Thursday, December 28, 2017

Highly Palatable Food & Weight Management Issues


Our society has become pretty comfortable blaming just about anything for their weight management issues. Gluten, dairy, eating too little, even blood types have been suspects over the years. Although a relatively simple concept, admittedly there are a lot of nuances that go into a really successful dieting effort.

Tracking and adjusting your total calorie intake through macronutrient goals with tools like the IIFYM Macro Calculator or an online physique coach is a great place to start. Plenty of bogus excuses float around the Internet any given week.

Through all the bizarre justifications that should just be ignored altogether, one often-underestimated consideration in successful weight management is that of highly palatable foods and how they should fit into the daily intake.

What are Highly Palatable Foods?

By highly palatable foods, I’m referring to foods that you personally really enjoy consuming. Foods like pastries, chips, or comfort foods like pizza. Most often, highly palatable foods are those we not only deeply crave and enjoy but also tend to be very calorically dense. I typically refer to highly palatable foods as “fun” foods with the online clients I work with.

The reason being, it’s not that any one food or food group is “good” or “bad” but simply offer differing proportions of nutrients per calorie that must be taken into account with our current diet and body composition goals.

The IIFYM coaches help their clients understand it. Articles myself and others have written here on IIFYM explain it. And nutritional science continues to teach it. There’s simply no reason to completely restrict any one food for the sake of your physique or health goals (allergies and intolerances aside).

Instead, it is prudent to identify the very highly palatable foods to us personally. Then determine how they should fit into our overall diet goals while allowing us to balance our health & physique goals with pure enjoyment.

Blame Sweet Teeth, not Sweet Treats


highly palatable


Of all the unfairly blamed culprits for failed weight management, sugar has to be the most widely criticized. One of my most proud works as a fitness author, I have an in-depth article which covers the science behind just why blaming sugar in itself for widespread weight gain is largely-scientifically unfounded.

Checking that article out after this can help explain just why being afraid of sugar isn’t necessary. Along with that, it’s important to identify that these “high sugar” foods apparently causing all the country’s weight gain problems tend to be contributing much more than just added sugar for those who over-consume them on a weekly basis. (“over consume” being the key phrase).

Sugar can not only be part of a balanced diet but also can even serve as a beneficial tool for athletes during prolonged exercises or in need of additional calories to support weight gain goals.

Some of the common culprits contain just as much “non-sugar” carbohydrates and even more notably, calorically dense dietary fat to those consuming them regularly. The big factor is their very low volume in comparison to calorie content. In other words, they don’t take up much space but pack plenty of calories.

Making them very easy to consume in large quantities and easily overshoot intake needs with. It’s not the sugar in them causing you problems, it’s how likely you are to overeat with them, busting up your diet.


Food Serving Size Calories Carbs (grams) Fat (grams)
Snickers Bar 44 215 28 11
Glazed Donut 48 190 21 11
Oreos (4) 68 320 50 14


If you’re successfully tracking your daily food intake on a regular basis, having some of your daily carbohydrates from sugar in highly palatable foods isn’t going to derail your physique or health progress. What will cause major issues is completely blowing your daily macro goals with highly palatable foods you love but just aren’t able to enjoy in moderation when dieting.

Flexible to a Fault

Let’s explain this in a different way. As my Don’t Blame Sugar for Wide Spread Weight Gain article explains in full, it’s certainly possible to include some sugar-containing foods into your daily macro goals while still achieving health and body composition improvements.

Sugar can not only be part of a balanced diet but also can even serve as a beneficial tool for athletes during prolonged exercises or in need of additional calories to support weight gain goals. In those cases, highly palatable foods can be especially helpful.

breastfeeding calories

When highly palatable foods do become an issue is when we can’t incorporate them into our diet with moderation. Keep a package of Oreos in the cabinet and fit 1-2 into your diet here and there with leftover macros and progress will still keep on rolling along.

That is, as long as total macros and exercise are both adjusted appropriately from week to week. Keep that same Oreo package in your cabinet but plow through an entire sleeve in a sitting- that same innocent treat quickly derails a diet.

Food Selection by Physique Goal


hyper palatable


This article isn’t to suggest we should completely avoid highly palatable foods and stick with bland meals to prevent overeating. Instead, it’s to suggest we should align our eating habits with our current goals.

If you’re in the offseason focused on muscle growth and performance with a higher calorie intake to work with, then enjoying highly palatable foods will likely be easier while still hitting your intake goals more consistently.

Not to mention, these foods that may be less nutrient dense can still be consumed while easily consuming sufficient fruit, vegetables, whole grains and unsaturated fats with the higher macros you’re assigned.

On the other hand, when it comes time to diet and calories decline (and subsequently hunger levels rise), it may be prudent to buy less and less highly palatable foods. That way, triggers you may always struggle with are largely unavailable in your day-to-day routine. Making it easier to focus on eating geared towards your goals and not dreaming of your next oatmeal pie.

Midnight Snacks

As a personal example, I’m a self-proclaimed donut connoisseur. Mini little calorie bombs, you better believe when I’m not dieting, I’m never afraid to enjoy easily the most highly palatable food on earth. Roughly 200 calories for most original doughnuts and around 10g fat and 20-25g carbs, some of the best macros I spend in my week.

