- Your diet is as hard or easy as you make it
- A successful diet combines what you need and what you want
- If It Fits Your Macros is a popular diet that does that
You just started a diet.
A few days go by.
Then it hits.
Everything that isn’t “diet food” looks 100x better. Hunger goes up and your craving kick in.
The “easy” diet starts to feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill covered in KY Jelly.
The problem…you outlawed all the foods you enjoy.
This prison sentence you voluntarily submitted yourself to greatly decreases your likelihood of reaching your fat loss goal.
This is where diet trade-offs come into play and more specifically a diet like If It Fits Your Macros.
It’s a balancing act of what you want vs what you need. The happy medium to make any diet easier.
This is how you do it…
What does If It Fits Your Macros mean?
If It Fits Your Macros is a diet or way of eating that allows you to eat whatever you want so long as it fits neatly into your macro targets.
On paper, this is dope.
Pizza and beer while dieting…where do I sign?
In actuality, it’s like when you were growing up you had in your mind who your perfect spouse would be. All the features you like and everything would be magical.
In my twenties that perfect spouse was Lindsay Lohan.
She was successful, hot, and could party.
In reality though, that last part could be a slippery cocaine lined slope.
Now I’m not saying this is a terrible way to diet but it does make things a bit difficult. You need to think it through to protect you from going off the deep end so you have to restart your diet every Monday.
That’s where diet tradeoffs come into play.
Can you eat anything If It Fits Your Macros?
Yes and no.
The whole dieting experience is about tradeoffs. Balancing what you want vs what you need.
Let’s look at some:
Processed vs Whole Foods
Processed food tastes delicious. It’s made to.
The problem with processed food is it digests quickly and it’s high in calories.
Whole foods on the other hand digest slower due to the protein and fiber. The protein and fiber processed foods lack.
You feel hunger based on how much space is in your stomach.
Lotsa space, really hungry.
Little space, not hungry.
With whole foods taking longer to digest, they stay in your stomach longer meaning you have less hunger gnawing at your willpower like a whiny three year old.
The trade off here is hunger vs what you want.
Are you OK with being a little more hungry to enjoy some chips and sweets? Or is hunger a big deterrent for you?
I know for me, I’m cool with a low grade hunger all day so I can enjoy some Peanut M&M’s. It gives me something to look forward to and I REALLY enjoy them. So a 85/15 or 90/10 calorie split of whole foods to processed foods works for me.
If hunger is a big deterrent, then a more whole food based diet would work better. A 90/10 or 95/5 calorie split might be better for you.
In general I recommend a 85/15 calorie split. This way you can get what you want with stuff that you need.
This doesn’t mean you can shift your food selection based on the day. If you are feeling more hungry move more towards a 95/5 split to curb that hunger and make your day just a bit easier.
If you feel like you’re missing out on a lot or have crazy cravings, drop that calorie split down to 85/15 or 80/20.
Variety vs The Same
This tradeoff is all about how much work and time you’re willing to give to your planning.
If you need constant variability to your food choices then it’s gonna take a while to play calorie Tetris in MyFitnessPal every day which could lead you to quitting.
On the other hand you eat relatively the same foods or meal structure each day, tracking calories becomes more of a copy and paste exercise if you want to track calories at all.
You need to figure out which one you value more, your affinity for variety or your time.
Personally, I value my time way more than food variety. I use a meal structure for lunch and dinner but keep my breakfast relatively the same.
Here’s what I mean. For breakfast I’ll either have 3 whole eggs, a piece of bread and 6oz of ham OR 2 scoops of protein powder and a cup of oatmeal.
Very rarely do I deviate from these. What I have on any given day is dedicated by what I have going on that morning. If I have time to cook I go with eggs, if not, oatmeal it is.
For lunch and dinner, I have either 8oz of chicken breast OR 6oz of a fattier meat like ground chicken, turkey or beef. Between these three meals I’m 90% of the way to my protein goal and I give it zero thought because it’s already pre-planned.
As far as carbs go, it really depends on if I’m bulking or trying to lose fat. If I’m bulking, I’ll add rice, potatoes or pasta to each meal and if I’m dieting it’ll be some vegetables.
With WHAT I’m eating out of the way, I can season the food any way I please. Spices, BBQ sauce, etc. are all in play for whatever is tickling my fancy that day.
