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World’s Best Diet Part 4–IIFYM

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)


Claims: The IIFYM diet approach shares many characteristics with Zone and Weight Watchers.  It has its roots from the bodbuilding.com forums back in the 2004-2008 time.  At this time, many forum posters would routinely ask if it was ok to eat a given food while dieting and trying to decrease body fat.  There was a notion (and still is) that certain foods are totally off limits and ignorance of the role of energy balance and protein intake on success.  IIFYM can be different for everyone, but the basic premise is the same.  You have a certain target for total calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat that you need to hit to be successful with your weight loss goals.  As long as those numbers are hit, then the food quality and micronutrients don’t matter.

Reality: If you hit a given caloric intake target below your maintenance intake needs for long enough, you will absolutely lose weight, regardless of food quality.  If you  hit a certain protein intake this will ensure that you are less likely to lose muscle mass in the process.  Carbohydrate and fat intakes will be dictated by food preference and performance goals.  There have been countless case studies proving that calorie intake is king ( Twinkie Diet , McDonald’s Diet , 100 Day Ice cream Diet ).

Pros: Allows lots of dietary flexibility.  Gives protein minimums.  Encourages accurate tracking of foods and quantity.

Cons: Potentially ignores food quality and micronutrient intake.  Many people have taken this approach as a pass to eat low nutrient foods as long as they are hitting their targets.  Can leave people feeling trapped if they can’t accurately measure or track a food at a social event or restaurant.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1