A few posts back I touched on flexible dieting and ‘if it fits your macros’ which some readers of this blog may have heard of, but for the likely majority that haven’t, what in the world is it?
IIFYM works under the notion that you can eat any food you like so long as you stay within your designated macronutrient totals for the day without compromising your fitness goals. I have no idea who came up with the idea of meeting your requirements in this manner but it seems plausible despite not having much more than a bit of ‘bro-science’ to back it up. Being the type of person to track my macros tightly with my macronutrient calculator (shameless plug) I’ve dabbled with IIFYM and here are my thoughts on the topic.
First off, I’ll say that I like it. I’ve seen fine examples of people that got competition lean dieting like this and in my own personal experience, my body hasn’t given off any strong signals that suggest otherwise. I find doing this really useful on weekends when I want have a lie in or have something that’s not normally in my staple foods list like a bowl of cereal as opposed to oats. The idea of being able to have a mental break from a routine diet without catastrophic consequences is something that I’m happy to run with.
If you’re really good at counting, you can pretty much eat freely on IIFYM until the last meal of the day when you just make up the remainder of your calories from the necessary macro sources. This is great as it reduces a lot of the stress that can come with planning every single meal out strictly. Though I think I’m pretty good at counting, I actually quite enjoy doing things the way I do as it means that I don’t have to think about meals once I’ve prepped everything. For me, prepping the full day is kind of like evening meditation where I cook my meals and do the dishes – call me weird if you like.
It’s not as easy as eating whatever you like…
With all the talk on IIFYM in the fitness industry, people are treating it like a free pass to eat whatever you like. Unfortunately this isn’t really the case and like anything that seems ‘too good…’ IIFYM should be approached with caution. When counting calories, people sometimes make the mistake of only counting the primary macronutrient source in a food and forget that each food, more often than not has a value for both a secondary and tertiary macro. This effect is multiplied when you begin to eat combination foods like say, a Flapjack. I’ve deliberately chosen a reasonable item but when you consider all the ingredients like butter, honey and oats, it quickly racks up and if you’re trying to stick to an overall goal, what you take on from this item must be subtracted from your totals.
My next point of caution is ‘satiety’ which is how full a food will make you feel. The more satiated you are, the fuller you’ll feel. Generally foods are more satiating for two reasons; the volume of the food being consumed and the glycemic index of the food. Take the above image as an example. Both tubs yield 50g of carbohydrates, However it’s clear to see that the net weight of the oats is quite significantly more than the Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut. Relating this back to fitness and bodybuilding, it’s not such a big deal when you’re trying to add muscle mass and you can eat quite a lot of food; but when you’re in the latter stages of weight loss, satiety is a big deal because feeling hungry sucks! The glycemic index of the oats is also lower due to it having more fibre and a greater protein content than the crunchy nut. Two additional factors that make it even more satiating.
Why eating out doesn’t work
Just like I’ve seen examples of people get lean, I’ve also seen examples of people trying to practice IIFYM in restaurants. In my opinion, that just doesn’t work and here’s why. It’s practically impossible to do things this way for a couple of reasons; you don’t know what quantities of foods you’re actually eating. More importantly, you also don’t know what or how much cooking oils and dressings the chef has used to prepare your meal. It’s important to stress that meal preparation is still an essential part of IIFYM.
Give it a go and see how you get on. My macronutrient calculator is available as a free download to help you stay on top of the numbers.
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