With this structure, for the rest of my meals I can pretty much eat whatever I want. This is where I throw in a beer or peanut M&M’s.
Another downside with lots of variability in your food, you run the risk of introducing a lot of error into your tracking. My clients who have gotten the best results do the same thing as me with a diet structure and basically have the same type of food each day. So even if your tracking is off at least it’s consistent and I can work with that.
When shit is all over the place it makes it really hard to make adjustments.
Carbs vs Fat
Carbs get a bad wrap for making people fat.
The good carbs like oats, rice and potatoes get lumped into the same category as chips, cake and candy. The latter is a mix of carbs and fat while the former is pure carbs.
Carbs are your body’s main fuel source for bouts of short intense exercise, like lifting weights and having sex.
Fats are more of a steady state energy source since it takes a while for your body to break them down into usable fuel for your muscles. An activity like walking or steady state running are predominantly fat based once you get going.
Carbs and insulin are anabolic.
Let me give you a scenario. You just finished an epic workout session. You feel 10 yrs younger and the pump is strong. While you’re in your glory, inside your body cortisol spikes.
A cortisol spike in your workout is exactly what you want as it helps with energy, but prolonged cortisol breaks down muscle. Obviously, this is something you don’t want going on for hours post workout.
Enter Carbs. Carbs have been vilified for spiking insulin. But insulin has an inverse relationship with cortisol. So by spiking insulin, you stop the breakdown of muscle and shuttle all the protein and glucose into your muscles to help them build back your muscles bigger and stronger.
This is why people like Dr. Jim Stoppani suggested eating pixie sticks post workout.
Eating processed foods are a great way to skew your numbers in favor of fat which could tank your workout performance and make it hard to hit your carb targets and build muscle.
Regardless if your goal is muscle building or fat loss, gym performance should always be something you optimize for.
So rather than having your carb source be processed foods, add in some whole food sources like rice and oatmeal to keep your workouts, and overall energy strong.
Leaner Meats vs Fattier Cuts
Protein is the hardest macro to hit. This is especially true if you are trying to do it with fattier cuts of meat. It can make hitting your protein goal seem impossible.
If you ate the same amount of meat, but just a leaner cut, things would get a lot easier.
Let’s take ground beef for instance. We’ll compare 80/20 vs 90/10.
All for a 6oz serving
Calories: 430 vs 300
Fat: 34 vs 18
Protein: 30 vs 34
On the protein front, not a whole lot of difference. I could piss 4g.
But the extra fat in the 80% lean makes the calories shoot up and gives you 130 calories less of food.
Meaning you’ll be more hungry and it makes hitting your protein target while staying within your calories that much harder.
Something I like to do is to have a very lean source for one meal while having a fattier source at another meal.
Very rarely have two fatty protein sources a day.
Alcohol vs Food
This tradeoff is very similar to the processed food vs whole food one above; hunger vs what you want.
Alcohol, while delicious, does contain calories which digest really quickly so you’ll be hungry fast. And that’s completely sidestepping any drinking munchies you might get.
If you’re putting back a couple of beers, even light beers, a night you’re looking at 200-300 calories of food you need to take away or worse, like a drunk college girl, you’re eating back those 200-300 calories because of your lower inhibitions.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to have a drink now and then while you’re trying to lose weight, but realize you aren’t doing yourself any favors in the hunger department.
If you do like a drink now and then, shift your foods to more volume based whole foods. This will help with hunger big time.
Big salads, broccoli, riced cauliflower are all low calorie/ high volume foods that can keep you full without the caloric load.
What happens if you don’t hit all your macros?
Obviously kidding here…or am I?
If you can’t hit your macros for one day every once in a while, it’s not a big deal. But if it becomes a trend then you can’t expect to get the results you want.
Your specific goal requires a specific plan and consistency with said specific plan. This is why finding the right balance for you is crucial.
For instance, if your goal is to build muscle but you are constantly not hitting your carb goal your workouts will start to suck and your recovery will be trash and we both know muscle isn’t built that way.
If the goal is weight loss and you aren’t eating enough protein, you’ll lose more muscle and look more skinny fat than ripped once you hit your goal weight.
I’m a big fan of If It Fits Your Macros provided you think it through to balance your tradeoffs. It can get outta control real quick causing you to waste a lot of time.
Figuring out the tradeoffs you’re willing to make will greatly increase your chance of success.