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Counting the number of calories we ate in a day has always been the usual way to manage our diet. If we had our calories in deficit, we’d lose weight. If they were in excess, we’d gain weight. This approach worked for some people, but for others, it proved to be a challenge. In recent years, “if it fits your macros” or IIFYM, has sparked huge interest in the dieting world. IIFYM focuses on monitoring individual macronutrient intake instead of calories. Some believe that as long as you hit certain numbers, there's theoretically no limitation on the kinds of foods you can use to meet them.
The three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. In IIFYM, you count macronutrients—in order to meet goals for each macro—instead of calories. If done well, this can provide a constant calorie intake that can be individualized to your personal diet needs. IIFYM, however, is not necessarily for everyone. The general concept of IIFYM and making it work as a lifestyle requires an advanced understanding of some key nutrition facts. If IIFYM is done without knowledge, it can be done incorrectly. If it’s done right, it can be something that can absolutely work for you and your lifestyle.
If you’re used to dieting with traditional calorie counting, it can be hard to understand how IIFYM could ever work. IIFYM can look like a free-for-all diet that lacks control. Don’t get me wrong—a caloric deficit is still crucial to losing fat, no matter what diet you are on. But many people feel this approach to dieting has given them the opportunity to achieve their fitness goal and made dieting more enjoyable. In IIFYM, no foods are "off-limits" and you can even indulge in “cheat foods” in moderation. Having a variety of different food sources helps you stick to the diet. Your dieting success ultimately boils down to portion control. While dieting is still tough no matter who you are (and you may very well still feel hungry at times), taking a macronutrient approach might make it a lot more enjoyable. You can even use IIFYM when eating out. Some restaurants provide macronutrients on their menu which makes it easy to track your progress.
Not all versions of IIFYM are perfect. In fact, I see plenty of self-proclaimed fitness gurus do it wrong. People mistakenly think that they can eat anything and everything, and then are surprised when they either don’t lose weight or even gain weight. These same people usually choose sweet, sugary foods over wholesome, unprocessed foods. A candy bar is just not the same thing as rolled oats; an apple pie is not the same as an apple. They are both carbs, but let’s be real, the difference is night and day. Your body won't process a candy bar and an apple pie the same way it will process oats and an apple. For one, your body on the processed foods will have a spike in energy, quickly followed by a crash. Having a solid real carb source in your diet will provide a gradual and longer-lasting source of energy.
You can still “treat” yourself, but your diet should break down to 90% whole foods and 10% treats. The same goes for your fat intake. There are good fats such as nuts, egg yolks, oils, and avocados, and then there are bad fats. Don’t load up on processed fats and think your body is going to process and use them in a way that will benefit you.
Keep in mind that what works for someone else may not work for you. Their macros won’t look like yours because everyone’s body and daily training program is completely different. Maybe this person is an endomorph (hard gainer) like you, but killing it in the gym, whereas you are only doing minimal exercise. It’s also likely that anyone who eats only junk food and manages to lose weight is the exception, not the rule. You can’t put junk in your body and expect to get positive results out of it. The saying, “you are what you eat,” is very true.
I personally follow IIFYM in a meal plan form when I do my show preps. I have certain macronutrients I want to hit each day, but I break my meals up evenly and space the times out every couple of hours. That way I get a steady flow of food instead of a huge surplus randomly here and there. Lastly, I eat 100% clean, healthful, and unprocessed foods. Although I have been able to achieve the results I want by following this method, other diets can also work for you if you follow them correctly. Find a plan that works for your body type and your schedule, then give it a fair chance by sticking to it. Taking on a diet is a lifestyle change—change is never easy—but it’s a change for the better.