Macros, macros, macros. If you’ve read the basic introduction to the concept of “If It Fits Your Macros”, you hopefully have a general idea of what IIFYM is. Allow me now to try to convey the impact of how understanding what the meaning of IIFYM can have for your understanding of basic nutrition.
- IIFYM is NOT a diet, it’s science.
IIFYM can be described as a method, technique, or just an understanding that the most important aspect in reaching your desired body composition (whether it’s weight loss, weight gain, or maintenance) is reaching your total daily macronutrient intake targets.
- IIFYM does NOT mean you can eat whatever you want.
So, IIFYM gets a reputation of being a diet in which people eat whatever the hell they want as long as they “reach their total daily macronutrient intake targets”. This is stupid. No one is saying to eat enough pop-tarts and debbie cakes to hit your target marcronutrient/micronutrients. Majority of your total food intake (around 90% is a good benchmark according to fitness/nutrition guru Alan Aragon) should be coming from whole/minimally processed foods and the remaining can be from your secret stash of candy under your bed .
- Almost all diets incorporate one of the main underlying principles of IIFYM.
That underlying principle is not some big secret, by the way, it’s the most basic understanding of weight loss: to lose weight you need to be at a caloric deficit. In layman terms, to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you take in. Think of a balance scale, on the left side we have “calories in” and on the right side “calories out”. On the left side we have all of the calories you consume through food/beverages. On the right side, “calories out”, the calories you burn throughout the day. We know calories are burnt by exercising and being active but calories are also burned at rest (we call this basal metabolic rate or BMR). When the left side of the scale, calories in, is greater than the ride side (so, more energy in verses out) we gain weight. When it’s the other way around, more energy out than in, we lose weight. All diets out there probably will help you lose weight in the short-term because they restrict a certain type of food group (like forbidding all carbohydrates) so you’re bound to significantly reduce your “calories in”. IIFYM sets those daily targets at the appropriate amount so that you are fixed to burn more calories than you are going to be taking in. Difference is, you do not have to drop-kick your roommate for bringing in bread to the house.
- It does require you to count calories…but not forever.
Like we said earlier, the only way you can achieve weight loss is by using up more energy than you are taking in. So, when most people go on a diet and start eating “healthy” they usually naturally tend to eat less empty calories, more nutrient dense foods, and exercise more. When they start to lose weight it’s because of that magic “energy in verses energy out” formula. The problem with this awesome sounding plan is not that it doesn’t work, because it does, it just usually is not sustainable. Most people get tired of eating salads and vegetable juice three times a day, everyday. Worry not, in comes tracking calories. No longer is it a guessing game if I’m eating too many calories, too little, or just enough. Now you can squeeze in that Snickers bar, ice cream cone, or Snickers flavored ice cream bar into your day. The difference now is that since you have been counting your calories the whole day you’ll know if those two scoops of ice cream kept you under your total daily calories; or maybe if you only had room for more one scoop before going over your total allowed calories. After counting your calories for a while, you gain a great understanding of the macronutrient composition of a lot of foods. Do you have to do this counting for the rest of your life? Not quite. After counting your calories for a while, you gain a really good understanding of the macronutrient composition of foods. When you reach this level of mastery, you’ll be surprised how well you can almost count your macros by guesstimating for the day.
- Don’t forget your micronutrients.
We keep talking about macronutrients, but what about micronutrients? Do people who follow IIFYM even care about vitamins/minerals? Why, certainly we do. As mentioned already, heavy majority of your dietary intake of the day should be from whole/minimally processed foods (aka not pop-tarts). This includes getting several servings of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other food items needed to fulfill the proper vitamin intake needed for healthy human function.
 Schuler, Lou, and Alan Aragon. The Lean Muscle Diet: A Customized Nutrition and Workout Plan: Eat the Foods You Love to Build the Body You Want and Keep It for Life! N.p.: n.p., n.d.