No doubt by now you have probably heard of the term IIFYM, otherwise known as if it fits your macros. It is becoming extremely popular in the fitness world because of its ability to help you get lean while being able to eat ‘bad’ or ‘off limits’ foods. I have been following IIFYM for a few weeks now and I wanted to answer some questions I have had about IIFYM to help you to better understand what it’s about, and if it is something you would be interested in trying.
What is IIFYM?
IIFYM or flexible dieting as it is otherwise known is a method of dieting that revolves around meeting daily macronutritional intake targets (protein, carbs & fats) while being able to eat a wide variety of different foods. You plan out your daily meals to provide you with the right amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats that your body needs based on your specific goals (fat loss, maintenance or muscle building).
For example, I am currently ‘cutting’ and losing body fat and my macros look something like this:
135 grams of protein per day
168 grams of carbohydrate per day
56 grams of fat per day
(About 1700 calories per day)
According to IIFYM, so long as I hit these numbers every day, the foods I eat to get there will not negatively affect my body composition.
But how will I lose weight if I’m not eating ‘clean’?
In order to lose fat, you need to feed your body less calories than it burns. As long as you are in a calorie deficit then you will lose weight, regardless of what you eat. It is a scientific fact. A calorie is a calorie regardless of where it comes from.
So why count macros?
Because a calorie is not a calorie when it comes to body composition. Being in a calorie deficit without tracking macros will allow you to lose weight, absolutely. Your body composition however may not be as desirable as you may like. If you want to lose weight while maintaining as much muscle as possible, you need to do more than just maintain a caloric deficit. You need adequate protein to preserve muscle, carbohydrates to supply the muscles with glycogen so you can train with intensity and fats to maintain correct hormone levels.
Back in 2009 when I lost all my weight (16kg/35lbs), I was always in a calorie deficit, the problem was that my macros were extremely off (around 200g carbs/60g protein/50g fat) resulting in me becoming what they call ‘skinny fat’.
So I can eat whatever I want as long as I hit my macros?
Technically yes, but its not something I would recommend. Most IIFYMers still eat clean 80% of the time. If you ate only processed junk food you would be highly deficient in micronutrients which could lead to a supressed immune system, hormones that are out of whack and a lack of proper nutrients that your body needs. Instead, IIFYM allows you to still have indulgences without feeling guilty about it. A lot of people will eat clean and have a treat meal after dinner that fits into their macros for the day. If you are someone who struggles with eating clean all week and then binge eating on the weekends, then IIFYM is something I recommend you try.
Where do I start?
1. First off I recommend calculating your macros. If this calculator is confusing, feel free to fill out my IIFYM calorie calculator here and I can calculate it for you.
2. Begin tracking your macros through a calorie counter such as myfitnesspal.
3. Have fun with it!
4. Check out #iifym, #iifymgirls or #flexibledieting if you are on Instagram.
What are refeeds and what role do they play when it comes to dieting?
First we need to understand the role of the hormone Leptin. Leptin has been described as “the anti- famine / anti starvation hormone” and it has a dominant role to play in regulating hunger and energy expenditure. This is the primary hormone that tells the body if it is starving or not. Along with hunger pangs, leptin also signifies a slowing metabolism. Whenever you are on a low calorie diet for an extended period of time, your body will begin to slow its metabolic functions in an effort to ‘make due’ with the amount of fuel that it is being given. Know what this means for you? Little or no fat loss. Not a good situation.
Refeed meals are scheduled high calorie carbohydrate meals used to boost your leptin levels to help you maintain a more active metabolism and allow you to continue to lose body fat. A refeed is usually one day or one meal per week where you eat 50-100 grams of carbohydrates over your regular carbohydrate intake while slightly dropping your daily protein and fat intake. So if your daily carbohydrate intake is 180g, on your refeed day you would aim to eat 230-280g of carbohydrates. You would also drop your protein intake by about 20-25g and your fat intake by 5-10g. This refeed day means that your calorie intake will be higher, by about 200-400 calories – don’t worry, this is not going to stall your fat loss.
What type of carbohydrates should I eat?
What type of carbohydrates you choose to consume is up to you. You can either choose healthy carbohydrates such as wholemeal pasta, sweet potatoes or oats, or use it as your cheat meal. I prefer the latter.
Note: Refeeds are not needed while reverse dieting, maintaining or bulking.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.