Out of a Macro? Here’s What to Eat: IIFYM & Flexible Dieting
It’s 5 o’clock, you’ve almost hit your 60-gram daily macro limit for fat, and you haven’t had dinner yet. What’s a flexible dieter to do?
Well, you have two choices:
1. You can go over on your fat macro that day.
2. You can eat foods that are free or very low in this macro.
In this article, I’ll give you suggestions on what to eat if you run out of a particular macro and I’ll explain why going over on a particular macro from time to time will not hinder your overall progress.
Protein Dominant (Pure) Foods
Here are some foods that are rich in protein but free from all or most of the other macros. Use these foods when you need more protein but have already hit or are coming close to your limit on carbs or fat.
Pure Whey Protein Powder: This is great to have on hand and choose brands that have zero carbs and fat or brands that have very little of the other macros. Brands like Isopure and BioSteel are zero carb and 1 gram of fat per serving.
Very Lean Chicken Breast: This is only about 1.5 grams of fat per serving and could be even less if you remove any visible trace of yellow chicken fat before you cook it.
Fish: Many fish are very low in fat. Here are the top three:
- Atlantic Cod: 0 carb and .8 grams of fat per serving.
- Orange Roughy: 0 carb and .8 grams of fat per serving.
- Mahi Mahi: 0 carb and .8 grams of fat per serving.
Seitan -Chicken Style (Isolated Wheat Protein): 0 grams of fat and just 6 net carbs
Egg whites: 1 egg white provides just a trivial amount of both fat and carbs but 3.6 grams of protein.
Turkey Breast: Roasted turkey breast is just .8 grams of fat per serving and has 0 carbs.
Crabmeat: Alaskan King Crab is just .8 grams of fat per serving and zero carbs. Just skip the dipping butter!
Find out how to get our helpful 100+ item macro food list. It makes meeting your macro limits so much easier.
Carb Dominant (Pure) Foods
Here are some foods that are rich in carbs but free from all or most of the other macros. Use these foods when you need more carbohydrates but have already hit your limit on protein and fat or are about to.
While it would be simple to just eat tablespoons of sugar, I’ll focus here on healthier carb-rich foods.
Fruit: Most fruit is almost fat free and very low in protein: Here are some to choose.
- Banana: A medium size banana has less than .5 grams of fat and only 1.4 grams of protein.
- Apples: A large apple has less than a gram of both fat and protein.
- Blueberries: A cup has .5 grams of fat and only 1 gram of protein.
- Strawberries: A cup of strawberries has less than .5 grams of fat and only 1 gram of protein.
- Pears: A large pear has a trivial amount of fat and less than a gram of protein.
Honey: While honey is mainly pure sugar, it does offer some good health benefits1 so use this as a carb boosting sweetener when needed.
Sweet Potatoes: A medium sweet potato has a trivial amount of fat and just 2 grams of protein, but 23 grams of healthy carbs.
Butternut Squash: A cup of roasted butternut squash is virtually fat-free and contains less than 2 grams of protein.
Dried Fruit: Dried fruit is a quick way to boost your carb intake in a hurry. Just choose dried fruits with no added sugar and ones that are unsulfured.
- Trader Joe’s Unsulfured Apricots: 10 apricots is 50 grams of carbs, 0 grams of fat and only 2 grams of protein, plus 4 grams of fiber.
- Dried Figs: 5 dried figs delivers 26 grams of carbs, 0 grams of fat, and 1 gram of protein with 7 grams of fiber.
- Dried Dates: This “as good as candy” dried fruit contains 31 grams of carbs, 0 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 3 grams of fiber per 5 dates.
Fat Dominant (Pure) Foods
This is one macro group that I never have trouble reaching and one that I actually have to work at NOT going over, but I recognize that some flexible dieters may not find it as easy.
Especially if you had been stuck in a “low fat” mindset for a long time.
In any event, here are some foods that are rich in fat, but also in healthy fat:
Virgin Olive Oil: This monounsaturated oil has been linked to a lot of health benefits2 so use it when possible to boost your fat grams for the day. 1 tablespoon is 14 grams of fat and nothing else.
Virgin Coconut Oil: This fat has gained wide popularity over the last 5 years and also has health promoting properties. 1 tablespoon contains 14 grams of fat and no other macros.
Grassfed Butter: Grassfed butter also packs some nutrition along with the fat. 1 tablespoon is 11.5 grams of fat and has just a trace of carbs and protein.
Nuts: Nuts are high in fat, but do contain some protein and carbs. However, the fat they contain is healthy and by far the dominant macro.
- Almonds: 10 almonds has 6 grams of fat, 2.4 grams of carbs, and 2.6 grams of protein.
- Walnuts: 1 oz contains 18.5 grams of fat, 3.9 grams of carbs, and 4.3 grams of protein.
- Pecans: 1 oz delivers 20.4 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 2.6 grams of protein.
For a more indepth article on healthy fats see this article.
Will Going Over on a Macro Ruin My Diet?
Do not stress out if on a few days here or there you are over on one of your macros or under on some others. It will not “ruin” your diet.
The most important thing, in my opinion, is to hit as close to your TDEE as possible.
Macros are more for “fine tuning” your results, while your TDEE determines whether you lose, maintain, or gain.
So yes, strive to meet your macros as these will help you reach your goals as far as body composition is concerned, but eating 20 extra grams of fat on a particular day won’t derail your progress unless it puts you 180 calories over your TDEE.
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- Bogdanov, S., Jurendic, T., Sieber, R., & Gallmann, P. (2008). Honey for nutrition and health: a review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(6), 677-689.
- Cicerale, S., Lucas, L. J., & Keast, R. S. J. (2012). Antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phenolic activities in extra virgin olive oil. Current opinion in biotechnology, 23(2), 129-135.
- Lead image: Flickr