IIFYM or If It Fits Your Macros diet has been a hot topic for years. In a sense, it created a movement of people, who were convinced that this is the only way to eat and who give you glossy-eyed stares, when you try to provide some valid points that it may not be (perhaps? probably?) the healthiest for them. As a Toronto nutritionist, I get asked about it literally on a daily basis, as our city becomes progressively obsessed with fitness and I think it’s time we had a talk about eating donuts and chips, while justifying that your macros would allow it…
If It Fits Your Macros was started by a couple of bodybuilders who grew tired of the “clean eating” movement. They felt the food was boring, unappealing and “too healthy.” Their diet was simple: eat whatever you want. But there’s a catch–you have to stay true to your macronutrient distribution. In a nutshell, If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) doesn’t concern itself with quality, but the quantity of the calories.
Macronutrients are the major nutrients that are found in food and provide us with energy. These include the big three: protein, fat and carbohydrates. All of these macros added together provide us with our total calorie intake.
Proteins + Fats + Carbs = Total Calories
In general, here is the acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges for adults in maintaining a healthy diet:
Your macronutrient distribution depends on factors like your age, weight, sex, and physical activity level. It does get a bit tricky, when you try to figure out what’s appropriate for your body’s needs, so if you need help – reach out to me to set up a free consultation.
Pros of If It Fits Your Macros
One key positive is that this diet takes away the restrictive nature of most fad diets. Atkins Diet, Master Cleanse or the Banana Diet totally restrict calories and key macronutrients, which may temporarily cause weight loss, but it is practically impossible to sustain… like IMPOSSIBLE, especially when we need macros like carbohydrates for our brain to even function.
And don’t get me wrong, macronutrient needs are important because they help us create balance in our diet and make sure we’re not getting 90% of our calories from fat. Watching macronutrient distributions are important for endurance athletes who rely on high levels of carbohydrates to endure their long workouts. Macronutrients are also important if you want to increase/sustain your muscle mass to look leaner and athletic.
Weight Loss on IIFYM?
In a busy city like Toronto nutritionist like me works with clients who are constantly on the go and just want to have a quick bite during a hectic day. So it makes sense that IIFYM is appealing as it provides A LOT of flexibility.
There have been several experimental trials and high quality studies, that looked at the difference between either a high fat/low carb diet or a high carb/low fat diet, and there was no difference in weight loss.
But… Empty Calories???
I don’t know about you, but when I’m told I can eat anything I want, that usually means binging at the local drive thru. When this happens, we’re consuming “empty calories” – this means they contain little to no fibre, vitamins or minerals that we need for our bodies’ normal function. When foods are heavily processed, they are stripped of their nutrients and loaded with sugar, fat and salt. So if we are replacing our diet with these empty calories, our body is not getting what we need to help us run smoothly and protect ourselves from chronic diseases.
Another downside of empty calories: less satiating. The moment we eat a bag of chips, an hour later we’re reaching for more chips… which doesn’t help with the whole eating fewer calories goal. Meals that contain high protein, high fibre snacks help us feel more full and prevent the binging at the all too dangerous 3pm dip.
Another secret with eating nutrient dense foods: you can eat more. Yes, it’s true!
Let’s compare two snacks with the same calorie and carb content, and you can be the judge of which you think would make you more full:
Snack 1: 3 Oreo cookies
Snack 2: 1/2 cup cottage cheese + 1/2 cup of berries + 1 small apple
Snack 2 is a source of protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals, will make you feel full and satisfied and will not lead you back to the fridge twenty minutes after eating it. And let’s be honest, who can only eat three oreos and not the whole row… I know I can’t!
Eating whole foods with a variety of macros lets you eat more and feel more satisfied. Now that sounds like a recipe for sustainable weight loss.
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) Wrap Up
“Clean eating” creates an unhealthy obsession with the quality of calories and IIFYM focuses too much on quantity of calories. To keep your diet balanced and sustainable we need to find ourselves somewhere in the middle. Let’s follow the 80/20 rule – 80% of the time be conscious of the quality of calories by aiming for whole nutrient dense foods, and 20% of the time enjoy those indulgences.
If you’re active, being conscious of the food you’re eating is so important and if you focus on eating high quality sources of carbs that are loaded with fibre and vitamins and minerals it will enhance your training and performance.
As a Toronto nutritionist, it is my job to work with clients who want a balanced and sustainable diet plan that is easy to follow. If you need a healthy meal plan that will keep you energized throughout your busy day, book a free consultation with me and let’s get started!