What is IIFYM and does it actually work?

April 16 2015

Cheat day is the highlight of any strict dieter’s week, but there is a new fitness philosophy that is causing calorie counters everywhere to get stuck into whatever food they want guilt free.

Could the IIFYM diet be the holy grail of nutrition?

“If it fits your macros” is a phrase that is taking the fitness world by storm. You will find its abbreviated brother IIFYM in the hashtags of every mouth-watering food picture on Instagram, nestled in between #FoodPorn and #CheatDay.

More commonly, IIFYM can also be known as flexible dieting. We have discussed the pros and cons of cheat days in a previous post, but there is a reason why the IIFYM concept is making waves in the health and fitness community. It allows you to eat the food you crave everyday as long as it fits within your required macros.

That’s right, move over cheat day! If it fits into your macros, you can eat it!

What are macros?

Macros, or macronutrients, are components of the food and drink that you consume. There are many different macros but the main ones that are tracked for this particular IIFYM diet include protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Counting your macros is very different to simply counting calories because all calories are not created equally. For instance, eating 100 calories of protein will have a completely different effect on your body as eating 100 calories of carbohydrates would do.

You have probably heard the analogy that your body is like a machine and that you need to put the correct fuel in it to make it run properly. Imagine that your machine needs different amounts of petrol, diesel and oil throughout the day to keep it functioning. You wouldn’t just pour in random quantities of these fuels, you’d measure them carefully to ensure your machine performs to the level that you need it to. That’s why it’s so important to measure your macros so that you can achieve your specific weight goals.

How do you track macros?

In order to track your macros you must first work out the quantities of protein, fat and carbohydrates that your body needs to perform efficiently.

You can do this by either arranging a consultation with one of our expert personal trainers who will assess your lifestyle and needs, or you can work it out on your own using websites like the IIFYM calculator or smartphone apps, such as Fitter Fitness Calculator. Once you’ve discovered how to track your macros you can log how much you consume daily by keeping a food diary.

How does the IIFYM diet work?

If you fancy eating that chocolate bar, you can as long as you factor the fat, carbs and protein into your own personal equation.

Much like the glorified cheat days, flexible dieting has gotten a bad reputation for claiming that people can gorge on junk food and still be slim and healthy. While you can eat anything as long as it fits within your macros for the food, it doesn’t mean that you should go overboard.

Macros are a good way to keep track of what you are eating, but they aren’t the most important element of your diet. This diet neglects important micronutrients, which contain vitamins and minerals essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The IIFYM diet works well for people who eat a well-balanced diet filled with healthy, non-processed foods who like to treat themselves with something different from the norm. For example, you could stick to your diet all day but then make up the extra carb and fat macros by eating a slice of peanut butter on toast.

If you are looking for a way to eat junk food all the time and lose weight, then unfortunately there isn’t a diet out there for you. IIFYM is more of a way of life than a diet, because it relies on long-term health and fitness goals rather than crash dieting for a quick win.

Macros and exercise

Most importantly, you must factor in how your macros will change while you are exercising as this is one of the most important aspects for weight loss and strength building.

The worry is that people will work out how many macros they need while their body is at rest, then use this plan while they are working out a few times a week. The result will leave them feeling lethargic and hungry, which could eventually lead them to abandon their exercise routine.

Keep the analogy of the machine in your mind and ensure that you have sufficient energy for your workout by factoring in how much extra calories you will burn during your exercise routine, so that you don’t run out of fuel.