Tech + Health

12.02.13

Is the IIFYM Diet Right for You?

By Michael Israetel for Life by DailyBurn

IIFYM may sound like some sort of computer language acronym, but it’s actually a new approach to dieting that promises a greater freedom of food choices without the loss of results. It stands for “If It Fits Your Macros,” which refers to the macronutrient content of the food you eat each day (carbs, proteins, fats).

The basic tenet of IIFYM is that if you meet your prescribed daily totals of carbs, proteins and fats (and thus your total recommended calorie intake as well), you will successfully lose weight and body fat. The kicker: The types of foods you eat and the number of meals you consume per day matter much less than sticking to your prescribed macronutrient breakdown. IIFYM advocates say that if you meet your daily macros, whether it be from chicken breasts and brown rice or protein shakes and brownies, your diet will be a success. But is it too good to be true?

“IIFYM, if not the most optimal dieting strategy, is certainly a good start, and will yield significant results if done properly.”

While IIFYM has both its supporters and detractors, research suggests individuals can, in fact, shed excess pounds without much regard to the types and frequencies of foods they eat, so long as they count the nutrients. This is possible because of all the variables that lead to diet success (including calorie balance, macronutrient amounts, nutrient timing and food composition), calorie balance and macronutrient amounts are by far the most important. Since IIFYM takes both into consideration, it puts the dieter in a very good position right out of the gate. Dr. Jennifer Case, who received her PhD in Nutrition from Kansas State University and is also a life-long combat athlete (most recently the 2013 IBJJF Masters Heavyweight World Champion) has remarked that, “IIFYM, if not the most optimal dieting strategy, is certainly a good start, and will yield significant results if done properly.”

But don’t break out the ice cream in the name of fat loss just yet…

Before diving headfirst into the junk food drawer, there are three important factors in determining if IIFYM is right for you.

1. Counting Conundrum
The first consideration in order to find out if IIFYM might be a good fit is your ability and willingness to count, tally, add, subtract and divide macronutrient amounts in the foods you eat. In order to make room for that brownie and pizza, you have to find out how many more carbs and fats you’re allotted for the day. This requires closely reading nutritional labels on the backs of foods, and continuous counting (which can be especially difficult when eating out and nutritional information is not readily available). For many this can be totally doable, while those averse to numbers might rather just eyeball their portions. If you’re the counting type, IIFYM may be something to consider. If not, you might want to think twice.

2. The Simple Life
Some people have a strong aversion to simplified diets and prefer not to eat repeat meals of lean meat paired with a whole grain and a healthy fat source. Ground turkey with sweet potatoes and a drizzle of olive oil only tastes good for so long, after all. Others, however, find the monotony of dieting empowering in its simplicity; follow the guidelines and you’ll be freed from fixating on food. Prepping those identical pre-made meals and packing them in Tupperware, means they can focus on the rest of their lives instead of having to plan out how to integrate that side of fries into their daily food log. If you’re a stickler for routine, IIFYM might just be a needless headache. But if you feel boxed in by standard dieting and are better off with greater variety in taste and texture, IIFYM could be a more flexible option for you.

3. The Cheating Type
Last but not least, it’s important to factor in your “cheat food tolerance.” When dieting, people will find themselves somewhere on the spectrum of cheat food consumption. That is, some people absolutely thrive on a deliciously “sinful” snack from time to time, while to others, just one cookie can spiral into an impromptu binge session. In these moments of “weakness,” a single brownie can turn into a whole batch of brownies, a whole pizza, and a milkshake in a matter of hours. Delicious, amazing, yes — but also the potential source of a week’s worth of diet regression. If you feel re-energized by cheat foods, IIFYM is absolutely worth a try. If you already know that “once you pop, you can’t stop,” you might want to stick to conventional dieting and save the brownies for when you reach your goal!

IIFYM is an interesting new approach to the old challenges of dieting. With its injection of variety into the dieting landscape, it may just be what the doctor ordered for those fed up with conventional weight management. If your goal is to compete in a sport or even step on stage, the approach to your nutrition will likely be a bit more nuanced. However, if you’re looking to get fit or stay fit while still enjoying some of your favorite foods, it may be time to get to know your macros.

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