Monday 9 March 2015

Is "If It Fits Your Marcos" Right for You?

Photo by Mister GC at
One of today’s many popular diets is the “if it fits your macros” diet or IIFYM for short. The idea behind the diet is that you focus on eating a specific number of calories, grams of proteins, fats and carbs. You can have the flexibility to eat what you want, as long as you end up with the correct numbers for your total calories and macronutrients at the end of the day. Is this another silly diet fad, is it a great way to wreck your progress or is it the diet answer you’ve been looking for? To answer these questions, you need to first ask yourself the following questions?

Compared to what? 
Compared to the typical North American diet, most diets are a big improvement. There’s no question that IIFYM it’s better to an old fashioned calorie counting. Yes, calories are very important, but there is a lot more to proper nutrition than just getting a certain number of calories per day.  As I mentioned before, while a calorie is a calorie in a food incinerator, in the human body is not that simple. Traditional calorie counting at two huge problems; first it is often inaccurate. People trying to lose fat tend to underestimate their caloric intake and those trying to gain muscle do the opposite. The second problem is that calorie counting can tempt people to play the numbers game. This is where people start removing healthy food from their diets and replace it with junk foods that still allow them to stay within their calorie limit for the day. With IIFYM, you are not just looking at your total calories but grams of protein, fat, carbs and sometimes even fiber. To this keeps repeating closer to what it needs to be for optimal results.

What level are you at?
If you are new to training and high performance nutrition, you want to focus on developing new eating habits.  When I do nutrition coaching with beginners, I look more at the number of cheat meals they with eat per week and try to gradually reduce this number. At this level, we are not worried as much about macros. If however your are really advanced, really know your body and exactly what you need, then IIFYM may help you create a healthy balance to your eating life without hindering your goals.

How do you eat the majority of the time?
What do you want from your nutrition? I want my nutrition to just improve not only my body composition, but also my health and my energy levels. What good is a 6 pack if you are weak, exhausted and have major health problems down the road (all of which will prevent you from maintaining the 6 pack)? If you want your nutrition to deliver these three things as well, then you need to emphasize, whole, natural, single-ingredient foods to give your body optimal levels of not just macronutrients, but also micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals). These foods also provide important things such as essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, quality carbohydrates, antioxidants and phytochemicals. If IIFYM pulls you too far away from this, you will lose these benefits. 

Do you really know your macro needs?
Before you can consider IIFYM, you need to know that your macros are. Yes, there are sites that you can quickly calculate your macros, but these are simply generic estimation equations – not an individualized diet prescription. While these formulas can be a helpful starting point, you need some time to find exactly what you need. To personalize your macronutrient amounts, you need to spend some time keeping meticulous records of your nutrition, body composition, training performance and health. Then, you need to make small adjustments in your macros until you find the right amount for you based on your needs, goals and body type. Then, you can effectively experiment with treats that fit your macros.

Do you have the right motive? 
If you are trying to find out how much you can cheat and still have a great body, then no diet is going to work for you. If you want a great body, it will require some serious nutrition discipline. However, if you are on track with proper nutrition, but looking to have a little freedom to enjoy some treats and still stay on track, then IIFYM may work for you. 

Is it food enjoyment or food addiction?
Do you want to eat certain foods because you enjoy them or because you are addicted to them? If it is the former, then IIFYM can work. If it is the later, then it is better to keep those foods out of your diet. Also if having treats satisfies your sweet and/or savoury tooth and makes it easier for you to stick with your clean foods, then again, IIFYM can be helpful. If on the other hand the treats make you despise healthy foods and constantly thing about junk foods, you need a different approach. 

Related post: Cheat Days?

How is it working for you?
Always come back to your goals. No matter how great a diet may sound or how well it has worked for others, if it does not deliver the results you want – it is wrong for you! Also, remember that the farther you want to move on the leanness continuum, the stricter you have to be with your eating. 

How do you feel after eating?
I personally have treat foods very often. This is not because I'm some sort of diet extremist, but simply because my body is very sensitive to certain foods. If I eat junk food, I usually feel so awful afterwards that it is usually not worth it for me. I would rather feel good than eat tasty foods that make me feel bad. You however might not have this problem.

How about you? 
If you have tried IIFYM, I would love to hear how it went for you and welcome you to share your experience below.

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