For a time, calorie counting was the holy grail of weight loss. If you counted calories and kept them low enough, you would expect to lose weight. But there’s more to the story. It’s not just how much you eat. What you eat matters, too.
When you break down your food calories into macronutrients, or carbohydrates, protein, and fat, you can start to have a different perspective on weight management and nutrition. Build a meal plan around your macros, and you can see how an IIFYM, or “if it fits your macros,” diet can come in handy. Here’s a background on what IIFYM is and how to get started on one.
Calorie Balance and Your Weight
At its core, weight control depends on calorie balance. Eat fewer calories than you burn, and you can lose weight. Traditional wisdom says taking smaller portions and exercising more can get you to that desired negative calorie balance.
Still, if all that matters are “calories in and calories out,” why does anything else matter? In particular, why do your macros - protein, carbs, and fat - matter? Well, if you’ve ever hit a plateau, or felt starving while on a weight loss diet, or had trouble in social situations, you’ll agree that calorie counting isn’t perfect. Let’s get into it.
“Macros” are “macronutrients.” They include the following.
- Carbohydrates, which have 4 calories per gram and include sugars and starches
- Protein, which has 4 calories per gram
- Fat, which has 8 calories per gram
Alcohol is also a macronutrient. It provides 7 calories per gram. However, it’s not part of this plan, and it’s not a healthy source of significant calories.
Who Can Follow IIFYM?
Lots of people can follow an IIFYM plan, regardless of their goals. It’s a good plan if you like flexibility within a set of rules. These are some different types of plans that an IIFYM can fit.
- Balanced plan with high carbs. You can keep it healthier by choosing high-fiber carbs. This type of plan can be good for athletes who need fuel but who want to stay lean.
- Weight loss plan with moderate carbs. Keeping your carbs high in fiber and including lots of protein can help you stay full while you lose weight.
- Keto diet with very low carb counts. You can lose weight and lower blood sugar with a keto diet.
IIFYM may not be for you if you need a meal plan that is very rigid. Some beginning dieters and people who do not feel comfortable with nutrition do better when they are handed a menu and are told exactly what to eat. That avoids uncertainty that can come with choices. However, an IIFYM can be for you if you like making more choices on a daily basis.
Benefits of an IIFYM Plan
A benefit of IIFYM is its flexibility compared to some other diet plans, such as intermittent fasting or calorie counting. You can fit it into your life, such as choosing the right macros when going to a restaurant and still staying on your plan. This type of flexibility may allow you to stick to the plan for longer, making it more effective.
Getting Started on IIFYM
You can start by calculating your calorie goals. Then break your calories down into macronutrients to get your macro goals.
Most people get 45 to 65% of calories from carbs, but you might want to reduce carbs a bit. That’s because protein and fat can be more filling than carbs, which can help you keep food consumption in check.
For weight maintenance, your macro goals might be the following.
- 40% calories from carbs
- 30% calories from protein
- 30% calories from fat
If you’re on a 2,000-calorie daily diet, this would work out to the following.
- 800 calories from carbs, or 200 grams of carbs per day
- 600 calories from protein, or 150 grams of protein per day
- 600 calories from fat, or 66 grams of fat per day
These numbers might change if you want to lose weight instead of maintain weight. For weight loss, you might choose to keep fat a little lower; that is, they might make up a smaller percentage of your total calories. In exchange, you might bump up your protein consumption. That’s because protein is slow to digest and can keep you fuller for longer.
Here’s how your macros would break down on a 1,600-calorie daily weight loss diet.
- 40 calories from carbs, or 200 grams of carbs per day
- 40% calories from protein, or 800 calories from protein, or 200 grams of protein per day
- 20% calories from fat, or 400 calories from fat, or 44 grams of fat per day
It’s a good idea to work closely with a healthcare provider as you set your macro goals and build your IIFYM meal plan. You can also use a food logger or tracker to help you see how many grams of each macro you’ve eaten, and to plan your foods for the day to fit into your macro goals.
Making an IIFYM Plan Healthier
It’s always best to choose nutritious foods for the most part. Even when two options have similar macros, you can try to make a better choices. For example, instead of cake with carbs and fat, you’d be better off with carbs and fat from whole-grain toast and avocado. Or, instead of fatty bacon with a bit of protein, you could opt for peanuts, which have a bit of protein and healthier fats.
Foods to Make an IIFYM Easier
Any diet can be tough if you feel that it deprives you of your favorite foods. Netrition has all kinds of meals and snacks to help. We have low-carb, high-protein foods to help you meet your macros while enjoying life. Instead of high-carb or sugary foods, you can opt for these types of foods.
- Protein Cereal, Pancakes, and Omelets
- Low-Carb Bread, Pasta, and Potatoes
- Sugar-Free Chocolate and Candy
- Keto Cakes and Cookies
If you decide that an IIFYM may be for you, get the support you need. Ask your healthcare provider for help with determining your macro goals, making a meal plan, and using a tracker if needed. You can also go to Netrition to find delicious foods that can help keep carbs in check, boost your intake of fiber and healthy fats, and keep meals and snacks easy and nutritious. Browse our aisles to see what you can find to help you meet your goals!