Now when it comes time to mini cut or especially begin contest prep, I almost entirely avoid donuts. One reason being, I want to maximize the use of limited macros to continue supporting general health. The other being, they’re quite calorically dense and take up a lot of macros, with little aid in satiety.

If my self-control ever wanes, I could easily knock back a half-dozen without blinking. It’s simply better to limit such a highly palatable food and make it easier on myself to adhere to my dieting macros.

If we’re the culmination of the five friends we surround ourselves with the most, our diets are the culmination of the food types we consume most as well.

By focusing on more nutrient dense, high volume foods and keeping highly palatable foods to a minimum, dieters can stay fuller for longer, ensure health-promoting nutrients are consumed sufficiently and avoid triggers that may make it much harder to adhere to the plan.

If you have an iron will, this may be irrelevant as you’re able to fit small portions of favorite foods into your lower macros without much difficulty. For the many others not quite as mindful with their macros, limiting those highly palatable, fun foods can be hugely beneficial for dieting success.

Not because energy balance is necessarily different from highly palatable foods versus other foods. Instead, simply because for most, adherence greatly improves as triggers are minimized and healthy, productive habits are cultivated.

Not many people wake up in the middle of the night and search for fruit, vegetables or whole grain bread to snack on. Cookies, cakes and other highly palatable, calorically dense treats on the other hand- they’re fair game! Limiting those can make otherwise tempting situation less likely to be an issue.

Addition by Subtraction


hyper palatable


If we’re the culmination of the five friends we surround ourselves with the most, our diets are the culmination of the food types we consume most as well. I can say from personal experience, along with dozens of conversations I’ve had with other online physique coaches, that dieting phases become much easier once highly palatable, calorie-dense foods are dropped from diets.

By avoiding them, we’re simply able to more easily keep health bases covered, and limit temptation in breaking dietary adherence when the one serving of packaged cookies is looking more appealing as five servings, regardless of remaining macros for the day.

Without pretending to be a psychologist, there’s something to be said about cravings increasing for a food the more often we eat or are around it. Nowadays if I’m in a mini cut or contest prep, I skip pastries nearly completely because the longer I go without them, the less often I am tempted to break my dietary adherence.

Pastries are my culinary kryptonite, so if I want to get through the dieting phase feeling as much like Superman as possible, I’m personally better off sticking to less craving inducing, more filling foods until I’m finished dieting. Then when calories are back up to a good spot I can more easily fit things like doughnuts into my macros.

Let’s Get This Straight

Sugar isn’t the enemy. Highly palatable foods aren’t the enemy. Non-organic foods aren’t the enemy. Our inability to adhere to a consistent diet that allows us to adjust our total daily calorie intake and support our exercise routines with is the enemy.

Continually fine-tuning our nutritional knowledge and areas we can personally tweak in our everyday life makes each phase of our dieting efforts easier to manage. Not to mention less mentally taxing as we continue pursuing the best version of ourselves, inside and out.


The post Highly Palatable Food & Weight Management Issues appeared first on IIFYM.

from IIFYM Recipes and Articles – IIFYM

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Nutrition in the Prevention and Management of Type-2 Diabetes


(Always consult your physician before starting a new diet. This includes using the recommendations from our macro calculator.)


In the epidemic of non-communicable diet and lifestyle disease, type-2 diabetes [“diabetes”] has emerged as a particular scourge: the leading cause of death under 60-years of age, and an annual cost of 263-billion dollars in North America in 2013 (1).

The population-based research showing a significant rise in diabetes prevalence over the past 50-years mirrors environmental changes in nutrition habits, food availability, diet composition, and population activity levels (2). The clear environmental determinants of diabetes risk and prevalence in turn point to the potential for diet and lifestyle interventions to be effective in diabetes prevention or remission.

The Relationship Between Bodyweight and Risk for Diabetes

There is a clear association between Body Mass Index [BMI] and risk for diabetes, but the risk is not exclusively linear: BMI varies greatly at time of diagnosis, which indicates that the risk is associated with underlying metabolic complications, including insulin resistance and decreased pancreatic beta-cell [which secrete insulin] function (3).

For example, in metabolically healthy subjects who had the same BMI at baseline, those who progressed to diagnosis 13-years later displayed higher fasting blood glucose [FPG], postprandial glucose tolerance [OGT], and decreased insulin sensitivity at baseline (4).

While this demonstrates that the underlying metabolic dysfunction is a primary issue, the risk is not wholly inseparable from weight, and overweight [BMI ≥25.0 kg/m2] and obesity [BMI ≥30.0 kg/m2] increase risk of diabetes by 3-fold and 7-fold, respectively (5).

In parallel to this risk, weight loss may significantly improve diabetes prevention: a 5-10kg average weight loss is associated with a 50% reduction in risk (6). This is relevant both to extant diabetes prevention, and prevention of progression from “prediabetes” – which refers to 3 states: isolated impaired fasting glucose [IFG], isolated impaired glucose tolerance [IGT], and both IFG and IGT together (7) – to diabetes. It is also relevant to the potential diabetes prevention in already diagnosed subjects.

Weight Loss for Prevention of Prediabetes Progression to Diabetes


diabetes prevention


There are 4 major trials across different populations showing diet and lifestyle interventions may be successful for diabetes prevention. In the Da Qing Study, prediabetic subjects in diet-only, exercise-only, or diet+exercise groups were successful in diabetes prevention by 22-29% on average (8).

