What Are Macos & WTH Is The IIFYM Diet?
If you’ve checked out my Instagram feed in the past few weeks, you’ve likely noticed I’ve been posting pictures with hashtags like #macros and #iifym.
In fact, it seems as if overnight everyone is hashtagging #iifym.
Is this the next big diet fad that you’re missing out on?
Personally, I think so! Except, that it’s not a fad. And it works. And it’s awesome.
But because I don’t believe anyone should just jump into a new nutrition program without knowing all the facts…
We’re going to break it all down. And clear it all up.
Here’s a teaser…
My food scale has made it’s way from underneath my sink and on to the counter. I’m now using MyFitnessPal and I’m talking more nutrition jargon with friends and clients than normal.
Oh, and I am eating pretty much anything I want and feeling great.
I’ve had this post in my head for a while but wanted to give myself plenty of time to really see how IIFYM was affecting me and my body.
I wanted to be able to give you, my friend, a thorough, honest, and researched review.
What you have to know before understanding IIFYM…
What Are Macros?
Macros, or macronutrients, are nutrients that provide calories (energy) for growth, metabolism and regular body functions. Macro means big, therefore, macronutrients are nutrients we need in large amounts.
There are 3 macronutrients…
1). Carbohydrates (which I’ll just call carbs from here on out).
All three are shown in the picture above, can you pick the example of each?
All three are REQUIRED by our bodies! This is the reason that low “this” or low “that” diets fail.
Because eventually we have to add them back in and when we do, calories go up and weight comes back.
All three macronutrients are vital for our survival. I know that carbs are the Devil to many, but they shouldn’t be. They are more than insulin promoting, fat storing demons. They actually have a good side and deserve some love.
Let’s quickly talk carbs:
Living A Carb Filled Life
– Carbs are a fast source of energy.
– They are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and come to the rescue when we need a fast boost.
– Carbs are also fuel for the brain. Did you know your brain runs on sugar? Which is why when many people go on a low carb (ketosis) diet, they experience mental fatigue.
The brain wants what the brain needs.
And though it is possible to change, ultimately carbs are the PREFERED source of brain food.
Just because you can eat dehydrated bugs, do you want to? No! And your brain is the same. Give that thinker what it wants.
For almost a decade, I did my best to avoid carbs.
After my figure competition, I had this mental block I couldn’t get past:
I though I had to cut carbs to such a low level (thanks to not so great coaching) that I associated carbs with the reflection in the mirror.
Low carb = slim, fit body. High carb = fuller, softer body.
It wasn’t carbs that were the demon, it was my obsession with food that was. I had been convinced (thanks to my 50-gram/day allowance from my coach) that carbs were shit.
If only I knew then what I know now. I would have been enjoying food like this a lot sooner!
But here’s the thing…
…when I was on such a low carb plan, I was the one that felt like shit.
Dan called me She-Devil all the time because I was moody, tired, and bitchy 24/7. My hormones were raging (or not raging) and body were wacked out and hated me.
Don’t believe me? I lost hair (like handfuls), I lost my period and I felt at times that I was losing my mind.
Sure, after a few years, I started to add more carbs back in but I always had a mental block. I’ll talk more about this below, but it wasn’t until a month or two ago that I saw how low I was STILL (a decade later) on carbs.
Stop avoiding something that shouldn’t be avoided. That’s the lesson.
How Many Carbs Should You Eat?
(If you have’t tried these Gluten-Free Raspberry Newtons, you have to! OMG.)
How many carbohydrates should you consume on a given day?
It’s different for each of us and depends on several factors such as: age, size, goals, fitness level, and activity levels.
Unfortunately. there is no clear cut answer for everyone. But if you google “How many carbohydrates per day” the dietary recommendation pops up for 225-325 grams/day.
Are you thinking…
“Dang, that is quite a large range!”
“Dang, that seems like an awfully lot!”
Both would be proper thoughts to have. It is indeed quite the range (since we are all so different) and it is freaking a ton for the “average” person. And even for many not so average people.
One gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories (important to know for below).
That means, the recommended amount says to eat between 900-1300 calories of just carbs. Holy moly.
Our culture is based on carbs and grains. Our agriculture is based on grains and there is a ton of money to be made by them. Do I think there is some dirty work at play encouraging us to eat more carbs than we need?
Yes. But that’s a story for another day. If you’re interested, check out King Corn and other documentaries on NetFlix.
