A few people in my Crossfit box have been raving about IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros – eating lately and since they’ve become visibly leaner and noticeably stronger/fitter, I thought I’d test it out to see what it’s all about.
Note: I don’t generally weigh myself or count calories consumed or burned. I generally eat quite ‘clean’ Monday to Friday though i.e. no gluten, cane sugar or dairy, but I don’t eat in minute quantities and on weekends I like to have 1-2 meals out.
I talked to a nutritionist and after a few tweaks had a plan that splits my week into 2 heavy lifting days (that means: high carb / low fat), 3 medium lifting days (means: medium carb / medium fat) and 2 light days (means: low carb / high fat).
I logged what I ate for 17 days. I felt like I kept my eyes on my macros every 10 minutes but I was still not able to follow the plan 100%.
Here are some of the things this experiment taught me:
- I don’t actually have hard, medium and light days when it comes to exercise – I pretty much work out hard on all days.
Even on my “light” days when I either “just run”, I burn over 700 calories, or when I “just swim”, I swim for 2km and burn over 500 cals. Therefore sticking to 1750 calories on my “light days” is not possible. The hunger is unbearable.
- I like to eat the same kinds of things every day, meaning it’s hard for me to eat 300-400 calories less on some days and more on other days.
I either feel like I’m force feeding myself or I feel like I’m starving. I felt that looking at my macros all the time meant I wasn’t listening to my body as much. Often I’m not as hungry on my heavy lifting or long run days as I am the day after but if the day after is a “light” day then I’m screwed.
- I like to eat a lot of fat.
It’s made me sad that I’ve had to limit my coconut oil, butter, salmon, mackerel, nut and avocado consumption. I have realised that I need to cut down a little bit but this plan I have has almost no room for two of these items in the same day but I do like a bit of fat with every meal.
- Counting macros makes me eat weird combinations of things, especially for dinner.
I often only had carbs and protein left for dinner so I ate a green salad with canned tuna (protein without much fat) but I don’t actually really like canned tuna and I think life’s too short to eat things you don’t enjoy. Also, veggies need to be eaten with fat in order for the body to absorb all the nutrients, but if I’ve eaten avocado and eggs scrambled with butter for breakfast and some fat at lunchtime, I have no fat allowance left for dinner.
- If I just have protein and carbs left at the end of the day, I had 0% greek yoghurt with honey or fruit for dessert. Totally delicious, but I don’t believe in fat free stuff so it was a bit of a mental struggle to eat fat free yoghurt.
- Eating out is impossible.
I don’t understand how people say IIFYM is so great because you can eat WHATEVER you want just as long as it fits your macros. Well, chicken katsu curry from Wagamama’s is 1200 calories. If I want to eat that I just have to gnaw on air for breakfast and lunch.
- I don’t like to weigh myself.
- I don’t like to think about calories because fitness is not about calories in / calories out.
Throughout this experiment I wore my heart rate monitor to everything I did, running as well as Crossfit, bouldering, etc. and I didn’t like it. I like to exercise for fun, I don’t like the mindset of constantly keeping track of calories in vs calories out.
- Weighing food and recording everything does my head in. #SRSLY
There are so many things in my life I need to keep track of – things related to my job and my two children, for example – I just do not have the mental energy to focus on food as much as IIFYM eating requires.
I lost a couple of kilos in those 17 days and felt quite good at Crossfit but all this counting and measuring and recording was too much. It took out all the joy from eating.
I have, however, learned a lot from this experience and there are some changes that I will definitely make from now on:
- I learned that I need close to 70g carbs after working out so I ditched my post-workout recovery shake because it has just 12g of carbs and changed my post-workout meal to porridge with eggs (or overnight oats with greek yoghurt) instead of my usual eggs/avocado/tomato.
- I will keep eating greek yoghurt. It’s a great source of protein and with honey and pistachios it’s divine.
- I will keep waiting when I think I’m hungry. My biggest issue is night-time snacking and I’m slowly learning to have dinner, a small sweet(ish) snack and then telling myself “You’re done now for the day. Tomorrow’s another day.”
As far as numbers go for this 17-day test period:
- Average calories per day: 2007 (range 1764-2470)
Should have been 1911
- Average fat grams per day: 80 (range 52-138)
Should have been 60
- Average carb grams per day: 212 (range 131-303)
Should have been 231
- Average protein grams per day: 112 (range 87-137)
Should have been 111
When I was training for marathons I burned at least 6000 calories a week, now with 3 sessions of Crossfit, 2 short runs, one bouldering session and one swimming session I burn less than 4000. That means I need to be mindful about all kinds of energy bars and other stuff that long distance runners love to make and eat. I just don’t need that many nuts and dates in my life right now as I’m not running the distances that I used to. I sort of suspected that before but now having done the math I know I need to lay off the nuts and the dried fruit if I want to be in control of my muffin top.
Have to tried IIFYM? It works for so many people but as for me – I think I like a more relaxed way of eating. Meat, fish, eggs, veg, fruit, rice, oats, quinoa, nuts, coconut oil, butter, maple syrup, honey, quinoa, greek yoghurt, almond milk are my main staples Monday to Friday. Weekends are a bit more relaxed and no time needs to be spent debating with myself over whether or not I can eat all the carbs that there are in an apple.