If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) is a type of flexible dieting that allows you to lose weight without restricting you to only eating certain types of foods.
The flexibility of IIFYM comes from simply having to count and track your intake of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) to achieve your weight loss (or gain) goals. It is probably the easiest diet to get started with as you only need to follow these 3 simple steps:
- Work out your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). This is the amount of calories your body requires throughout the day and can be worked out using a calculator.
- Work out your macros based on your desired body composition goals. For example, if you want to maintain or grow muscle you will need higher protein.
- Keep track of your food (macro) intake throughout the day and stay within your set limits for weight loss or muscle gain.
Macronutrients (macros) are basically what our food is made up of and provide us with the necessary nourishment. They can be split into 3 main categories: protein, fat and carbohydrates. This is where calories (energy) come from, as each gram of a macro has a caloric value.
- Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
- Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
- Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories
The main difference between regular calorie counting (i.e. sticking to eating 2000 calories per day), IIFYM aims to track your macronutrient intake (i.e. eating 50g protein, 260g carbohydrates, 75g fat). One advantage of IIFYM over regular calorie counting appears to be that it can influence body composition more effectively, rather than just losing or gaining weight on the scales. For example, a protein overeating study in 2015 found that increasing protein macros resulted in losing more body fat, despite consuming more calories.
The idea behind IIFYM is that there are no foods that burn fat or build muscle. It simply comes down to getting the right macro ratio in your diet. An example of this would be the following:
McChicken Sandwich from McDonalds
- 17g Protein
- 43g Carbohydrates
- 16g Fat
Brown Rice and Tuna Chunks
- 17g Protein
- 43g Carbohydrates
- 16g Fat
Both foods have the same macros, therefore both will achieve the same results in terms of body composition. When you consume food, your body isn’t thinking whether it’s “healthy” or “unhealthy”. It simply breaks down the food and extracts and processes the nutrients. A good example of this method of dieting is the case of Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University. For 2 months, he ate what later became known as the “twinkie diet“. It allowed him to shed an impressive 12 kg (27 lbs).
Clearly, this would not be a good solution for anyone in the long run and no serious nutritionist would advise you to do this. Your body needs other important nutrients, such as:
These are all very important for your overall health, so if you’re thinking about following IIFYM type of flexible dieting you have to make sure that at least 80-85% of your diet consists of balanced and nutritious foods.
Benefits of IIFYM
Obviously, every type of diet will have its own list of benefits. For example, one of the main benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) is that it has been shown to adapt your body to burn more fat. IIFYM is no different and has its own list of benefits.
Below you will find the 3 main benefits of IIFYM flexible dieting:
1. It’s Effective
The most important rule when it comes to losing or gaining weight in the energy balance. To lose fat, you simply need to be in a calorie deficit (negative energy balance).
Obviously, the quality of your nutrition matters for your overall health, but in terms of simply losing weight your calorie intake is the most important factor. Even with IIFYM, if you’re not in a calorie deficit you won’t lose much weight. What IIFYM allows you to do is track your calorie intake (energy balance) in an easy, non-restrictive way without having to worry about “breaking” your diet.
2. It’s Non-Restrictive
IIFYM is a very flexible form of dieting.
By focusing on your macronutrient intake, rather than what foods you are eating you can achieve your weight loss (or gain) goals without being restricted to what you can and can’t eat. One of the major downsides of dieting is the restrictions on the social aspect of eating. If you’re eating out with friends or family, it can be awkward to choose what foods on the menu you’re allowed to have (if any at all).
IIFYM somewhat removes the restrictions around this and allows you to stay on track with your diet, without having to worry about choosing the “right foods”.
3. It’s Sustainable
Many people go through the cycle of dieting and binging.
There isn’t much point in dieting to lose weight, just to put it all back on a couple of months later. The main reason for this cycle seems to be the difficulty of regular dieting – that is constantly worrying about your calories, being restricted to certain foods and having cravings.
With IIFYM, you’re less likely to experience this “dieting burnout” since you can still eat whatever you want (in moderation of course!), so it can be much more sustainable than regular dieting.
How Do You Do IIFYM?
Use these 4 steps to get started with IIFYM and try this flexible dieting approach:
1. Work Out Your Macros
Your macro ratios will depend entirely on your body composition goals. The easiest way to calculate them is to use a macro calculator.
2. Keep Track Of Your Macros
IIFYM is all about keeping track of your macro intake. If you’re always eating the same foods it should be pretty easy to remember your usual macro intake.
Alternatively, you can note them down the old school way using a pen and paper or use an app, such as MyFitnessPal to help you track your macros.
3. Buy Cooking Scales
The nutritional info on food packaging can be quite inaccurate, if you’re eating custom amounts. By using cooking scales, you can ensure that your macros will be tracked accurately and you will know exactly how much you’re eating!
4. Keep Track Of Your Progress
You need to track your progress to actually know whether you’re moving towards achieving your body composition goal. The easiest way to do this is to weigh yourself at the start of every week, but it’s not the only way.
Alternatively, you can measure your body fat and take body measurements or pictures. At the end of the day, it’s about how you look and how it makes you feel, not the number shown on the scales!