IIFYM… Don’t You Mean “Macros”?
You may have opened this link thinking I published an article with a typo in the title. You’re wrong. The IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) mentality has swept through the land, picking up diehard fans in its wake. And why not? The eating style offers flexibility, the main (macro) nutrients that sustain our bodies (carbs, protein, and fat in case you missed it) and is moderately easy to track.
But you know what’s missing? Micros.
This isn’t an article bashing macro tracking, but simply a reminder to remember the little guys. Micronutrients are small but mighty and can have a huge impact on your weight loss goals, training, and overall well-being. Here’s what you need to know about micros.
What are Micronutrients?
At a base level, micronutrients consist of compounds that our body needs to function at an optimum level. In short, vitamins and minerals. Vitamins naturally occur in minimally processed food sources and are sometimes added to other foods during processing. Micronutrients help our bodies fight off illness while contributing to basic physiological processes like growth, digestion, and reproduction.
I could go on about the water soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins, and really dive deep into this topic, but let’s start slow.
Am I Getting Enough Micronutrients?
Most people are generally aware that vegetarians are often required to supplement with B12, and breastfed babies and individuals experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are supplemented with Vitamin D. In reality, micronutrient deficiencies are really common. More than 2 billion people worldwide have some sort of micronutrient deficiency, with low iron being the most prevalent.
In North America, 68% of people have a calcium deficiency, which can lead to bone density problems down the road. 80% of people in North America have a vitamin B6 deficiency, which can cause general discomfort, cracked lips, and more serious implications in severe cases. 75% of people in North America have a magnesium deficiency, which, like iron, can cause fatigue and weakness.
The importance of micronutrients really hit home for me while I was studying for my coaching certification. For months, I had been struggling with dry eyes and degrading vision. Eye drops were a temporary reprieve and my contacts became unbearable. While studying I learned that these are signs of a Vitamin A deficiency. Upon reviewing the foods in which Vitamin A can be found (sweet potatoes, leafy greens, fish, etc.) I realized I rarely ate those things at the time. I started incorporating these foods into my diet more often as well as supplementing. You know what happened?
I no longer needed glasses and developed X-Ray vision.
Just kidding. But my eyes no longer felt like sandpaper and my vision went back to normal. A life-changing development? Perhaps not, but it was one less thing to worry about and my comfort level skyrocketed.
The point here is that you may have a micronutrient deficiency that may be basically undetectable, a minor inconvenience that you live with daily. Getting rid of that minor inconvenience may just improve your quality of life.
Should I Panic About a Micronutrient Deficiency?
Except for in extreme cases, micronutrient deficiencies aren’t life threatening. They are often just a warning sign that things need to be handled to keep your body as healthy as possible. If you have a Vitamin C deficiency, you may catch a cold, but you likely won’t get scurvy unless you specifically avoid foods that contain Vitamin C.
The point of this article is to raise awareness, and offset the extreme take on macronutrient focus, not have you running to the store to stock up on One-A-Day multivitamins.
How do I Know if I have a Micronutrient Deficiency?
If you don’t eat a vast array of different colored fruits and vegetables, chances are good that you’re low on something.
It’s hard to weed out a micronutrient deficiency on your own. I often refer my coaching clients to this list if they have any concerns, especially where there are a plethora of micronutrients to consider.
If you really want to know about your micronutrient levels, ask your doctor to do blood work. And please be aware that some micronutrients are toxic if you take too many, so do not eat a handful of Flinstone Vitamins in one sitting, and do not supplement without consulting your medical provider.
So What About IIFYM?
Macronutrient tracking has proven itself an effective way for athletes and average Joe’s to stay on track with their training goals. And who doesn’t enjoy a good donut after deadlifts, am I right?
Just remember the importance of balance, and incorporating different foods into your diet. As they say, variety (and micronutrients) are the spice of life. You may find that one little tweak is all it takes to align your physiology with your goals or correct that irritating dry skin issue that drives you wild.
So. Go eat your fruit and vegetables, IIFYM or not.
Have any questions? Comment below!