Ready for a diet plan that allows you to eat pizza and doughnuts and still lose weight and build muscle? Those are some of the promises promoted for the Macro Diet. The acronym IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) has been the rallying cry for those standing behind this recent diet trend. But does it work, or is it too good to be true?
What is the Macro Diet?
Not to be confused with the strict vegetarian “Macrobiotic Diet,” the Macro Diet lets you eat animal foods, such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Whatever type of diet you currently follow, you’re already eating “macros” (short for macronutrients). The three macronutrients in everyone’s diet are: protein, carbohydrate and fat. Even low-carb diets provide some of all three. But the Macro Diet prescribes specific percentages for each one (your macronutrient ratio), depending on your height, weight, activity level, age, and goals. You still set a calorie limit (which the apps help you to do), but instead of counting calories, the diet plan requires that you count your intake of these three macronutrients. Percentages vary, but 40% carbohydrate is typically recommended, 20% to 35% for fat, and the rest as protein, making it a high-protein diet.
There’s a lot to praise about the diet philosophy of the Macro Diet plan. It’s flexible, which can’t be said for many diet plans, and it doesn’t overly restrict or eliminate certain foods, food groups, or macronutrients, like carbohydrates. It can be followed over the long-term, unlike diet plans that are relatively easy to follow, but become drudgery over the long haul.
While flexibility is good, it can be misconstrued. Pizza and doughnuts could fit in a Macro plan, but that defeats the purpose of following a well-balanced diet. The macronutrients should mostly come from whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources, instead of processed and fried foods, even if they fit within your Macro diet ratio. If you find calorie-counting tiresome, this diet may not be for you, as it requires you to keep track of all three macronutrients and keep their percentages within prescribed limits.
If the flexibility aspect of the Macro Diet plan isn’t abused, it offers a healthful diet plan that can be used for weight loss.
—Densie Webb, PhD, RD