1. What is IIFYM?
IIFYM stands for "if it fits your macros." While many people define this in varying ways (in the same way that people define "clean eating" in different formats), for me this means that as long as a food's respective calorie, fat, carb and protein profile fits into my daily allotments, I will eat it. I believe, then, that there is no "bad" food. No food is off-limits. I do not care if a food is "processed" or "high sugar" or "high sodium." I eat foods that fit my limits. This does not mean that I binge eat Poptarts and ice cream, though. I make sure that my micronutrients are met and that nutrient dense food is a large part of my daily intake.
I was originally a "clean eater" aka boring brofood-only meals with crazy food restrictions and massive amounts of food guilt. I developed a major eating disorder (Orthorexia and Binge-Eating Disorder) that made me so angry, hungry and fear-ridden. I started--SLOWLY!-- to incorporate flexible dieting techniques into my diet about a year ago after a 5000 calorie binge-fest at a wedding. I realized how disordered my pre-occupation with food was and made strides in experimenting with new macronutrient limits to see how my body reacted. People ask me daily: HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO AET YOUR MACROS AT? I started at 0.35g/ lb of body weight for fats, 1g/lb of body weight for protein and gave myself the rest in carbohydrates. At 5'10" I gave myself an estimated 1850 cal/ day and experimented from there. I realized I needed to make muscle gains and so I slowly pushed my caloric and macronutrient intake over the course of six-eight months and tracked my weight as I went. I was able to push my metabolic capacity through bulking to around 2500 cal/ day. I stopped bulking when I was 19 weeks away from my show.
I think that people are generally misinformed about protein consumption overall. I used to think I needed to consume 200g of protein a day to gain muscle when really all it did was make me constipated! The general recommendation for athletes is a 0.8-1g/ per lb of LEAN BODY MASS (NOT body weight) for protein consumption. I push a little higher than this because I love meat!
Again--find what works for you through experimentation!
You have to be dedicated to weighing and calculating and counting and playing Food Tetris. IIFYM is not easy; as you prep more foods and practice making things fit (I am on
my 462nd consecutive day on MyFitnessPal) you become much more comfortable. It can absolutely feel daunting and overwhelming, but once it becomes a habit you won't want to go back!
I love making things fit--it's like a puzzle. I do understand that the time management aspect of it is not for everyone, though.
To go along with this, you have to be willing to eat a VARIETY of foods and not just "dirty" meals. IIFYM only truly works if you really do have moderation and balance in your diet.
Now that I am in off season I am trying to live my life more qualitatively than just quantitatively. I enjoy free meals here and there and do not try to be absolutely perfect every day. It's about net caloric consumption over a week or month--not daily weigh-ins.
I think the industry very often fear-mongers a naïve constituency into guilt and shame when it comes to treats and sweets. I think this attitude is far worse in the realm of fitness competitors who feel that eating four meals a day of only tilapia and asparagus is the only way to get stage lean.
Meal timing and "carbs after dark" are myths that frustrate me to the Nth degree. There is absolutely no science behind meal timing deterring or benefitting either weight or body fat loss. While its true that carbs late at night could bloat an individual in the morning due to increased glycogen, this notion in NO WAY affects overall fitness goals. Eat when you want--the idea of "kickstarting the metabolism" has long been disproven. (Sidenote: meal timing is ONLY important for me during a peak week for a show or a carb load pre-stage).
A few more myths quickly:
1. Lifting heavy weights makes women bulky.
Nope. I am a powerlifter first and foremost. I lift heavy and do NOT have a traditional bodybuilding high rep/ low weight programming. I am not bulky.
2. You must eat breakfast.
Nope. I follow Intermittent Fasting for psychological purposes. I do not start eating until around 3 PM every day and I eat in a nine hour window until 12 AM. It works for me.
3. You need to "cut out" certain foods during show prep (i.e. Fruit, dairy, processed foods).
Nope. I followed an entire prep IIFYM. The only thing I cut towards the end was dairy because I am lactose-intolerant and usually manage it with the help of Lactaid pills. I wanted to make it easier on myself, so I cut dairy because I felt like it--not because I HAD to.
4. High carbs are bad.
Nope. For me carbs are amazing. My body does not react well with high FATS and so my fats are consistently low (35-50g) year round. I figured this out through experimentation over the course of two years counting calories. Everyone is different and there is absolutely no one way to do show prep or lose weight in general.