Learn The Best Kind Of Carbs
I almost typed that to say, “Learn The Good Kind Of Carbs” but then I stopped.
Yes, there are better for you carbs than others, but there really isn’t a “bad” food.
Everything in moderation. Right? A cupcake isn’t bad, it just isn’t something you should have every day like an apple.
Wheat has been processed to such extremes that some people argue it’s not even recognizable. So many grains have been processed and it’s these carbs that deliver a bad reputation.
But wholesome, REAL food carb sources are what the body yearns for.
Here are a few of my favorite carbs that are found regularly in my diet:
– Oatmeal (Since starting IIFYM, I eat it every day)
– Rice (Jasmine and Basmati)
– Ezekiel Bread (on occasion)
– Plantains <– Which were used to make the waffles above!
From time to time there may be a piece of chocolate tossed in or a coffee shop pastry (often a Friday treat).
And of course there are those rare instances when I make a homemade cookie or pastry creation at home.
Bottom line… eat carbs. But don’t survive only off of them and definitely keep processed carbs to a minimum.
Where’s My Protein?
Protein! What every fitness minded person loves talking about. Ha!
Protein (as you probably know) is the building block for muscle.
Muscle requires calories and therefore the more of it you have, the more calories you need to take in.
After a good workout, you know that people love to eat high protein to help build and recover muscles to make that increased metabolism happen.
But it’s more than that.
Protein is made of amino acids and amino acids are the building blocks for a TON of bodily processed.
“Proteins perform a vast array of functions within living organism, including catalyzing metabolic reactions, DNA replication, responding to stimuli, and transporting molecules from one location to another.”
Protein is important.
The amount of protein varies from person to person depending on age, size, fitness and goals. But one thing is the same… we all need it.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
The “general” recommendation per RD’s is around 46 grams per day for sedentary women.
I know what you’re thinking…
…”That doesn’t sound like very much.”
You’re right. It’s not. That’s for a sedentary, sit on your butt for 24 hours a day kind of person.
The more active you are, the more you’re going to have to take in.
Each gram of protein, like carbs, contains 4 calories. With the recommendation above, that’s around 184 calories of protein.
Or a single 4-oz chicken breast.
I eat around 110 grams per day (440 calories). But I’ll get more into that in just a second.
If I Eat Fat Will I Be Fat?
It makes perfect sense…
Your body has fat that you want to lose. So why would you want to eat more fat?
That was the argument in the 80s and 90s that led to the HUGE Fat-Free fad that continues to exist today.
The only thing to come out of these fad was more processed foods and higher obesity rates.
Just like carbs and protein, the body NEEDS fat. In fact, eating healthy fats helps to promote a healthy metabolism and weight loss.
Fats serve a ton of functions within your body such as…
– Energy (the body uses both carbs and fats for energy)
– Absorption of vitamins
– Brain health and development
– To fight inflammation
– Hormone production
– And much more!
Fats are naturally high in calories, which means a little goes a long way. Each gram has 9 calories… that’s more than double that of protein and carbs!
Additionally, they are hard(er) for the body to break down and stay in the digestive system for a longer period of time…
…keeping you fuller!
How Much Fat Per Day?
You know I am going to give you the same answer as I did for carbs and protein… it depends on your, your body and your goals.
Dietary guidelines recommend 44-78 grams per day (396 – 702 calories).
Yup, it’s a big range and comes down to your body.
… If It Fits Your Macros
If It Fits Your Macros
IIFYM was introduced to me in December.
I had been researching and already decided that once January rolled around I was going to up my focus and fuel my body the best I could. ← Yes, just like everyone else, I wanted to get through the holidays.
But I needed some help.
Yes, even trainers need training/nutrition help!
I was already a pretty clean eater so how could I change things up enough to improve without restricting myself too much? And of course not get pulled in to obsessing about every food molecule.
Dan mentioned IIFYM from an Instagram photo he saw and I decided to give it a go.
Here’s the general idea…
You have your macronutrient guidelines for each day. As long as you meet those requirements (within 5 grams), you’re golden.
What that really means, is that you can eat pretty freely.
If I want a muffin from the coffee shop, I can eat it. I just have to track it and make sure to enjoy more protein and fat foods to help balance it out and avoid going over my sugar and carbs for the day.
I decided I would give myself 4 weeks.
I can do anything for 4 weeks.