Looking closer at the study, 38% of subjects in the diet-only group achieved diabetes prevention 6-years later compared to 60% in the control group, despite slightly more weight gain in the diet group (8).

In the exercise-only group, 43% of achieved diabetes prevention compared to 72% of controls, despite losing exactly the same amount of weight as controls (8). What this indicates is that diet and exercise influence the underlying metabolic complications – like insulin resistance and glucose tolerance – which may not be reflected by changes in BMI alone.

The preventative effect of diet and lifestyle interventions independent of BMI has been found in other trials. The Indian Diabetes Prevention Programme [IDPP-1] trial found a diet and lifestyle intervention was successful in diabetes prevention over 2.5-years, in a population with a high prevalence of progression to diabetes, despite no change in BMI (9).

This is consistent with the positive impact that diet and physical activity have on the prediabetic state, improving FPG and OGT and reducing risk of progression by increasing glucose tolerance and tissue insulin sensitivity (10).

However, while diet and exercise may improve FPG and OGT without a change in BMI, one of the issues with progression from prediabetes is continued decline in pancreatic beta-cell function and insulin secretion (11). This may be the crux of diabetes prevention through weight loss. In the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study, diabetes prevention of 58% at 3-years follow-up in prediabetic overweight subjects corresponded to an average weight loss of 3.5kg compared to 0.8kg in the control group (12; 13).

Diabetes Prevention Program Study

In the Diabetes Prevention Program [DPP], obese subjects with prediabetes were randomly assigned to an intervention of either metformin, diet+exercise, or placebo: diabetes prevention was 58% in the lifestyle group, compared to 31% in the metformin group (14).

This was a significant study, as it showed that diet+lifestyle was superior to frontline pharmacotherapy for diabetes prevention. In analyzing the respective effects of weight loss, diet or exercise separately, the strongest factor associated with diabetes prevention was an average weight loss of 5kg over 3-years (15). Of particular note was that the effect was independent of diet composition: weight loss was the most important factor (15).

…the primary dietary factor in diabetes prevention is energy restriction is confirmed in other lines of research.

The challenge that is clear in the research is that failure to maintain weight loss may negate the ability of the intervention for diabetes prevention. In the DPP, fasting glucose levels returned to their prediabetic baseline after 3.5-years as subjects increased weight from their initial 7% bodyweight reduction to 4% (14).

In another study, an average of 2.6kg weight loss did increase insulin sensitivity but failed to restore beta-cell function (16). In the Da Qing Study long-term follow up 20-years later, 80% in the diet/lifestyle intervention group had progressed to diabetes compared to 93% of controls (17). And in the Finnish DPS, 10-year results showed that relapses in weight corresponded to deteriorations in glucose tolerance (18).

This isn’t intended to be disheartening to diabetes prevention, but it does indicate that, cumulatively, the research suggests that weight loss and maintenance of 5kg or ≥5% bodyweight is required for diabetes prevention from prediabetes (13; 15; 16).

Nutrition in Diabetes Prevention


diabetes prevention


While bariatric surgery can be an effective intervention for diabetes prevention (19), the fact that it is a surgical intervention and not a nutritional one means this article won’t touch on bariatric surgical procedures for diabetes prevention. Instead, the relevant focus will be on the evidence for nutrition in diabetes prevention.

However, the effects of bariatric surgery provide some clues as to the requirements for diabetes prevention through diet, as significant drops in blood glucose occur within days following surgery prior to any weight loss, in fact, occurring (20). This indicates that the sudden restriction of dietary energy is a primary driver of diabetes remission through surgery (20).

That the primary dietary factor in diabetes prevention is energy restriction is confirmed in other lines of research. Very-low-calorie liquid diets [VLCD] have been a focus of diabetes prevention in clinical settings, and are effective in inducing remission of diabetes.

In a trial in adults with diagnosed diabetes, a 600kcal per day VLCD normalized FPG after 1 week, and by the end of the 8-week intervention both beta-cell insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity had normalized (21).

Why VLCD Isn’t A Long-Term Approach

Part of the critique of VLCD is the ability to sustain long-term clinical effect; in this study subjects gained an average of 3kg in the 12-weeks after the intervention, however, they had lost 15kg during the intervention, and the modest weight regain did not correspond to increases in HbA1c [a marker of long-term blood glucose control] or liver fat (21).

The 15kg weight loss target from VLCD is consistent with the threshold for diabetes prevention observed post-bariatric surgery (22). However, it is clear from the VLCD research that there are responders and non-responders over longer-term maintenance, with one study showing that only 40% maintained remission over 6-months (23).

breastfeeding calories

This is still very clinically significant, however, the caveat of the VLCD research is that it is performed under clinical supervision, and should only be undertaken in medical care.

In the VLCD research, one of the explanations for the return of insulin sensitivity is the decrease in fat in the liver and pancreas, and the effect of reducing circulating fatty acids (21; 23). This is important, as much of the recent focus on low-carb, high-fat [LCHF] diets led to some poor diet advice regarding fat intake circulating the internet [see: Coffee, Butter].

Don’t Dismiss Dietary Fat

However, dietary fats do play a role in the development of diabetes, and nutrition interventions for diabetes prevention need to provide appropriate fat balance. In prediabetic subjects, saturated fats increase FPG and high saturated fat intake may be as deleterious for insulin sensitivity as increasing body fatness (7).

