What Does IIFYM Mean? – A Guide to Flexible Dieting for Fat Loss

Women worldwide love IIFYM dieting. You already know this though, don’t you? Because the latest trending acronym fills your social feeds from the moment you wake up.

Friends tag #IIFYM onto pics of quite literally anything tasty – especially donuts, ice cream, burritos, and burgers – yet they’re still rocking a beach-ready bod. But what the hell does it even mean? Surely it has to be a good thing because my god it fills us with food envy.

Fortunately for you, we thought the same for a while too. So SMG investigated and this is what we found…

What does IIFYM even mean?

Friends enjoying pizza on IIFYM diet
Dieters love IIFYM because it is much less restrictive – you can even have pizza!

The idea of the ‘IIFYM’ diet was first made popular by creator Andy Collova. Sick and tired of diet plans relying solely on restrictively counting calories, Andy decided to take a much tastier, more flexible approach.

Today most of us know IIFYM as, ‘If It Fits Your Macros’. But come on, who has the time to type out a whole sentence when a neatly packed acronym will do? We all like a speedy hashtag. Mainly so we can tuck in before our food gets cold and still make our Insta followers jealous.

Although IIFYM isn’t a totally new idea, it’s taken over the fitness world. Ladies who lift are squeezing quite literally everything into their daily allowance. Yes, even the likes of Oreo milkshakes. Hence why IIFYM is also known as it’s the slightly less marketable term, ‘Flexible Dieting’.

But, how is that even possible on a ‘diet’? Aren’t we supposed to be miserably chomping on lettuce when everyone else enjoys their favorite foods? That’s how we’ve always tried to lose weight…

Well, apparently not. Now people are saying all you have to do is make sure everything you chow down on fits within your macros. You can totally go ahead and grab a Hershey bar, just make sure to subtract the relevant amounts from your daily percentages. We’ll expand more on this later…

Key point: IIFYM is an accronym for ‘If It Fits Your Macros’.

A Word About Macros

But first, let’s talk about macros. They’re all we’ve heard about on repeat for the past few years, yet it’s not always clear that they actually are.

Whenever we decide to fill our plate, we make much more choice than some of us realize. Rather than just stacking a number of calories, we’re also choosing different combinations of macronutrients.

Our bodies need these nutrients in larger amounts to stay healthy and survive. Whereas a tiny multivitamin is jam-packed with micronutrients, macros will typically make up the bulk of our diet.

Now, it might sound complicated, but it really isn’t. In actual fact, you know about these subcategories already. For sure you’ve heard of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and alcohol.

Depending on your diet and lifestyle you’ll get different daily amounts of each. Consequently, how much you consume of every variety can play a key role in how healthy you are. Here’s what they get up to inside your body…

Carbohydrates – 4 kcal per 1 g

SpotMeGirl is the queen of carbs. We don’t run from them for the fear of getting ‘fat’, whatever that means, and the day doesn’t start until we’ve chowed our cinnamon toast.

After all, carbohydrates are the primary energy source for all females. No matter our age, shape, or size.

Once that post-workout penne hits our tastebuds a process begins to break it down into glucose. Then, once converted into a useable energy source glycogen, this fuels our muscles, brain, and other cells.

Carbohydrates are typically divided between complex and simple saccharides. Both have their uses, but it is generally accepted that the complex kind is better for you.

carbohydrate breakdown cycle
How carbohydrates are turned into energy

Complex Carbs

It takes much longer for our bodies to break down the chains binding complex carbs together. Therefore, they provide a slower, more sustainable release of energy without spiking blood sugar levels.

Here are a bunch of high-quality sources to enjoy:

  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potato
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Oatmeal
  • Wholewheat toast
  • Wholewheat pasta

Another bonus of choosing complex carbs is that we can avoid the dreaded sugar crash. Because energy is released steadily, the descent back down isn’t crazy either. It’s more like a relaxing riverboat ride instead of a super intense rollercoaster of sweetness. That’s why many fit conscious women consume complex carbs for breakfast.

Simple Carbs

Simple carbs, on the other hand, are pretty much ready to go from the moment you set eyes on them. If complex carbs are like an avocado hiding under a tough skin, simple carbs are like a smooth and creamy guacamole. There’s not much holding them together and they can be used straight away.

This explains the sudden rush sparked by the first soda of a cheat day, or why track athletes chew on gummy bears before a race. Sugars used in these foods pretty much flow straight into our bloodstream – spiking our blood sugar and insulin levels.

