IIFYM Total Beginners Guide To If It Fits Your Macros! Eat What You Love & Lose Weight?



Over the last couple of years, a diet with the catchiest of acronyms has taken the natural bodybuilding world by storm. If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)

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.
Check Out Mike Samuels Latest Article For Us On ‘The Fallacy Of Cheat Meals’ Which Gives A More In Depth Look At The IIFYM Philosophy:

The Fallacy Of The Cheat Meal – Why You Shouldn’t ‘Cheat’ & What To Do Instead!

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.

3. If you do get all your calories from junk, you’ll probably feel pretty damn lousy – definitely not what you want before a heavy squat session.


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.

This diet also comes out to the same macros as your typical “clean foods” menu plan. Both will get the same results, but what sounds tastier?


How Do I Work Out My Macros?

There are loads of ways you can do this, but the easiest way is to use a BMR calculator (Which you can find HERE) then factor in your activity levels. (Which you can do HERE)

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

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22 Responses

  1. Bee

    First time I have seen this and took some things into consideration until I seen Soda on a meal plan….. yep all creditability lost

    • TrimmedandToned

      Hi Bee, thanks for taking the time to reply and read this article! Obviously soda isn’t the ideal choice of drink in terms of fitness and this article isn’t saying that it is. It is stating that if a person wanted to enjoy a diet soda (or a regular soda) at a meal with friends or another social occasion, then it isn’t the end of the world. It is not recommended that you do this everyday and if you feel soda has no place in your diet then you can simply swap it with water. It is just showing that people can have more variety in their diet than they think and still achieve amazing results and you don’t need to totally restrict all your options. The IIFYM principle is about making smart choices, eating healthy, nutrient rich food and on occasion if you can make it work with your targets, enjoy some of the food that most people would normally consider ‘cheating’.

    • D

      I dink a few diet sodas a week and stay around 10% all year. I’m not sure I see the problem.

    • Austin

      And even if you were to keep things flexible I’d drink a regular soda before a diet. But then again I don’t drink pop because that stuffs terrible for you.

    • angela

      if you think having diet soda on iifym diet is worthy to discredit an entire diet…well then do you even understand what iifym is? do you understand how that would fit in the macronutrient counting? smh

  2. Dave

    Learning about IIFYM from a jiu-jitsu teammate. Protein levels seem hard to reach consistently, even with a double scoop of whey (40g worth of protein). Any advice?

    • TrimmedandToned

      Hi Dave!

      Thanks for the reply! It really depends on how much protein you are looking to get into your diet. Some people recommend a 1g of protein per pound of lean bodyweight, others suggest taking in much more. It is up to you to find out what works for you and to find out when you are seeing the best results with what level of protein. In terms of getting more protein in your diet, like you said, whey protein is a great option. Try and make sure to have a a protein with every meal you have. If you start off the day with a low protein meal and lunch, then it can be hard to fit it all in later in the day. Foods like chicken, tuna, pork, steak, egg whites, whey etc are all high in protein and can help you hit your protein macros. If you use an app like myfitnesspal or dailyburn, you can play around with what foods you like and these apps will tell you your macros and you can work up a diet that works for you and hits your macro goals.

      Hope this helps! Thanks!

  3. Kay

    I just started dabbling into IIFYM and I was wondering what to do when I’ve met my Macros but not my calorie intake?

    • TrimmedandToned

      Hi Kay!

      Your macronutrient numbers/goals and your calorie number are directly related, meaning, if you hit your macronutrient numbers you will also hit your calorie number. If these two aren’t related (two different results) then either your macro numbers are wrong or your calorie total is wrong. A gram of protein and carbs are 4 calories and a gram of fat is worth 9 calories. Work this out with your macro targets and see what number you get. This is the total amount of calories you are taking in. You may need to readjust your calorie limit or macros.

      Let us know if you need any further detail and we’ll be happy to email you!


