The Only IIFYM Diet Guide You’ll Ever Need
Don’t look at your nearest clock.
If you had to guess…what time is it right now?
Odds are that your guess is most likely 10 min or less within the actual time.
How were you able to do this? How is it that, at all times, you know approximately the right time?
It’s because you are constantly tracking things. Every. Single. Day.
Time is the most common one. Whether you’re looking at your clock to see how many more minutes you have left to sleep before you have to get up for school or you’re looking at your watch see how much time you have left till you’re off from work, you’re always tracking or measuring time.
Other things we keep track of is our spending, our progress at the gym, our homework assignments that need to be done, bills that need to be paid, etc.
Tracking things is essential to living a life that, for the most part, runs smoothly.
Stop keeping track of time and you’ll almost never be on time for anything…good luck with that.
If you don’t track your spending, eventually you’ll go bankrupt.
Don’t track your progress at the gym and eventually you will stall.
Don’t track your outstanding bills and you might wake up one morning with no electricity.
You see, without tracking things, our seamlessly flowing life turns chaotic. Lucky for us, we do keep track of most of these things. And for most, it’s almost automatic. We don’t even notice it.
So why treat your diet any different?
Think back to the last diet you attempted to adopt into your daily regimen.
Odds are that the basic premise of the diet was that you could only eat certain foods and you would have to exercise—leaving tracking out completely.
That is why most diets are just plain ineffective and continue to fail more and more people.
The premise of a good diet plan will be based around keeping track of your caloric and macronutrient intake.
Because if you’re not tracking your caloric intake, they you won’t know how much you’re eating and chances are that, over time, you’ll start to gain weight.
And if you’re not worried about gaining weight then that’s fine because this blog post isn’t for you. It’s not for everyone.
But if you’re here it’s because you’re curious.
You’re interested. Hungry for something different. Something that works each and every time without fail.
And I just so happen to have that one thing for you…
I’d like to introduce you to the IIFYM Diet.
What Is The IIFYM Diet?
IIFYM stand for “if it fits your macros” and is also sometimes referred to as “flexible dieting”.
At its very core, the IIFYM Diet allows you to lose weight or gain muscle by eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods as well as even your favorite “dirty” food items, as long as those food items “fit your macros” and they don’t cause you to go over your daily allowed caloric intake.
That was a bit of a mouthful, I know.
And we’ve only touched the surface so if you’re a bit confused, don’t worry.
By the end of this blog post, you’ll know everything there is to know about the IIFYM Diet and you’ll have EVERYTHING you need in order to have full control over your body’s weight.
Let’s get to it!
What Are Macronutrients (Macros)?
Macronutrients are nutrients that our body needs in large amounts and these nutrients include proteins, fats, and carbs. These three macros are the basic components of every diet and everything you eat will some combination of the three.
Now, when you provide your body with macronutrients by eating food, you are also providing your body with calories (aka energy).
Because each type of macro contains a specific amount of calories and it’s important that you memorize this FOR LIFE. Don’t worry, it’s very simple really:
- 1 gram of protein has 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat has 9 calories
- 1 gram of carbs has 4 calories
So by eating food, you are providing macronutrients to your body and, by definition, providing your body with calories.
IIFYM Explained: How Does the IIFYM Diet Work?
So how does the IIFYM Diet work and how are people able to lose weight and get in shape by eating things like ice cream, cookies, chips, and other “junk” food?
IIFYM works and also gives people the freedom to indulge in their favorite foods while still being able to get lean because it leverages basic physiology!
Which basic physiology, you ask?
That to lose weight, each day you need to be in a caloric deficit.
In other words, to lose weight, all you need to do each day is burn more calories than you consume. That’s it!
And yes, in theory, you could most definitely lose weight if you got all your calories from sugar if, at the end of the day, you burned more calories than you consumed.
In fact, the calories could come from just about ANYTHING. Chips, fries, burgers, candy, salads, oatmeal, etc…it doesn’t matter. You would still lose weight eating any of these foods if you’re consistently in a caloric deficit.
