Using Flexible Dieting (IIFYM) with MyFitnessPal Tutorial

MyFitnessPal can be a great tool to use when you are doing flexible dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).

However, it can be a bit tricky to set up, so we thought we could help by offering this tutorial guide that you can use to get everything set up, as well as some pointers to use along the way.

NOTE:  My Food Diary is a great alternative, that many find far easier to use.

I’ve been using MyFitnessPal (iOS or Android) for a long time now and I can see first hand how powerful it is in helping you track your macros and keep track of your calorie burn. It takes some practice and a little patience but after a couple of weeks, tracking becomes routine and highly worth it.

Once you know the flexible dieting IIFYM basics, here’s how to get started.

Setting MyFitnessPal Up to Use IIFYM

1. Using your mobile device, download the free MyFitnessPal App from either the (Apple app store or Google Play)

2. Open the app and log in using your facebook or twitter account (easiest), or create an account using a valid email address.

3. MyFitnessPal will then ask you to enter some information including your goals, fitness level, height, weight, age, gender, exercise level, and goals. Enter this information as directed.
myfitnesspal set up
4. The app will then construct a plan for you consisting of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) based on the information you provided, but the app doesn’t use an IIFYM approach so you’ll have to manually enter your flexible diet TDEE and macro goals.

mfp-TDEEHere’s how to manually adjust MFP to fit with IIFYM.

First use our macro calculator to calculate your TDEE and Macro amounts.

    • Before you enter anything into MyFitnessPal, you must decide whether you want the app or compatible device to track your daily exercise or not.
    • By tracking your daily exercise, it can give you a much better idea of how many calories you’re burning each day. However, this makes tracking your macros more difficult because they are fluid, meaning the more exercise you do, the more carbs, protein, and fat you’ll have to eat to meet your daily goals.
    • If you want MyFitnessPal to track your exercise, you must choose “SEDENTARY” on our calculator and then enter those numbers manually.

sedentary TDEE

  • A simpler method is to estimate your activity level using our calculator and then enter that data manually into MyFitnessPal and turn off exercise tracking. This way you will simply eat the same amount of each of your macros each day.
  • While this makes it easier to track your macros it doesn’t account for varying exercise levels throughout the week or on rest days.

active-tdee
Here’s how to manually enter your macros:

  1. From the home screen, click on the “More” button at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Then click on the “Goals” heading.
  3. If you are tracking exercise adjust Activity Level to sedentary. Or, choose the appropriate level.
  4. Under the heading Nutrition Goals click on “Calorie & Macronutrient Goals“. Now enter your calorie amount given by our calculator and adjust carbohydrates, protein, and fat to the percentages given by our calculator. Note: You’ll have to round to the nearest 5% increment unless you have the Premium Version of MFP. This allows you to adjust your macros at 1% increments or just enter the gram amount.

myfitnesspal and iifym goals

Not Tracking Exercise (Easiest)

  • To turn off activity tracking under the “More” button, select “Steps”
    Then select “Don’t track Steps”
  • Also do not pair any other fitness tracking apps or devices with MyFitnessPal nor add any exercises in your daily food diary.

adjust steps

Tracking Exercise

  • If you are tracking exercise then enter your Sedentary TDEE and macros as just described, allow MyFitnessPal to track your steps, and pair other apps like MapMyFitness and devices such as Fitbit. Note: I’ve consistently found that FitBit OVERestimates your daily calorie burn so be aware of this
  • Also, for any activity not tracked by these devices, you’ll have to manually enter it into your food diary each day. Does this by clicking the “+”  and then selecting “Exercise“.

How to Enter Food and Track Your Macros

Tracking how much food you eat is pretty simple using MyFitnessPal.

1. To get started, click on the diary button at the bottom of the screen.

2. Then click the “add food” button below the appropriate meal.

  • You then can search for a food, enter it manually, or scan the barcode of the food you are eating with your device’s camera.
  • Adjust serving size as necessary and then click the check mark at the top of the screen.

The more you do this, the easier it gets as MyFitnessPal remembers your prior foods and suggest things you normally eat. 

