If you have ever stepped foot in a gym, you have more than likely heard some regular gym-goers discussing Macros, or something called IIFYM. And if you are like any normal human being you were probably trying to figure out what exactly they were talking about! IIFYM stands for “If It Fits Your Macros”. Let’s dive deeper into this!
Macros stands for macronutrients. Macro means large scale and nutrients are the components in food that we need to survive. Furthermore, the nutrients that make up our macronutrients are those that contribute calories, which we need to maintain growth, metabolism, and other bodily functions. The macronutrients that contribute calories to our diet are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All of the other nutrients that you hear about, like vitamins and minerals, are micronutrients. Micronutrients are still important for our cells and our body to function properly, but they do not contribute to the calories we consume on a daily basis.
For athletes that are concerned about physique and aesthetics, like bodybuilders, meeting the proper amount of macronutrients on a daily basis is extremely important; arguably, just as important as their training regimen. By hitting their set macronutrient numbers on a daily basis they are ensuring they meet the recommended amount of daily calories for their body and to reach their goals. Speaking of calories; protein and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories per 1 gram, while fat contains 9 calories per 1 gram. Therefore, if you have an idea of how many calories you should be eating on a daily basis you can calculate your macronutrient numbers. Usually athletes and other active folks work with a coach to calculate their individual macronutrient needs based on their goals – macronutrient numbers will change based on whether the objective is to build muscle or lost fat. Just like calorie needs, individual macronutrient numbers are calculated based on several factors, including gender, age, body composition, activity level, sleep, and again, an individual’s goals.
So, why don’t bodybuilders just eat within a certain number of calories? Older generations and still some current body builders do just that. What can possibly happen in this situation is these athletes end up eating only chicken and rice for months on end; which is extremely difficult to do and can cause bingeing issues later on. With any strict, long-term diet bingeing is always a possible consequence after the diet phase has ended. So, IIFYM was found. IIFYM is also called “flexible dieting”, due to the fact that individuals who follow IIFYM can fulfill their macronutrient numbers with any foods and beverages, as long as they stay within their set protein, carbohydrate, and fat numbers. Yes, this means you can fit in pizza, sushi, or a doughnut!
The reasons I like IIFYM and teach it to interested clients is because:
• It requires tracking your food intake – In order to ensure you are meeting your individual protein, fat, and carbohydrate numbers you will have to track what you are eating and drinking. Tracking via phone app or on paper has proven benefits when used for the short term to reach a specific and realistic goal. I tell all my clients they do not have to track forever, but if they have a specific goal in mind it is highly recommended.
• It teaches you what is in your food – When tracking your intake you are forced to read food labels and see everything you are putting into your body. By tracking, you will quickly learn which foods are high in protein, high in sugar, high in fat, etc.
• It teaches portion sizes – Again, while tracking you will quickly learn things like 4 ounces of chicken contains 34 grams of protein, and that 10 Oreos will use up all or most of your carbohydrates and fat for the day. It truly does teach correct portion sizes and helps with portion distortion.
• It is not a strict diet – IIFYM is called flexible dieting for a reason. Although, I hate the word diet, IIFYM is really not a “diet”. This eating strategy allows you to still fit in your favorite foods.
If you have a specific weight loss or muscle gain goal in mind and this strategy sounds like something you would like to implement, you can contact me at email@example.com. I will work with you to learn your individual needs, review your current body composition, and calculate customized macronutrient numbers that can help you reach your goals!
I contemplated writing this post, and undoubtedly others to come on this topic, for months. Nonetheless, I have recently unearthed something significant about myself… I truly enjoy using my past experiences to help others.
I have decided to write some blog posts interspersedly about my struggle with and recovery from an eating disorder. Today, I work with clients that have disordered eating and as a dietitian it is my charge and my passion to use my own recovery process to help them heal. Eating disorders are completely isolating diseases. When I first began recovery, I felt immediate relief when my counselor said “I have been in your shoes and worse”. It made me understand that others had gone through what I had, that recovery truly was possible, and that I was not alone. This is what I want my clients and everyone else struggling with eating disorders to know; you are not alone and recovery is right within your grasp.
My story starts as a young girl. No family drama, no abuse, no bullying. Actually, my parents were, and still are, amazing humans. They gave me and my sister everything we wanted and more. My first real memory of what sparked my food and body image apprehension is as a 10 year old on an airplane. I was with my entire gymnastics team, heading to Las Vegas for our first big competition away from our home state. My mom was on that trip with me, serving as a chaperone to 50 excited and screaming adolescent and teen girls. I was walking back to my seat from the flight attendant cart, where I had gotten a bag of cookies for my mom (whom does not love to fly) when I was stopped by one of our coaches. He grabbed the cookies out of my hand and said “gymnasts don’t eat cookies, they will make you fat”. I remember being so confused and embarrassed, so when my mom asked what happened to her snack I told her the flight attendants ran out.
I certainly did not jump straight into an eating disorder after that day, but I do feel like this event set me up to worry about food and body image for the rest of my young life. After this, I started noticing the shapes of my teammates’ bodies and started paying attention to what they ate and drank. Worst of all, I started comparing. I am not a mother yet, but I do not believe this is something a 10 year old should worry about. I understand that people cannot protect their children from all the wrong in this world, but there are possible interventions, that if implemented early in their life, can help prevent eating disorders.
If you are looking for more guidance on how to approach food and weight issues with your own children, I highly recommend any Ellyn Satter resource! She is a registered dietitian and family therapist who specializes in children’s food and eating behaviors. You can also reach out to me by going to my contact page if you are looking for support with your own eating struggles.
Allison Tropf, MS, RD, CSSD
Allison is a Sports Dietitian in Michigan. She enjoys helping others reach their nutrition and fitness goals through reliable and trustworthy recommendations.
ALT Performance Nutrition