In a controlled feeding trial in both normal glucose tolerant and prediabetic subjects, a high saturated fat intake led to increased whole-body insulin resistance (24).

On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats – in particular, omega-3 fatty acids – have a positive effect on glucose tolerance (24), and research shows replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces diabetes risk (25).

This is an important qualifier when it comes to research looking at diabetes prevention from LCHF diets: the diet setups may be higher in total fat, but they remain lower in saturated fat with emphasis placed on added fats from unsaturated sources (26; 27).

Thus, while there is nothing wrong with a higher total fat diet, the quality and balance of fat subtypes does matter and for optimal metabolic – not just cardiovascular – health, the diet should be lower overall in saturated fat and should emphasize unsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, fish, and eggs (2).

VLCKD As An Interventions

There are certain proponents of carbohydrate-restricted diets as the primary dietary intervention for diabetes prevention (28). However, a complication with this research area is it is fraught with bias, and one major issue is the lack of any real definition of “low-carb”. So, let’s take a deeper look at the potential for a degree of carbohydrate restriction to be effective in diabetes prevention. The first issue is the degree of restriction: how “low” might one need to go?

Certain research suggests that very-low-carb-ketogenic diets [VLCKD] – with carbohydrate restriction to 20-50g or <10% total energy – are superior to standard very-low-calorie-diets for diabetes prevention (28).

However, the research cited in support of such a proposition didn’t control for calories in the VLCKD diet yet provided a 2,200kcal/d diet as a control diet (29). This is a major limitation, as VLCKD are noted to lead to spontaneous reductions in energy intake, an effect attributable to higher dietary protein intake replacing carbohydrates (30).

Thus, in the absence of the diets being truly controlled for energy intake, the study (29) was not comparing like with like in terms of impacts on glycemic control.

Low, Moderate or High Carb Diet


diabetes prevention


In a recent long-term trial over 1-year, obese subjects with diabetes were assigned either a low-carb diet of 14% carbohydrate [<50g/d] and 58% fat [with <10% saturated fat] or an isocaloric high-carb diet of 53% carbohydrate and 30% fat [also with <10% saturated fat] (27).

The equating of saturated fat was an important strength of the study, controlling for a nutrient which could impact on insulin resistance (7; 24). In addition, even though the diets differed in carbohydrate content, the study controlled for the glycemic index to minimize the differential effects of simple vs. complex carbohydrates (27).

After 1-year, weight loss was similar in both groups, as were reductions in FPG and HbA1c; the low-carb group did reduce diabetes medications and triglycerides to a greater degree (27).

There are two aspects which emerge from this study: 1) the importance of glycemic index, i.e. carbohydrate quality, and; 2) whether very low carb <50g/d is in fact required for improving glycemic control in diabetes prevention.

In particular, the greater degree of carbohydrate restriction in the short-term over 3–6-months led to greater reductions in HbA1c; over 1-year there was no significant difference between low-moderate or high carb diets (31).

In relation to the former, the research shows that high fiber, low GI diets are associated with diabetes prevention and in extant diabetes, low GI diets lead to greater reductions in HbA1c (2). Thus, relevant to the discussion of the exact amount of carbohydrate in the diet is the stipulation that the type of carbohydrate be complex, unrefined, high fiber, low GI carbohydrates.

The latter question is, however, the divisive one: is “very-low” required, or can more moderate carb diets achieve diabetes prevention?

A recent meta-analysis provides the fairest representation of the state of the evidence overall in specific relation to diabetes prevention, and compared diets with 45-60% carbohydrate [high-carb] with diets <45% carbohydrate [low-to-moderate carb] from randomized controlled trials – average intake in the low-moderate trials was 30% (31). A strong feature of this meta-analysis was the inclusion of studies which quantified carbohydrate intake by percentage, with 4 studies reporting on actual intake in grams (31).

Long-Term Study Results

The results indicate that low-moderate carb diets led to greater reductions in HbA1c over 1-year than high-carb diets (31). In particular, the greater degree of carbohydrate restriction in the short-term over 3–6-months led to greater reductions in HbA1c; over 1-year there was no significant difference between low-moderate or high carb diets (31). This meta-analysis also confirmed that there was a greater reduction in medication over 3–6-months in low-moderate carb diets (31), an effect observed in other trials (27).

One of the salient features of this meta-analysis – which is a consistent observation in the literature – is that whatever the percentage of initial carbohydrate restriction, carbohydrate intake amongst subjects incrementally increases when analyzed over the longer term (>12-24m).

This should be considered in light of the greater drop-out rates in low-carb diet groups in the included studies (31). This suggests that practically for diabetes prevention, the degree of restriction of CHO <20-30% of calories in neither necessary for treatment effect over the long term, nor achievable in free-living settings.

Ultimately, the contentions of marked superiority to very low-carb diets are simply not borne out in high quality randomized controlled trials – improvements in glycemic control occur with a reduction in energy <45% (31).

In a recent trial, prediabetic obese adults were randomized to a diet of either 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrate vs. a control diet of 15% protein, 30% fat and 55% carbohydrate: after 6-months, the higher protein/lower carb group had achieved 100% remission to normal glucose tolerance compared to only 33% of subjects in the standard diet (26).