Check out these low GI foods for instant energy release:

  • Table sugar
  • Glucose tablets
  • Candy
  • Soda
  • White bread
  • White rice

But, before you go spooning heaps into your coffee, check this out. When our blood sugar levels skyrocket to dizzying heights (often literally) the hormone insulin is released. Insulin then takes this troublesome glucose and stores it in our fat cells if we don’t use it. We quite literally save this energy for later as body fat.

Protein – 4 kcal per 1 g

healthy IIFYM meal
A high protein meal with chicken, quinoa, beans, broccoli and spinach

Proteins are the building blocks of our muscles. They’re what keep us strong and allow our muscle fibers to repair after any kind of exercise.

It’s important we eat the right amount of protein for our activity levels to stay strong and healthy. For example, a highly active female lifter will need much more of this macro than a sedentary man of the same size.

When dieting it is important to eat a healthy amount of protein every day. Not only does this stop our bodies breaking down muscle mass for energy, but it keeps us full too.

Numerous studies have proven that protein plays a part in increasing satiety in dieting individuals. Therefore, because we can keep hunger at bay much easier, weight loss is less of a struggle. If you’re an athlete or fit obsessed person aim to eat 0.7 – 1.0 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight.

Try to include one or two of these high-quality sources into every meal:

  • Chicken breast
  • Lean beef
  • Bison
  • Fish
  • Cottage cheese
  • Soy
  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Hemp

Fats – 9 kcal per 1 g

All of a sudden things begin to make so much sense, don’t they? No wonder fat dense foods like a spoonful of loveable peanut butter contain identical calories to an entire forest of broccoli.

Yet, fats are totally nothing to be scared of. The reality is that they’re an essential part of keeping us fit and strong as females. All we have to do is consume the right kind and monitor our fat intake due to their high calorific content.

Fats provide us with energy, helps to maintain our core temperature, and even play an important role in our nervous system. So, we should make sure we eat healthy fats every day as part of a varied diet.

Here are the healthiest sources to choose from:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Vegetable oils – coconut, olive, avocado, etc.
  • Cold water fish – mackerel etc.

(Note: Alcohol is also a macronutrient but is not included in the IIFYM plan. It has a calorific density of 7 kcal per 1 g)

Key point: Macronutrients are foods your body requires in larger amounts to stay healthy.

How IIFYM Flexible Dieting Works

Illustration of a person tracking macros using tablet
“Let us just check our macros”

First of all, dieters need to ‘set-up’ or work out their daily macros. This is relatively simple and there are even online generators that can do this for you.

These are the fundamental set-up steps:

  1. Finding out your Basal Metabolic Rate will set the foundation here. BMR is determined by sex, height, age, and weight. This is how much energy you require daily for basic bodily functions like breathing and pumping blood around your body.
  2. Secondly, your BMR is then multiplied by your activity level aka total daily energy expenditure. Understandably, a really active person will have a higher TDEE because they move and do more.
  3. Next, these overall figures will be adjusted to suit your goals. For weight loss, a slight reduction of 15-20% is usually suggested. This way the dieter can safely enter a calorie deficit by eating less energy than they burn. Notice we say safely, as too much restriction can make dieting unhealthy and definitely a risk to your well-being.
  4. Finally, it’s time to decide what your macros need to be. Typically this is done by applying a percentage to carbs, fats, and proteins. According to dietary guidelines, 0.7-1.0 g of protein and 0.25-0.5 g of fat per lb of bodyweight should be eaten daily. Whatever is left can be taken up by tasty crunchy carbs like wholemeal toast.

It’s important that dieters don’t just borrow a plan from their best friend. Unless you’re identical twins living identical lives, their plan is most likely out of sync with your body. Remember, the whole idea is to tailor your ratios so they’re perfectly aligned with your goals.

Use this macro calculator to figure it all out. 

Okay, cool, now what?

So, now you’re all set and ready to go. You’re armed with a pie chart of percentages and ready to achieve that dream physique. All you’ve got to do now is find a bunch of tasty foods to enjoy, how hard can that be?

Just make sure to weigh and measure everything you eat. The whole idea is to make things fit your macros, not kind of second guess them. We’re still on a diet here after all.

Once you’ve got to grips how much calories in relation to macros you’re eating, tick them off your total. Food tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal and My Macros+ can make life so much easier here – especially since you can scan barcodes on the go.

