If you are at all interested in dieting or fitness, you’ve probably heard about IIFYM which stands for “If it Fits Your Macros.” It’s all the rage lately, especially with bodybuilders/fitness types. This is essentially an alternative, more flexible eating approach than most standard (and outdated) diet plans that basically tell you what foods to eat and in what amounts. Or they give you a total calorie count for the day. In the past, bodybuilders and other fitness athletes would eat X number of calories a day which was usually broken down into 5-6 smaller meals which basically consisted of the same boring foods over and over.
With IIFYM, you are given “macros” for the day that you must follow. Macros are macronutrients, which are otherwise known as proteins, carbohydrates and fats. With IIFYM, you are given the total number of grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats that you can eat during a given day. For example, my current macros are 135 grams of protein, 180 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fat. This doesn’t mean I eat 135 measured grams of a protein. It means that I eat foods totaling 135 grams of protein. For example, a 4 oz piece of fish is about 20-25 grams of protein. I eat about this much protein at each meal. The concept is very simple – each macro has a calorie amount. Protein has 4 calories per gram, carbs 4 calories per gram and fats are 9 calories per gram. If you total all my macros up for the day, it equals 1800 calories:
(4 x 135) + (4 x 180) + .(9 x 60) = 1800
To be honest, this doesn’t really matter though. Calories don’t matter at all with IIFYM, which is nice because if you are a compulsive calorie counter, this means you can stop thinking about them. But if you wanted to add up your macros for the day, you could. Just do the math like I did above. I track all my meals in MyFitnessPal and totally recommend others do. It’s a bit of a pain in the butt at first but once you have your “frequent” foods you will be able to find things quickly and add them in no problem. Make sure you’re adding accurate info since it’s all user-generated (sometimes people literally just make up macros I think). I also track my workouts (which is a slightly bigger pain in the butt but useful to track progress and stay accountable). It can be hard to track foods that you can’t read the nutrition labels for (like at restaurants) so you can try finding the info online but in general you kind of have to just do your best. The longer you track, the easier it gets to look at a plate of food and immediately be able to guess the macros off the top of your head. If you are dieting, always err on the side of caution by overestimating the macros in foods you aren’t sure about.
The beauty of IIFYM is that it’s simple and flexible. You do NOT have to eat the same boring foods over and over, nor do you have to eat food you hate. If you want a piece of cake, you work it into your macros. Some people “macro hoard” which means they eat light meals all day so they can pig out at night. The world is your oyster with IIFYM.
You can eat a variety of foods which is not only great for dealing with cravings and unexpected work lunches or dinners out with friends and family, but it’s also a great way to make sure you get a variety of nutrients. You don’t want to just eat donuts all day but if you want a donut, work it in! Macros to me are exactly like having a budget. If I have $100 to spend, I can only spend $100 and no more than that. Depending on how strict you are, you may not want to go under your macros (particularly if you are trying to gain weight). I try to stick to my macros within + or – 5 grams. Some people add up their macros for the week too so if you are off a bit one day (over carbs, for example), you can make it up a different day (by eating less carbs).
To determine what your macros are, first you need to know what your goal is. You will need to figure out if you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight. This was hard for me since I want to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time (which is possible in some cases but not all). You should have a good idea of what your current weight (and body fat, if possible) are, as well as your current activity level. The more info you know and the more accurate it is, the better calculation you will get. Then once you have that figured out, you just plug your info into a calculator. This is a really good one: http://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/. There’s also more info about IIFYM on that site.