The overall weight of the literature certainly supports reducing carbohydrate intake from >50% to <45%; it does not support any real need to go <20% for therapeutic effect, and <30% appears to be practically unsustainable in free-living conditions.



diabetes prevention


Let’s recap the foregoing paragraphs with a synopsis of the research:

Nutrition interventions can be successful in diabetes prevention;

Weight loss is a fundamental, overarching goal in both pre-diabetic and diabetic states;

In “prediabetes” – impaired fasting blood glucose, impaired glucose tolerance, or both FPG + IGT, the primary goal is weight loss and maintenance of 5-10kg or 5-10% baseline weight;

In extant diabetes, very-low-calorie liquid meal replacement diets may be employed to induce remission, but only under clinical supervision;

Very-low-carb-ketogenic diets do not appear to be necessary, but may certainly be strategically employed in the short-term (3-months) to achieve greater glycemic control;

Low-moderate carb diets, defined as energy intake from carbs 20-45%, may be the appropriate intervention generally going over 3–6-months. Lower intake does not appear to be necessary over the long-term;

The carbohydrate type should be unrefined, whole grain, complex [i.e. low GI] carbohydrates;

Protein is favored as the ideal replacement nutrient for carbs;

Fat composition should emphasize added unsaturated fats from plant sources and oily fish.

It is generally acknowledged that diabetes prevention can be achieved through diet and lifestyle change. However, the interventions in research often involve intensive in-person counseling, diet guidance, supervision, and in some cases prepared meals.

If you’re dealing with prediabetes or extant diabetes, make sure to work with a Registered Dietician or regulated nutritionist legally entitled to give medical nutrition advice, in conjunction with your medical supervisors.


The post Nutrition in the Prevention and Management of Type-2 Diabetes appeared first on IIFYM.

from IIFYM Recipes and Articles – IIFYM

Friday, December 15, 2017

10 Low-Calorie Starbucks Drinks Worth Your Macros


1. Dark Chocolate Light Frappuccino

One of the most popular Starbucks drinks ever, we had to give you a way of enjoying this rich, smooth, chocolatey dream the low calorie way!!!


Grande, Dark Mocha Light Frappuccino, no whip


F: 1 C: 34 P: 5

Calories: 160

2. Grande Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

Recipe by @TheMacrosBarista on Instagram

Just in time for the holidays, when you want to grab a low calorie Starbucks drinks, add hot toasted white mocha to your list after you hit the iron!


Grande Toasted White Mocha with 2 pumps toasted white mocha syrup, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla (or Splenda) and Half water, Half coconut Water.


F: 3 C:29 P: 1

Calories: 150

3. Grande Cappuccino

For the foam lovers of the world, it’s easy to hit your macros with cappuccinos. Soft, velvety foam and of course, caffeine, without going over on your numbers!


Grande 2% Cappuccino


F: 4 C: 12 P: 8

Calories: 120

4. Skinny Non-Fat Mocha

What kind of list would this be WITHOUT a classic mocha made into a low calorie Starbucks drinks addition??? Chocolate and coffee were made to go together, so you should be able to enjoy them while reaching your goals!


Grande, 1% milk, Mocha


F: 1.5 C: 24 P: 14

Calories: 160

5. Vanilla Chai Tea Latte

Recipe by @TheMacroBarista on Instagram

One of the most requested low calorie recipes of all time, grab you a vanilla chai for only 110 calories!


Grande (Hot or iced), Coconut milk, 2 pumps chai, 2 pumps sugar free vanilla.

breastfeeding calories


F: 4.5 C: 18 P: 8

Calories: 110

6. Skinny Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Is it really even the holidays without hot chocolate? Cozy up with one of these for your low calorie Starbucks drinks.


Grande Skinny Peppermint Hot Chocolate


F: 1.5 C: 23 P: 13

Calories: 160

7. Iced Pumpkin Spice Macchiato

Recipe by @TheMacroBarista on Instagram

If you’re into pumpkin foodstuffs as much as nearly everyone, this drink is perfection in a cup. Sweet, spicy, and PRETTY, this low calorie version of Pumpkin Spice is ingenious!


Grande Latte macchiato, 2 pumps pumpkin sauce, half coconut milk, half water, extra pumpkin spice topping.


F: 2.5 C: 26 P: >1

Calories: 125

8. Gingerbread Latte

There is something extremely comforting about Gingerbread in a cup. These low calorie Starbucks drinks offer up the caffeine and gingerbread- a combo that is definitely what’s up.


Tall, 1%, Gingerbread Latte, no whip


F: 0 C: 39 P: 12

Calorie: 200

9. Java Chip Frappuccino

While dieters are cringing on daily wheatgrass shots, it’s okay, you can feel a little smug that you can make this low calorie frappuccino fit your macros.


Tall, Java Chip Light Frappuccino, No Whip


F: 3 C: 29 P: 4

10. Tazo Zen Tea

When you’re wanting to go on a low calorie Starbucks drinks binge, this is your beverage of choice. It’s subtle and perfect for sipping and studying without worrying at all if it fits. Grab it hot or cold, whatever’s your cup of tea.


Venti Zen Hot Tea


F: 0 C: 0 P: 0

Calories: 0


*All of the links to the original recipes or the recipes these stemmed from, are located in the reference box below.


