) and look at your food choices to see what changes you need to make based on those numbers.

“Be sure to choose less processed foods, choose whole grains and high-fiber foods, and healthy fats, limit refined sugar, and drink plenty of water,” Angelone says. “And be sure to incorporate regular exercise and more activity into your day.” After that, you should be good to go.

If you’re looking to officially swap your diet for the macro diet for a longer period of time and have some serious weight loss or performance goals you’re looking to achieve, consult an RD as soon as possible to get a personalized plan developed, says Snyder.

A calorie-tracking app might be helpful, too.

  • MyFitnessPal: The app comes in two versions with over 1 million foods in its database. In the free version of the app, you can track how many proteins, carbs, and fats you’ve eaten for the day. And if you upgrade to premium you can actually set a target for each macro. (Free for iOS and Android, itunes.com and play.google.com)
  • Lose It: You can track your macros easily on the Lose It app. Just log your meals and the app will calculate all of your macros consumed under its “nutrients tab.” (Free for iOS, at itunes.com, or $29.99 per year for the premium version)
  • Eat This Much: You can use this app to not only track macros but create meal plans that coincide with your goals. One of the best features about the app is its barcode scanner, which scans food items directly into your account. (Free for iOS and Android or premium $5/a month with annual subscription, itunes.com and play.google.com)
  • My Plate: Not only will you be able to track the macros of a single meal, you’ll be able to break down how many carbohydrates, fats, and proteins you’ve eaten throughout the entire day. (Free for iOS and Android, itunes.com and play.google.com)
  • My Macros+: This app gives users a macros countdown, body-weight tracking options, and has a database with over 1.5 million foods. (Starts at $1.99 for iOS, itunes.com)

The bottom line: Counting macros can be a good weight-loss move for those who don’t vibe well with eating plans that involve restricting your foods, like keto. But talk to an RD first about whether a macro-focused way of eating is right for you.

Korin Miller Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. Alexis Jones Assistant Editor Alexis Jones is an assistant editor at Women’s Health where she writes across several verticals on WomensHealthmag.com, including life, health, sex and love, relationships and fitness, while also contributing to the print magazine.

If it fits your macros diet

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