The fitness world is full of different approaches to dieting – low carb, paleo and the 5/2 diet being some of the most commonly lauded approaches to weight management and fat loss. There’s also another method gaining momentum in the fitness community and it’s known as ‘If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)’. It’s a fairly straightforward approach to nutrition that lets you eat what you like as long as you hit your daily targets for calories, protein, carbs and fat.
It’s essentially a similar approach to diet that bodybuilders have been using for decades. To maximise the impact of your training you need the right balance of macronutrients, as this will provide the most muscle growth and recovery.
High protein intake is essential for muscle growth and recovery, so it tends to remain constant throughout the week. Carbohydrate intake is cycled based on the days you’ll be training, with higher carb intake on workout days and lower intake on rest days. The remainder of your daily calories will be from fat, and you can work out your targets here.
Does It Work?
The first thing to ascertain about any nutritional program is how effectively it achieves what it claims. In that respect, IIFYM works as described – if you stick to the protocol you’ll most likely drop fat and/or gain muscle, depending on your goals.
While it seems like the dream diet, essentially eating what you like within set boundaries, it’s not quite as straightforward as that. It does require discipline and it’s by no means a shortcut to a six pack. It’s more a framework that allows a bit of flexibility rather than a free for all eating spree, and you’ll get out of the diet what you put into it.
The plus side is that if you mostly eat nutritious, healthy foods there’s a little bit of leeway for a slice of pizza or a bar of chocolate if the mood hits you. It’s not as strict as some of the more hard core fat loss diets, but it still requires some self-control if you’re going to see results.
Taking the Sensible Approach
One thing that should be noted is that overall health and body composition are not the same thing. It’s possible to be sitting at 10% body fat and be extremely unhealthy, so in the interest of general health and wellbeing you should try to eat a balanced diet when running IIFYM.
On paper it could be tempting to get all of your protein from shakes and spend the rest of the day eating junk food. While you’ll still see progress as long as you’re hitting your caloric and macronutritional targets, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll feel like crap while you’re doing it.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet has numerous benefits outside of better body composition and diet adherence will be far easier if you’re eating better quality food. Don’t deny yourself the occasional treat if you’ve planned it in, but don’t make junk food the core of your diet and you’ll really see the benefits over time.
Tracking Your Intake
Apps like MyFitnessPal make tracking your macro intake incredibly easy, and all that’s required is consistent logging of the food you’re eating. You can alter the macro targets in the settings section of the app, making it really simple to see how much protein, fat or carbs you have left during the day.
If you don’t have access to the app or the website then a pen and paper will do the job. Just use the calculator we linked to earlier and try to log everything you eat throughout the day. It’s a bit more work but it’ll get the job done, plus you’ll feel like a real old school bodybuilder!
As with most healthy diets, IIFYM will work if you’re consistent and patient. You’ll be getting the right balance of macronutrients to allow you to make progress in the gym and you’ll retain muscle while dropping fat – just try to follow a traditional balanced diet for the most part and you’ll really see the benefits.