If you have been interested in the field or dieting and/or exercise for a while now, there is almost no doubt you have heard of the IIFYM diet at some point or another.
IIFYM, or “If It Fits Your Macros,” is a diet (I use the term diet here loosely) completely based on the amount of macronutrients one consumes each day (for more info on macronutrients, check out this article).
In other words, rather than only calculating the amount of calories consumed throughout the day, one also counts the total amounts of macronutrients each day. As we know, this includes Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats.
IIFYM, which is also commonly referred to as Flexible Dieting, is thought to adjust the body’s metabolism to promote fat loss and muscle growth. The perk is that many (not all by any means) flexible dieters will consume just about anything they would like too, as long as at the end of the day their macronutrient proportions match up.
Sounds pretty great, huh? What’s not to like about eating just about any type of food you would like, so long as your macros total up at the end of the day?!
The truth is IIFYM dieting has veered a bit from its original purpose and views. Originally, flexible dieting was meant to give people a bit more leeway to include different foods in their diets rather than forcing people to exclude specific foods.
This would allow dieters to keep their sanity while also meeting their macronutrient goals. However, all too often you’ll see flexible dieters (bloggers, on social media, etc.) claiming they can eat just about any type of food they would like, and still achieve their goals.
This defeats the overall purpose of being on a diet. Dieting is done in order to increase one’s overall health, whether that means with the goal of weight loss, fat loss, or otherwise. Just take a look at instagram flexible dieters and you’ll see the types of foods these people often consume (poptarts, ice cream, little debbies, etc.).
One must ask the question, if you are doing an IIFYM diet, are you actually dieting to increase your overall well-being? Or are you simply eating anything you would like so long as it fits into your macro ratios?
The problem is that not all calories are equal. Yeah, at the end of the day you may be taking in the exact same amount of protein, carbs, and fat. But not all types of food are equal beyond macronutrients.
I mean, you tell me. Do you think consuming a Twinkie with 140 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrates (18 g of which are sugar) is the same as consuming 140 calories of whole grain pasta? Or 140 calories of a sweet potato? I’m sure you can answer that for yourself.
This is where IIFYM has went wrong and broke the main purpose of dieting: to improve one’s overall health.
By all means, IIFYM diets of any kind may help one to lose weight. Numerous studies have shown as long as you are expending more calories each day than you consume, then you will lose weight. However, this may not actually cause any fat loss at all. Body composition is very unlikely to improve through flexible dieting if you aren’t consuming high quality, nutritious foods.
I would say that 9 out of 10 weight lifters care more (or at least should care more) about their body composition (percent of fat-free mass versus fat mass) than how much they weight.
Over time, dieters who practice IIFYM consuming any type of food (large amounts of low-quality foods) they want that fits in their macro ratios will end up causing long-term health problems. Consumption of unhealthy foods alters the body several ways physiologically. This can include changing your body’s metabolism, your brain’s response to food, and how gut microbiota treat food. Over time, this makes it much more difficult to continue to consume those foods in the same amounts, let alone achieve your desired results. And without a doubt, when you do consume higher quality foods, you will feel much less enjoyment over time as well.
Anyone who has dieted properly and consumed healthy food over a prolonged period of time knows that your body adjusts to this. Eventually, the good eating habits you create become your desired eating habits. Eat healthy food for long enough, and you will prefer healthy food over other foods (if you don’t know this or can’t relate, its 100% true).
The key to being successful while on a IIFYM diet is to not only meet your caloric and macronutrient goals, but to also consume high quality foods. This does not mean it’s not acceptable to splurge sometimes and have that cookie or that mac and cheese. It just means that these foods should be consumed in limited and reasonable amounts, while also fitting in with your macronutrient goals.
Flexible dieters must also monitor their daily food intake very strictly. This includes weighing your foods, reading food labels, and tracking your daily intake. If you’re interested in trying flexible dieting and want to know where to begin, check out this page that shows you how to calculate your ideal macronutrient and caloric intake based on your body goals.
In order for your IIFYM diet to be successful, follow these tips:
- PLAN AHEAD. This typically includes knowing what you will be consuming each day of the week well in advance.
- DON’T BE OVER OBSESSIVE. While you need to meet your daily caloric and macronutrient goals, if you are off by a few grams or calories one way or another, that’s ok. You don’t have to be pinpoint perfect for this diet, just stay relatively close to hitting your goals.
- TRY A FEW DIFFERENT RATIOS. Everyone responds differently to various stimuli placed on their bodies. While one caloric and macronutrient ratio may work for one person, it may not be as effective for another. Make sure to adjust your macronutrient ratios accordingly and find what is ideal for you.
- FOCUS ON HIGH QUALITY, NUTRITIOUS FOODS. No, this does not mean you can never splurge a little. As I mentioned before, it is alright to include a few of the foods you may crave. However, the biggest portion of your diet should come from natural and nutritious foods. Try to limit highly processed and other junk foods.
- LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. While this partially goes along with trying different ratios, it is important to listen to your body. Make sure you understand how your body feels each day and how your body is reacting to your diet week by week. There is no single diet make-up that is universally best for one person. Try different things and find what works for you.
If you have any questions about flexible dieting, make sure to ask below so we can help answer for you!
If you have tried IIFYM dieting before, make sure to leave us your thoughts on how the diet went for you!