Learn everything you need to know about the IIFYM Diet plan
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you’re probably familiar with IIFYM. After all, it is the diet that allegedly brings with it the holy grail for us gym rats – the ability to eat whatever we want, and still get shredded to the bone.
Unfortunately, it’s also just as likely that if you’ve tried this approach, you’ve completely screwed it up. Because when it comes to nutrition, IIFYM is by far the most misunderstood diet plan in the fitness world.
So if you’re interested in IIFYM and you’ve failed in the past, listen up, because today we’re going to explain how to do it RIGHT.
What Is IIFYM?
IIFYM is an acronym which stands for “if it fits your macros”. Rather than focusing on which specific foods you should be eating, it’s a dieting philosophy that puts a lot of emphasis on balancing the macronutrient values of those foods.
The term “macronutrient” refers to the big three in nutrition – protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each one performs a different function in the body.
The basic tenet of “if it fits your macros” is the idea that you can eat whatever you want, as long as it fits the macronutrient breakdown required for your needs.
For example, if you’ve determined that you need to eat a 2500 calorie diet consisting of 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbs, IIFYM states that, you can eat whatever you want, as long as the sum macro total of those foods balances out in the end.
At least, that’s the idea in theory. But as we’ll soon see, when it comes to practical application the devil’s in the details.
The Pros Of IIFYM
Despite the serious potential issues dieters can run into with IIFYM, it can be an incredibly effective way to eat – if done correctly.
In fact, many people would go so far as to say that IIFYM is the only thing that’s worked for them.
It Focuses On What Matters
Despite what marketers would have you believe, body composition essentially comes down to two things – calories and macronutrients.
There are no two ways about it – if you’re eating less calories than your body is using, you’re going to lose weight.
If you eat more, you’re going to gain weight.
And if you get your protein, carb and fat numbers dialled in on top of that, you’ll ensure that the weight coming off is fat, and the weight going on is muscle.
That’s basically it. As long as you’re progressing in a quality weight training program to go with it, when it comes strictly to diet, getting these two things right will account for 80% of your success.
Yes, there are other factors (meal timing and supplements come to mind).
But at the end of the day, it’s calories and macros that are going to make up the fundamentals.
Not “clean eating”.
It Reduces Obsessive Dieting And Binging
Despite the appearance of a healthy lifestyle, a lot of hardcore gym rats suffer from eating disorders. Seriously.
There’s nothing psychologically “healthy” about carrying around a cooler of food and a scale everywhere you go.
There’s also nothing healthy about thinking about a brownie the same way you’d think about a lump of cocaine.
The beauty of IIFYM is that it not only prevents this food obsession, but it also, paradoxically, reduces binge eating in a lot of people.
Think about it. If you were told right now that you couldn’t eat tacos for the rest of your days, and you LOVE tacos, what would you do?
Would you just forget about that savoury Mexican goodness, and move onto something else?
Maybe. But if you’re like most people, the thought of spending your life in “no taco purgatory” would most likely be too much to handle, and you’ll start thinking about them 24/7.
Unfortunately, unless you have the discipline of a Buddhist monk, the odds of you being able to hold out forever are slim to none. Most of us will eventually break, and when we do break, it’s typically in the form of an all-out binge fest.
What restrictive dieting effectively does is creates this dynamic with 80% of the foods you enjoy.
When you adopt a flexible system like IIFYM, you shift your psychology. It’s a whole lot easier knowing that can eat what you want as long you show some moderation with it, and the result is that you ultimately end up eating less.
You Can Actually Enjoy Your Food
Life’s too short to eat chicken and broccoli all day.
If your idea of cutting lose over the holidays was to put a spoonful of cranberry sauce on your white turkey and carrots, I feel bad for you son.
IIFYM gets around the issue of deprivation by using the laws of thermodynamics to your advantage. And, contrary to what most “clean eating” zealots will tell you, you can indeed get shredded and still enjoy a bit of cake.
How Most People Screw It Up
Now that we’ve expanded on the virtues of IIFYM, let’s talk about how (and why) most people are doing it wrong.
Because at the end of the day, that’s really the issue – the problem isn’t that the system is broken – it’s that people keep abusing it.
