If you’re a #fitfam member, #pushpullgrinder or someone who looks for #flexibledieting food porn chances are your instagram & twitter feeds are full of the following;
An assortment of gourmet flavour protein powders
….along with many other “treats” that look too good to be “healthy”.
These of course make up the core food groups of the “IIFYM” diet.
And thus here we are, examining yet another misconception in regards to “If it fits your macros” and “flexible dieting”.
The Key Points
- Social Media 100% Skews the Image of Flexible Dieting/IIFYM
- Macro goals give people a greater understanding of their bodies needs, as opposed to food groups or a meal plan with no quantities
- Flexible Dieting should be thought of as a lifestyle choice – not a “diet”
- Flexible Dieting is a balanced diet comprised of wholesome “whole foods”, with dense micro-nutrient profiles
- Hitting a caloric defecit from an “IIFYM” approach will make you lose weight – however considerations should be given to food choices to achieve optimal body composition.
- Supplements are useful and convenient to help you achieve your macro goals. They shouldn’t be a crutch for which your diet is based upon.
- I’m a bodybuilder, and have placed in the top 3 at a number of shows using flexible dieting through-out each contest prep. Let me tell you how flexible I get.
Before we dive into anything further in-depth however, for those who may have been hiding under a rock (or pair of boulder shoulders) for the past few years, or if you’re just starting to work out and track macros, i’ll quickly cover what IIFYM stands for, and what I personally believe it is.
IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros
Macros – Macronutrients – Carbs, Proteins & Fat.
We all have a different set of macro goals or “macros” based upon our base metabolic rate, which in turn is determined by activity level, age, height, body weight, muscle mass.
As an example, im currently looking to gain lean muscle mass. Im reverse dieting, so upping adjusting my macro’s as and when needed, but currently im eating;
400 carbs / 240 protein / 50 fat.
I then eat the correct quantities of foods to total my macros for the day.
Think of it as a never ending maths exam, where the answer is always food.
Now onto a little misconception about IIFYM….
The Misconception that IIFYM is A “Junk Food” Diet
I place 100% of the blame on this to social media. Not that posting pictures of your meals is a bad thing of course. I like a cheeky scroll through instagram, perving on flex bowls, protein mug cakes and peanut butter porn.
However for a new comer to macro tracking, dieting, or even working out, it creates a false sense of what you should be eating.
The trend then escalated. As more people see those with awesome physiques posting these delicious looking treats, they then start eating similar foods and posting their meals. It snowballs faster than a bro bulks in winter.
Are poptarts, chocolate bars, Saturday morning cartoon cereal and ice cream the only things “flexible dieters” eat? Nope.
My Reality of Flexible Dieting, as a Competitive Bodybuilder
For me flexible dieting and “IIFYM” are buzzwords.
I much prefer the term “a common-fucking-sense approach to dieting”.
My diet is packed with what would be considered “clean foods”
Oh now, lets take a quick pause. Some of the elite diet snobs will climb up onto their high horse, and scream questions such as “what is a clean food?” “how do you classify a clean food” “there is no such thing as a clean carb”…
If you’re asking those questions, please refer to my above term for common sense dieting.
Whether you want to use the term clean, healthy, bro, or even call it a bodybuilding food, there is a clear group of foods that spring to mind whenever you hear one of those terms.
Im talking about;
Carb sources; potato, sweet potato, oats, rice, wholegrains etc
Protein sources; lean meats, eggs, fish, protein supplements
Fats; nuts, oils, peanut butter, avocado
These are foods that are typically un-processed. They don’t have any artificial preservatives, sweeteners etc in them. Not that im saying processed foods are bad per-se, im just trying to paint a picture here. This article is my canvas, and my words are my paint.
Another way to look at clean foods, in my opinion, are those which offer a dense micro-nutrient profile, high satiety level. AKA – foods that will provide you with everything your body needs to function healthily, along with feeling full, and providing you the right amount of energy to complete daily activities & workout.
If you’re dieting to lose weight, you will be in a caloric deficit, and chances are, you’re going to be hungry.
40g of carbs from potato will be a lot more filling than 40g of carbs from lucky charms. Both will give you a similar overall caloric value. However your body may feel better eating one food choice over the other. I say “may” as everyone as foods that agree or disagree with them.
I’ll pick foods that will allow me to hit my macros, make my body feel good, and most importantly, I enjoy the taste of!
Tuna is a “staple bodybuilding food”. I hate tuna though. So if i was to follow a cookie cutter meal plan that had a tin of tuna and side salad for 3 of my meals a day – i would be very miserable, or i would break my diet pretty damn quick.
Instead what I do is look at my overall macros, which we’ve established are 400c/240p/50f
I then pick the foods that I enjoy eating, make me feel full, and are convenient to eat within my schedule. I spend my weekdays working at my desk, so im able to eat whenever or whatever I like.
Food For the Work Day (Or when im not at home)
For the sake of convenience, I prep a days worth of food the evening before.
For me I like to break this into 3 meals containing rice as the carb source. I change this up from brown and white rice, depending on what I want to eat (or whatever I have in the house).
I chose rice because;
I like rice
Its easy to prepare in bulk
Its easy to reheat & eat
Its filling & allows me to work towards my carb macros for the day, whilst containing minimal fat.
If you don’t like rice – don’t eat it! Go for something different instead. Potato, Pasta, cous cous, bread, bagels, a mix of them all.
