Spend no more than five minutes in a gym or follow any social media ‘nutritionist’ and someone has probably raved to you at some point about how incredible their diet is ,bodybuilder, powerlifter, or simply a fitness enthusiast. This lecture has most likely included the words IIFYM (if it fits your macros), clean eating or flexible dieting.
This post will help, educate and make a distinction between those three and help you decide which one is better suited to you!. First though, let's clarify what we mean by “diet”. A word synonymous with “weight loss” it's actually a style of eating towards a particular goal, maintaining, gaining size, losing weight, maximising output for an activity, your diet encompasses ALL those goals and more besides!
Clean was the mainstay of bodybuilder nutrition, mainly used during the cutting phase in the final weeks of prep as they close in on competition to maintain muscle whilst burning fat. This diet was primarily the use of natural foods with as little processing as possible . The use of white meats like chicken and fish, vegetables, such broccoli or the “greens” are the mainstay here. Dieters neglect any food they perceive as ‘unclean’ from their diet, mainly refined foods like bread, refined white pasta, and of course alcohol are not allowed.
Clean eating benefits, especially when you’re cutting, is that the foods are generally lower in calories meaning that you get to eat more. A huge bowl of chicken and vegetables probably equates to a similar calorie content to that of an average sized chocolate bar. Though probably not as satisfying, the fact that the chicken and veggies also contains far more protein and micronutrients it's far better for your, and if you get creative with the spices can be just as pleasurable to eat! If prone to overeating this nutritional approach is a good choice due to as soon as you’ve had a little bit of ‘bad’ food. “the ‘I’ve had one slice of pizza, I’ve ruined my diet, I might as well eat the entire pizza’ mentality can implode any diet regardless of goals. Clean eating can deals this problem by removing processed foods entirely and removing temptation.
A major downside to a strict clean eating regime is that your food options are somewhat limited which can lead to cravings. Cravings can lead to binge eating and binge eating is a sure fire way to de-rail you from your fitness and nutrition goals as well as being demotivating. It also demonises certain foods, potentially resulting in overwhelming food guilt if they are consumed and makes eating in social situations pretty difficult, and can possibly lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, bulimia is a conditions which can occur when taken to the extreme, where the person will “purge” after a meal in which they perceive they have eaten foods they are not allowed.
IIFYM stands for if it fits your macros (proteins, fats and carbs) and has become hugely popular thanks in a huge part to social media. This basically means that you can eat anything as long as it fits into your macronutrient requirements. As long as your numbers add up it’s perfectly ok to live on burgers and pizza, personally I wouldn’t recommend doing so even though it does sound tempting haha! ;) . IIFYM focuses on the three main macronutrients: fat, carbohydrate and protein but doesn’t take micronutrients (vitamins and minerals essential to homeostasis) into account. However this being said, most IIFYM followers will fill the majority of their diet with wholesome and nutritious food as they understand the health and performance benefits of consuming a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and have some understanding of vital nutrition!
IIFYM is really attractive during a calorie deficit as no foods are off limits and if you really fancy a certain food it can be worked into your macros. If you can handle consuming unhealthy foods without completely falling off the wagon and losing control, this could be the style for you. The downside is that it may decrease the volume of food that you’re able to consume within your numbers and you’ll live your life constantly, measuring and calculating, annoying when you want to eat out or in social situations.
This approach is usually for the hardcore in the fitness world with specific nutritional needs. The average person can manage their nutrition perfectly well without having to put up with the hassle of tracking every single bit of food that they consume.However using this principle can give you great indication of how your eating and give you an indication how far you are off your goals for each day!
Flexible dieting will most likely suit most people. Whilst the focus is on micronutrients,and mainly the whole foods you can still indulge in some of your favourite foods with moderation. The average person looking to lose a bit of weight doesn’t necessarily need to follow to a strict set of macros, they just need to learn to make sensible food choices and maintain a slight calorie deficit. Energy balance is the ultimate key to weight loss or fat loss so there is nothing wrong with eating healthily all week then going out and enjoying a meal in a restaurant on a weekend or having the occasional bowl of ice cream after dinner as long as moderation is practiced and an overall calorie deficit is maintained.
Moderation is the flexible dieter’s key to success and doesn’t let dieter feel restricted in any way by food choices or macro tracking. Listen to what your body needs and feed it appropriately, for example extra carbs on a particularly heavy leg day or simply eating when you’re hungry!
The final thing to note here is that of these 3 different dieting styles, there can be some level of overlap, clean eaters still keep an eye on their macro levels to make sure they are getting that which they need, and flexible dieters sometimes use their macros as a guide to help make sure they aren’t going overboard! The key to all 3 is knowing your body, and educating yourself, identifying what suits and works for you.
PERSONALLY i make more use of IIFYM and flexible dieting, i keep an eye on my macros and don't restrict my diet, but focus on moderation. using my own common sense. if i want that pizza yes i will eat it! but it may be a treat once a week or once a month! will i have a chocolate biscuit probably but i'm not going to have them all! and if i have these treats then i must recognise i have to make allowances for them, and focus more on my nutrition for the rest of the day or next few days, the one simple truth that over rides ALL of what we have discussed above is that you CANNOT out train a bad diet! if your diet is universally bad, no matter what you do, in the gym you will not see the improvements you desire. EDUCATION is the key to a successful diet and i hope this post helps!