The problem is that almost everyone who starts eating this way tries to “cheat the system” by trying to make an all cheesecake and protein shake diet “fit their macros” (this is why gym bros can’t have nice things).
And unfortunately, if you’ve been guilty of this, at the end of the day you’re not fooling anyone, and the only person you’re hurting is yourself.
Why Eating Dirty Is Killing Your Diet (And Your Progress)
So, given everything we’ve talked about, if body composition is determined by calories and macronutrients… why should you care about healthy eating.
Well, as it turns out, there are quite a few reasons you may want to consider before you whip up your next “Pop-Tart protein shake”.
Food Quality Matters
This one should be fairly obvious, but apparently, some people still haven’t received the memo…
Abs ain’t everything.
Yes, having a lean, muscular physique is certainly a sign of vitality. Lean people tend to have the advantage over non-lean people in most categories, including better metabolic profiles, insulin sensitivity, and even joint health.
But it’s not the whole story. Your body is a complex system, and if you want it to work optimally, you need to feed it with all the vitamins, mineral and other micronutrients it needs.
You won’t get that by eating at McDonalds three times a day.
Eating Dirty Negatively Effects Your Workout
If you want to have a lean AND muscular physique, you’re going to have to log the hours at the gym. And, like it or not, you’re going to have a tough time putting in the kind of intensity you need to grow if you’re eating like crap all the time.
It’s just common sense – your body is going to run far more optimally if you’re feeding it quality food than if you’re feeding it garbage.
The kind of health and vitality that comes from eating well will seep into all areas of your life, and will help give you the energy that you need to push yourself through your toughest workouts.
It’s Unsustainable In The Long Run
Not only is eating this way unsustainable from a health perspective, it’s also unsustainable when it comes to sticking to your diet.
This is especially true if losing fat is a priority for you. A big part of the weight loss game is keeping your hunger under control, and you’re going to have a hard time doing that if you’re eating nothing but junk.
It should go without saying, but 500 calories worth of vegetables is far more satiating than 500 calories worth of cupcakes.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re an adult and you still eat like a teenager, the odds of you getting down to single digit body fat are slim to none.
How To Do It The Right Way
If you’ve made it this far and you’re still interested in IIFYM, but you want to know how to do it the right way, then you’ve come to the right place. The following are three principles that, if applied to your diet, will make it far more likely that you’ll be successful with this approach.
Tip #1: Eat “Healthy” Most Of The Time
A good quality diet is one that’s built around good quality food. Period.
Now, you’ve probably noticed quotation marks around the word “healthy”. We can sit around debating what exactly constitutes healthy, but it really comes down to common sense.
The bulk of your diet should come from lean meats, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and whole grains. For the vast majority of us, just following that simple guideline is more than enough to set ourselves up for success.
So, how often is “most of the time”? While the exact amount will vary between people (age, health conditions, etc), you should aim to be eating 60-80% nutritious, whole foods. The remaining 20-40% can be your “goodies”.
Tip #2: Actually Track Your Macros
One of the bad habits a lot us fall into when we adopt an IIFYM approach is the issue of “creative accounting” (like trying to make a slice of pizza count for 5 grams of fat when it’s actually closer to 10).
Here’s the deal. If you want to make this work, you have to accurately track what you’re eating rather than just guessing and hoping for the best. Get an app or keep a food log, and make sure you know the macro and calorie values of what you’re putting in your mouth.
Tip #3: Eat Dirty In The Evening
Now that we have the big strategies out of the way, here’s a fun little hack for you – if you’re going to fit crappy food into your diet, fit it in the evening.
No, eating pizza late at night won’t make your macro profile look any better. But it can help prevent binging.
A big part of dietary success comes down to momentum. Start your morning off with a quality, nutritious meal and it will be far easier to keep that going into the day.
Start your morning off with donuts, and you’ve just made the day a whole lot harder on yourself.
By planning your little pancake fix once the day is over, you not only make it less likely that you’ll binge out and eat 12 of them, but it also becomes a nice reward for a day well dieted.
The Bottom Line On IIFYM
Make no mistake, IIFYM can not only be an effective diet, but a healthy one as well. But you need to know how to do it properly. By paying attention to the quality of your food and understanding how to structure things, you’ll not only feel and perform better, but you’ll be far more likely to succeed in your fat loss and fitness goals.
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