How to IIFYM!

Ok so you’ve calculated your starting macros, now what? It all seems a bit daunting. How do I start this? What do I do? How do I know what foods are made up of? How do I track everything? What about calories?

I get asked a lot of questions about iifym and how to actually do it. It can be overwhelming at first, and to be honest it is tricky BUT I promise it gets a whole lot easier. It’s amazing what you will learn by “dieting” this way. You’ll learn about what is actually in the foods you’re eating. And will learn more about how your body works, which foods are better and what you can and cant get away with.

Think of IIFYM like having a daily allowance. You have to learn to budget. If you spend all of your carbs by lunchtime then that’s too bad if you want pasta for dinner. BUT you can have pasta the next day so it’s not that big of a deal.

Each day you will have a certain amount of protein, fats and carbs that you need to hit. It is important to try to get as close as you can (within 5g either side is perfect!) to your daily targets. If you don’t eat enough, this can be detrimental to your results (not eating enough can cause your body to store fat) and eating too much, obviously, can lead to unwanted weight gain. BUT if one day you go under or over by a substantial amount don’t worry. Just get back on track the next day and you will be fine. As long as you are consistently getting close to your macros 80-90% of the time then it will work. If you’re going way over or under every day then it won’t.  For something more specific like a comp prep then its obviously better if you are more accurate.

The longer you do this for, the better you will get at hitting your macros too. And most people get to a point where they could pretty well hit their daily targets without having to physically track it.

I use the My Fitness Pal app to track my macros. I update my total daily calorie target (goals, custom setting) and used to adjust the macronutrients using the percentage split option. You can now enter in each macro by the gram, rather than the percentage split so your macro goals are exact. To do this you must run this add on when you are signed in on a computer: http://karoshiethos.com/2013/08/13/javascript-bookmarklet-for-enhanced-macro-goals-in-myfitnesspal/ total calories must be correct first (1g carb or protein = 4 calories, and 1g fat = 9 calories) then you can enter in each macro by the gram. The app will give you a running total and amount remaining for each goal you have set (protein, fat, carb, fibre, sugars, vitamins etc if you set these). 

Don’t worry about daily calorie targets or totals in the app as many of the foods entered in the database aren’t correct. Some days the app tells me I have gone 400 over on calories when I have hit my macros perfectly. These calorie totals don’t matter.

Adding food. When I first started this I had no idea how much of everything was in the foods I ate. You can search the app and quite often it will bring up a couple of entries for the same food. Some only have a calorie total and no protein/fats/carbs. Don’t use these ones, make sure you use an entry that includes macronutrient values. Some will have different macro break downs too – if it’s for something when out at a restaurant, check a couple of them and then pick the one you feel is best. You will get better at making educated guesses like this once you get more of a feel for what different foods are made up of.

For example, if I go out for dinner and have lasagne, and there is a lasagne entry that has 10C 10P and no fat, I wont use this one because I know lasagne has more carbs than this, and also some fat! If there was one with 80C 50F 40P and I thought it was a small sized portion then I might only add in ¾ of this portion.  These macros aren’t necessarily right, but they are closer than the other option, and as long as I’m only guessing like this every now and then it doesn’t matter.

I make sure I am accurate with tracking macros for food I cook myself. I cook my own food most of the time, and I have added a lot of foods in to my fitness pal so I know I am tracking as accurately as possible. The Australian Food Standards Website (http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/) has nutritional information on a heap of different foods and from this I have added in things like chicken breast, steak, veges, fruit and nuts. If you have packaged food then this information is on the packet so I have added some in using this, and also found a lot already in there that were correct as well.

When I first started, if I was trying to work out my last meal, I would add certain things in to the app and then check daily totals. I could then adjust the portion sizes and weights accordingly, check daily totals again and go from there to make things fit. I quite often use the decimal portion size option, that way if I enter new foods in per 100g I can easily add how much I am having down to the gram.

The longer you do this for the better you get at knowing what you can or cant fit in at the end of the day. Also, if there is something in particular you want, I find it best to add that in to the app first and then work backwards. During the week, I usually plan roughly what I am going to have each day the night before, or in the morning, but because of the flexibility of being able to have any foods you like you will find it gets easier to calculate on the fly.

Like anything, it takes practice and patience, it can be frustrating to begin with but it does get much easier the more you do it. Also, it is becoming increasingly popular, and if you find someone who has had success with this, chances are they will want to help you as much as they can as well. Who wouldn’t want to spread the good word about getting in shape whilst eating pop tarts and nutella?!