IIFYM Diet: Is It All It’s Chalked Out To Be?

Key Points:

  • IIFYM diet advises followers to eat whatever they want, till the said foods fit their calories and macronutrient requirement.
  • Counting calories and consumption of sufficient macronutrients is more essential to achieving fitness goals while also ensuring overall physical health and well-being, as compared to just eating ‘healthy food’ in general.
  • IIFYM vs. clean eating. Some believe that ‘clean eating’ is a better way to achieve your fitness goals. But that fact that it is more restrictive means long-term sustainability of the lifestyle is comparatively more difficult. 
  • Just like with most things in life, there is need to exercise some caution with IIFYM as well. Because if used improperly the diet may not give desired effects and may even lead to negative impact on your overall health.

Counting calories, sacrificing your favourite foods and avoiding carbs because they are bad!

Sounds familiar?

Well, these are all just a few thoughts that run through the mind of anyone who is worried about their physical fitness. Or more simply, is on a diet.

Have you ever been on a diet? Must have tried it at least once in your life. If so, you must agree that dieting is definitely restrictive. And even then sometimes, despite all the hard work, it still does not seem to work out.

But, amidst all the chaos and never-ending struggle to lose or maintain or even gain weight, what if someone tells you there is a simpler, easier and comparatively fun way to diet. That is the IIFYM diet. Short for ‘If It Fits Your Macros’, IIFYM is stated to be a flexible way to diet. This regime advises followers to consume a certain number of calories, therein consuming a fixed amount fats, protein and carbs. IIFYM has gained a huge fan following in numerous fitness circles across the globe. Followers swear by the ease of following it and its effectiveness.

But is it really all they make it out to be? Well, let’s find out.

As the name suggests, the diet revolves around ‘macros’, that is, macronutrients. The term macronutrients refers to the nutrients that our body needs in large quantities to function properly and carry on with our day to day activities. There are three types of macros, namely, fats, carbs and protein, which are the main focal point of the IIFYM diet.

Now, let’s take a look at the basic principles of IIFYM and why their proper implementation is required to achieve desired results.

The initial step to starting the IIFYM diet is by counting calories and macronutrients. This principle is a breeding ground for not only this, but also other dieting regimes.  But why? Well, as per common consensus, the amount you weigh depends on the amount you eat, and not entirely on what you eat. Hence the idea of counting calories and macronutrients for weight management. So, you begin by calculating the amount of calories you burn off in a day. Once you do that, you get to know the amount of calories you should consume to meet your goals. That is, if you want to lose fat, it is suggested that you consume 15-30% lesser calories than what your body burns, to create a calorie deficit. On the other hand, if you want to gain muscle, consume about 5-15% more than what your burn off in a day. And if you want to maintain the body weight, consume exactly the amount of calories you burn out.

While this is the basic idea of counting calories, IIFYM regime takes it one step further. It asks you to look into your macronutrient requirements in consideration with your fitness goals. How? Once you assess the calorie intake needed to meet your goals, your next step is calculating how many of those calories should come from which macro nutrients. For example if your aim is to bulk up/ maintaining, you would ideally want to keep fats lower and maximize carbs. Keeping fat to 0.3gram/ pound body weight, protein 1 gram/pound body weight, and the remaining calories should come from carbs.

How is IIFYM superior to counting calories?

Some may argue that counting calories is a good enough way to loosing/ maintaining weight and even massing. And hence we don’t really need to worry about counting macros.

But that’s not true. How? It’s quite straightforward. If you only keep counting calories, and do not pay attention to whether you eat enough healthy fat, proteins and carbs, your overall physical health will be adversely affected. That’s because every macro performs a specific function and is important to our well-being.

Take ‘fats’ for example. ‘Fats’ has long been considered a bad word when it comes to fitness and weight loss/management. But studies prove this mind-set as wrong. In fact, consumption of healthy fats is essential for us. It is a major energy source for our bodies, helps in absorption of many minerals, and it also protects and builds cells and nerves [1]. Similarly both proteins and carbs serve specific purposes for our bodies and must be included in our diets in sufficient quantities.

This is why IIFYM is a considerably better way to reach your physical fitness goals in comparison to simply counting calories.

IIFYM vs. Clean Eating

What is clean eating? Clean eating is a dieting lifestyle which pushes followers to eat ‘clean’. This entails limiting processed and refined foods in your diets to a minimal, and eating more clean i.e. whole/unprocessed foods such as fruits, veggies etc. It reiterates the idea of cutting out snacks, exercising on a regular basis, and following proper and timely sleeping patterns .

Thus, ‘clean eating’ is more of a lifestyle, than a dieting regime. The fact that is calls for extremely healthy and balanced eating means it is good for overall health. But one can still question its sustainability. Cutting out processed foods from your diets, exercising regularly, and maintain strict sleeping patterns is a lot. It definitely is more restrictive that IIFYM, and hence is comparatively more difficult to implement in the long run.

This however does not mean that IIFYM comes without its own set of concerns and issues. At the top of the list of concerns is IFYM does not specify the kind of food to eat as long as you meet the calorie and macro requirements. While this infuses flexibility in the diet for most people, it can also leads for some individuals to eat majorly unhealthy and junk food. Thus, promoting bad eating habits and negatively impacting overall health. But the thing that people forget when raising this concern is that, no one can survive merely on junk foods forever. One is bound to grow bored of eating unhealthy (just like everything else), and move towards healthier eating down the line. Still, just in case, as a cautionary rule, many advocates of IIFYM suggest followers to get about 80% of your calories from unprocessed and nutritious foods. The remaining 20% can come from anything your heart desires . Coming up with a meal plan that suits your daily schedule is good for sustainability of the regime.

Another concern that comes with IIFYM is that it is ‘non-inclusive’. That is, while talking about macronutrients, it completely neglects micronutrients. Now micronutrients, are nutrients needed by our body in rather smaller doses, but are essential to our wellbeing nonetheless. Micronutrients deficiencies have major negative impact on our health, thus warranting sufficient consumption of micros as well . While this concern is valid, it is hardly something that cannot be corrected. A little caution and mindfulness on the part of the IIFYM follower to include micros in their diet is the way to go. Many nay-sayers, argue that IIFYM diet could lead to eating disorder associated with counting calories. Some also iterate the fact, that specific medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney diseases are not considered in IIFYM. And that the diet may adversely affect such individuals . While these concerns cannot be ignored, they are definitely not specific to this diet alone.

Conclusion

If followed properly there is hardly any reason for the IIFYM diet to be ineffective. There is however need to take things with a pinch of salt and exercise caution. While preparing a diet plan based on the principles of IIFYM, you must aim to strike a healthy balance between junk and nutrient dense foods. There is also need to be inclusive by shifting a little of the focus on micronutrients as well. And, if you have specific medical conditions which may worsen with this diet, it is best to consult a professional before diving into the IIFYM regime.

References:

  1. The truth about fats: the good, the bad and the in-between. Retrieved from-  https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros): A beginner’s guide. Retrieved from- https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iifym-guide#downsides

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