A hot trend over the past few years has been the emergence of IIFYM. While the study of macronutrients (fats, protein and carbs) has been around for several years, the acronym has taken on a life of its own, leading to websites, blogs and a somewhat ever-growing rift between the world of “clean” eaters and IIFYM followers.
This acronym, IIFYM, describes a dieting philosophy that appears to have originated with bodybuilders who were obviously tired of eating the same “boring” foods on a daily basis to achieve the leanness they were aiming for during contest preparation. Most bodybuilders, male and female, have typically followed a routine involving lean sources of protein, green vegetables and slow-digesting carbs such as brown rice and oatmeal. Within a typical contest-preparation season, usually between 12-16 weeks, competitors find themselves becoming terribly bored with their diet routine even though they may be seeing the aesthetic changes they were hoping for. And this type of clean eating goes far beyond the world of bodybuilding; gym-goers and those interested in losing weight also usually choose foods considered boring and clean (i.e. chicken and broccoli).
Some believe that this “obsessive” type of eating, myself included, can lead to future binging and a fear-based relationship with food. While eating clean foods usually leads to weight or body fat loss, the individual who follows this extreme discipline has to be sure he’s eating enough without slowing his metabolism so much that he experiences metabolic damage when he stops his contest diet. As a personal trainer and bodybuilder, I’ve personally witnessed and experienced the post-contest rebound effect as my body tries to adjust to a less obsessive eating pattern. I’ve often thought to myself (hindsight is 20-20), how I could have found more balance throughout the contest preparation stage; and if I had done so, would I have possibly avoided this extreme after-effect on my metabolism?
Ultimately it appears that we as a society continue a principle of belief that routine and almost-starvation will get us the results we want when it comes to weight loss. And as we become singular in our focus, we are fearful to venture outside of this pattern into a world of variety and flexible dieting.
Here is where I believe the popularity of IIFYM has grown and taken on mass appeal.
IIFYM proposes that you can achieve an acceptable and steady amount of fat loss if you consume fewer calories than your body burns, as long as you eat an adequate amount of carbs, protein and fat throughout the day to fit your specific goals and energy/athletic needs. The extremity of eating clean turns into a broader variety of foods to choose from and a consumption of foods that typically are viewed as bad (as long as these foods do not surpass our recommended macro limits). Those who follow an IIFYM methodology can eat a piece of pizza or a doughnut without experiencing the shame that comes with a rigid “clean eating” diet. Because of this flexibility and the lack of guilt, many people have found significant long-term success and actually start enjoying the dieting process!
IIFYM can be incredibly detailed when it comes to adapting the principles into your everyday diet; there is a simplified version, however, meant for those interested in beginning today.
Follow these steps:
You must first come up with TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), or how many calories your body burns throughout a 24-hour period. There are a number of calculators online that you can find simply by typing the words “TDEE calculator” into any search engine.
When you’ve arrived at your TDEE, subtract 10-20 percent from this number to come up with the amount of calories you should consume daily to steadily lose body fat.
Then take this new calorie intake number and divide it by the macronutrient amounts you need. Let’s use a common and very balanced macronutrient ratio of 40:30:30. In this case, 40 percent of your calories come from carbs, 30 percent from protein and 30 percent from fats. (*Please note that this is a general recommendation and might not be adequate for your specific needs.)
Type IIFYM Macro Calculator in your search engine to help you with the math and specification for your goals. But for all of you math lovers, remember that gram of protein= calories, gram of fat=9 calories and gram of carbohydrates= calories. So if the number you received in Step is ,000 calories per day, you would multiply ,000 by 40 percent or .40, giving you a total of 800 calories per day of carbohydrates. Then multiply ,000 by .30, to give you a total of 600 calories per day of protein and 600 calories per day of fats. Divide 800 by to get the amount of grams you need of carbs: 200 g total. Divide 600 by to get the amount of grams you need of protein: 150 g total. Divide 600 by 9 to get the amount of grams you need of fat: 67 g total.
Overall, I suggest you do your own research and find the type of diet that allows you to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If IIFYM appeals to you, I hope that you enjoy the flexibility of the approach and the emotional freedom it can give. But I caution you to avoid using this as an excuse to eat junk food on a regular basis. While you might lose weight, you will not feel your best or be receiving enough nutrients to properly fuel your body. Balance is key not only with IIFYM but with any diet you choose!