The post 10 Low-Calorie Starbucks Drinks Worth Your Macros appeared first on IIFYM.

from IIFYM Recipes and Articles – IIFYM

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Macros Matter But Calories Are King


If you’re reading this (no it’s not too late as Drake may suggest), then you likely also read my recent article outlining the importance of tracking macros for long-term physique development. (Something the IIFYM Macro Calculator can help you out with).

In that article, I alluded to the fact that tracking daily calorie intake is a great place to start when paying more attention to dietary habits. I then proceed to explain how macro tracking comes into play. Well, that’s fine and well for those of us that have already had plenty of experience tracking daily calorie intake, but what about everyone else just getting started (or the non-believers)?

Some of you may be brand new to tracking your daily calorie intake and wondering just where to start. For that reason, I’m back again to explain why, although tracking macros is beneficial, understanding and accounting for total daily calorie intake is a key fundamental principle. That it will only make everything else in the future that much more productive as you continue progressing with your dietary adjustments.

For those new to counting kcals and dropping lbs, I’m covering some of the major considerations for long-term success as you build the foundation that will serve you well as you continue developing your dietary strategies for improved health and better physique development.

Energy Balance & Weight Management

A simplistic explanation to say the least, but necessary for keeping this article focused on the topic at hand, thermodynamics is a set of four laws which explain the transfer and general properties of energy between a system and its surroundings.

In relation to body composition changes and daily calorie intake, we can think of this as “energy in vs. energy out.” Now before moving any further, it’s important to briefly note that long-term body composition changes go quite significantly beyond general energy balance.

Thinking of weight management as calories consumed versus expended is a great starting point, but as articles like my flexible dieting vs calorie counting article help highlight- other factors contribute to long-term success as well.

That being said though, it does certainly create a solid foundation to then build from. All things being equal, if your average daily calorie intake is exceeding your body’s ability to use those calories (think of it as fuel for the machine) for various bodily processes and energy production, you’re going to generally be in a state where additional weight gain is likely through increased body fat storage. Even if those calories are from a “health food,” they’re still calories, and they can still contribute to weight gain through effecting your overall energy balance.

Any Food can be a Fattening Food


daily calorie intake


Energy balance now in mind, it can be pretty easy to understand why labeling foods as “healthy” or “unhealthy” is a bit of a disservice to ourselves as a diet-conscious society. Sure we need to pay attention to nutrient-density (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and the like).

However as we mentioned above- calories are units of energy provided in various amounts through food. It can be as organic and vitamin-packed as they come, but if your daily calorie intake is exceeding your current metabolic rate and daily average energy expenditure, you could still be gaining additional body fat.

Consume an additional 500 calories from organic avocado and although you may be also consuming health-promoting vitamins and minerals- you’re still going to gain virtually the same weight as you would by consuming 500 calories from a high-fat candy bar or cake.

Once accustomed to the inner workings of such an app, you can spend the next 3-5 days simply logging your normal eating habits as compared to what a “normal” day of eating is for you.

It has to be mentioned that, yes quality does come into play. As my flexible dieting article covers- the breakdown of macronutrients comprising daily calorie intake, and to a degree, micronutrient content can certainly have some long-term contributions to better or worse body composition.

In the grand scheme though, if you’re total daily calorie intake isn’t adequate for your goal- the rest will have an otherwise negligible effect. In other words, if you’re eating far too little calories, you’re unlikely to gain much muscle naturally. A daily calorie intake far and away from creating a negative energy balance will prevent you from losing body fat consistently, no matter how “healthy” the foods are that you’re consuming.

The Protein Priority

Although this article is covering the importance of tracking total daily calorie intake and not necessarily tracking macros, it’s worth mentioning at least tracking protein within your daily intake can be a great next step. In relation to weight management, some reasons tracking protein can be beneficial are due to some unique benefits to weight management.

One being, protein requires much more energy to process and use than carbs or fat. This higher energy requirement (thermic effect of food) makes protein less likely to contribute to body fat. In addition, protein is also quite satiating due to the specific digestion process required to break it down.

Both of these aspects make it helpful in long-term weight management. Not to mention its importance in muscle recovery and growth. If you’re not quite ready to track protein, carbs and fat; at least consuming a consistent protein goal within your daily calorie intake can be a helpful compromise in the meantime.

Determining Daily Calorie Intake


daily calorie intake

Example Screenshot From Our IIFYM Calculator


If you’ve recently become interested in tracking your daily calorie intake for the first time, there are a few methods you can use to get a rough idea of where to start in terms of daily calorie intake, which you can then begin adjusting from week to week based on our muscle growth or fat loss goals.

I personally suggest most individuals simply download a smartphone application like MyMacros+ that makes it easy and convenient to track the foods you eat from day to day.

Once accustomed to the inner workings of such an app, you can spend the next 3-5 days simply logging your normal eating habits as compared to what a “normal” day of eating is for you. Then, take those 3-5 daily calorie intake totals and average them together.

breastfeeding calories

This will result in an average daily calorie intake you can then use as your official starting point in tracking intake consistently. Follow that average intake as your first week’s baseline goal- then in the following weeks you can monitor your bodyweight change, energy levels and strength progression in the gym to determine when and what degree to adjust your daily calorie intake goal each week to match your current body composition goals.

Tracking Where it Counts

Following this strategy can make it much more effective of a starting point since you’re better able to start at an intake that your body is currently adapted to. If for instance, you suddenly began following an arbitrary, pre-determined daily calorie intake goal, you may be overshooting your body’s current ability to use calories, or severely under eating- potentially causing unnecessary, negative metabolic adaptions in the way of muscle loss or fat gain.