If you’re new to flexible dieting you’ll probably notice how much freer you feel. Rather than feel a pang of guilt as peer pressure pushes you into one more cupcake, you make an unthreatening deduction. There’s no such thing as ‘dirty’ or ‘unhealthy’ foods, just, well, food.

That’s why so many dieters have found success in IIFYM for weight loss and body composition goals. Because of the flexible dieting approach, they can still use all the tried and tested techniques of removing body fat, but not have to deal with so much restriction. It’s literally a eat whatever you like within reason scenario. Yes, that definitely includes ice cream.

Key point: Dieters must track their food to make sure their choices fit into their macro allowance.


Flexible Dieting for Fat Loss

female fat loss through IIFYM

As we’ve already mentioned lots of women turn to IIFYM for fat loss. Especially if they have a sweet tooth, certain dietary requirements, or don’t like too much regimentation.

Hell, we’re pretty much the biggest meal prepping bunch you’ll meet. But we don’t like cookie cutter plans churned out by Insta models. There’s nothing worse than really craving a taste or texture and not being able to experience it. If you’ve ever tried two-months straight of chicken breast and broccoli, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

We’ll level with you though, girl. Fat loss success with IIFYM isn’t always an easy ride. You still need to be dedicated to your diet and can’t cheat your way to a dream body. Only by staying in a calorie deficit can you shed fat – that’s just the way the science works.

Aim to stay within <15-20% of your total daily energy expenditure. If you are usually in the gym every day but have to miss repeated sessions, recalculate.

Remember that fat loss isn’t a magic formula, just consume less than you use up. One great way of increasing your day expenditure is with a premium fat burning supplement like Instant Knockout CUT. That’s our number one go to for SMG. It’s well tested, isn’t too aggressive, and contains only natural ingredients.

Luckily, there are also a few more tips and tricks we’ve found out for staying on track. Even though we can technically eat what we like SMG tries to stay sensible. Going crazy in one direction or the other can quickly lead to unwanted weight gain, muscle mass loss, low energy levels and dietary deficiencies.

Key point: In order to lose fat dieters must enter a calorie deficit. This means that they eat fewer calories than they burn for that day.


Staying Sensible – Fill yourself with goodness, then hit the tasty treats

Think of your macros as a bank account. You only have a limited amount to spend in one day, and once they’re gone, that’s it. So, you should always take a moment to think about how you spend them.

Filling yourself up on super-nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables is always a great idea. Because veg like spinach, kale, and green beans are typically low in calories, you can literally eat a whole bunch. The high fiber content helps your digestive system, whilst their abundance of vitamins and minerals keeps you incredibly healthy.

Then, of course, we should make sure to save some room for protein. Not only will a lean protein source satisfy our hunger, it’ll provide all the building blocks of maintaining muscle too. When you enter a calorie deficit this is especially important to keep lean mass proudly on your body. You earned it through hours under the bar, girl, don’t lose it now.

Fats and carbohydrates are also vitally important, we know this already. Yet, when losing weight, we should really consider their energizing qualities. Let’s not forget we’re still taking on fewer calories than we burn. Just think about all the goodness you can put in that amazing body of yours before the tasty treats.

For example, a breakfast of berries, oatmeal, almond butter, and whole milk, will provide power for an entire morning. A Pop-Tart might only fuel you for half the time and won’t give you half as many vitamins or minerals. Be smart, but certainly have some fun too.

Key point: Nutrient-rich whole foods should take priority over processed treats. This will keep the dieter fuller, topped up with vitamins and minerals, and make weight loss easier.


Summary – The final bite

group of women enjoying a meal as part of IIFYM flexible diet

IIFYM simply means ‘If It Fits Yor Macros’. Therefore, dieters can eat literally whatever they like, so long as it fits their macronutrient requirements.

This style of eating is often called flexible dieting. It is highly popular due to the less-restrictive nature in comparison to other diet plans.

However, it is still a diet plan. In order for body composition goals to be achieved the IIFYM queen must stick to her boundaries. Some people can find this really hard, and it is possible to develop an eating disorder if not managed.

Women looking to use IIFYM for fat loss should still focus on healthy nutritious foods. Whilst it’s fine to treat yourself, your body will respond better to ingredients high in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, lean protein, complex carbs, nuts, fruits, and fibrous vegetables should make up the bulk of a fat loss diet.

But don’t forget to let loose and reward yourself too. That’s what IIFYM is all about, plus it’s good for your hormone levels. So says the science anyway.


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