I then look at my protein sources. This is always some kind of meat or fish. Most commonly I go for ground turkey or chicken breast, and haddock for fish. I pick these because, again, I enjoy them, they’re easy to prep, reheat and eat.
Ground turkey is probably my favourite. The texture is nice, and its really easy to eat.
But chicken, fish and turkey is boring i hear your cry….. WHAT!?
If that’s what you think – you’re doing it wrong. When you go for a “cheeky nandos” you’re eating chicken, is that boring? When you’re having a Christmas dinner, you’re main meat is Turkey.
Its how you cook and season your meat which is what determines if its boring or bland.
I would rarely ever eat plain chicken breast with plain rice. I always add some seasonings to my meat. I change these up daily as well to get a variety of flavours so my diet never gets boring.
I rarely add fats to these meals, as my breakfast and evening meals usually are higher in fat, which will be enough for me to hit my macros for the day.
This is where flexibility gets turned up a notch. There are a ton of carb sources I love for breakfast. My favourites however are oats, ground rice, baby rice, corn flakes or rice crispies.
I always add some flavouring powder or MP Flav drops from MyProtein to my oats, ground rice or baby rice to add flavour.
As for my protein, im an eggs in the morning kind of guy. Sometimes i’ll opt for a protein shake, but i enjoy scrambled eggs for breakfast so I eat them. I rarely throw yolks away, so this helps me get my fats in for the.
Meals at home
This is when I look and see what macros I have left. Based on this I then decide what i feel like eating, unless im craving something in particular, this usually leaves me with a few choices.
Some nights in might be a “boring” 4th serving of chicken and rice. Some nights it might be a home made burrito with chilli and spicy rice (i literally love rice by the way)
The meals I eat and prep when im at home at the most flexible, as i don’t have to worry about pre-planning. I can just make what I want, fresh, and eat it.
Weekends are great, because i have the luxury of being able to cook what i want, when i want it.
My food choices don’t differ a great deal, however if i want something crazy mid morning, as opposed to the evening, i’ve got the luxury of cooking it there and then.
It sounds cliché, but supplements are there to supplement your diet, not form the basis of it. This may shock you as someone who works closely with supplement brands, and reviews them, however im not one for over-doing it on the supplements.
You don’t need a protein powder, pre-workout, or a post workout carb & protein blend to achieve your physique goals.
People put protein powder on a pedestal, as if its the missing secret to their yet to be achieved success.
To combat this hyper-bole, think of protein powder as nothing more than a food source. The same way you would look at eggs, chicken, beef, think the same as protein powder.
It’s a source of protein to help you hit your goals.
Whey protein does contain a full amino acid profile… but that’s another post for another day.
The bottom line for me, at least in regards to protein & carb supplements, is that they are a simply another food source. Nothing more, nothing less.
Spend Your Macros Wisely
I like to look at macros, almost as if its a budget.
Let me put it to you like this. If you’re earning 100k a year, you can afford to buy more expensive things. Whether its a more expensive car, designer brand clothes, eat out more often, your budget allows you to get more stuff.
If you’re earning minimum wage, you’re going to be a lot more restricted in regards to what you can buy. You will also have to plan your finances more carefully.
This is how I like to think of my macro’s.
When im “bulking” im a high-roller. I can splash the macro’s about, and thus be a lot more flexible. This is when i’d tend to have more of the stereotypical “junk”.
Lets say i was averaging 300g carbs a day for a few weeks prior to a contest. As i reverse diet, I might get up to 400g carbs within 2-3 weeks. This means i’ve got 100g carbs “extra” than what I used to have. So i can fill it up with foods that I may not have been eating during contest prep. Flapjacks are a go-to for me.
When im dieting , some days I might go as low as 150g carbs. I wouldn’t dream of wasting 60g carbs on a flapjack, which will not fill me in the slightest, when i could have a massive bowl of porridge instead.
When you see super ripped guys eating junk on social media, it send a confusing message. The chances they can eat so much “junk” is because their BMR will be a lot higher than yours, meaning they need more carbs just to maintain their physique.
I do personally find that when your diet allows for a caloric surplus, it allows you to be more flexible with your food choices, or you may find yourself a little more reliant on carb shakes or protein powders.
Its a Lifestyle – Not a Diet
Long term fitness goals can only be sustained if you change your lifestyle, not stick to a diet for 3 months.
As a competitive bodybuilder, I must “diet down” for a contest. However I know before I even start my contest prep that the stage look I bring isn’t a sustainable look to keep year round.
However by making bodybuilding a part of my lifestyle, and ensuring im consistent with my diet, I can look good all year round, make gains, and not sacrifice a social life or relationships with friends and family.
If the thought of training, and macro counting makes you grumble, then maybe you’re just not that interested in fitness – and that’s ok. It’s not for everyone.
How Flexible are You
You might close this article, and go read 5 other IIFYM related articles that all have a differing opinion to me. That’s fine. Im just sharing my approach, based on my experiences. I know there are people a lot more, and a lot less flexible than me when it comes to their diet.
Just how flexible are you with your diet?
About The Author
Adam Foster is a fitness blogger, competitive bodybuilder and owner of http://cheapproteindiscountcodes.co.uk. When he’s not curling in the squat rack or benching a press, he can be found gaming, reading comics or eating peanut butter.