Just a quick preface on this topic before we begin. I love the concept of if it fits your macros (iffym) and flexible dieting. It works. And It works well. There are some common mistakes that people make with this dieting methodology. First I’m going to tell you what iifym is.
What Is If It Fits Your Macros(IIFYM)?
Iffym is the method of gaining weight , maintaining your weight and losing your weight that is wholly dependent on the calories and macros you need to consume. You need to work out how much protein, carbs and fats through calculations and formulas and then you simply hit your numbers. I delve more deeply on this topic in the article below.
Iffym is a great way to reach your desired body composition. But if you want to do it. You should do it properly.
IIFYM Mistake 1 – Hitting Your Macros With A Majority Of Highly Processed Foods
So you go on instagram, and you search for the iffym/ the flexible dieting hashtag and you see that folks are hitting there calories and macronutrients with a majority of foods like donuts, biscuits, fast food. And they think its okay because they’re “hitting their macros”.
Yes you can build muscle eating fast food.
Yes you can lose fat eating fast food.
But you shouldn’t try to cram as much fast food as you can into your diet. And try to get away with it. Because it will come back around and bite you on the butt if you do.
The Twinkie Diet
Just to show you how important energy balance is. And that you can lose weight eating highly processed foods like sweets, and biscuits. Check the twinkie experiment out below.
This is where a nutrition professor called Mark Haub ate in a calorie deficit. And consumed lots of junk food. But because he was in a calorie deficit he actually lost fat. Click below to check it out.
So even though you can eat whatever foods you like and lose weight as long as you’re in a calorie deficit. It’s not best practice and it doesn’t mean you should do it.
The main reason to reduce the amount of highly processed foods is to make sure your not consuming any harmful trans fats.
Another thing to point out which I think is interesting is this: Say you need to eat 2000 calories to hit your macros and two people both need to hit 2000 calories. Let’s just name them Peter and Bob to make it easy.
Peter gets 60% of his calories from highly processed garbage.
Bob gets 80-90% of his calories from whole foods.
They both hit the same calories and macronutrients.
Peter hasn’t consumed many micronutrients , vitamins and minerals at all.
But Bob has consumed a whole wealth of micronutrients and feels great.
Even though they’ve both consumed the same amount of calories and macronutrients.
Bob has actually got many more vitamins , minerals and micronutrients. So if you take macros out of the equation Bob has actually gained so much more than just macros. He’s gained health. The most important quality of all.
Highly Processed Foods = Trans Fats
Trans fats are a man made fat that are prevalent in industrialised foods. Their primary role is to increase the shelf life of products. They can be found in:
Margarines and spreads
These are just a few sources of trans fats. Trans fats are incredibly bad for your health. Try to limit them to 0% of your diet. Tons of studies show that trans fats have some detrimental effects to your health.
What You Should Do Instead
You should limit highly processed foods like:
Basically anything that looks profoundly different to its raw unprocessed state.
And you should make sure that these foods comprise only 10-20% of your diet. And focus on whole foods first and foremost.
IIFYM – Mistake 2 – Eating So Much Highly Processed Sugar That It Mitigates The Taste Of Whole Foods
If you’re consuming a lot of processed sugar/ sugary drinks then you will find that these highly palatable foods and drinks will make the taste of fruit and whole foods less pronounced.
This effect also takes place when you consume a lot of diet drinks. This is because sugary drinks and foods contain a tremendous amount more sugar than there whole food counterparts do.
For instance if your used to drinking full sugar cola in tremendous quantities then when you eat a piece of fruit you will be desensitised to the sugary taste of fruit because the soda is so sweet.
This also rings true for diet drinks because they are excessively sweet. Look at the table below to learn how sweet these sweeteners can actually be.
If you consume a lot of sweeteners on a consistent basis there is a high chance that you’ll become slightly desensitised to less sweet tasting natural sugars. For instance fruit and fructose in particular.
What To Do Instead
If you like your sugary drinks. I would advise you to consume a can of soda per day at the most. And fit it in to the 10-20% allotment of “fun foods”. Regarding diet soda. You probably know that they contain little to zero calories. So I’d advise you to limit them to once per day. And it would be futile to track your calories coming from diet soda.
IIFYM – Mistake 3 – Consuming Too Little Fiber
When your just aiming to hit your macros with any food that titilates the hedonist inside of you. Then fiber can become a rare commodity. And thus could result in you falling short of your fiber intake.
If you eat whole grains, fruits, and fibrous carbohydrates like vegetables and fruits you won’t have a problem reaching your fiber target.
On the other hand if your making the first 2 mistakes then fiber will be harder to come by.
There are two types of fiber:
Soluable fiber consists of foods such as, oats, apples, bananas, beans & peas.
Insoluble fiber consists of foods such as barley, wheat, bran, cauliflower, grains, beans and the skins of foods such as tomatoes.
