Tuesday, December 6, 2011
5:34 PM OoFaP No comments
A common topic floating around the fitness industry as of late has been IIFYM. This stands for "If It Fits Your Macros." The three macro nutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. If you need a refresher on what macros are, check my previous article called "Diet the Basics" where it's discussed further. The premise of IIFYM is that you can eat anything you want to as long as it fits into your allotted macro nutrients for the day. By anything, I mean anything. You can eat your favorite candy bar, ice cream, pizza, cake, cookies as long as it fits into your macros. The bold term is what you have to remember. In a world where everybody seems to be looking for the easiest path to results, it is understandable that a lot of people seem to ignore the bold part of that sentence and either dismiss IIFYM as incorrect or blame it for their poor results.
How it Works
Basically, once you have determined your allotted macro nutrients for the day, you can fill those needs with any food you want assuming you are also taking in a sufficient amount of micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and fiber. As an extreme example, if someone has determined they need 300 grams of carbohydrates for the day, they can choose to fill this need with nothing but oatmeal or pure sugar. It makes absolutely no difference in terms of body composition. What this means is that your weight loss progress will be the same whether you are eating the sugar or the oatmeal. However, if one were to fill their carbohydrate needs with sugar day in and day out, they would most likely develop other health problems. So now what?
IIFM is not an excuse to eat everything in sight. It simply allows some dietary freedom. It allows the occasional treat to be enjoyed by dieters. I see a lot of people misinterpret IIFYM and think it's an excuse to eat fast food several times a day everyday. This is not the case. You can fit a Big Mac into your macros everyday if you would like but you would be sacrificing your other meals for the day. Let me show you what I mean. A Big Mac has approximately 30 grams of fat. If you are trying to lose weight and are only eating a total of 45 grams of fat a day, you just had almost 70% of your allowed fat for the day in one meal. Now you have the rest of the day with only 15 grams of fat. Therefore, it is very difficult to actually fit in all the foods you would like to eat everyday into your macros. Moderation is the key.
How to Implement
The best way to implement IIFYM is to incorporate it into a healthy diet. You should still eat your typical healthy foods such as oatmeal, brown rice, nuts, lean meats and such but those are not the only foods you need to be eating on a diet. Once you have a healthy diet established, if you would like to replace some of the carbohydrates and fat in the oatmeal everyday with a candy bar, you can do it. You can follow an 80/20 approach where 80% of your diet is typical healthy foods and the remaining 20% is food you would not normally eat on a diet. You can also follow a "cheat day" approach where you eat a typical diet all week and then one or two days a week you follow a diet with the same macros as your normal diet but with different foods. It's up to you. The key is to make sure you are still eating healthy while allowing some freedom as well.
Things to Keep in Mind
1) Body Composition Does Not Equal Health: When IIFYM followers say you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits your macros, this is strictly in terms of body composition. Someone eating sugary cereals and bacon may look the same as someone who chooses brown rice and almonds but their internal health is probably different. Body composition isn't everything. You still want to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check otherwise it won't matter what you look like for long will it?
2) Accurately Counting Your Macros: If you aren't accurately counting your macros, then you have no way of really knowing how to fit a new food into your diet. This is why you must have a food scale. I use this one and it gets the job done. If you are just "eye balling" your food and estimating your macros, then you might end up replacing that food with another food that you estimate and the two may not even be close. For example, you might be estimating your oatmeal to have 50 grams of carbohydrates. In reality, it may have 40. Now, you decide to replace the oatmeal with Lucky Charms but the Lucky Charms may really have 70 grams of carbohydrates due to your estimation error. You just replaced 40 grams of carbohydrates with 70 grams of carbohydrates. Weighing your food will avoid this error.
3) Don't Trust Restaurants: A lot of restaurants give out the nutritional information for their menus. However, these numbers can't be taken seriously. They are fine to get an estimate but if you are seriously trying to nail your macros exactly, then you need to consider a meal at a restaurant a cheat meal even if you think you have accounted for the macros based on their given nutritional information. Is a slice of pizza always the exact same size with the same amount of cheese and sauce? Is your Chipotle burrito exactly the same size every time? Of course not, but the nutritional information they give is always the same.
4)Sodium: IIFYM does not account for sodium. Although sodium has no effect on body composition, varying your sodium intake will affect how much water your body holds and can cause you to look smoother and more bloated on certain days. This doesn't mean IIFYM doesn't work and you got fat. It's just an indication that your sodium intake is inconsistent. If you don't want this to happen, keep your sodium levels at a moderate level and don't vary it too significantly from day to day.
To sum up, IIFYM is not a fad diet. It's simply a misunderstood concept by people looking for an easy way to dieting. Unfortunately, there is still no way of dieting on nothing but your favorite treats. However, there is a way to work these treats in moderately to keep you sane.