Now, it’s important that you realize that I’m only saying this to illustrate a point.
Yes you could lose weight eating nothing but sugar, but would I ever recommend that? Never in a million years.
You see, the IIFYM diet does not advocate making unhealthy decisions and it’s certainly not an excuse to go all out on foods with little to no nutritional value.
If you were to lose weight by eating nothing but candy and staying in a caloric deficit, you’d be severely lacking in essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to function properly.
The idea that you could lose weight with the IIFYM Diet by eating nothing but junk is only there to illustrate IIFYM’s flexibility and to eliminate the common misconception that to lose weight, you must eat only “healthy” foods like fruits, vegetables, chicken breast, whole grains, etc—this is certainly not true.
Of course, I would highly suggest that you incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet, but because the IIFYM diet is flexible (hence, it’s other name Flexible Dieting), it’s perfectly find to incorporate or “fit” some of your favorite snack foods into your diet and still lose weight!
That’s why more and more people now days are falling in love with the IIFYM diet. Because some of us just can’t let go of eating stuff like pizza!
And while the basic requirement for us to lose weight is to be in a caloric deficit, there’s a bit more to IIFYM than just counting calories.
We IIFYM Dieters also count macros.
Why Should I Track Macros?
In short, you should track your macros so that you can achieve your ideal body composition.
What is “body composition”?
Body composition is the ratio of muscle to fat that your body has.
In fitness, one of the most desired body compositions is one with low body fat and nice defined muscles—that ripped, 6-pack abs look.
On the other side of the spectrum would be a body composition with a high amount of body fat and a small amount of muscle.
Say that Bob weighs 200 lbs and cuts down to 160 lbs…
Bob’s body composition could be at either sides of the spectrum or anywhere in between.
He could be a lean and ripped at 160 lbs or he could be chubby with little to no muscle at 160 lbs.
Bob’s weight at 160 lbs could have many different looks, but what’ll ultimately determine his body composition is the ratio of his macronutrients.
And choosing the right ratio of macros could mean the difference between having a lean, ripped physique and having a chubby one with barely any muscle.
Because there are two types of weight loss:
- Weight loss that comes from losing fat
- Weight loss that comes from losing muscle
So as you can see, not all weight loss is created equal.
The most desired type of weight loss is the first type where it comes from losing fat.
The undesired weight loss is the second type where it comes from losing muscle. When you lose weight due to muscle loss, it can give you that “skinny fat” look.
When you lose muscle mass but you keep the same amount of fat on you, it can result in the skinny fat look.
Here are two examples where not having the right macros could affect your physique and result in the “skinny fat” look:
- You’re not feeding your body enough protein – if your body isn’t getting enough protein, then it doesn’t matter how often you’re lifting weights, your body won’t have adequate protein to feed your muscles and you’ll either lose muscle or fail to put on new muscle.
- You’re eating too few carbs – Carbs are your body’s main source of energy and if you’re not eating enough carbs, it may affect your ability to increase the weight on your lifts during a bulk phase or your ability to maintain your strength during a cutting phase. If you’re on a cutting phase and you can’t maintain your strength, then you’ll consequently lose muscle.
Now that you understand the importance of tracking your macros, it’s time to move on to the nitty gritty: How to start iifym.
How To Do The IIFYM Diet
The steps to beginning your IIFYM journey are as follows:
- Choose your overall fitness goal
- Calculate your Daily Calorie Intake & TDEE
- Calculate your macros
- Start tracking your calories and macros
1. Choosing Your Fitness Goal: Should I Bulk or Cut?
The first thing you should do before you start the IIFYM diet is decide what your current fitness goal is.
Do you want to cut weight and get lean or bulk up and gain muscle?
The goal you end up choosing will directly impact your calorie goal and your macros which is why it’s important to do this step first.
Now, you may be wondering:
“Can I lose weight and gain muscle?”
For the most part, no.
