IIFYM explained

Of late, there seems to be an influx of people who simply do not understand iifym. They either haven’t researched it, or someone has told them incorrect information, or they’re just idiots and cant understand simple science. Not understanding something, yet having an opinion on it doesn’t really sit well with me. I am an advocate of iifym for a number of reasons (top one would have to be because it works…) so I’ll explain the reasons WHY and HOW and also what iifym is exactly. What it is and how to use it will be my opinion and my interpretation, but the why and how it works is not debatable, its fact.

Calories in vs calories out. This is how we lose or gain weight. Fact. This is true. Every study in the past 100 years has proven this theory. And until someone comes along with enough evidence to question this theory (as in prove it wrong) then this stands. If anyone disagrees with this please stop reading because its probably too late for you.

So to lose weight we need a calorie deficit, and to gain weight we need a calorie surplus.

Yes there are ways to manipulate your metabolism and increase or decrease your BMR / “maintenance.” If you start eating less, your metabolisms natural course of action is to adapt, and slow eventually. It will try to maintain your current body weight or composition on your new calorie intake. You can also manipulate your metabolism by way of increasing with a reverse diet.

But even with a new reduced or increased BMR, to lose more weight you will need to create a new deficit.  

One calorie is defined as the amount of energy it takes to heat 1 litre (or kg) of water by 1 degree Celsius. It’s a unit of energy, and food provides this energy in the form of calories. Our body then uses these calories for certain processes, as energy, to build muscle (or store fat) and change our body composition. We need calories for energy. We need them to survive, obviously.

Calories are made up of macronutrients. Macronutrients are protein, fat and carbs. Food. This is a difficult concept for some people to grasp. Macronutrients are just food. They’re not some magic thing that all of us iifymers are making up. It’s just food.

Rather than simply count calories, if you count macronutrients you will get a far superior result, especially if you exercise or play a sport, or if you want to change your body composition. Changing body composition is something that even Joe public will want to do, as this means rather than simply “losing weight” you would be losing fat in particular. And wanting to maintain muscle. 1 gram of protein or carb is equal to 4 calories, and 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. So counting macros, you are counting calories by default, but you’re just being a bit smarter about it. If you’re trying to build muscle, but getting all of your calories from fat its not going to work too well.

So this is the reason iifym gives superior results over simply counting calories - it takes in to account how much of each macronutrient you need for your goals and your body. I train for body building comps. I need high protein as I want to preserve muscle, I need a lot of carbs for energy for training and to grow muscle, and I need some fats because they are necessary for certain bodily functions – brain function, transporting vitamins around the body etc.

Each macronutrient is required for a different reason. And each macronutrient is processed by the body in a certain way. And provided you do not have a medical condition (e.g. diabetes) then your body will process protein, fat and carbs the same way as everybody else. No one is different. If you take 1 calorie from a carb it does the exact same thing to everyone.

Yes, some people might not be able to have as MANY carbs as someone else. Some people may not NEED as many carbs as the next person. They may work better with higher fat. Who knows? Well we do. Each person has an optimal daily requirement for each macronutrient. This is fact. Based on your TDEE you will have a calorie requirement for your goal (lose, gain, maintain weight) and within that calorie allowance, there is an optimal split of protein, fats and carbs.

Your individual daily macronutrient targets are dependant on your current body composition. They’re also dependant on your age, gender, activity levels, goals, height, weight, the lot. And they don’t necessarily stay the same either. If you diet down to lose fat, then at the end of it you will need to adjust to a maintenance allowance rather than a fat loss allowance. This will be different to your previous maintenance allowance, as after you have lost weight your body composition would have changed. You’ll most likely have less fat, and possibly more muscle.

So one reason iifym works is that it is individual, tailored to the specific person, it recognises that everyone is different and has different requirements. You can do a high carb diet on iifym. Or a low carb, low fat one. Or even a ketogenic diet (not recommended IMO). If you have a “meal plan” given to you by your coach, this will have a certain amount of protein, fat and carbs once you break that food down in to macronutrients. If you are eating certain foods each day, in certain amounts it’s not hard to work out your macros.

And here’s the kicker. This is “the thing” about iifym. This is it. All it is, plain and simple, is the concept of CHANGING your foods for something else that “fits your macros.” That’s it. Its not rocket science. But it is science.

Science tells us we need a certain amount of calories each day, yes? And science also tells us that there is an OPTIMAL calorie split between each macronutrient for each individual, yes? So ALL we are saying, is that if one day you don’t feel like having the chicken and rice on your meal plan, there is NO REASON why you cannot swap this for other foods that contains the SAME amount of protein, fat and carb as the chicken and rice.  You choose. If you want chicken and rice, then have it. Or if you want something else then have that. It’s really up to you. And it doesn’t matter. In terms of your body, and its processes, your body doesn’t know or care where the protein, fats and carbs even come from all it cares is that its getting them. Whether your carbs come from sweet potato, rice or even sugar, your body does not know. It simply recognises the carb and processes it accordingly. It doesn’t care where they come from and it doesn’t even care when. Meal timing, eating every 3 hours, forget it. It doesn’t matter. Overall daily numbers of protein, fats and carbs are what matters. End of.

Timing is important for athletes, and it is optimal to time carbs around your work outs, but not essential in the grand scheme of things. Your body doesn’t automatically stop digesting protein once its hit 30g, that is absurd. (BTW what happens to the rest of it if that’s the case does it just disappear? I think not) Eating carbs at night doesn’t cause fat gain its an OVERALL calorie surplus that does that. Carbs at night actually help raise serotonin levels which can help with sleep. Plus your body repairs and grows at night, which carbs also help with.

All of those diet myths are just that. What matters is calories in vs calories out, and if you’re smart about it, macronutrients matter. There are no unnecessary restrictions on foods and there are no magical weight loss foods. Its calories in vs calories out, and where the protein, fat carbs come from it doesn’t matter.

Science tells us this works. And common sense tells us in order to follow iifym successfully, you also count fibre, and keep track of your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as in, if you eat sugar for all of your carb allowance you’re going to feel like crap. We’re smart about it. We eat mainly whole foods, lean proteins, fresh fruit and veges, and grains. But we know we can also incorporate the so called naughty foods in too. It’s all about moderation. Eating for your goals. Being smart about it. And having the freedom to choose for yourself.