Dieting. Counting calories. Cardio. Weights. Meal prep. Boiled chicken and SOOO much broccoli!
We get it. It sucks.
There are only so many times you can appear thankful for steamed Basa and greens! The inflexibility of the diet of the bodybuilder has beguiled many novice trainers over past decades and has always left the question in the minds of the everyday athlete-how can I eat food that makes life worth living and still get shredded?!
So with your sugar free BBQ sauce in hand, you trawl Google looking for a solution to a life of monotonous, ‘bodybuilding food’ choices. There has to be a way you can still grow muscle or get absolutely diced without using exclusively ‘bodybuilding foods’ in your meal prep.
After about 3 minutes, you stumble onto a website promising you can buy shares in Krispy Kreme’s and still get peeled! The holy grail of dieting flexibility that is If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)!
But before throwing out your veggie bowl and reaching for that Snickers, let’s use the focus of this article to have a closer look at the core of IIFYM, how it may or may not be implemented to benefit the trainee and to dispel some myths surrounding it.
The Skinny of IIFYM:
IIFYM revolves around calculating your daily calorie requirements, splitting this into your desired macronutrient requirements of Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates and then having a free for all for any food that fits those macros!
For example, a medium sized banana has 90 calories with 18-20 grams of carbs as its main macronutrient. Under the IIFYM model of dieting, consuming this banana is therefore no different to consuming 1 slice of white bread, approximately half a donut or half a can of coke.
All these food choices are all approximately equal in calories and carbohydrate content (ie. The macros are equivalents) and therefore they are all equally welcome in your meal prep.
So let’s look at this example again with say, fats, as the main macro in focus. A 250gm Salmon steak is approximately 520cals, 50g protein and 32.5g fats. With these calories and macros, you could just as happily chomp down half a small pizza (with some extra carbs thrown in), or 75 gram of dark chocolate with a scoop of whey protein to wash it down.
Now, whilst these substitutions may sound like a fantastic excuse to hit the local take away shop with MyFitness Pal in hand, like all great things, sometimes it can be too good to be true.
Macros vs Micros:
Though the calories and macros may well be equal, it is worthy of note that there is a reason bodybuilders of yesteryear have forgone the coke for the fruit and the chocolate and pizza for the salmon!
Micronutrients, vitamins and minerals are essential for your body to facilitate almost every metabolic, building and repairing function. Zinc and Magnesium alone are responsible for over 320 metabolic functions! So to say the banana, laden with B vitamins, phosphorous and all the necessary co-factors to utilise these nutrients, is equal to half a can of artificial sweeteners, sucralose, sugars and preservatives starts to put nails in the coffin of IIFYM pretty quickly. Because a calorie is not just a calorie. The half pizza may have fats and proteins just like the salmon, but the protein is from processed meats and the fats are saturated forms and coming from cheese and hydrogenated blended vegetable oils. The slice of white bread with its bleached flours devoid of any nutrients, or complexity of the carbohydrates is clearly not the nutritional equivalent of the banana.
Now apply this to your whole daily calorie allotment and you will quickly see the profound difference you can make to your health and physique utilising the nutrient dense food choices over the equivalent latter. Over weeks and months, the health and physique sculpting benefits of the fruit and seafood will more than justify why IIFYM is a less than ideal nutritional strategy.
Now, you may have already decided that the purpose of this article was to bash IIFYM. But far from it!
IIFYM is fantastically flexible nutritional tool that will help you make better choices on how to fill your daily energy requirements and educate you on the calorie and macronutrient content of many of your favourite foods in the process. And though it isn’t something to be taken to the extreme where your meal prep comes in a Domino’s box, it does offer some flexibility and power back to the everyday Joe trying to better their food choices.
So the recommendation of this author is to make the majority of your calories come from nutrient loaded fruit, vegetables, lean protein sources and healthy fats. But for the remaining few calories in your day, feel free to make the occasional splurge using IIFYM as a tool to help you keep track of what your next cheat meal actually takes up in your daily calorie allowance!