Fiber is extremely important for your health. In particular your gut health. Some of the benefits consist of:
Reduced risk of developing coronary artery disease
Lower risk of having a stroke
Reduced risk of hypertension
Lower risk of obesity
Reduced chance of developing Gastrointestinal diseases
Lower risk of developing diabetes
How Much Fiber Should You Consume
The national academy of medicine’s guidelines are to consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories.
So if your eating 1500 calories a day you would need to consume at least 21 grams of fiber.
And if you need to consume 3000 calories per day you’ll need to consume 42 grams of fiber.
Some simple swaps to reach your fiber intake include. Eating wholegrain bread instead of white bread, eating whole grain cereals instead of highly processed sugary cereals, And just consuming more fruits and vegetables all round. If you follow this advice it should do the trick.
If you consume enough fiber , eat mainly whole foods and reduce the consumption of highly processed foods and trans fats you highly increase the chance of you living a healthier, happier and more productive life. It’s extremely easy to track your fiber for iifym if you use an app like my fitness pal.
Iifym Mistake 4 – you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables
Hopefully now you understand that no matter what you’re eating, it’s the amount of calories you consume for weight loss, and muscle gain that matters. As shown in Marks twinkie experiment.
If you’re making some of the aforementioned mistakes then you’re probably not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Which can certainly be a net negative for your health. You may see some people eating absolute garbage foods and staying lean and muscular all year round but you don’t see the whole picture of their life. You only see a glimpse. And if you don’t know already, steroids are prevalent in the fitness industry and social media in general.
Although some one may look healthy on the outside this could be the opposite on the inside.
Health is everything.
Thats why I’ve got some practical recommendations about how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat everyday to be healthy and make the most out of your macros.
Fruit And Vegetable Recommendations Using IIFYM
Firstly I heard about these recommendations in the muscle and strength pyramids -nutrition by Eric Helms. See the link below.
The recommendations go like this. If you’re losing fat( aka in a calorie deficit) then you should consume 1 fruit and 1 vegetable per 500 calories. So an example of me I’m eating 2100 calories and losing roughly 1-2 pounds per week at the moment. So I need to consume roughly 4 vegetables and 4 fruits per day. Although some days I don’t reach this target I always try too. And just like you won’t be perfect in all areas of your life all the time. You can show up every day and try to be consistent.
This is what I strive for. But if I make sure I at least at a bare minimum have 1 vegetable and 1 fruit per 1000 calories. So at the very least I’ll eat 2 fruits and 2 vegetables a day. But I do strive for more than that and you should too. Most noteworthy is that when you’re in a calorie deficit. It can be advantageous to consume the upper limit of fruits and vegetables so that you will stay fuller for longer. Thus reaching your calorie deficit with ease. And without being hungry.
When You’re In A Calorie Deficit Eat More Fruits And Vegetables
When you’re in a calorie deficit it makes sense to choose lower calorie fruits like berries and melon over more calorific fruits like large bananas. But in contrast large bananas and dried fruits can be advantageous when lean bulking and when you’re in a calorie surplus. Especially if you’re not a big eater.
IIFYM – Mistake 5 – Eating Only Clean Foods
Firstly food is tasty and delicious. It comprises a big part of our lives and it is deeply embedded in every culture. Although gluttony is considered a sin ( and I have to agree). There is a time and a place for a bit of hedonistic consumption of tasty foods.
At the end of the day this fitness and nutrition thing is part of our lifestyle. And if we are too rigid and strict with our food choices, then do you think it’s a diet you can stick to?
I’m not one for dieting absolutism and I don’t expect you to be. There are just a few guidelines to consider when you want to eat less healthy and nutritionally bankrupt foods. Some tips that help you to indulge in the foods you love are below.
Tips To Help You Enjoy The Food You Love And Get Healthy. The Silver Lining Of IIFYM
Turn your nutritionally bankrupt foods into healthier versions. For instance say you love banana bread. And this particular banana bread recipe contains almost 300 grams of refined sugar. An easy swap for this is to just swap the sugar out with stevia.
Limit junk foods to 10-20% of your daily calorie intake when losing fat and in a calorie deficit.
And if you’re in a calorie surplus extend the junk food allotment to 30% of your daily calories. Only if you struggle with eating so much whole food.
If you have a tendency to binge and snack on junk food often then you could try intermittent fasting. Specifically the 16:8 protocol. Look below for a summary of how you can implement fasting into your lifestyle.
For a more detailed description of this, go to Martin Berkhan’s website linked below.
Another easy way that you can stay full is by just drinking enough water everyday. 3-4 litres plus a litre for every hour of exercise should be adequate.
The Bottom Line On IIFYM
- Iifym is a great diet approach to reach your fitness and health goals done correctly.
- Follow the practical guidelines of at the most 10-20% of your diet from highly processed foods.
- Make sure you eat your fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t make the mistakes in this article. Remember health comes first.
Thank you for reading.