It also may be useful to purchase a digital food scale to more accurately weigh your food and establish more accurate macro amounts.

track food IIFYM myfitnesspal

3. Keep track of your macros as you eat.

  • Scroll to the bottom of the diary screen and click the nutrition button.
  • It will then allow you to use the tabs at the top to see how your macros and calories are tracking for the day in question. “Macros” shows you a pie chart and percentages while “Nutrients” shows you the gram breakdown.
  • Now you can see your progress for the day so far and how many grams short or over you are in meeting your daily macro goals.

Note: Once again, if you are tracking exercise, your macros will be constantly changing based on the amount of exercise you do that day, which can make meeting your goals more challenging and harder to plan for.

nutrition myfitnesspal IIFYM

4. At the end of each day click “Complete Entry”.

As You Continue

MyFitnessPal is designed to track your progress, so every 2 or 3 days you should weigh yourself using a digital scale and enter your weight by clicking the + button and then the purple weight button at the bottom of your screen.

For every 5 pounds of weight lost or gained you’ll need to return to our calculator and recalculate your macros based on your new weight. Then enter this updated info into MyFitnessPal as instructed above.

MyFitnessPal has a lot of resources available to help you be successful such as:

  • Reminders
  • Community support
  • Ability to save recipes, food, and meals
  • Premium version and even personal coaching. (Everything else is free except for this service.)

The more you use MyFitnessPal, the more you’ll discover!

Limitations of Using MyFitnessPal with Flexible Dieting

There are a few limitations with using MyFitnessPal to track your macros as part of the flexible diet.

  • First, the app doesn’t allow you to enter macro amounts, but only percentages.
  • Secondly, these percentages are in 5% increments when our calculator at times could give you 1% increments. Only the Premium Version will unlock the ability to do this. This runs $10 a month or $50 a year paid up front.
  • Thirdly, I’ve noticed when you are tracking your exercise, sometimes things are recorded twice so pay attention to this if you have picked this option and delete the duplicate by touching “edit” at the top of the diary.
  • If you are tracking your exercise, MFP will keep adjusting protein until you are eating crazy amounts if you have a big exercise day.  Find your max daily protein amount using our calculator (including exercise level) and then stop when you get to that amount. Consume the rest of your calories at your percentage of fats and of carbs on big exercise days.

Important!

We want to reiterate the importance of inputting your SEDENTARY calories if you want MFP to track your calories burned through exercise. If you don’t do this you’ll be eating too much since MFP adds exercise calories and macros back into your daily totals.


Do you have any tips or pointers for others who want to use MyFitnessPal to keep track of their macros? 

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Scientific References:
Litman, L., Rosen, Z., Spierer, D., Weinberger-Litman, S., Goldschein, A., & Robinson, J. (2015). Mobile Exercise Apps and Increased Leisure Time Exercise Activity: A Moderated Mediation Analysis of the Role of Self-Efficacy and Barriers. Journal of medical Internet research, 17(8), e195. Study link.
Kruger, J., Blanck, H. M., & Gillespie, C. (2006). Dietary and physical activity behaviors among adults successful at weight loss maintenance. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 3(1), 17. Study Link

115 Comments

  1. Lauren Marie 5 months ago

    Hey there! I am confused and looking for some advice. I am a 36 year old female at 5′ 8″ and about 115lbs, looking to put on a little weight since this is under weight for my frame. I am a runner, running average 5 days a week at an average of 4-5 miles a day. And I am also currently trying to add 2-3 days of cross/strength training. I have calculated my macros at lightly active. Currently I am going off of my calculated macros, am I to input that into MyFitnessPal for tracking purposes? If my Garmin is linked to MyFitnessPal and I “earn” macros/calories from my activity, am I to include those macros/calories in my daily goal or keep it at what was calculated via your calculator?

    Currently set at 2000 cal.
    200c/150p/66f

    Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Ted 5 months ago

      Hi Lauren, Sure, happy to help. Running 4-5 miles wouldn’t be considered lightly active it would be moderate at least. If you are tracking your exercise via Garmin then you should set our calculator to sedentary, enter those numbers into MFP and then allow MFP to adjust your macros at the percentages set based on what your wearable tells it. This way you are eating according to exactly what your body needs on that particular day. Make sense?

