What you put into your body is what you can expect to get out of it.
We are athletes who want to have the best output performance possible, so we need to understand how important nutrition is in our daily routine. It’s literally what fuels us each and every single day. Although flexible dieting (or tracking macros) isn’t the only way to achieve success, it’s a great tool for measurement and progress, just like when you track your workouts to measure progress.
What the heck is a Macro?
A “macro” is a shortened term for a macronutrient. A macronutrient is a food required in large amounts that provide bodies with the bulk of energy. Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates (also known as carbs for short), and fats.
1 gram of protein = 4 calories*
1 gram of carbs = 4 calories*
1 gram of fats = 9 calories*
(*a calorie is a unit of energy)
What does it mean to track your macros?
Whether you want to call it flexible dieting, tracking your macros or IIFYM (if it fits your macros), it’s all the same concept: a method of ‘dieting’ (using that term ‘diet’ very loosely) that focuses on meeting daily macro intake targets and puts less of a focus on the foods you eat to reach these target numbers.
It’s like, ‘eat whatever you want, and still make progress.’
But hold on, it’s not exactly all that.
Flexible dieting is essentially a form of calorie counting, but to a more scientific, successful and customized level. It is a trsusted protocol to successfully adjust body composition.
Whether you are looking to lose body fat or add muscle mass, live a balanced lifestyle (whatever that looks like to you), and enjoy life, you can absolutely benefit from the power of flexible dieting. Your success with flexible dieting comes down to your discipline, daily energy expenditure, training goals, and the numbers that make up this game.
Think: Less fat mass and more lean/muscle mass, while maintaining the same total weight class.
Basically: get stronger!
How can tracking macros improve your performance?
Tracking macros can improve your performance in many ways. When you become aware of what you’re consuming and how it’s being consumed, you can drastically improve the energy output in your training and how your body recovers after your sessions.
Think: When you put quality fuel into a race car, you can just hear it when it flies down the track. Don’t you want to be a race car on the platform?
A large misunderstanding with flexible dieting is that as long as you hit your assigned macros then you can eat junk food every day, as long as it fits. In short, yes, but it’s not entirely that simple, especially when you want better athletic performance.
You’re probably familiar with the ‘calories in versus calories out’ phrase. Despite this being a true statement, when you dig a little deeper you learn that calories aren’t all the same. As mentioned above, 1g of fats contains 9 calories, and proteins and carbs each contain 4 calories.
For some quick math:
1,000 calories = 111g fat
1,000 calories = 250g protein or carbs
In terms of digestion, satiation, healthy body function and athletic performance, you’re going to probably feel a lot better with the latter of the two options, especially from a training standpoint.
If you solely want to lose weight, you can find out how many calories you burn in a day, make sure you’re eating less than that to put yourself into a caloric deficit, and you’ll lose weight no matter what you eat.
Why does anyone count macros?
Because when we’re looking at body composition (fat mass versus lean mass) and sport performance, then not all calories are the same. In that sense, you want to lose body fat and maintain or gain lean mass.
You want to consume enough protein to ensure your lean mass is being preserved and your muscles are repairing after your workouts. You want enough carbs to provide your glycogen stores (your main energy systems for workouts!) with enough fuel.
You need enough fats to keep up with a healthy overall body function, including hormone synthesis, digestion and brain function.
This is why counting macros can be more beneficial than simply counting total calories. Tracking macros allows you to focus on improving body composition instead of just dropping total pounds. As mentioned, what you actually eat to get to your set macros is of secondary importance.
But what if I don’t want to change the foods I eat?
Another great benefit to flexible dieting is that no food is off limits.
The beauty of flexible dieting is that it isn’t really traditional dieting at all.
Without being restricted to foods like you would experience if you have followed any fad diet, you’re way less likely to binge when you follow a proper flexible dieting protocol. One of the biggest reasons why people find themselves struggling with food relationships (think: good food versus bad food) or eating disorders is because of deprivation.
Think of a child: you say no to them and instantly they want to rebel and do/touch/eat what you just said no to.
Adults are the same way; you tell them they cannot eat something and whether they originally wanted to eat it or not, now they feel like they have to go eat it, or have that cheat meal because that’s considered to be cheating on their diet. If you follow a proper flexible dieting protocol, there is no cheating; just fit your cravings into your daily allowance and you’ll stay on track towards your goals with virtually no setbacks. On top of all that, having the ability to eat your favourite foods in moderation keeps potential psychological imbalances (stress, purging) under control. People will no longer worry when these foods are put in front of them and will have the ability to keep them in their stomach without counteracting their caloric value.
In summary: fuel your body for optimal performance. Do this with the flexible dieting protocol and watch the magic unfold.
How can you get started?
Flexible dieting works when you have the proper information, usually provided by an educated coach. There are simple online calculators that can spit out some baseline numbers for you, but for true, long-term success completely customized to you and your goals, then working with an educated coach who has many successful athletes and testimonials on their website is definitely a smart choice.
Once you have a better understanding of your body's reaction to macro ratios, you can try going off on your own and continuing a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
About the author
Courtney is an entrepreneur (owner of Courtney For Life) where she educates and guides clients with balanced nutrition and strength training. She's a competitive powerlifter with a passion for wholehearted living. Her purpose is to elevate your way of life, and to guide you to eat with balance, lift with passion, and live with intent.