The reason for this is because for that to happen, you would be breaking the first law of thermodynamics which states that to lose weight, you must create a deficit in energy (burning more calories than you eat).
Conversely, to gain weight (whether that be weight from fat or muscle), you have to create a surplus or excess of energy (eating more calories than you burn).
So as you can see, it’s literally impossible to be both in a deficit and a surplus at the same time. Therefore, it is not possible to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time.
This is why you have to choose between the two when deciding on your fitness goal.
Another question you might run into when deciding on your fitness goal is:
“Should I bulk or cut first?”
This one’s pretty simple. If you’re starting off with a low body fat percentage of 8 – 12 percent or with a low amount of body fat in general, go ahead and start bulking as there’s really not much fat to cut down.
If you’re starting off with a high body fat percentage of around 15+ percent or with high amounts of body fat, cutting would be more ideal for you.
2. How to Calculate Calorie Intake & TDEE
The next step in the IIFYM Diet process would be to calculate your daily calorie intake and your TDEE.
We’ll get to that in a sec, but first…
What’s a TDEE?
TDEE stands for “total daily energy expenditure” and it’s just another way of representing the total amount of calories your burn every day.
And your TDEE is the sum of two things: your BMR and the amount of calories you burn from physical movement.
What’s a BMR?
BMR stands for “basal metabolic rate” and it’s just another way of representing the amount of calories you would burn if all you did was lay in bed all day like a vegetable.
But unless you’re a professional napper, you’re obviously going to be moving throughout the day and when you move around, you burn calories.
When you take your BMR and add to it the number of calories you burn from physical movement throughout the day, you get your TDEE!
TDEE is sometimes referred to as “maintenance calories” because if you were to eat an amount of calories equal to your TDEE, your weight would never fluctuate.
You would essentially be maintaining your current weight forever because you’d be eating the exact amount of calories that you burn.
When this happens, there is no caloric deficit and there is also no caloric surplus, so your weight stays the same. This is where its alias “maintenance calories” came from.
Calculating your TDEE by hand can be tedious since it uses a long equation. Lucky for you, there are plenty of TDEE calculators out there that calculate your TDEE with a click of a button.
If you haven’t tried our TDEE calculator, you can do so by clicking here.
Calculating Your Calorie Intake
After find out what your TDEE is, the next step would be to calculate the daily calories you need to lose weight or gain muscle (depending on the fitness goal you chose in the previous step).
This part is actually very straight forward and easy.
Take your TDEE and subtract calories from it if you want to cut weight or add calories to it if you want to bulk.
But how many calories should you add or subtract from your TDEE?
To find out, first we gotta talk fat.
In one pound of fat there are 3500 calories.
So if you’d like to lose weight at the rate of 1 lb per week, you would have to create a 3500 calorie deficit each week.
Similarly, if you’d like to bulk up at the rate of 1 lb per week, you would have to create a 3500 calorie surplus each week.
In the example of losing weight at the rate of 1 lb per week, simple create a caloric deficit of 500 calories each day.
Because there are 7 days in a week and 7 x 500 = 3500 calories! You would do this in a similar fashion if you would like to bulk at the rate of 1 lb per week.
Don’t worry too much about a little math though because our TDEE calculator calculates your cutting/bulking calories as well!
Wanna see it in action? Visit our TDEE calculator here.
How To Calculate Macros For Weight Loss or Lean Muscle Gain
When it comes to calculating macros, the two most common questions I get are,
- “What should my macros be to lose weight?”
- “What should my macros be to gain muscle?”
And while losing weight and building muscle are two very different goals, the ONLY difference between macros for cutting and macros for bulking is the amount of carbs in each type of macros.
To see why, let’s go through the process of calculating your macros one step at a time.
At this point, we can assume we’ve calculated our cutting/bulking calories.
For this example, let’s say you weigh 170 lbs and you want to cut weight, your TDEE is 3000 calories and, to lose 1 lb of fat per week, your daily cutting calories are 2500.
Step 1: Calculate How Many Grams Of Protein Per Day You Need
To calculate your daily protein intake, all you need to do is multiply your current body weight by any number within the range of 0.8 and 1.