      Reply
      • Lauren Marie 5 months ago

        Thank you SO much for your quick response! 🙂 I had definitely considered it to be moderate, but was playing it “safe” I suppose by calculating with lightly active. I appreciate your clearing my perception about that! My only concern with going off of what my wearable calculates as calories burned is that so many of them have been accused of over estimating calories burned. I had previously had it set this way though and just recently changed it based on different things I’ve been reading.

        Reply
        • Ted 5 months ago

          You are correct about the devices over-estimating. I think this is more so with general movement (casual steps) than purposeful exercise. You could only use it during your runs and compare its results with the results of established exercise databases for someone of your stats doing a 4-5 mile run. Here’s a good source to use: https://www.freedieting.com/tools/calories_burned.htm. I’d be interested to know how it compares, if you don’t mind?

          Reply
          • Lauren Marie 5 months ago

            Also, on MFP they have a setting for activity level… How do I set theirs? If I change it, it adjusts the macros c/f/p to different amounts for each setting.
            I actually only allowed it to calculate with my running activity and not my step activity anyway… So, I assume then that I was on the correct path to begin with…

          • Ted 5 months ago

            Set their’s to sedentary and then manually set your macros with what you calculated. Yes, that was correct.

  2. Logan Martin 5 months ago

    Hi,
    I have a question about cycling the diet. I want to take in a higher level of macros on the days I am working out and less on the days I am resting. Can I set up MFP for that, or will I just have to keep track? Will it work if I track exercise?
    Thank you,
    Logan

    Reply
    • Ted 5 months ago

      Hi Logan, The free version of MFP only allows for one set of macros but you have 3 options; You can do a fluid approach where you use your sedentary macros as a base and then log /track your exercise, you can pay for the premium version of MFP, or you can use MyMacros+ which cost about $3 initially but allows for multiple sets of macros. I have a tutorial for the other app here: https://healthyeater.com/mymacros-iifym-flexible-dieting

      Reply
  3. Ash 6 months ago

    Hi,
    I’ve read through the comments hoping I wouldn’t have to ask the same kind of question, but here I am! So, I’ve been using MFP for a while now, set on lightly active, tracking my exercise manually and my steps. But now that I’ve discovered IIFYM, I’d like to try and manually adjust my macros, while still track my exercise manually (which is much more adequate for me). I’ve just used your calculator, setting it at sedentary as instructed. Now two questions, just to be absolutely clear: First, the result I get does already factor the -20% in it, doesn’t it? I just want to make sure this is my actual calorie/macro goal and I do not have to stay under it by the end of the day.
    And second, I have set your calculator to sedentary, but do I leave my MFP profile to lightly active or do I set it to sedentary too before entering my macro/calories goals manually?
    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Ted 6 months ago

      Hi Ash, If you selected “lose” on our calculator then the 20% has already been deducted. I think if you manually adjust your goals it overrides MFP so I don’t think changing from lightly active matters. But to be safe, change MFP to sedentary as well but do this before you manually adjust your calories and macros. All the best!

      Reply
  4. Kerrie Northern 8 months ago

    which number to I put into myfitnesspal for the Goal amount? do I put in my TDEE or do I use the numbe I get when I subtract 20% from my TDEE? So confused..goal is to lose BF

    Reply
    • Ted 8 months ago

      Hi Kerrie, If you used our calculator to factor your TDEE and selected “lose”, 20% has already been deducted.

      Reply
  5. Sharon Fleischer

    Ted, I’m really confused now… I just bought the EBook – I need to lose, but am I plugging my TDEE(2115) into MFP and figuring the percentages, or the number from the calculator here (1670) and THEN breaking down the percentages? I think the online example of 3250 calories just confused me too much! I normally do 4 days per week of cardio two of which include some sort of weight training. I have a Fitbit attached to MFP unless you think I should disconnect that?

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Sharon, Thanks for your purchase. You should use our calculator and then manually adjust MFP to reflect the TDEE and macro percentages given. You’ll have to round to the nearest 5% if you don’t have the premium version. You can either enter your exercise level in our calculator and then turn off exercise tracking in MFP or you can select sedentary on our calculator and then allow MFP to adjust your TDEE and Macros based on the data your activity tracker sends. This may be the best option since you have varied exercise two of your four days and also you should use your sedentary macros on rest days.

      Reply