      • Brittany

        I am just confused at like how to get the whole food selection started. Do I just read the grams of the carbs in let’s say some bread, and look up the grams of protein in a sandwich, etc, even condiments, to make sure it all adds up? Is there a website or place I can go to get meal plan based on my micros? any info you have would help! :)

      • TrimmedandToned

        Hi Brittany!

        Thanks for the great question! Yeah, basically, the best thing to get started would probably be to download a food tracking app such as ‘myfitnesspal’ or ‘dailyburn tracker’, this makes the process a whole lot simpler. These are free apps and you sign up and then you have an account where you can track everything you eat. They have a huge database of foods (complete with all calories and macros) So for example, say you want to start off your day with a glass of orange juice, 3 eggs and two pieces of toast. You type these into the app, and it will measure and track all the numbers for you. These apps also allow you to set programs and numbers that you want to hit, so it will tell you how many more calories, protein, carbs and fats that you need to hit to make your targets for the day. If you like to prepare ahead, you can play around with the app and enter in all that you would like to eat for the next day, that way you can see what the numbers come out as. If you find you are over calories, you can scale back some of the portion sizes. If you aren’t getting enough protein, you could add in a shake or a chicken breast. Here is another great site: http://www.eatthismuch.com/ Which is maybe what you where asking for with the site that can customise a meal plan for you based on your macros. You simply follow the instructions and change your macros as you need and it will generate a plan. You could combine these two and this will give you maximum flexibility and choice. Have fun with it and it will be that much easier to follow! Any other questions or problems, please feel free to ask here and we will help you out! Thanks a lot!

  4. Maria

    I think Bee missed the point of flexible dieting…

    I thought this was extremely credible, clear to the point . Nice article :)

  5. Natalie

    Great article. I am looking to start IIFYM approach as I think it will fit my lifestyle a lot better then “eat every two hours ” plans. One concern I have is that when calculating my macros, it puts me almost at 2000 calorie diet ( man’s calorie intake). My BMR is 1550 and I workout 4-5 times a week, intensely and 2 days of low impact cardio. I think the proposed numbers just scare me because they seem so much higher then 1200 calories we are lead to believe is needed. Any advice?

    • Habib

      Eat the 2000 calories that is recommended and track it for a week or two. Then adjust accordingly.

  6. Lisa

    Excellent article. Getting started with IIFYM seems very overwhelming to me for whatever reason. This article summarized it perfectly. Thank you.

  7. Anna

    Someone at my gym has suggested I use the iifym to lose weight. I have 5 stone to lose and have been on low fat diets such as slimming world with little sustainable success tbh but looking at the iifym and nutrition in general I was probably having nearly all my cals in carbs :)
    This article was very helpful I have just used an iifym calculator on another website and inputted the macros, cals onto the mfp app and today is my first day, looking forward to being in control of my nutrition and seeing results.

  8. Beth

    Hey there – I am overweight and so I’m embarking on a life style change. I have been looking at my macros and calories and I think I’m getting it totally wrong… according to my BMR/TDEE Values I need 2600Kcals to stay my current weight, I have been eating approximately 1600 and hitting my macros everyday for 4 weeks yet no difference… Am I missing a factor? I know my TDEE cant be far out because I’ve been making my work outs… any thoughts?

  9. Lithe

    Great article, I’ve been using My Fitness Pal to test this out and I still find it really hard to hit my macros accurately so I’m off to check out Eatthismuch.com and see if it would help. Wouldn’t it be great if MFP could suggest meals for you based on what you’ve got ‘left in the bank’ ;)

  10. Matt

    A good article, explains more than most others, but after years of totally failing to reach any sort of goal at all I’m still a bit sceptical.

    • deniztuzu

      I have been losing weight following iifym and tracking with MFP. I have lost over 45 lbs. in 3 months and it has been so easy. The loss rate is a bit high and I am still tweaking my caloric intake to adjust. It is so easy and flexible that anyone wanting to lose weight should look no further.

      • Kay

        I really want to give IIFYM a try however I know that it will be hard for me to stay consistent with weighing all of my food. Do you weigh your food or do you simply use MFP? The simpler the better. Welcoming responses from anyone willing.

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