IIFYM: Rebelling Against the Clean Eating Trend


The aSweatLife team has recently taken on the Whole Life Challenge, part of which entails nutritional boundaries that limit sugar intake. This has resulted in constant chocolate chip cookie cravings and also an increased interest in the IIFYM diet trend.

How are a nutritional plan and cookies related, you may be wondering?  IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is a system that has participants tracking their entire diet based on three macronutrients: protein, fat and carbs. By calculating and adjusting your intake of said macros, IIFYM boasts the ability to increase efficiency of your metabolism and build muscle, all while still being able to have your favorite indulgences. This may sound too go to be true, so let’s break it down to see if IIFYM could work for you:

Macros? What are those?

“Macros” is short for macronutrients – protein, fat and carbs – the fuel that drives you. Human beings need a lot of protein, fat and carbs to survive, which is why they are given the descriptor “macro.” Each of these macronutrients provide energy in the form of calories – IIFYM uses the amounts of each of these macros to relate to an amount of calories.

  • Carbs: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fats: 9 calories per gram

For example, if you had one serving of baby carrots that has 8g from carbs, 1g from protein and 0g from fat it would be ((8×4)+(1×4)+(0x9))= 36 calories (yes, I did break-out my calculator for that).

How does IIFYM help maintain a healthy lifestyle?

To take IIFYM just from “counting your calories” to having a true impact, first you have to define your goals and then figure out the balance between fat, protein and carbs that is needed to reach said goals. Depending on if you want to lose, maintain or gain weight, the composition of your diet will vary in the ratio of macronutrients. I keep saying macronutrients as if I am a scientist, but the concept is pretty innate: to turn fat into muscle you need to eat foods that help you do so. IIFYM is a simple concept that just takes a little more preparation than what you may normally do.  

What is the first step toward figuring out IIFYM?

First, you’ll need to figure out how many calories your body actually needs in a day. According to nutrition blog PrettyFit, to find your daily caloric intake you just need two things: base metabolic rate and total daily energy expenditure (how many calories you burn).  

  • To find your BMR first plug in your current weight, height and age into this calculator.
  • To find your TDEE take your BMR and plug it in based on how active you are:
  • Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
  • Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/wk)
  • Mod. active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/wk)
  • Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk)
  • Extr. active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job)
  • Your BMR multiplied by your estimated calorie burn creates you total daily intake. For example, my BMR is 1,260 multiplied by a “very active” lifestyle (1.725) = 2,174 calories

How many macronutrients do I need?

Again, this varies depending on your goals and your lifestyle. I am no expert on this matter, but there are a lot of useful resources out there. One appropriately named, The Macronutrient Calculator is a quick and easy way to figure out what you need.

PrettyFit also provides a very in-depth break-down of how to figure out how much protein, carbs and fat you should consume. This is based on what type of activity you do – weight lifting, sedentary, endurance – and weight loss / maintaining / gain goals.

I’ve also found that following people on Instagram who utilize this fitness trend are a great resource. Even if you’re not necessarily looking to seriously slim down or gain a lot of muscle, their guidance on what types of foods to eat, meal planning tips and even dessert ideas are extremely useful. @amandabucci is really down to earth, follows IIFYM and is a great inspiration for staying fit.

Ultimately, the point of IIFYM is to get the nutrition you need without feeling restricted, as many diet trends do these days. It isn’t recommended to get all of your carbs for the day with marshmallow fluff sandwiches, but if you’re really craving one you can build it into your day’s macro plan. If you’ve tried doing a “clean eating” plan and find yourself dreaming of chocolate chip cookies, give IIFYM a try and see if it can help you feel your absolute best.

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About Catherine Toupin

Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Catherine is a proud graduate of two great Midwestern schools: the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Notre Dame. After receiving a degree in English and Communication, Catherine chose to take a risk and teach teenagers in Florabama for two years. Living in a location with warm weather year-round rekindled Catherine’s love of long outdoor runs (and of relaxing on a beach). Catherine has since taken a Meeting Planning job in Chicago, and though the views are slightly different, she still enjoys runs along the lake shore path and being outdoors as much as possible.