If you’re overwhelmed with restrictive diets, trying out “if it fits your macros” just might do the trick. Instead of being restricted to only five foods or following a set meal plan blindly, this type of diet gives you a lot more flexibility and leeway. While you still can’t eat anything you want (any product or diet that tells you that is a scam), properly using the IIFYM system does provide a lot of freedom.
So, what is IIFYM exactly? Its primary focus centers on tracking your macronutrients – protein, carbs, and fats. Calories are only secondary. If your daily meals and ingredients fit into your planned macros, you can (theoretically) eat anything.
What is IIFYM – The Details
Designed by Anthony Collova, its focus on macronutrients makes it quite different from regular diets.
Macronutrients are the food molecules that we turn into energy by breaking them down. Note that alcohol, while also a macronutrient, should be a minimal part of your diet.
The four types of macros are:
- Carbohydrates – one gram has four calories.
- Fats – nine calories per gram.
- Protein – has four calories per gram.
The best part of flex dieting is that you can use it for both weight loss and weight gain. As long as you adjust your macros properly, and stick to them, you can have a very wide selection of foods.
Why is it better than other diets?
Diets need to be sustainable in the short-term and in the long-term if they are to succeed. In other words, the best diet for you is the one that looks like it’s something you can incorporate into your lifestyle. Below, we listed out the advantages, and some disadvantages, of IIFYM meal plans.
You Get A Better Understanding Of Nutrition
As you track your macros over time, you will develop a kind of sixth sense when it comes to your foods.
For example, many people complain about not being able to lose weight, even though they think they are doing everything “right”. Part of their troubles might be that they don’t really understand how many fats (and thus how many calories) mayonnaise has, for example. Maybe they avoid processed foods, but still binge on fat and calorie-heavy foods like almonds and peanuts.
Understanding the concepts behind IIFYM bodybuilding and amateur dieting means you will make better choices. You might choose a veggie-based stir fry instead of pasta, or a steak instead of a cheeseburger. These foods might have, depending on their portions, the same number of calories, but they will have wildly different fat/protein/carb ratios.
Greater chance of achieving weight goals
Research has shown that high-protein diets tend to have higher success rates. Like we mentioned above, understanding the composition of your foods means you will make fewer mistakes with your meals.
Furthermore, understanding the basic principles of IIFYM meal systems means you can “course-correct” more easily. So if you messed up with your breakfast, you could still compensate by modifying your dinner and lunch.
Easy to stick to
Well, relatively. Due to its flexibility, you can minimize temptations by indulging slightly and from time to time. Instead of giving up on your favorite foods forever, you can treat yourself as long as they fit your macros, and IIFYM weight loss is pretty much guaranteed.
Saying you can eat anything is a bit of an overstatement. Macronutrient ratios are your primary concern. However, you do have essentially minimal restrictions.
For example, if you want to, you can have a milkshake with your cheeseburger and fries. However, this can make the rest of your meals for the day a bit stricter, requiring cleaner foods. There is little stopping you from eating fatty foods on a regular basis, as long as the rest of your daily intake is clean.
Like any diet, it has its issues. First of all, long-term weight loss success depends primarily on lifestyle challenges that you can stick to for a long time. Adherence is vital. But, there are some other points that are only specific to the IIFYM diet.
Can trigger eating disorders
For people with a tendency towards eating disorders, tracking their daily caloric intake and macronutrients can only make their lives worse.
For people struggling with their self-image and their relationship to food, flexible dieting can push them deeper into eating disorders.
It (can be) incomplete
IIFYM makes no mention of micronutrients. Its primary focus is on macros. Vitamins and minerals are pretty much ignored. If taken to the extreme, you can have 100% adherence to this diet, lose weight, but end up sick because of a lack of micronutrients.
An easy way to deal with this issue is to have as many fresh veggies and fruits become part of your carbohydrate intake. Eating lean meat and fish is much better for you than pork and processed meats.
Diet vs. Flexible Dieting Lifestyle
There is no miracle cure, no quick fix, and no magic wand. You still need to put in the effort. Most diets fail because they are a short-term thing. It’s best if you incorporate this system into your life. Once you reach your goal weight, you can relax a bit, but stay mindful of your macros at least on a general level.
