Over the last couple of years, a diet with the catchiest of acronyms has taken the natural bodybuilding world by storm.
What Is It?
IIFYM simply means eating a diet that meets your macronutrient needs.
To break it down and start from the beginning, macronutrients are the three main food groups – proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Each macronutrient has its own role to play, and is needed in different quantities depending on your goals, metabolism, training history, and many other factors.
IIFYM eating flies in the face of conventional dieting, and the notion that anyone who wants to get in shape has to eat a stringent diet, composed of a limited number of so-called “clean foods,” needs to eat at precise times throughout the day, must have certain types of food pre and post workout, and that any deviation from this strict structure is breaking the rules of dieting.
The idea of IIFYM is simple – you eat whatever foods you like the fill your allotment of proteins, carbs and fats.
So I Can Eat Whatever I Like And Get In Shape?
On the face it may seem that way, but actually it’s far from it.
There are several issues in thinking this:
1. If you’re cutting, and have a macronutrient intake of 250 grams of protein, 150 grams of carbs and 75 grams of fat, good luck filling your macros with poptarts, chips, burgers and fries. To get that much protein while restricting carbs and fat, you’re still going to have to rely on a lot of bodybuilding staples – lean meat, fish, dairy products, oats, potatoes and veggies, etc. Sure, if you have room to fit the odd junk food snack into your day, by all means go for it, but don’t kid yourself you can spend all day eating whatever you please.
2. Staunch proponents of IIFYM dieting are also serious about food quality. Dieters will set a minimum fiber intake (usually around 20-25g for women and 30-35g for men) which will necessitate lots of vegetables, pulses, fruits and minimal processed sugar.
What Is The Idea Then?
The idea is that your diet is far, far more flexible from those you might have seen advertised in “Big Biceps Weekly” magazine. You needn’t worry about sticking to only quote-un-quote clean foods, eating every two hours, or forcing egg whites and spinach down your throat just because your diet plan says so.
You still eat good, wholesome, nutrient-dense foods, but you have a lot more leeway in the process. Don’t fancy eating breakfast? Then don’t worry, just hit your macros by eating bigger meals the rest of the day. Going out for a meal at a burger joint? That’s fine – you’ll probably use up your whole day’s carb and fat allowance with the bun and fries, but you can compensate by relying on chicken, lean beef, protein shakes and non-starchy vegetables for the rest of the day. You might not want to do this every day of the week, but once in a while it’s no biggie.
Hate the taste of brown rice, wholemeal bread and sweet potatoes? No problem – eat the white varieties and just add in extra vegetables, beans or a fiber supplement to make sure you’re getting in enough of the good stuff.
“Clean Eating vs Macro Counting”
Your classic clean eating diet would look something like this…
‘Classic’ Meal Plan
- Meal 1: 8 egg whites, 1 cup of oatmeal.
- Meal 2: 6 oz chicken breast, 1 cup brown rice, mixed side salad.
- Meal 3: (Pre-Workout) 1 scoop whey protein powder, 1 cup oatmeal.
- Meal 4: (Post-Workout) 2 scoops protein/carb recovery drink.
- Meal 5: 6oz extra lean beef, green beans, 1 oz mixed nuts.
- Meal 6: 6oz salmon fillet, broccoli, 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- Meal 7: 1 scoop casein protein powder, 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter.
Pretty boring, right? In total, this comes to around 230g protein, 200g carbs, 80g fat and 2440 calories. But boy, do those food choices suck? And what about the hassle of eating so frequently?
Instead of following such a dull, regimented approach, you could go the IIFYM route. Remember, your macros should be the same, but you can vary the food choices as you please. This could be any day – say you’re eating out over lunch, and fancy grabbing something in Subway for the sake of convenience.
‘IIFYM’ Style Meal Plan
- Meal 1: 500g low-fat Greek yogurt with 1 cup of fiber cereal, 1 oz of nuts and an apple.
- Meal 2: Lunch at Subway – footlong turkey sub on oat bread, with double meat, cheese and unlimited salad, plus a diet coke.
- Meal 3: (post workout) 2 scoops whey protein, small tub of low fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.
- Meal 4: Homemade lean beef burgers with 2 slices cheddar, a slice of bacon, avocado and a wholewheat bun, plus a huge mixed salad.
How Do I Work Out My Macros?
After using the Harris Benedict equation to find your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) you can either subtract 300-500 from this if you’re looking to shed fat, or add 300-500 for muscle gain.
As a basic rule, shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. After that, the rest is up to you. Generally, if you’re naturally leaner or looking to bulk up, get the majority of your remaining calories from carbs. If you tend to carry more fat, have a slow metabolism or want to lean down, then go for a slightly higher fat intake and lower the carbs. That’s about it – it doesn’t get much simpler.
Great, And Then What?
From here, it’s just a case of tracking what you eat using a calorie counting site or app. These are incredibly easy to use once you get to grips with them. Play around to find what foods you can use to meet your macronutrient needs.
The macros aren’t set in stone either – weigh yourself once a week and take progress measurements and photos once a month to see how you’re progressing.
Tweak the total calorie intake and your macronutrient ratios to find what gets you the best results, and enjoy the freedom that flexible dieting and IIFYM offer.
AUTHOR: Mike Samuels is a personal trainer, writer and online coach based in Southampton, UK. Get in touch with him at www.healthylivingheavylifting.com and on facebook: HealthyLivingHeavyLifting