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20th Dec 2016

Why You Can’t Have Maltesers On Your Porridge – Even ‘If It Fits Your Macros’


It’s fair to say that, a lot of the time, Instagram is a foreign country – and some of the most used hashtags seem to mean, well, not very much at all.

So much so that it can be tough to get a read on what anyone’s even talking about.

Take, for example, #IIFYM. If you’re in any way interested in the #Irishfitfam hashtag, you’ll have noticed a glut of pics popping up of what look like fantastical concoctions from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, captioned with #IIFYM.

To the uninitiated, this seems like the best news ever: you can be into fitness, and count your macros like a serious fitness person, and still eat chocolate? And marshmallows? FOR BREAKFAST?!

Well, yes… and no

#IIFYM is shorthand for “if it fits your macros”, the stock response to a question trainers hear over and over again: “Can I eat this?” And macros? Well, they’re not that complicated at all. 

Macros are macronutrients – the building blocks of any nutritional plan (we don’t like to say “diet” in the wellness industry). We’re talking carbohydrates, fats and proteins – and everything you eat will consist of these three macronutrients.

How many of each you can eat will depend on you: what you weigh, what height you are, how much you train and what your goals are. So, someone training to build muscle will have different macronutrient needs to someone training to lose fat, and different again to a super lean #fitfammer who works out seven times a week and is at 12% body fat.

The problem with the concept of macro counting – which you can do easily with an app like MyFitnessPal – is that, for some people, it’s a kind of cheat: a way of getting those Oreo cookies into their nutrition plan.

And sure, that might fit in your daily macro count – but it’d pretty much mean the rest of your day is pure protein (lean meat, poultry or fish) and fats, as most green veggies contain some carbohydrates.

On the surface, you might think: well, why not? #IIFYM, right?

Again, yeah – but no.

People forget about those other important things our food contains: micronutrients. We need vitamins and minerals for healthy bodily function, and if we’re bulking up our macro count with chocolate, sweet syrups and protein powders, we’re missing out on fresh, organic fruit and vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats, all of which are pretty essential.

@tiine 11

Photo: tiine11

As a trainer, counting macros is kind of second nature; I try to make sure that I hit the right quantities for my body.

And if I want something that I know is going to throw my day off balance, I tell myself I can have it at the weekend – for what I call my refeed meal (or cheat), instead of throwing it into my breakfast and knocking my whole day out of line.

Sure, IIFYM works for some people – but for others, it’s just a way of sneaking high-sugar, low-nutrient foods into their diets. And it may look deadly on Instagram – but it’s not going to do any good for your body.