A quick search on Instagram brings up over 4 million posts related to “If It Fits Your Macros.”
IIFYM basically means you can consume any food you like as long as “it fits your macros” and still lose body fat. You can have junk food, clean food, or anything at all as long as you hit your daily totals there is nothing that is off limits.
A lot of people have taken this new trend to the extremes and literally only eat junk. Even worse is that many beginners are left super confused because of a lack of knowledge about solid nutritional habits.
I don’t personally think IIFYM is the best strategy to use with beginners because they’ve yet to understand nutritional basics. Most people will do great eating whole foods, fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats.
The problem is that people who are new to dieting and counting macros don’t yet quite understand that while you can eat a double cheeseburger, you will be consuming most if not all of your calories for the day in doing so. You can learn all about macros and how many you need by grabbing my free manual HERE.
Social media makes it seem like you can eat endless amounts of junk food and you’ll get results. But this just isn’t true. Those who incorporate IIFYM and are successful, are the people who are good at counting their macros and have learned how to incorporate various foods into their diets.
They understand the importance of calories and protein, and have learned or “figured out” how to incorporate so called “junk” into their diet.
With the extreme popularity of If It Fits Your Macros, or IIFYM, many people are left wondering, “Can I actually eat all of these things and still get lean?”
The short answer is yes. You can eat anything you want and lose body fat.
But is it the best way? Or the most sustainable?
Food Choices and Fat Loss
As long as your calories are where they need to be, meaning you’ve created a deficit, then you will lose fat.
So do food choices really matter?
Yea they do, and for more reasons than simply calories in vs. calories out.
Which do you think will fill you up more: Chicken breast with broccoli, or a couple of pop-tarts?
The answer is chicken breast, broccoli AND pop tarts 😉
No, but really, obviously the chicken breast and broccoli will fill you up more.
One, it’ll have more protein which helps with reducing hunger and keeping you fuller longer. Two, it’s more food volume. More food is one of the best ways to improve consistency with dieting while getting the same amount of calories than if you were eating junk.
Even if these two options contain the same amount of calories, you’ll be less hungry after eating the chicken and broccoli than if you only ate pop-tarts. If you ate the pop-tarts, you’d likely not be very full at all, and would definitely want something else to eat. Now, you end up consuming more calories because you aren’t full and continue eating to satisfy that need.
This is why food choice matters.
So even though a candy bar may be the same calorie wise as a piece of meat, veggies, and sweet potato, the whole food meal is going to have a more positive impact on your diet success.
If something is more filling, well, you’ll likely eat less.
“Junk” food isn’t the devil, that’s not what I’m saying at all.
Heck, I love a nice pint of Ben and Jerry’s that’s for sure.
But what I am saying is that when you choose to eat calorie dense foods you likely miss out on some of the benefits of eating whole, satiating foods.
Being hungry all the time sucks, especially as you get further along in your diet. Eating more food with the same amount of calories will help for sure.
Pro’s and Con’s of IIFYM
Incorporating a variety of foods into your diet can be beneficial but can also create trouble as well.
Some benefits of following a IIFYM style of eating:
- more freedom with food choices
- satisfies cravings (if you don’t overeat what you were craving)
- helpful in social situations
- can eat “junk” provided it fits into your calorie allotment
As with most things, there are negatives we need to consider as well:
- junkier foods usually contain more calories
- junk only doesn’t provide enough protein and micronutrients
- less food volume causes overeating
- requires a solid understanding of tracking and accuracy
- can create unhealthy relationship with food
So, it’s up to you if you want to incorporate any foods you choose, just know that some foods may make your diet tougher, while others will make it suck slightly less.
This brings us back to the question of “can you eat anything you want and lose fat?”
Yes, but it depends.
You can’t eat unlimited quantities of any food and lose fat if your calories are not in check.
And if you’re eating chicken and broccoli so much that you’re exceeding your calories, you’ll gain fat. Just because these foods are “healthier” doesn’t mean they are consumed in unlimited quantities.
Let’s take a look at how you could incorporate some of the IIFYM principles into a balanced whole food diet to help you lose as much body fat as possible.
Mixing and Matching
Your diet will never be “perfect.”
It can’t be, and it doesn’t need to be in order to get great results.
So how can we lose fat and eat foods we love as well?
I like to think of two situations of eating, at home eating and on-the-go eating.
If you’re eating at home, it’s pretty easy to eat good things because you can cook them, or buy quality foods to have on hand.
When you have the most control over what you eat (eating at home), focus on nailing your nutrition as closely as possible. Not only will that help you make fat loss progress, but it’ll also give you a small cushion when you don’t eat at home.
When you have to eat at work, or while traveling, you won’t always have meals prepared. So what are you supposed to do?
In these situations it’s a good idea to focus on total calorie intake and protein intake.
This is where IIFYM can come in handy quite well.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to eat junk food, but food choices matter a bit less when you don’t have as much control as you normally do.
You may be forced to grab food at a gas station, which means eating an exquisite piece of filet mignon isn’t likely.
In these situations, choose the best available options. Believe it or not, there are plenty of solid options at gas stations or convenience stores.
It’s great to have a routine when it comes to eating, but when that isn’t possible just do the best you can. If you have to eat a few grab and go meals it won’t negatively affect your fat loss progress as long as your calories are in line.
At the end of the day, the perfect diet won’t do crap for your progress if you can’t adhere to it. Stick to what’s best for your own personal adherence and the rest is minutiae.