This is why online physique coaches such as myself, and the IIFYM Macro Coaches can never in good conscience tell someone they should eat (x) amount of calories without knowing their specific body composition, physical activity, and recent eating habits. It just leaves far too much on the table in terms of personal needs.

In our recent flexible dieting article, I provide insight into the most personalized way to find your ideal, baseline intake to then begin adjusting from week to week based on your goals. If you’re already tracking your total daily calorie intake successfully, taking that next step toward tracking specific macros can be a relatively easy, but very beneficial next step for your body composition goals.

If you’re interested in learning more, please check out that article here. For a more time efficient starting point, the IIFYM macro calculator is a great tool to check out as well.

Adjusting Daily Calorie Intake


daily calorie intake


Once you’ve gotten a consistent, baseline daily calorie intake, you’ll need to adjust that intake periodically based on your physique goals. If the goal is to gain muscle, it’s prudent to slowly increase daily calorie intake to ensure your body is in an environment conducive to quality muscle growth and maximized training performance while promoting an increased metabolic capacity.

All while balancing that fine line between calories to support health, performance and daily energy levels with an excess intake that will just lead to unwanted, unnecessary body fat accumulation.

…the success of a diet first starts with calorie balance in relation to weight management goals, and only then can the nuances of more detailed diet programming have an impact.

The opposite holds true for fat loss, with the same principles nearly mirrored. Since our bodies undergo various metabolic adaptions as calories are restricted and fat loss occurs, it’s important to approach fat loss in a very gradual manner. (1,2)

It may be tempting to slash daily calorie intake for immediate fat loss. However doing so will lead to extreme metabolic adaptions, increase muscle loss, and just make the entire dieting process much less enjoyable and manageable along the way. Whether you’re looking to get jacked or slim down, remember just how accurate “The Tortoise and The Hare” fable is in relation to body composition goals. Be the tortoise!

Adjustment Guidelines

As with determining baseline daily calorie intake, it’s very difficult to give hard and fast rules for things like dietary adjustments. Not only will each person’s exact needs differ, but the degree of change will differ even between stages of a diet or growth phase.

That being said though, once again- smaller changes are almost always better. At the end of the day, you can always make slightly bigger changes in the following weeks if needed. It’s harder though, to backtrack after making extreme changes.

Generally, I see changes pretty often within the quite large range of ~400 weekly calories (~57kcals daily deficit) to around 800 calories (-114kcals daily deficit). It’s certainly possible to structure and adjust one’s own dietary strategies from week to week with success, however it may just mean additional self-education along the way combined with a bit of trial and error.

For those with room in the budget and interested in truly hitting the ground running. Using dietary adjustments and general dieting strategies are something that coaches with plenty of experience with a variety of athletes such as  IIFYM Coaches can come in handy.

Down for the Count

The changes made and makeup of daily calorie intake can vary among people. The rule that holds each person in common though is that daily calorie intake needs to be consistent and adequate before other dietary strategies can be successfully implemented.

Keto, carb-based, high protein or minimal protein- the success of a diet first starts with calorie balance in relation to weight management goals, and only then can the nuances of more detailed diet programming have an impact.

If we need to crawl before we can walk and eventually run; tracking calories is one of the most important first steps a person can make toward successful body composition changes. Not only does it allow consistency each week that can be strategically adjusted along the way, but also highlights the ability to freely choose foods based on preference, budget, and specific health goals.

Not following strict, unnecessary meal plans that just aren’t manageable over the long term. At that point, you’ll have the ability to fully maximize future efforts in fine-tuning things like food sources, macronutrient breakdown and meal timing to continue reaching your absolute best self along the way.

If you have more questions about flexible dieting, IIFYM, or following a sustainable diet, check out our FAQ and SAQ (Should Ask Questions).

The post Macros Matter But Calories Are King appeared first on IIFYM.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What Stimulates Muscle Growth More…Whole Eggs or Egg Whites?


You are woken up by an early text message from your friend.

They say “Remember we had that discussion about egg nutrition? I told you whole eggs are better than egg whites.”

With one eye open, you message back and say, “What the heck are you talking about?”

Your friend tells you to check Instagram and Facebook.

You scroll down your phone, your feeds are flooded with headlines from the New York Times saying, “Whole Eggs are Better for you Than Egg Whites.”

While scratching your head you are thinking “WTF?”

I just stocked up on a months’worth of liquid egg white cartons.

You begin reading the article frantically while biting your nails.

The writer completely takes the conclusions out of context to freak you out even more.

After that, you storm into the kitchen and throw all your egg white cartons away and start buying whole eggs in bulk.

You see where we are going with this?

This happens every day with false article headlines, misleading interpretations of the scientific data, and then coaches, clients, and uneducated consumers fret and go off and do extreme things.

This new study HERE is a perfect example of this (1).

Throughout the rest of this article we will break down this new article about egg nutrition and its claim on whole eggs are better than egg whites for muscle growth.

Don’t throw your egg white cartons away just yet 😉

Egg Nutrition Study and What in the World is “Muscle Protein Synthesis?”

Let’s break down some key points here in the egg nutrition study we are going to be discussing.