The majority of people will only need to multiply their body weight by 0.8.
So then how does one know if they should multiply by 1?
Well, in general, the higher your caloric deficit, the more protein you will need in order to maintain and keep as most muscle as you can during a cut.
So if you have a caloric deficit greater than 500, then it would be appropriate to multiply your body weight by 1. This will require you to eat more protein per day than if you were to multiply your body weight by 0.8.
What if you don’t have a big caloric deficit but you multiply your bodyweight by 1 anyways…is that bad?
No, absolutely not.
Eating more protein than necessary has no negative consequences. It would just be a waste of protein since eating more protein does not equal more gains.
And by eating more protein than necessary, you’d be taking away precious calories that you could be using on eating more carbs!
More on that in a bit…
For now, let’s go back to our example. If we multiply your weight of 170 lbs by 0.8, your daily protein intake would be 136 grams per day.
On to the next macronutrient: fats!
Step 2: Calculate How Many Grams Of Fat Per Day You Need
Fats regulate your hormones and make sure your body is working properly, so it’s important that you get enough fats every day.
To calculate your daily fat intake, multiply your weight by 0.4.
Going back to our example, if we multiply your weight of 170 lbs by 0.4, your daily fat intake would be 68 grams per day.
Step 3: Calculate How Many Grams Of Carbs Per Day You Need
When calculating our daily carb intake, we use all our left over calories (the calories left over after calculating our protein and fats) to calculate how many grams of carbs we’re allowed to eat each day.
As mentioned above:
- 1 gram of protein has 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat has 9 calories
- 1 gram of carbs has 4 calories
And recall that in our example, your daily protein intake is 136 grams and your daily fat intake is 68 grams. With this information, we need to find out how many calories that translates to.
136 grams X 4 (since there are 4 calories in 1 gram of protein) = 544 calories
68 grams X 9 (since there are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat) = 612 calories
Adding these together gives us 612 + 544 = 1156 calories.
Here’s what this means…When we eat 136 grams of protein and 68 grams of fat, we will be also eating 1156 calories.
But since in this example your daily calorie goal is 2500 calories, you still have a good amount of calories left! These calories that are left will tell you how many grams of carbs you can have each day.
Subtracting 1156 from 2500 gives us a remainder of 1344 calories for carbs. YUMMM.
The last step would be to see how many grams of carbs that would be.
1344 calories / 4 (since there are 4 calories per 1 gram of carbs) = 336 grams of carbs.
With this, we now have your daily macros for cutting:
136 grams of protein, 68 grams of fat, and 336 grams of carbs.
The reason we calculate carbs last is because it’s the least important macro of the three. Carbs are a great source of energy and help you power through your workouts, but you can live without carbs.
However, the same cannot be said for protein and fats.
So by calculating your protein and fat first, we’re making sure without a doubt that you’ll be getting the right amount of protein and fats per day.
There are many macro calculators online, so you don’t have to do these by hand either. But it’s important that you understand how the process works.
How To Track Your Macros and Calories
The easiest and best way to track macros is with a calorie and macro tracker app.
If you want a good recommendation, you can’t go with the MyFitnessPal app.
Step 1: Make an account and set up your daily calorie goal (ignore the carbs, protein, and fat percentages).
Step 2: Track your macros and calories by:
a) Scanning the food item’s bar code
b) Search the food item by its name
c) Weighing the food item and choosing the serving amount you’re going to eat (I highly recommend buying a food scale)
As you add more foods to your MyFitnessPal diary, the calorie counter and macro counter will start to fill up. It does everything for you.
All you need to worry about is entering the food items into your diary and making sure you don’t go over your daily calorie goal.
And that right there is all there is to the IIFYM Diet!
The only other thing you’ll need to have a complete fitness regimen overall is a solid workout plan.
You could add supplements into the mix, but that’s optional.
Hope you enjoyed this monster of a post.
Got any questions? Drop em in the comments below.