If It Fits Your Macros? About That…

16 10 2013

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Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new trend sweeping over the fitness community. If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) is spiraling out of control. In a nutshell, here’s the scoop:

The concept of IIFYM revolves around the 3 major macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat), and to a lesser degree alcohol (IIFYM also separates fibre, a carbohydrate source, into its own category). From the IIFYM.com website:

IIFYM speaks specifically to fat loss from a macro nutrition and thus a caloric stand point and is purely a means to improve body composition. IIFYM does not address health concerns of the heart, brain or other organs and does not put an emphasis on so called ‘healthy eating’.

Regardless if you like to eat pizza, or boiled chicken breasts, IIFYM teaches us that if you eat less calories than your body requires (while getting adequate protein, carbs, fat and fiber based on your goals and the energy needs of your body) you will lose weight at a steady and predictable rate. IIFYM makes fat loss that easy.All you have to do is stay within your daily macros and the fat will start melting off!

So, if you’ve seen any of the crazy pictures floating around the internet of jacked and lean people eating Pop Tarts or other low quality food, this new diet craze is the culprit. As you all know, I’m a huge proponent of eating unprocessed food. IIFYM goes directly against this thought. They claim that anyone can lose weight, just as long as they maintain a caloric deficit. Frankly, I can’t argue with the logic; a caloric deficit, regardless of food source, is necessary for fat loss. I can however argue with pretty much everything else about the concept.

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First of all, IIFYM is extremely honest in claiming that it speaks only to fat loss, and does not take health into consideration. I find it absolutely fascinating that the website puts this in writing and that people have absolutely no issue completely ignoring it. WHAT THE HELL GOOD IS LOSING WEIGHT IF YOU ARE DYING INSIDE?!? Ahem, excuse my frustration. Moving on…

Another one of my issues with the IIFYM theory is again something written on the website:

When we clean up our diets and pay no attention to calories, we automatically reduce our calorie intake. Removing sauces, and sweets and fried food, reduces calories due to simple math…Eating clean however is not the answer to fat loss, but is simply a trick or technique that helps those who don’t count calories or macros, to lower them. The biggest problem when we eat clean and have no idea how many calories we are actually ingesting (let alone how many our body requires) we end up starving ourselves, and line up our metabolism for a bounce back that is sure to have us putting on extra lbs. soon as we start eating “normal” again. And let’s face it, eating normal usually comes a lot sooner than we expect when eating nothing but boring diet foods.

Let’s get one thing straight: eating unprocessed, nutrient-rich food does not equate to starving oneself as this paragraph insinuates. One of the major principles of IIFYM is to determine the number of calories you truly need and then to subtract 15% to achieve a caloric deficit for weight loss. Guess what? You can do this with healthy food as well! What a crazy concept! Eating a nutritionally beneficial diet AND eating enough food to avoid stunting the metabolism, while also capitalizing on a caloric deficit. The IIFYM website makes it seem like this is an impossibility and then goes on to say:

Eat the foods you love, stay within your own personal macro nutrient range and burn fat without the pain that most people associate with dieting! Notice I did not say “starve your self, and enjoy one slice of pizza per day”. This is because IIFYM is based on Science. Not on voodoo. a 15% reduction in calories is all that is needed to make your body a fat burning furnace.

Now you do!

Now you do!

No, it is not voodoo, but it is extremely contradictory. The more processed, calorically-dense/nutritionally-devoid food you consume, the less overall food you can eat in a day. Ipso facto, eating a diet higher in processed food will lead to more hunger pains and a higher likelihood of overeating. The fact that processed foods are loaded with addictive sugar and white flour will only serve to increase the occurrence of hunger pains and the ensuing impulsion to eat more. Furthermore, a diet high in processed food is bound to be low in vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients, which are all critical to proper metabolic function (Read: your body will not be able to function at an optimal level, diminishing its ability to build muscle and burn fat).

With all of this in mind, I must say one thing: An unextremist application of IIFYM can totally be effective. In a way, this is pretty much what I do- I know how many calories I should consume in a day for my individual needs, I know how much protein, carbohydrate and fat I need to meet this quota, and I eat accordingly. I eat extremely “clean” in the mornings and evenings and save my simple sugars for post-workout when my muscles are craving the nutrients. If people understood how to properly apply IIFYM in a responsible way, ie, keeping the nutrient-poor food to a minimum, I would borderline applaud this new trend. However, the information that I’ve found on the internet is very misleading and is being completely misconstrued as “Eat anything you want and lose weight!”  Folks, if this was possible, who wouldn’t simply crush chocolates and Doritos from dusk ’til dawn? As with most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it almost surely is. This is simply not a feasible program.

In conclusion, IIFYM can be an effective strategy for fat loss, but only if used responsibly. As always, one bad meal won’t make you fat and one good meal won’t make you lean. A consistent diet with a focus on nutritionally-dense food will keep you healthy and help you reach your fat loss goals. In a nutshell: Be an adult, don’t eat like an idiot, and the results will come.

For more information on lean eating or how to responsibly employ IIFYM, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

DW