    • 10 subjects (healthy young males)
    • The study claims it was resistance-trained subjects, but we never really know how experienced these subjects are with weight lifting
    • They took all subjects through a decent resistance training program and immediately after gave them 18g of protein via whole eggs or 18g of protein via egg whites
    • The results showed that whole eggs stimulated muscle protein synthesis (MPS) acutely over liquid egg whites

breastfeeding calories

Now, you’re probably like what in the world is muscle protein synthesis and what does it matter to me?

The best analogy we can give you is from Professor Stuart Phillips from McMaster University (2):

“Imagine your muscle as a brick wall, when new bricks get delivered these are the amino acids from proteins, on one end of the wall there’s a process to put bricks in which is muscle protein accretion and on the other end of the wall you take bricks out which is muscle protein breakdown. Protein synthesis is the bricks end of the wall and bricks out of the wall is protein breakdown and the net difference between the two are net muscle protein balance and this would be the rate at which your making things and subtracting at which the rate your breaking them down, if that’s in a positive direction the wall gets bigger (i.e., muscle growth) or if it’s in the negative direction your muscle shrinks. Protein ingestion and resistance training is a potent stimulus to make the brick wall bigger and stronger (i.e., stimulate the protein synthetic process).”

We know that’s a lot to take in but trust us when we say that analogy compared to the way textbooks break it down is a lot more digestible.

Now, let’s look at some of the egg nutrition study limitations:


egg nutrition


    • Only 10 subjects and all males, it would be interesting to see a larger sampling size and with women as well
    • The study claims it was resistance-trained subjects, but we never really know how experienced these subjects are with weightlifting, so it’s great to see this study replicated in true resistance trained subjects
    • This study investigated whole eggs vs egg whites in isolation. Very few if any people we know just eat in this fashion
    • This study looked at acute MPS (meal by meal). The effects of MPS for muscle growth need to be considered over time and long-term (days, weeks, months) and that includes consumption of other foods throughout the day (3)

The total protein consumption in both conditions was only 18 grams, prior research shows you may need at least 20g of a high-quality protein to sufficiently maximize protein synthesis after resistance training (4) or even up 30-40g to stimulate MPS (5).

So, it’s not clear how results would change with more usual consumption (i.e. double that amount) or if MPS was looked at over a longer term.

Practical Applications

Remember we said not to throw out your egg white cartons just yet?

The reason being this is an interesting study that suggests other nutrients besides protein may enhance anabolism.

That said, it’s important to point out that ultimately the effects of MPS for muscle growth need to be considered over time (days, weeks, months) and that includes consumption of other foods throughout the day (carbohydrates and fats).

Instead of worrying about egg nutrition, specifically whole vs egg whites as a protein source for muscle growth, consider the hierarchy of importance for daily dietary protein…

While it’s possible that there are unique properties to whole eggs that maximize anabolism (i.e. lipids, micronutrients, antioxidant carotenoids, and microRNAs), it alternatively may well be that these properties are sufficiently available in other foods we normally eat (depending on one’s overall diet).

We’d also note, it’s always important to look at the context of a study when drawing evidence-based conclusions.

Instead of fretting over this new egg nutrition study, let’s wait until there’s more data conducted on it, and in the meantime, focus on these suggestions we have for you:

      • If you don’t have a cholesterol issue, then it’s okay to have whole eggs
      • If you don’t prefer whole eggs (specifically the yolk), it’s fine to have liquid egg whites as a substitute
      • If you are a coach, we wouldn’t recommend forcing your clients to eat whole eggs or even egg whites if they don’t have a personal preference for it. This is how our coaches go about it.
      • If you think whole eggs aren’t nutritious, you are flat out wrong, research shows the yolk is nutrient dense and may contain a variety of bioactive compounds (see above). The removal of the yolk and its associated nutrients from eggs may limit the stimulation of MPS rates as well as well as overall human health (6)
      • Instead of worrying about egg nutrition, specifically whole vs egg whites as a protein source for muscle growth, consider the hierarchy of importance for daily dietary protein (7):
      1. Total Daily Protein Intake – what matters most is hitting your total protein goal at the end of the day (i.e., if your total target protein goal is 200g, then focus on hitting that number)
      2. Protein Distribution – it’s important to evenly distribute your protein at however many meals you eat per day (i.e., 150g per day and 4 meals per day, should be 50g per meal) this way it keeps MPS elevated and MPB (muscle protein breakdown) lowered (Side Note: a good tool to track your protein goal is IIFYM flexible dieting calculator)
      3. Protein Quality – including high-quality protein sources (animal sources) such as Eggs, chicken, milk, beef, fish, etc. To stimulate MPS due to the high leucine content and strong amino acid profiles
      4. Specific Protein Timing (pre/post workout or before bed)- Having enough protein pre and post workout for recovery is important for muscle growth and remodeling, as well as having high-quality protein before bed to keep your body in an anabolic environment.

Now that you got some great info on egg nutrition, specifically regarding whole eggs vs egg whites, keep in mind the hierarchy of importance for daily dietary protein intake is what matters most.

It’s easy to run away with a study like this and say “see, I told you whole eggs are better than egg whites.”

Which is mostly true, but it should never be looked at as a black and white statement or end all be all situation.

Enough with us blabbing away about egg nutrition…Go and enjoy that beautiful sizzling sound of when you have the frying pan on medium-high and you pour your eggs into the pan and get your muscle gainzzz on 😊


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