If you have been on any bodybuilding website, forum, or even at the gym lately, you have heard the term IIFYM. IIFYM stands for If It Fits Your Macros.
Macro is a shorthand word for macronutrient. A Macronutrient can be broken down into either a protein, carb, or fat, in calorie form. Science and nutrition has always proven that weight loss, weight gain, and muscle gain always comes down to a calories in, calories out game, but only until now are people finally starting to jump on the bandwagon. Bodybuilders are seen eating pop tarts, lucky charms, pancakes and more, and are more shredded then ever, and still maintain their sanity. They are able to do this because they are tracking everything they are eating, calorie for calorie, and since what their eating fits in line with the amount of carbs, protein, and fat they need to reach their goals, they can eat what they want.
How To Get Started With IIFYM
In order to get started with IIFYM, you need to know some numbers. First off, you need to know your BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate. In order to figure out your BMR, you can either go to a science lab and run some expensive tests, and get an accurate reading of your BMR, or you can use the calculator I included in the right side of this page to get an idea of what your BMR is. These calculators can be tricky, but can give you a fairly accurate reading of your TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure (the amount of calories you burn every day).
Another method that you can use, which I actually recommend, is put together by the guru of all bodybuilding guru’s, Layne Norton. Layne recommends a more simpler approach in his article called “The Ultimate Cutting Diet” from SimplyShredded.com:
Calories to find your estimated Calorie Baseline:
Mesomorphs – bodyweight x 15.
Ectomorphs – bodyweight x 16-17.
Endomorphs – bodyweight x 13-14.
If at this point you do not know what a Mesomorph, Ectomorph, or Endomorph is, i’d go here.
Once you know your body type, and have your calorie baseline, you need to figure out what macronutrient proportions you need to choose.
Calculating Macro Intake for Fat Loss
- Mesomorphs – 1.2g/lb – 1.3g/lb
- Ectomorphs – 1.4g/lb – 1.6g/lb
- Endomorphs – 1.4g/lb – 1.5g/lb
- Mesomorphs – 17% – 23% of total calories
- Ectomophs – 24%-28% of total calories
- Endomorphs – 23%-28% of total calories
Whatever calories are left in your calculation is where your carb intake comes in. Example: Lets say you are a 200 pound mesomorph, and your estimated calorie baseline is 3000 (200×15). We will set protein at 1.3g/lb which equals out to 260 grams of protein per day, or 1040 calories. Fat intake is set at 17%, or 510 calories, equaling out to 56 grams of fat. That leaves us with 1450 calories left out of our 3000, which equals out to 362 grams of carbs a day.
Putting IIFYM All Together
Once you have found your numbers for your calorie baseline, to get started with IIFYM it is suggested you eat at this maintenance level for 4-6 weeks, in order to track if it really is your baseline or not. If you are gaining weight, you may need to lower your baseline. If you are losing weight, then you need to increase your baseline. Eating at maintenance for 4-6 weeks will also help with your metabolism, and make sure it is in good working order before you begin to cut calories.
After finding your true maintenance levels, and eating at maintenance for 4-6 weeks, its time time really dig into IIFYM Flexible dieting.
IIFYM Setpoint=Maintenance -500
Dieting is all about not shocking your body into starvation mode, and this is what most dieters and bodybuilders do terribly wrong. They want to get ripped, and jump right into a huge calorie deficit, and do that for 4-6 weeks, losing 20 pounds, then hitting plateaus because they have nothing left to cut out.
After your 4-6 weeks at maintenance, begin your dieting phase with a 500 calorie deficit. Do not cut out protein or fat, only cut carbs in the “whats left” approach from above. In this example like above, we set calories at 2500, so we only have 950 calories left for carbs, or 237 grams. Start here, and run it weight loss stalls. Keep running with these macros until weight loss stalls. I cannot express this enough. Losing fat is all about losing it slow. Melting like butter on a hot day. talking about diet, you need a motivation if you want to become a better athlete.
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How To Actually Count Macros For Flexible Dieting
It may seem like I haven’t even got into the main point of this article, which is that you can start eating pop tarts and twinkies with Flexible Dieting, but I needed to set you up with how to set up your Macro’s in order to get to the good part.
All you need to do from this point is get a calorie counter app for your phone, and plug in everything you eat into it, making sure you hit your macro (protein, fat, and carb) goals on everything, without going over.
IIFYM GOLDEN RULE: Everything must be tracked and weighed for accurate readings. If it can’t be tracked, it can’t be eaten.
They say that the line between success and failure is as fine as a razors edge, and that couldn’t be more true than with Flexible Dieting. You must track everything here, especially if you are going to be eating what some people may be consider as questionable items.
Tracking boxed foods (Easiest)
One reason many bodybuilders choose to eat pop tarts with IIFYM is that they are easily tracked, along with any other type of food with a serving size and calorie count. All you need to do is measure it or count it.
Example, Lucky Charms cereal serving size is 1 cup, and has 120 calories. All you need to do is measure out 1 cup and add it into your phone calorie counter, and you’re set!
Tracking non-boxed foods
This is where IIFYM can go way wrong, and if you don’t watch it you will derail yourself. Foods at restaurants, packaged meats, and other items that cant be measured must be weighed with a food scale.
Example: 7oz of Salmon has 290 calories. The only way to know you are eating 7 oz of salmon is to weigh it with a food scale.
It is highly suggested that while doing IIFYM for fat loss purposes to not eat out at any restaurants or any place that you can’t count the macros of what you are eating.
Tweaking for results
After 3-4 weeks at the -500 calories deficit, if you aren’t losing weight, and your macros are in deed accurately accounted for, and I mean everything from sauces to condiments. Every thing you put in your mouth must be tracked and accounted for. If you aren’t losing weight or getting any results i’d suggest first adding in HIIT cardio 3x per week, and not messing with the diet. After 3-4 more weeks if you still aren’t losing weight, i’d suggest cutting carbs another 50 grams.
Summing Flexible Dieting/IIFYM All Up
Hopefully after reading this article you know a lot more about IIFYM then you originally did. IIFYM is not about letting yourself eat like a slob. It’s about science and measurability. True fat loss is not about cutting calories once and getting shredded forever. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle and not for everyone. There is a reason bodybuilders hire coaches to put diet plans together. There is no cookie cutter solution, and everyone is different. The methods I mentioned above will work if you follow them, but it does require work to track everything. I’ll be writing more about Flexible dieting soon. Stay tuned.