Finally, remember to consult your doctor before you make any significant lifestyle changes. This is especially important for people with specific preexisting conditions.
How To Start Counting Macros
While calculators (which can be found online easily) are great, you can pretty much do this at home, alone.
First, you need to figure out what your basal metabolic rate is. For men, you apply the following: 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years) .
Women should apply: 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)
BMR is basically how many calories your body burns at rest. Then, you want to add your daily activity to the equation, which gives your TDEE, your total daily energy expenditure. This includes workouts, but also how physically demanding your job is (compare a construction worker with a person sitting in the office all day).
IIFYM explained- through math. Finally, the macros themselves. Your protein intake should be somewhere between 0.7 and 1.1 grams per pound, fats between 0.25 and 0.4, while the rest goes to your carbs.
Note: if you want to lose weight, these numbers can vary a bit, where you should add some extra protein, lower your fats, and shoot at a caloric deficit of between 10-20%.
Some Practical Tips and Frequently Asked Questions
Of course, putting this all into practice is not as easy as just reading about it. Try to work out a system that helps you stick to the above rules. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you can even be sloppy at the beginning. Just try to make it as precise as possible as time goes by.
Tools, Apps, and Calculators
As we’ve mentioned above, you need to track these every day. That’s probably the hardest part of the IIFYM system. You need to make this as simple as possible so you can actually stick to it.
Probably the easiest thing you can do is get an app like MyFitness pal, or basically any calorie tracking app that lets you keep an eye on your macros. Having some notes on a guide to flexible dieting (like ours) can also help.
Another option is creating a google sheet or excel template.
Familiarize yourself with Food
Most people don’t actually have that much variety in their diets. We usually stick to a couple of types of meat, the same dairy products, the fruits and vegetables that are in season in our area…
Keeping a list of the foods you like to eat (by using the above tools for example) will over time help you actually memorize their macros. Portion sizes in restaurants, diners, grocery stores, and fast food joints also don’t vary that much.
After a while, all this becomes almost second nature.
What should my macros be on keto?
As you probably know already, keto is super high in protein and fats, while very low in carbs (so you can enter that fabled ketosis state). Basically, you want to “trick” your body into burning more fat for energy.
A standard keto diet should have around 70% of your calories coming from fats, 25% from protein, and no more than 5% from carbohydrates. If you want to lose fat but keep (or even gain) as much muscle as possible, a ratio of 33% protein and 62% fats is a good idea.
What should my macros be for weight loss?
This is something of a difficult question, since it really depends on your activity levels, body fat percentage, and overall lifestyle. Furthermore, your macros need to be set up in such a way as to keep you in a caloric deficit.
We suggest the following:
- Stick to a 10% to 20% caloric deficit
- Keep your macros at 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat.
Don’t mess with the above numbers too much. Too high a caloric deficit, and you’ll feel fatigued, and might even end up malnourished. Too low, and you’re gonna lose weight at a snail’s pace.
Furthermore, going very low with fats will mess with your hormones, while too little protein means you are just gonna end up losing muscle, while barely losing fat.
Foods and the IIFYM meal plan
There is no specific meal plan, that’s what makes it so flexible. In order to make one, all you have to do is write out a list of your favorite foods, and see how well they match your planned caloric intake and macronutrient ratios. If that’s not working, slowly remove the biggest troublemakers.
We suggest you choose complex carbs, like brown rice, meats that are high in protein and low in fat, as well as fit as much produce into your IIFYM diet plan as you can.
If you want to increase your protein intake, stick to beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, and all kinds of fish. Go with low-fat dairy, and avoid processed, plastic-wrapped slices of cheese. Nuts, legumes, eggs, these are all fine.
Fatty foods include avocados, egg yolks, mayo, olives, butter, as well as fatty cuts of pork, and some fatty fish (like carp).
For carbs, you want whole wheat grains, sweet potatoes, quinoa, wild rice, rye, soy, peas…
We hope this article helps you with the concept of If It Fits Your Macros, and that you now know what is IIFYM in theory and in practice. Keep an eye on your vitamins, exercise regularly, and above all good luck on your weight loss (or gain) journey.