Know your body, match your diet.

Our resident instructor, personal trainer and nutrition expert, Jaclyn Laing, is a big advocate of matching your diet to your body type. Here she gives us the science behind it and why it’s no diet, but a sustainable way of life…

September has come fast around that corner and you’re wondering to yourself ‘where did summer go?’ You may have even spent months leading up to those holidays preparing for your ‘holiday bod’ – but just because the days are getting shorter and a little bit cooler doesn’t mean you can’t maintain or attain the physique you have/want. You have probably seen the term IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) or ‘Flexible Dieting’ thrown around on various social media platforms as of late, as if it’s the latest fad, quick fix diet or some revised version of ‘atkins’. Well, I’m here to tell you a little (or a lot) about what IIFYM/flexible dieting is and how it can be incorporated as part of a balanced lifestyle, in combination with your own current training regime.

Now I don’t know about you, but for me when I have a goal in mind, I want to eat and fuel my body to allow myself to maintain the most muscle mass whilst maintaining shredding the most fat. That being said, if you think IIFYM/Flexible Dieting is a piece of cake (ha) or a quick fix, I can assure you, it’s not. I’ve had many looks and conversations of disbelief/shock as I whipped out my phone to track my meals on MyFitnessPal, possibly scanning barcodes on food packaging  whilst using a food scale to weigh my oats/berries/egg whites/you name it on the kitchen counter. You have to establish if it is sustainable for your lifestyle – it may not be for everyone. You have to be patient and consistent, just like with your training. If you want to see the path to progress, commitment will be key.

The concept of IIFYM/flexible dieting is focused around the amounts (grams) of the three main energy sources that we use to fuel our body – protein, carbohydrates and fat (macronutrients). The way in which we determine our needs for each is to first calculate how much energy (calories/kcal) you use on a daily basis just to function and live, i.e. not taking into account your activity level just yet  – this is your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Once this baseline number is established, it is then multiplied by number ranging from 1.3-1.9, dependent on how active you are (Harris Benedict equation). Now, let me be clear that this is by no means 100% accurate as to what you actually use but will give you a good baseline number to start with. I use this method with many clients and even with myself, slightly tweaking my numbers where needed, whilst tracking progress. We then split our total daily number of calories into percentages and allocate them to our marcos.

Sounds simple enough right? But just hold on, we have another factor to now consider – mainly our somatotypes which are as follows (you may be between two types):

Ectomorph – of a lean build, you find it hard to gain weight or finds it hard to keep on weight, fast metabolism (moderate carbs/fat)

Mesomorph – of an athletic build tends to gain muscle relatively easily but also some fat, finds it easy to lose/gain weight (lower fat, moderate carbs)

Endomorphof a stocky build, tends to gain muscle but also fat very easily, finds it hard to lose body fat, slow metabolism (moderate fat, lower carbs)

As an example below, I illustrate how two people with the same weight and goal of weight loss will ultimately have very different macro targets due to their difference in somatotype. Let’s take an ectomorph and an endomorph for example, who both have a goal of losing 0.5kg body fat / per week (500kcal deficit per day) and both weigh 50kg.

Ectomorph (2050 kcals) Endomorph (1540 kcals)
P 150 / F 60 / C 227 P 150 / F46 / C 132

There is no ‘one size fits all’ for this way of eating –  if you want to lose weight while still maintaining your lean body mass, then you have to make sure you’re consuming enough protein (not just in a calorie deficit). This also applies to carbohydrates and fat – if your training programme is very intense or you’re a very active person, you must consume enough carbohydrates to keep your glycogen stores up. Your fat intake also plays a big role in hormonal balance.

There are often two camps when the IIFYM method is applied. The first being those who eat whatever they like as long as they are hitting their daily macro targets – this is where the quality of food has no bearing on what they eat and often results in meals and snacks of junk food, burgers, and generally crap which may be low, for example, in fat but extremely high in sugar. This same group of people will also not take into account micronutrients, fibre, sugar or iron levels – in turn, if you’re this type of person you will probably feel pretty horrible before and after a heavy leg day. Don’t be that person.  

At the other end of the spectrum we have those who do track things other than purely macronutrients and aim to get their meals from a wide variety of unprocessed, whole foods, fruit and vegetables. Food quality is important to your overall health, so let’s be the latter. Once you get into the swing of things, you will start to find foods and meals that ‘fit your macros’ which you enjoy, are simple to prepare, AND tastes good to work into rotation. What my clients find helpful is to be prepared – and yes, that means dedicating some amount of time over your weekend to fill all that damn tupperware in your cupboard that never gets used to their full potential. This, and being a creature of habit helps to make that 6am pre-tracked meal a whole lot easier and streamlined.

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