By Myprotein Writer Žiga Meh
Nowadays people have so much going on throughout the day that food is usually not a priority. Because of the lack of free time, they regularly eat out at restaurants or usually just grab a sandwich out of a vending machine- which can certainly hurt people who are looking to build the perfect physique.
Getting up early is tough, getting up earlier to prepare healthy and »clean« food for the day is even tougher… especially if you are cutting and have cardio in the morning. Bodybuilders normally focus on eating healthy foods during the week, whereby some often allow themselves one off day when they have their cheat meals. However, these “one off” cheat meals can quickly turn into binge eating galore which can affect and individuals relationship with food and in some cases even result in an eating disorder- orthorexia.
So what if I told you there is a diet, which is more forgiving when it comes to »dirty« foods and for which you do not have to spend time in the morning preparing food (if you do not feel like it). It is called IIFYM. Yes, it has a silly name, but bear with me. The acronym stands for If It Fits Your Macros and a better name for it would be flexible dieting.
WHAT IS IIFYM?
IIFYM is a diet that has the fewest rules and the fewest restrictions, but you can still achieve all your goals. The difference between IIFYM and other diets is that the former focuses on food quantity and not on food type. To put it simply, IIFYM can be defined as consuming any food source, with high or low nutrient value, within reason that will fit into a fixed macronutrient/caloric total. Macros stand for macronutrients, which are nutrients that provide calories or energy and they are: protein, fat and carbohydrate.
Protein provides 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates also provides 4 calories per gram
Fat provides 9 calories per gram.
Each macronutrient has a role and is needed in different quantities depending on your metabolism, training and goals. The basis here is if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight (muscle with the correct amount of protein). If you eat the same amount of calories that you burn, your weight will stay the same, and if you eat less calories than you burn, you will lose weight (fat). But hey don’t take my word for it- take the numerous scientific studies!
Let’s say an average man that weighs 75 kilograms needs 2500 calories per day to maintain weight. The breakdown of macronutrients would be something like this:
-150g of protein,
-80g of fat and
-295g of carbohydrates.
The sources of food do not matter, because when protein is digested the body only gets amino acids. Carbohydrates turn into glucose and fat is turned into fatty acids. The body does not know if it is eating »clean« food, e.g. rice, or »dirty« food, e.g. candy, the only thing it gets from these two is glucose.
However, there are some guidelines you have to follow. You have to get the right amount of calories depending on your goals. You have to eat enough protein, the right amount is somewhere between 2-3g per kilogram of your bodyweight. You have to get enough fat for the body to function normally, at least 20-30g. You have to get enough essential fatty acids, fish oil and fish are the best solutions for that. You also have to eat enough fiber, 1% of your daily caloric intake (20g of fiber for 2000 calories) and enough vitamins and minerals through food or supplements.
All other details, food types, number of meals per day and meal time, are just that, insignificant details, and they do not play a role in reaching your goals. Of course, this is meant for a healthy person and for those who do not take performance-enhancing drugs. IIFYM does work for them, but their diets have a few more rules. People that have some problems, like lactose intolerance or a celiac disease, have to cross off certain foods, but they already know what they may or may not eat.
HOW TO WORK OUT YOUR MACROS AND TRACK THEM
The best way to know how many calories you need is to find an online BMR calculator. You then put in your age, height, body fat and your daily level of activity. After using a calculator like this, you will find out your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). From there you can add 300-500 calories if you want to gain muscle or subtract 300-500 calories to lose fat.
To best way to see how you are progressing is to weigh yourself every day and adjust your intake according to your goals. If you are gaining weight too fast, decrease the amount of calories or increase it if you are not gaining any weight, but want to.
You now know what you need but you think tracking macros is going to be the hardest task. Fear not, the best way, albeit being an expensive one, is to buy a smartphone and download an application that lets you track what you eat. You simply search for what you ate, put in how much and the application does the rest. When you get the hang of it, it only takes a couple of minutes and there are quite a lot of these free applications in mobile application stores.
What about glycemic index? Surely it weighs into consideration when we are choosing what to eat. Truth be told, glycemic index does not matter and here is why.
GI is a number associated with a particular type of food that indicates the food’s effect on the blood glucose (blood sugar) level. It represents the total rise in a person’s blood sugar level following consumption of the food and is useful for understanding how the body breaks down carbohydrates. Low-GI food (55 or less) will release glucose more slowly while high-GI (70 and above) food causes a rapid rise in blood glucose levels.
Basing on that, the food and wellness industry wants us to believe that low-GI foods are healthier and better, but in reality they just want to make more money. All these studies that were carried out were done in controlled environments and conditions that just do not appear in real life. Studies that rate GI were made on an empty stomach and patients only ate one type of food (e.g. potato without meat and vegetables). This happens very, very rarely. In a meal, we never eat only one thing and as soon as we add foods rich with fiber, fats and protein, they affect blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, our body is very effective when it comes to adjusting our blood sugar level. It always keeps it in a zone that is optimal for people and should the level drop or rise outside what is considered normal, the organism would make everything right with its complicated mechanisms. What it all comes down to at the end of the day is the total amount of carbohydrates in the food, according to the American Diabetes Association.
STILL NOT CONVINCED?
I know you are still not sure if all this works, because I am just a guy on the internet talking about diets and training without any bodybuilding achievements. So here is what Mike Mentzer, a former American IFBB professional bodybuilder, wrote in his book, Heavy Duty Nutrition:
One last word about low-carbohydrate diets. They do work, that is certain. But any diet where you drastically reduce consumption of one of the macronutrients will result in weight loss. You can achieve weight loss more safely, and just as effectively, by reducing consumption of all three macronutrients slightly. And if you’re on a well-balanced diet and have a caloric deficit in your daily budget, it will not hurt your weight loss efforts to eat refined carbohydrates such as ice cream or candy bars. If we’re on a well-balanced diet, it doesn’t really matter where we get our carbohydrates, since they all end up as glucose by the time they get to our bloodstream anyway.
The last two weeks before the 1979 Mr. Olympia, I was consuming more than 200 grams of carbs a day — I had pancakes three times a week and ice cream almost every day. I didn’t do this sort of thing recklessly, however; I kept my daily caloric intake below 2000 and was very active. The result? Even though I placed second, I was generally considered to be the most defined competitor in the contest. So much for low-carbohydrate diets!