After that time, I would evaluate my results, my feelings, my energy and more importantly my obsessions.
As many of you know, I have a history of food and exercise control.
Would tracking my macros send me spiraling down to a place I don’t want to go back to?
I had no idea but was willing to try. Worst case… I would stop.
With the use of their website and my friend Heather, I calculated my requirements and set to work.
I know what you’re thinking…
“What about calories?”
Well, if you stay within your macros, you are staying within a healthy calorie intake for your goals.
Each gram of each macro has a specific calorie amount, remember? (Carbs and protein = 4 calories/gram and fat 9 calories)
So if I take in x-amount of protein, carbs and fat… that’s a specific amount of calories without having to actually count calories.
And let me tell you, it’s much easier to deal with small macro numbers than it is calories. Plus, it’s nice to know I am getting the right kind of calories for my goals and my body.
How To Determine Your Macros
This is the golden question and it takes some trial and error.
1). You can pay some $47 for the nice people at IIFYM to calculate everything for you.
It takes some time, but it’s not hard and it does help give a good understanding of where you need to be.
For most women, the protein amount is going to be a shocker.
“I have to eat how much protein!?”
For me, it was the carbs. I couldn’t believe how carb deprived I was still living all these years after my figure experience. That plate of potatoes above? That’s honestly probably the biggest serving of potatoes I’ve had in years (aside from sweet potatoes)!
I was basically eating ½ the recommended amount!
Now? I’m enjoying full servings of oatmeal, rice and obviously potatoes!
What are my numbers?
I am not sharing these for you to use. My numbers are based on my parameters and to give some insight into what works for ME.
Carbs: 140 Grams
Protein: 110 Grams
Fat: 45 Grams
Water: 1 Gallon ← The hardest part!
Before you think…
“Is that what I should be eating?”
Let me tell you a bit about my body.
I am just under 5’6 and weigh 123-lbs. I work out 5-6 days per week (it’s my job and I make sure to listen to my body). My goal is to tone up and get stronger.
And this is working FOR ME.
I’ll also share that on days where I have an intense training schedule, I’ll up the nutrients and consum ~200 extra calories to help with recovery. Those calories are needed and I am tuned in to my body enough to know when I need them.
And yes, I give up tracking once a week. Normally Fridays, I say “eff it” and enjoy a day of non tracking. I still eat clean, I just don’t put it in my computer.
As for results… they are coming! I am feeling stronger in workouts. More recovered between them and my body is toning up. I haven’t lost pounds (just 2) but that’s because I don’t have a lot of weight to lose. It’s going great!
The #1 Rule To Make IIFYM Work
There are two really important rules with this style of nutrition.
1). You have to track.
2). You have to portion and/or use a food scale and you have to be honest with yourself.
It’s easy to say, “oh that’s just a nibble, I won’t worry about it. But those nibbles count and add up.
Trust me, there have been plenty of times when I’ve almost avoided adding something and then I think to myself…
“I’m only doing this for me. Why do I not want to add this?”
Then I add it.
If you’re like me and the idea of tracking so detailed freaks you out…
…then it might not be for you. And that’s okay!
For me, I feel a new freedom. Eating more carbs and knowing I can eat what I want as long as I make it fit my nutrients is awesome.
And if anything, I feel less restrictive than I did when I was trying to eat clean in my mind.
I learned that my bad days aren’t really all that bad. And sometimes my “good days” were too good (aka not enough).
I’m The Female Tim Ferriss
(If you don’t know who Tim Ferriss is, check out his site The 4 Hour Work Week. He also has a pretty good podcast!)
I am sharing this because I get a lot of questions on my own habits and nutrition.
I love self experimentation. Just call me the female version of Tim Farris (I suggest reading The 4 Hour Body to see some of his bazaar experiments).
I love trying new nutritional programs and seeing how my body reacts. How I react. And how it fits into my life.
Right now, this fits and fits really well.
I’ll likely stick with it for a bit, though I told Dan yesterday that I may change my macros up a little…
…it’s all about experimenting. And when results aren’t coming, it might be time to change things.
If you’re interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to ask a question (or a dozen questions).
Additionally, here are a few helpful resources. I definitely believe in studying something completely before trying it out!
IIFYM Website – Great breakdown, guide and calculators
“Why ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ Isn’t A Fit For Me (always good to hear both sides)
Have you ever tracked your macros?