US Myprotein Writer
What Does Macro Mean and What Is IIFYM?
IIFYM – more formally known as ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ (and micros!) – is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. IIFYM is basically the idea that you can eat whatever you want, as long as you reach your daily nutritional requirements.
It redefines the whole idea of eating healthy and allows us to indulge in treats every now and then, so long as it doesn’t become a bad habit. By allowing anything in moderation, we’re able to still reach our goals, but getting there doesn’t have to mean chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli every night.
When it comes to this lifestyle, there is definitely a lot of error and a lot of misconception as well. Often times, you’ll see social media posts from popular, shredded athletes posting pictures of donuts, pizza, cookies, etc. You name it.
They’ll usually write captions about how it’s important to relax a bit. While that is true, it tends to make certain people think that their entire diet is junk food. This then leads to strictly “clean” eaters thinking that IIFYM followers lack any discipline. The whole argument between eating clean or eating for your macros is a mess. As long as you hit your macro and micro-nutrient goals on a day to day basis, then you’re doing something right and it doesn’t matter how you got there.
That said, here are five principles that will help you learn to successfully reach your goals with IIFYM, without sacrificing that slice of pizza.
5 Principles To IIFYM Diet
#1 – Just because you’re allowed to eat whatever you want doesn’t mean you should
“But wait…didn’t you just tell me I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I hit my macros?”
Well, yes. That’s exactly what I said, but it’s a double-edged sword. Even though you have the freedom to indulge, you should still get most of your nutrients from whole, unprocessed foods. By consuming nutrient-rich foods, you will be able to eat much more volume-wise, and you’ll also get more micronutrients and consume less unhealthy toxins, chemicals, etc.
When in doubt, remember the 80-20 rule. This rule states that at least 80% of your diet should consist of whole, unprocessed foods, while the other 20% is yours to choose from whatever you want. Personally, I like to focus on my protein and fat macros first, and once I’ve hit those, as well as my micronutrients, I will leave the small portion of calories I have left that day to whatever carb-heavy treat I have in mind.
#2 – Know your daily nutrient requirements and how you can reach them
This one is easily the most fundamental to the lifestyle. If you don’t know the numbers you’re supposed to reach, how can you expect to reach them? If you haven’t figured them out, there are plenty of calculators online that will help you figure out your calorie goals, as well as macro-nutrient requirements. If you already know them, however, then here’s something that may help you also.
Part of being successful is being prepared, and it’s important in IIFYM to know where you can find abundant sources of proteins, carbs, and fats.
Protein – you’ve got lean meats, eggs, dairy, soybeans, and some seafoods. If you’re specifically looking for casein, a slow-digesting protein, you can find that in dairy products, such as greek yogurt, milk, and cottage cheese.
Carbs – If you need some extra complex carbs in your diet, look towards the brown ones: sweet potato, brown rice, brown rice pasta, whole-grain bread, beans, etc.
Fats – Lastly, for the fats, there are nut butters, oils, nuts, red meats, dark chocolate, full-fat dairy products, eggs, avocados, and some seafoods.
Don’t forget fruits and vegetables either for micro-nutrients and fiber! The list goes on, and there are tons of foods for every requirement so what’s important is figuring out foods that you like and are able to reach your daily nutritional requirements with.
#3 – Don’t sacrifice the quality of foods because you have more freedom
While it may be true that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, the quality of food still matters.
Now, I’m not saying you need to go out and buy grass-fed, organic everything, but remember that the quality of the protein you’re getting in a fast-food burger is going to be significantly less than some ground beef from the supermarket that you cook yourself, and you’ll notice the effect it has on your body. The same holds true for carbs.
Even though a gram of a complex carb and a gram of a simple carb are both technically a gram of carbs, the two will have radically different effects on your body. Complex carbs will give you lasting energy, and simple carbs will give you quick energy, spike your insulin, and are best consumed in the morning and around intense exercise.
#4 – Don’t ignore the micro-nutrients
This is another majorly important principle of successfully following IIFYM. With more freedom in our diets, it’s important to remember every aspect of them. Before you go ahead and indulge on a treat, it’s important to make sure you’ve got all your micro-nutrients and vitamins required that day for peak health and athletic performance.
Being deficient in any vitamin comes with negative consequences that can easily be avoided otherwise! If you struggle to get enough nutrients from your diet on a day-to-day basis, supplements can help do what they do best, supplement. Taking a multivitamin can help you get the extra nutrients you need to reach your goals.
#5 – Don’t beat yourself up too much when you mess up!
Even when you allow yourself room a little more freedom, you’ll still make mistakes. There will be nights when you’re craving a slice of pizza or something else that you wouldn’t normally eat, and you might let your cravings get the best of you. There may also be nights when you go out with friends and eat/drink too much, but it’s ok.
The key to IIFYM is understanding moderation.
IIFYM is not as much a diet as it is simply living with moderation in mind. As long as you understand that it’s ok to let yourself relax every now and then, and don’t allow it to become a bad habit, you’ll still be able to reach your goals. It’s like the 80-20 rule, but this time, on a larger scale. If you eat whole, nutritious foods a large majority of the time, but go out for a meal every now and then, it won’t make a huge difference in the long run. If you predict that you’ll go way over your calories too when you go out, you can even throw in some extra cardio or eat slightly smaller meals that day to save room for later.
One of the worst things you can do, however, is restricting your calories the next day; this is called yo-yo dieting. If you eat too much one day and then eat nothing the next, it will increase your cravings for cheat foods, whereas, if you eat too much one day and then eat the right amount in the days following, it balances out over time.
For example, if you eat 1000 calories extra on a given day, and then eat 1000 calories under the next, you won’t theoretically put on any extra fat, however, you will have cravings that may cause you to repeat this yo-yo. On the other hand, if you eat 1000 calories over on a given day and then eat normally for the next two weeks following, it becomes a daily surplus of 71 calories, which, ultimately, will not affect your weight loss/weight gain efforts tremendously.
IIFYM Diet The Right Way
If you follow these 5 principles, you will be able to successfully reach your goals while allowing yourself to indulge every now and then. Despite what some think, IIFYM is not a diet for lazy people, it’s a diet for smart ones. Once you start to realize that the idea of healthy and unhealthy foods is flawed and that you can still be healthy and consume “unhealthy” foods, you unlock a new level of freedom in your diet.
The truth is, food is fuel; macro-nutrients make certain foods either good or bad fuel, and it’s your decision as to what you want to give to your body, the machine.
You will be able to survive with a little bad fuel, but your progress will be a reflection of how much good fuel you feed your body with. IIFYM allows for freedom in moderation, and as long as this is kept under control, your goals will only be a couple steps away!