If you are into the whole building muscle and getting shredded thing then you’ve probably heard about a this fairly new approach to nutrition referred to as “If It Fits Your Macros” or “IIFYM”. If you’re not familiar with this concept then the following article will definitely be of interest to you.
In the next few paragraphs I’m going to explain what If It Fits Your Macros is all about. Then I’m going to discuss the various ways that it’s being used and misused. Finally I’ll give you my opinion on whether I think it’s a valid approach to building muscle and or burning fat.
IIFYM is pretty straight forward. If you have a goal, whether it’s to build muscle or burn fat then we all know that the first, most important step towards that goal is to get your nutrition dialed in. When one is “dialing in” their nutrition the total amount of calories consumed is often the area that’s given the most attention.
The total amount of calories that you consume are dictated by the amount of each macro-nutrient that you eat. Hence the word macro. Your macro-nutrients or macros are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Each of these macros contains a certain number of calories per gram. Protein and carbs contain roughly 4 calories per gram while fat has a whopping 9 calories per gram!
This means that if someone consumed 100 grams of all three macro-nutrients you would get the following:
Protein 100 grams x 4 = 400 calories
Carbohydrates 100 grams x 4 = 400 caloriesFat 100 grams x 9 = 900 calories
Total calories = 1,700
The above numbers aren’t any kind of recommendation, just an easy way to illustrate how total calories are determined. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, those calories come from the total amount of each macro-nutrient that are in the foods you eat. Make sense?
When you know how many calories you should be consuming to accomplish your goal, you can then assign an amount of each macro-nutrient that allows you to reach that caloric goal.
For example if your goal was to eat 2,600 calorioes a day and you wanted to follow a diet where 30% of your calories came from protein, 30% from fat and the remaining 40% came from carbohydrates, all you would need to do is a little math and you’d have your numbers.
Protein: 2,600 x .30 = 780 calories / 4 = 195 grams / day
Fat: 2,600 x .30 = 780 calories / 9 = 85 grams / day
Carbohydrates: 2,600 x .40 = 1,040 calories / 4 = 260 grams / day
According to IIFYM all we need to do now is eat foods that will allow us to fit or hit our numbers for each macro.
This is where the controversy starts. Hard core advocates of the If It Fits Your Macros approach will say that it doesn’t matter what you eat, all that matters is that the amount of food you eat fits your macros. This is a pretty bold statement given that most bodybuilders have advocated a clean eating strategy since the beginning of time!
IIFYM has gained a lot of popularity because there are very little, if any, limitations as to the foods you’re allowed to eat. If you can eat pop tarts, burgers and pizza all day and you’re able to fit those foods into your macros (assuming of course that the total amount of calories and allocation of macros is correct) then you will reach your goal whether you’re trying to build muscle or burn fat.
In my opinion there are certain situations and people who might be able to get away with eating whatever they want and still be able to get lean and put on some muscle. However there’s a lot to be said about eating quality food and how it makes you feel. Just cause you might be able to eat junk food and get away with it, doesn’t mean you’re going to feel good or that it’s a healthy option.
I think that IIFYM can be taken too far when there is no attention to food quality. If your macros call for 200 grams of carbs and you get them all from high glycemic sources then your blood sugar levels will be elevated, insulin will be released and fat will be stored.
Sure you could time the intake of those fast digesting carbs so they are consumed right after your workouts, when the extra glucose is more likely to be shuttled into your muscles then into fat cells, but now you’re venturing away from the core of IIFYM and getting more into a middle ground referred to as Flexible dieting.
I’ll write more about flexible dieting in the future but for now I’ll say this. I think flexible dieting is a much better approach then If It Fits Your Macros because there is more focus put on food quality. While at the same time it’s not as restricting as the hard core, clean eating approach.
In summary, my opinion about IIFYM is that it can work if it’s used with a little discipline. If you’re macros are set up intelligently and allow you to reach a caloric intake that is in fact conducive to your goals, then you will see some movement towards achieving your goals. However, the people who use the If It Fits Your Macros approach to justify eating nothing but junk food for every meal, probably won’t ever achieve the physique they are after.