IIFYM is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to clean eating and is a more relaxed approach to flexible dieting, but is it really worth taking the risk and diving into an unknown territory of unhealthy food just because it fits your macros?
Clean and healthy foods are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids, high in water content, help improve and build muscle tissue and have many more positive health benefits that we have learnt through scientific evidence. So why is it that many fitness enthusiasts with shredded abs and bulging biceps have recently favoured the new term IIFYM or Flexible dieting over clean eating? IIFYM means you can eat whatever foods you wish to (yes even pizza and chocolate!) as long as it fits into your macros count. For example: For a 25 year old female weighing 55kg with a height of 165cm and a muscle content of 41.6kg the resting metabolic rate (RMR) would be approximately 1,300 calories of which in order to maintain this current weight the macros would look something similar to this: 114g of Carbohydrates (35%), 162g of Protein (50%), 22g of Fat (15%). So theoretically with this choice of flexible dieting you can pick any foods for your meals as long as the total for the day equals the same as your stated macros and calorie total goal.
The logic is that calories in Vs calories out is where weight loss or weight gain will happen – note weight loss not fat loss which means muscle can be lost too – if, regardless of the food you eat, the calories you’ve consumed equate to your RMR amount of calories then no weight gain should happen. However, as fitness fans most of us have similar aims of which are to improve muscle tone by increasing lean muscle and reducing our body fat percentage; this can only be done through the manipulation of the calories in Vs the calories out as well as our chosen macros. To burn fat we must sit in a calorie deficit for a period of time, thus the total number of calories consumed everyday must be less than the calories out from the body (through every day human functions, daily tasks as well as exercise). The more muscle we have the higher your RMR is which means the more food we can eat to maintain our weight; therefore in order to preserve our muscle when on a calorie deficit we must have a diet rich in protein (at least 50% of our macros need to be protein). So this is where IIFYM comes into attack, if I am getting 50% of my calories from protein I am only left with – let’s go back to our example of the 25 year old female’s macros – 114g of carbohydrates and 22g of fat for my entire day. That’s easy when you’re choosing low calorie, clean, healthy fibrous food like vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, oats, etc; but not so easy when you’re eating unhealthy junk food that is ‘allowed’ on the IIFYM diet!
Take a large pizza from Dominos for example, one large pizza = 10 slices (which by the way is very easy to eat if you’re hungry!), each slice has 21g of Carbs, 6.9g of Fat and 10.3g of Protein which equates to a total of 1,900 calories, 210g of carbs, 69g of fat and 103g of protein – and that’s not even counting those dips you probably had with every slice! That means in just one single meal of the day you’ve gone over your calorie allowance by 600 calories and carb and fat allowance by 96g of carbs and 47g of fat and you still need to consume another 59g of protein (to reach your 162g target) without any room for additional calories! So, this is just one single meal for your day and you’ve already gone way over your calorie allowance and you’re most probably still hungry and craving dessert if you’re like me! Therefore, this idea of ‘I can eat anything as long as it fits my macros’ is a bit far fetched as yes technically if you’re not going over your calorie allowance then yes you won’t put weight on but be realistic here, junk food is usually high in carbs, sugars, fats and therefore calories and eating whatever you want for all of your meals of the day is not going to leave you much food – not to mention hinder your blood glucose levels.
Why eat healthy, clean food 24/7? Okay, so I am not telling you that you can’t have a relaxed approached to dieting and not see results because by all means if you control your macros intake and be strict with your treats you can by all means get the results you desire but it needs to be done in a very clever and thoughout way! Let’s say you’ve prepped 5 out of the 6 meals of your day and they consist of the usual oats in the morning – or proats if we’re wanting to increase our protein intake – chicken/fish, vegetables and rice for brunch and lunch and most probably a similar lean protein source with more vegetables for the other two meals; you now have one meal left for the day and you’ve worked out that you have 41g of carbs left, 12g of fat and 10g of protein left – what do you eat for your last meal to hit those targets? This is where I believe you can enjoy IIFUM and when flexible dieting comes in handy! With those ‘estimated’ macros left you could probably enjoy the odd chocolate treat in a controlled manner by introducing a ‘flexi bowl’ as your last meal of the day. A flexi bowl is referred to a bowl full of ‘goodies’ that enable you to hit your final macros for the day and these goodies can come from any source of food and won’t hinder your calorie deficit as long you’re keeping to your allocated calorie intake (of which is different for each and every one of us). So, for example, with 41g of carbs, 15g of fat and 10g of protein left I could have something along the lines of: 100g Total Fage Greek Yoghurt + 50g of Dairy Milk Chocolate. Now I am sure many of you that attempt or already diet in a specific way spend a lot of your time scrolling through endless pictures of people’s meals that they post on Instagram and think to yourself ‘How can they be losing weight or maintaining that trim physique when they are eating a massive bowl full of corn flakes, m&ms, cookies and marshmallows?’ Well the truth is, either they have allocated all of that food into their daily calorie intake or they are just kidding themselves that they can continue with eating such high calorie, high sugar and high fat foods and remain ‘lean’ or ‘shredded’ in the near future – of course when these competitors or fitness fanatics are on off-season mode or having a prepared ‘re-feed’ then these cases can be taken separately.
So the next time you see some fitness athlete stuffing their faces with an ultimate cheat meal, think to yourself that 90% of the rest of their meals will be clean, healthy food that supports their goals and is usually ‘not as pretty’ for the camera so it is never shared on our social media sites!